Conquering Wank Mountain

The highlight of our stay this year in Garmisch-Partenkirchen came in the form of an unconquered mountain. Unconquered to me that is – Riley had scaled it twice before and I made it halfway up last year.

The first time we tried to climb this mountain together, we made it as far as the grassy meadow that’s around halfway up, before being stopped by heavy snowfall. After beginning our climb slightly late in the day, and given our rate of movement was being slowed ever more by the relentless snowfall, we knew we weren’t making it to the top and back before dark. With the snow making it increasingly difficult to navigate the tracks, we opted not to be those amateur hikers that need to be rescued after trying to climb in adverse weather conditions, so we headed back down.

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Eckenhütte – the alpine meadow where we found the horses on our trip there the following summer.

We were both disappointed, but resolved to make it to the top when we came back the following year. And so, a year later (and in more favorable weather conditions), we did just that.

The mountain, Wank, rises up to 1,780 metres (5,840 ft) at the summit, where you can find the excellently named Wankhaus – a restaurant serving meals and refreshing beers, and also offering accommodation. For those that just want to get straight to the incredible views and enjoy a beer at the top without the hard work, you can catch the mountain’s cable car system – the Wankbahn – which usually operates between May and September. The name Wank actually comes from an old meaning for ‘slope’, so you can drag your mind out of the gutter now.

We went on a weekday, with a bag full of snacks (can’t go anywhere without snacks) and began our climb. It was warm, and the first part of the track is steep, but Riley pointed out a shortcut that we had taken a year previously, after we had been climbing for about 10/15 minutes. This took us on a far steeper but more direct route, under a small electric fence, that leads you to join up with the main path further up the hill. This saved us about half an hour of climbing, I reckon. There’s a clear livestock/deer trail you can follow, so it’s hard to go off track – however, I wouldn’t recommend straying from the main path if you get easily lost. Take detours at your own risk!

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Further up the trail

Just before we reached the meadow, our finishing point on last year’s hike, the sound of cow bells drifted through the woodland. Being the animal junkie that I am, I was excited at the prospect of getting some nice snaps with some of the local cattle, a traditional sight throughout Bavaria. However what we stumbled upon was far more exciting.

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Not in fact cattle!

We happened across a herd of very friendly horses. I was in my element. For those that don’t know, I was that weird horse girl at school, and this went to lead on to a successful career with horses – I currently work as a self-employed horse trainer and riding coach. Most people go on holiday to escape their work – I, on the other hand, will delight in every opportunity to spend time with horses.

So Riley very graciously waited while we snapped heaps of photos, and I got some hugely appreciated horse time in. If you’d like to check out some more lovely horse shots, click here! It was magical, and I could have spent all day there. It appears that the horses spend their summer months grazing there (they weren’t around last winter) so if you’d like the chance to see them, you’re best going between May and October.

They are all very friendly, and seemed interested in all the passers-by, so if you’re a little nervous about this sort of thing you should be careful if you decide to approach them. I also feel the need to reiterate: please don’t feed horses that aren’t yours! Horses have very sensitive stomachs, and can get very ill if you feed them things they’re not meant to eat. It’s always best to leave them to eat the grass that grows under their feet – instead, a gentle rub on the neck is appreciated with these guys.

After Riley managed to drag me away from the horses, we continued on up the mountain. Everything from here on was new ground to me, and the path got rocky and steep as we progressed, zig-zagging upwards.

At long last, around three hours (probably more than this after the horse time I had) after we started our climb, we made it to the summit. It was almost three o’clock and we were tired and sweaty, but triumphant.

There’s a paragliding platform overlooking the town at the top of the path which makes for a great photo spot. We stopped here to admire the view before heading up to the Wank-Haus for a drink (there’s also another restaurant at the summit called Sonnenalm).

We were very glad we brought snacks however as they had sold out of almost all their cakes and had stopped serving hot meals around 3pm, ready for the kitchen closing. I’m not sure if this is a regular occurrence or just on the day we went up, but if you’re planning on eating up there I’d aim to arrive in good time for lunch.

We still enjoyed a drink overlooking the valley – I opted for a traditional Bavarian beer, before heading down to some benches to enjoy the pretzels we brought with us.

There are multiple routes to take you down or up the mountain – including the cable car which you can catch one way if you like. We chose to take the rear path down off the mountain to see a different side of it. This was equally steep in places, but it led us down to the road you can take if you’re taking a car up.

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On top of the world and seriously questioning my fitness.

We made it back to our AirBnB just as it started to get dark, and just as promised, we returned halfway up Wank to the meadow on our last day in Germany, just to see the horses one last time.

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In my element!

Wank Info:

Duration: 2.5/3.5 hours to the summit. Faster if you’re fit and don’t stop to talk to horses!

Wankbahn (cable car): €22.50 per adult for ascent and descent. €15 for a single ride. Dogs are also allowed on at the additional cost of €5!

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This was the rough route that we took. If using Google Maps, make sure your route includes Eckenhütte (this is the alpine meadow where we found the horses). The route down to the Wankbahn is the exact one we took, however the route up shows the easiest way to the summit (and not the shortcut we took, which isn’t marked on maps).

 

 

 

 

 

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