Monday, 4 July 2016

Alps - Partnachklamm and Zugspitze

As the weather forecast was a bit iffy, we thought we ought to go somewhere with the option of some shelter. We drove off towards Garmisch Partenkirchen via Oberammergau - in retrospect something of a mistake. Everything went swimmingly until somewhere between Ettal and Garmisch, where we found a group of workmen repairing the crash-barriers. This in itself was not a problem, but the traffic coming uphill was: particularly the inability of articulated lorries to overtake cyclists along a single track section. Despite being no distance to the traffic lights, it took over half an hour to cover a couple of hundred metres. Situation not improved by desperate cries of need for a toilet from the back seat. Hey ho. Would have been worse if she'd meant it!

We finally arrived at the winter Olympic stadium and found somewhere to park, then set off in the drizzle towards the Partnachklamm. The meadows on the way up were predictably beautiful with Wood Cranesbill making a strong contribution and little subtleties like Astrantia to be found with a little patience. Before we got to the gorge we found that Lissa wanted to have a nap, so she was tucked into the sling on my front and we ambled slightly more rapidly along the ever-narrowing valley. As the sides of the valley grew steeper and rockier the air became more humid and the sound of the river was magnified until it drowned out almost everything else. Yellow wood-violets and saxifrages appeared, and the proportion of mosses and liverworts grew higher, with mats of Conocephus conicum looking particularly impressive.

Wood Cranesbill
Astrantia and gratuitous wire fencing

We made our way into the gorge for free (thanks Koenigskarten) and were immediately walking under an overhang with veils of water cascading over - and onto - us. The path crept along the side of the river, and to Bina's delight soon began to dip in and out of tunnels through the cliff as the gorge narrowed further. The river was squeezed into a thunderous torrent, the recent rain adding depth and power. The river surged through the narrow walls of the gorge, roiling and tumbling over boulders. Cascades of water fell from the walls, the more permanent of them onto small roofs placed there to shelter walkers; others fell gently over us as we walked. Lissa was so interested that she forgot to either fall asleep or howl with tiredness.

After a steady last climb through a long tunnel we suddenly emerged into startling sunshine with the river tumbling merrily along below and steep forested slopes above us to both sides. As Lissa was by now asleep, I carried on up the valley for a while and the other two returned to get their lunch. The routes away from the gorge proved to be less than popular with most of the walkers, so I had a very peaceful time ambling along and trying to botanise without disturbing a sleeping child: surprisingly effective considering the constraints!
An unexpected bonus: Lobaria pulmonaria looking fabulously healthy.
A large and spectacular burdock/heliotrope-esque plant
Aposeris foetida - so good I can't find an English name. Easily recognisable even with a sleeping child strapped to one's front.

The walk back to meet the others was enlivened by the discovery, most of the way down, that Lissa had lost her cuddly monkey, popularly known as Mau-Mau. Despite a return march to the entrance of the gorge and asking at the kiosk, there was no sign and we had to explain that Mau-Mau was now on her way home as she was fed up with the weather.

The following day was a complete write-off. The rain was persistent and made everything really quite difficult. Must have been because the forecast was relatively good and - perhaps also - because we went back to the Murnauer Moos.
Perhaps these appreciate the weather better than most. A constant source of fascination for the girls to see a snail that is as long as Papa's palm. They were strangely reluctant to pick them up though...!
A bit of meadow-rue makes the day brighter...

The third of June, however, was an entirely different kettle of ferrets. The air had the feel of a day which might just be ok, so we grabbed our chance and headed back south past Garmisch to Eibsee and the cable at ascent of Germany's highest mountain. The peak of the Zugspitze was lurking ominously in cloud when we arrived, but there were areas of blue sky to be seen, so we headed confidently into the building. The price seemed steeper than the ascent at €53 per adult, but at least the girls travelled for free. We got into the car with two other couples and set smoothly off.

The ascent was so quiet and smooth that it seemed to take no time at all - we sailed over the forest, into cloud, then suddenly out into sunshine drifting past sheer cliffs and patches of snow. A solitary Alpine Chough whirled past below us: the sole bird of the journey. We disembarked into a rather incongruous medley of older folk from a tour group and wandered out into the sunshine to admire the view, play with the piles of snow in the corners of the platforms and generally enjoy ourselves. Easily done!
Going up. Bina gets to ride in the operator's seat!
And at the summit, it's clear that the weather in Austria is actually no better than in Germany at present.
But what a fine-looking mountain.
The black dot in the cloud lower right is the cable car coming up. The Eibsee is by the base of the cable car line...
Budding graffiti artist? ...
...stroking Chamois in Austria...
...and just playing with all that snow!

The view across the summits was spectacular and the walking direct from the summit would have been great, except that it was soft snow and clearly not going to be worth the attempt for people who are shorter than the snow is deep. Though we seemed to be well above the vascular plant line, tucked into the cracks in the paving slabs were a smooth green mat of moss - looking like Bryum argenteum, though I don't know whether that species is recorded at this altitude - evidence that bryophytes have got what it takes.

The return journey was through the rather more sedate medium of the toothed railway, which was also quite rapid, but spent a lot of time in a long tunnel through the mountain. We emerged into high conifer forest which looked very interesting botanically and was scattered with butterflies, but alas were unable to get out and explore... Another time maybe. The rest of the day was spent ambling around the Eibsee.
The Eibsee - from ground level - looking northeast.
Wild child of the woods
Amongst many other very nice things to see, Herb Paris is a particular treat for a Devonian
A tiny fraction of countless tadpoles in a small lake to the side of the Eibsee: a four-metre wide band of tadpoles around the entire waterbody, so several hundred metres long in total, constantly circling the pool like wildebeeste traversing the Serengeti...