The first several weeks of my assignment were hectic, from both the perspective of getting settled / moved in and that of the amount of work I’ve had. Fortunately, the workload has since decreased, so naturally to take the place of working breathlessly I’ve chosen to be literally winded: “The mountains are calling,” so the saying begins, but conveniently the strain of getting to be in the mountains is left to the imagination.
The weather this summer has been remarkably good — usually, apparently, the weather is good for July or August but not both. In the 11 weekends I’ve been here, only two or three have rained; the rest have been chock full of sun. After finishing a project, I took a Friday off and visited the Ofterschwanger Horn (a quick jaunt up a small mountain with views toward Sonthofen and the Oberstdorf valley). On the way up, I saw the first step in bringing the cows back down to the valleys: farmers had begun the process of moving the grazing area from ~1700 m to ~1200 m. A few looked at me curiously as they plodded by but gave me wide berth.
Not being sure if I wanted to stay on the mountain through dusk, I left before the sky turned colorful. The light filtering through the trees was fantastically warm, however, and illuminated the results of so much rainfall: endless green. If California cows are happy, the ones here must simply be ecstatic.
I found out during my drive down the mountain that I had missed the best part of a terrific light show. All the mountains from the Grünten to the north to the Austrian border were illuminated in a warm glow of which I saw only the tail end. As a culmination to a hectic July and August, however, this was a superbly tranquil Friday evening, full-press Alpenglow or not.
The next morning, I awoke early and drove to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, perhaps known best for being the resort town at the foot of Germany’s tallest mountain, Zugspitze. The hike was not up it, but rather up a neighboring mountain: Kramerspitz. A gravel footpath wound its way behind the back side of the mountain before crossing a saddle to the true summit, which though much higher than the Ofterschwanger Horn the previous day was still under the 2000 m threshold. (Rubihorn, too, is just under.)
At the summit, I remember facing west and thinking to myself I needed to take a photo of the layers of Alps in that direction. Between eating and chatting with the rest of the group, I forgot to take the picture (this is becoming a trend). Nevertheless, what I found most incredible was the abundance of life at this difficult altitude. Even as we toil uphill and struggle to breathe normally, plants and other mammals alike manage to find a way to stay unique — and alive.
Kramerspitz wasn’t particularly steep, but getting back to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen train station took a while. During the walk back, I mused to myself which mountain would be my first 2000 m Allgäu mountain and reflected on how fortunate I am to to have gotten amazing weather and the opportunity to hike these mountains in the first place. Though my jaw drops every time I see what the locals here can do with two hiking sticks or with a bike, I’m rediscovering for the first time since my internship that started my love of hiking that simply going from working 100% to 100% physical exertion is medicinal enough to take out completely the stress of the former. No wonder the Allgäu has a reputation for being so relaxing and so rehabilitating!