Zugspitz Vertical Challenge is a 10-mile +2127m trailrun from Ehrwald (in Austria) to the summit of Zugspitze (2962m). I've always dreamed of running all the way to the Top of Germany. Now I was finally going to make it come true. Or so I thought anyway.
|Map of my Suunto Move of Zugspitz Vertical Challenge.|
On Friday evening we received a text message announcing that Marathon had been moved from 6am to 8am and Vertical Challenge from 9am to 10:30am. These two races shared the same course in the last 10K. What the text message failed to mention was that both races would be shortened by about 1km. Their finish would be at Sonnalpin (2576m) instead of Zugspitze (2962m).
|Vertical Challenge map.|
|Vertical Challenge profile.|
|Competitors getting ready for their start.|
The course was an easy gradual road to Alm cable car station (2K, 1105m). From there it was a wide uphill trail to the other end of the cable car at Ehrwalder Alm (4.8K, 1502m). From there it it was a short climb through the woods to the first aid station at Pestkapelle (5.8K, 1617m). They had watermelon slices so I stopped to eat for a couple of mins. It was hot and sunny so I filled my water bottles as well.
|Right after the start.|
I enjoyed the steep trail to Feldernjöchl (9.3K, 2045m) and welcomed the cooling effect of clouds above 2000 meters. Then followed the only technical section around Gatterl (9.7K, 2024m). They even had signs indicating the start and end of the 'dangerous' part. In a good weather like this there was nothing to worry about. I hardly noticed it, but we crossed the border between Austria and Germany here.
|Last corner before the finish.|
|TPjr at the finish line.|
It was getting increasingly foggy and cloudy, but these were definitely not thunderstorm clouds. I sprinted to Sonnallpin (14.7K, 2576m) finish line arch with an official time of 2:48:01 - good for 7th place in my age group M50. A girl hang a medal around my neck and a guy asked if I was ok. I said I felt fine and then made a mistake by asking where the trail to Zugspitze summit was.
|TPjr right after the finish.|
|Beautiful day in Ehrwald before the start.|
|I used Mountain King Trail Blazer poles.|
|Getting through the gear check was perhaps the greatest challenge.|
I spotted the trailhead to the summit easily because there were lots of hikers going up Zugspitze. To feign a retriet I walked casually in the opposite direction. I went past Gletscherbahn station and entered the round steel and glass Gletschergarten restaurant. After a while I got out the other side. The thick fog formed a natural smoke screen for me. I wasn't followed, so I rapidly sneaked behind the buildings and descended a steep slope to the summit trail.
|Calm before the start.|
|A friendly sign welcomes tourists at the top of Via Ferrata.|
|A little rain and hail, nothing to worry about in a Gore-Tex jacket.|
|A memorial by the mountainside.|
|I made it!|
In hindsight I should have climbed the whole thing on my own, starting early in the morning when it was still cool in Ehrwald. I could have easily reached the top before it got really cloudy. Maybe I'll do that together with TPjr in the future. In any case, this was good training for Swiss Irontrail T201 in mid-August.