The first mountain I was really drawn to was Mt. Rainier. Looming above the Puget Sound, it’s an emblem for the Pacific Northwest. The Matterhorn, too, stands tall above its valley. Here in the Allgäu, the familiar symbol is the Grünten: far from the tallest mountain in the region, but among the most recognizable because it’s among the northernmost mountains above 1500 m, a respected sentry to the Allgäu proper.
Last weekend was a long weekend in Bavaria, honoring in particular the Assumption of Mary. Plans for an ascent of a 4000er falling through, I decided to use the weekend to catch up on photos, sleep, hang out at the Allgäuer Festwoche, and do some light hiking. It also happened to be terrific weather for the Perseids, and on Saturday night I spent a couple hours in Hinterstein, miles away from light pollution. I could hear the faint, intermittent tinkling of cowbells when I left the car, but was a little disappointed to see how bright the moon was: the summits of the mountains to my east were fully lit, and the Milky Way was only a faint glow in the sky.
I saw three bright meteors but was taking a star-trails shot when they went by, relegating them as seen by the sensor to a wisp of dust. In the two-hundred or so shots I took that night, only one really showed a meteor. It’s been three years since I’ve shot the meteors, but it’s always a exhilarating experience, even if the photographic result doesn’t match the thrill of seeing them streak by in person.
A few hours later, I was up again, this time meeting up with a work friend and his au pair to hike the emblematic mountain of the Allgäu. Last year, I had done this for sunrise via the northeast trails, but this time we decided to hike up from the southwest. Farmers and caretakers of the huts live alongside some of the hiking trails, probably receiving more than their fair share of lost trekkers and presumably putting up a sign pointing out the correct way as a result. More of these would have been in helpful in 2013, when I decided to Wonderland Trail the Grünten and walk a circle around it instead of up it.
From the southwest trails, the War Memorial at the top of the Grünten is visible soon after breaking the tree line. It was a warm day with hardly any wind, but the fresh air was delightful.
A short bit later, we arrived on the summit. The view to the west is interrupted by the radio antenna, but being such a prominent mountain it’s possible to see the breadth of the Allgäu from its summit. To the north, it’s possible to see the village of Rettenberg in the foreground and the factory I work at in the background (top left third; grey buildings),
and to the west, the city of Immenstadt sits at the foot of the Mittag and the other pre-Alps in its chain. The Große Alpsee sits further to the west and is a popular destination for watersports (which comprises mostly bathing and paddle-boating here).
Germany isn’t necessarily known for its Alps, but it has them nevertheless. At the southwest foot of the Grünten is the village of Sonthofen; beyond is the broad expanse of the Iller valley (Illertal) and the mountains of Oberstdorf and Austria then beyond. The Hohe Ifen, Große Widderstein, Rubihorn — they’re all visible from this summit, which stands alone in marking the beginning of the Bavarian Alps.
The Allgäu remains largely a hidden gem: outside of Europeans, it’s not a typical destination for hiking or skiing. Most will flock to Chamonix or Zermatt for that. Even so, even without a Matterhorn or a Mt. Rainier, it has nevertheless its own icon, its own alpine guardian, and its own incredible culture.