Hiking guide: Gorges

Amazing gorges to behold! Hiking with cooling down

Do you enjoy shaded walks? You prefer to look down on a babbling brook as opposed to the summit destination? Then a gorge walk is just the right thing for you. But which one ...

 

The classic Tour: Partnachklamm

The Partnachklamm gorge near Garmisch-Partenkirchen is both beautiful and mysterious - as well as easy to reach. No wonder that many visitors have to share such a spectacle on nice days. In former times the water was used for timber transport; during torrential floods whole tree trunks were simply washed away on the rangeland.

When a log became wedged between the rocks, rangers used long poles to free it. They stood on wobbly boards, which were lodged in the rock. Today's path is well developed, meandering along the rock and sometimes cutting right through it. Given that water is constantly trickling from the walls, sturdy shoes and a rain jacket are highly recommended.

Admission for adults costs EUR 5.00, and EUR 2.00 for children. Those who don't shy away from such effort should make their way back via the Vordergraseck - where a bridge spanning 80 meters above the gorge awaits.

How to get there: By train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and then with either bus lines 1 and 2 to the ski stadium. By car via the A95 and B2. Parking is available at the Olympic Stadium or Kainzenbad. If you are only looking to visit the gorge, follow the Teerstraße that takes you behind the Stadium to the front entrance of the gorge, which then turns back on itself at the end (approx. 1 hour). The way back via the Vordergraseck is even more beautiful (roughly 2 hours, 300 meters in altitude). From Graseck, a cable car also leads back to the gorge entrance. If you are looking for a longer round walk, the reverse route is a great choice: Via Wamberg, Eckbauer and Vordergraseck, it takes you via the rear entrance into the gorge (approx. 4 hours, 520 in altitude). Anyone looking for a short cut should use the Eckbauer cable car.

The salty tour: Wimbachklamm

The Berchtesgaden region is well known even today for its salt. The first to venture the arduous path through the Wimbach gorge were therefore the lumberjacks who had to supply the salt works in Reichenhall with wood. They laid the first footbridge through the valley. Things were closed down in 1843 before soon being rebuilt for tourists.

The many wooden steps take you deeper and deeper into the valley, while the water crashes through the rock formations. Visitors will be charged a small fee of EUR 2.50. At the far end of the gorge is Wimbach Castle, formerly a hunting lodge for the region's bishops.

Directions: Via the A8 to Siegsdorf / Traunstein, then via the B306 and B305 to the parking area at Wimbachbrücke (Rotheben 14, 83486 Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden). Alternatively, visitors can take the bus 846 from Berchtesgaden station. The gorge is relatively short at roughly 200 meters. Alternatively, the tour can be combined with a longer hike, for example to the Wimbachgrieshütte, approx. 3.30 hours, 700 meters in altitude. Please note: The Wimbach gorge is only accessible from the front - anyone going back through the turnstile must return via Wimbach Castle.

The deep tour: Breitachklamm

The Breitach gorge in the Allgäu region is the deepest canyon in Central Europe. Reaching as high as 150 meters, the walls rise to both the left and right. Spanning over 2.5 kilometres, the gorge cuts deeper and deeper into the rock. While many canyons were used for timber transport, a visit to the Breitach gorge was long considered too dangerous.

It was not until 1904 that the local pastor succeeded in raising enough money for its development. Twenty men took a year to make their way through the rocks with black powder, dynamite, hand drills, pickaxes and shovels. A daring venture to say the least: The miners were lowered and raised by ropes. After drilling a hole for explosives and lighting the fuse, they had to be pulled up again in no time at all.

Today, around 300,000 visitors make their way to the gorge each year.Admission costs EUR 4.50 for adults and EUR 1.50 for children. Steep passages can be bypassed.

Directions: When on the A96 take the exit Jengen / Kaufbeuren, when on the A95 take the exit Sindelsdorf. Then head in the direction of Kempten, Immenstadt and Sonthofen to Oberstdorf. There follow the signs for Tiefenbach and Klamm; parking is available almost directly at the entrance. Alternatively, use the bus lines Walsertal or Tiefenbach from the Oberstdorf station. The round walk through the gorge takes approx. 1.5 hours (165 meters in altitude).

The family friendly tour: Schleifmühlenklamm

The name given to the Schleifmühlen gorge says it all: Many moons ago, whetstone makers used the force of the mountain water to power their mills and their whetstones. Some of its mills have remained standing and are well-preserved. "Schneiderlas grinding mill" is still in operation today, but only for show purposes.

In contrast to other gorges, the rock walls of this gorge do not stretch right down to the creek, making the gorge wider, more open and sunny. It can be a wonderful place to cool your feet.

However, given the many steps, visitors should be well adept to walking. Several information boards explain life in the gorge and its formation.

Directions: When on the A95 exit at Oberau, follow the B2 and B23 to Unterammergau. The entrance is situated behind the tavern bearing the same name (Liftweg 2, 82497). The gorge can be reached from Unterammergau station in about ten minutes on foot. The tour itself takes 1.15 hours (137 metres in altitude); the "Wetzsteinbrüche" or "Whetstone Rocks" can also be reached via the gorge.

The demanding tour: Höllentalklamm

It sounds terrifying, but the Höllental gorge or "Hell's gorge" situated near Grainau is one thing above all others: a natural wonder. Rain and melted snow have carved through the hard rock for millions of years. Instead of "Hell's gorge", "Cave" or "Cave Valley" would be more correct, as the canyon used to be widely known for its lead and molybdenum mines.

Even today, hikers can encounter the ruins of long-abandoned mines. The tunnels themselves, however, should definitely not be entered - the beams have long since rotted out, and are in danger of collapse.

nlike the nearby Partnach gorge, the Höllental gorge is only accessible by hiking. As soon as snow falls, volunteers from the Alpine Club remove the bridges that traverse the gorge: In winter, there is often the danger of an avalanche.

Directions: At first, follow directions as if going to the Partnach gorge. Once you have passed Garmisch-Partenkirchen follow the B23 to Grainau. Starting points include the Obergrainauer village square or the district of Hammersbach. A relatively easy access route leads visitors via the gorge path ("Klammweg") along the Hammerbach river, the gorge itself begins behind the Hell's gorge entry hut (in total 3 hours, 300 metres in altitude). One additional hour should be planned for the journey from and to the Untergrainau station. A visit to the gorge can also be combined with some very demanding hikes in the "Zugspitze massif"; a knowledge of mountaineering is necessary.

 

 

Text: Nansen & Piccard; Photos: Frank Stolle