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Via Ferrata / Klettersteig of the Zugspitze

10 hours of walking, of which 4 on via ferrata, and over 2200 meters of altitude difference, to reach the highest peak in Germany.
7:30 h


The ascent to the Zugspitze along the Hollertal is one of the most complete routes an hiker could wish for. A deep gorge, a mountain hut, an enjoyable and long via ferrata, a piece of glacier, a summit, and finally a descent with one of the most spectacular cable cars in the Alps.

The route is long and challenging (approximately 10 hours of walking excluding breaks). The via ferrata ("Höllental Klettersteig Zugspitze") is of intermediate level (B/C) and in good condition (2021). The glacier section is straightforward but requires crampons or mountaineering boots. An important limitation is that the Zugspitze cable car (which we will use to descend from the summit) closes at 5:45 pm in July and August, and at 4:45 pm for the rest of the year — so you need to start walking between 4 and 7 in the morning, depending on your pace. Additionally, there is only one stopping point along the entire route, the Höllentalangerhütte, located at only 1387m — from there to the 2962m of the summit there are no refreshment points.

You can park your car at the Wanderparkplatz P2 (€10 for 12 hours, €15 for 24 hours) in Hammersbach, Grainau, a few kilometers from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From there, with the help of a headlamp, you walk along the gravel road of the valley floor towards the entrance of the Höllentalklamm. With the first light of dawn, the gorge appears in front of us. We reach the entrance with a beautiful winding path.

The entrance to the gorge should be free until 6 in the morning and costs €5 per person from 6 onwards. Alternatively, you can "cross" the gorge with a higher trail, which requires an additional half an hour of walking.

The Höllentalklamm is quite spectacular — more fascinating and "natural" than the "sister" gorge Partnachklamm (which is more famous simply because it is much more accessible). It's a long gorge, over 1km in length, a succession of illuminated galleries, passages carved into the rock, wrought iron bridges, spiral staircases to climb the steepest points, waterfalls, and enormous boulders wedged in the narrowest points of the gorge.

After completing the gorge, we find ourselves in the wide Hollental. In just under an hour, we reach the Höllentalangerhütte, where we can have a (expensive) breakfast. Again: from here on, there are no more support points until the Zugspitze summit — it's best to rely on 1.5L of water per person, and plenty of food and clothing.

In less than an hour from the Höllentalangerhütte, we reach the first segment of the Via Ferrata ("Höllental Klettersteig Zugspitze"). There is a fun ladder and a very airy flat section. Next, we walk through the most suggestive stretch of the Hollertal. The summit of the Zugspitze is already in sight, the highest peak of a huge rocky wall that surrounds us on 3 sides. We climb many rocky ledges until the grass gives way to scree, and a small glacier appears in front of us.

With crampons on, we ascend the glacier (Höllentalferner) avoiding a crevassed area on the right, then turn right towards the rocky wall, where the second segment of the Via Ferrata begins with the most fun stretch of the entire route (the only B/C section). From here on, time seems to fly: we have 2 or 3 hours of easy ferrata on vertical rock walls, with an ever-expanding view, the glacier below us. Once we reach a small saddle where Elbsee is first visible, the summit and its golden cross are within reach.

The summit is a small city, a maze of buildings, terraces, and underground passages, infrastructure for two cable car lines and a cogwheel train.

We return to the valley with the Elbsee cable car (€36 one-way) amidst crowds of tourists. To get back to the car, you can take a train to Hammersbach, or walk about 6km through the valley forests (another 1.30 hours).






The mountains are a dangerous environment: make sure you always have the right equipment — hiking or trail shoes, warm clothes and waterproofs in case of unexpected changes in weather conditions, a small emergency kit.


I've made an Amazon "shopping note" to make sure you have everything — ps if you buy from these links, 3% goes to support the development and maintenance of Hikes of the World 🙏.


  • Breathable t-shirt ( example )

  • Sweatshirt, fleece, or light jacket

  • Waterproof windbreaker (for example: men / women )

  • Gloves and hat (you never know)

  • Backpack with rain cover

  • Trekking poles (not essential, but they help to unload the weight of the backpack and ease the impact on the joints)

  • Trekking or trail running shoes (in great vogue lately because they are lightweight. These Salomon ones - for men and women - are an excellent entry-level, preferably Gore-Tex)

  • For via ferratas: complete via ferrata kit (I have this one , very light and compact, with this harness and helmet — or you can buy complete kits ). Buy in store to receive ad hoc support

  • To sleep a night in a refuge: sheet or light sleeping bag

  • Water bottle or thermos

  • Light crampons if you think you will find ice or snow on the route

  • Power bank or cell phone charger

  • Camera

  • Drone, for those who love to "fly" (used in moderation and at a distance from other people. I have had the DJI Mini 2 for over 2 years and have found myself very happy with it. The DJI Mini 3 also allows you to take vertical photographs)

  • Small emergency kit ( example )

  • Sun cream (essential)

  • Sunglasses


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