get out and enjoy it
Whether it is hiking or biking, downhill or cross-country skiing, snow shoeing or walking along the Hohenweg around Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the main thing is get out of the town and see the surrounding hills. Do not let the weather fool you or keep you from enjoying the day. Dress for the weather, bring along extra clothes, like a rainjacket in your knapsack, or indeed to put your jacket in if it gets too warm, and then get out and enjoy the day. So often we have been really lucky, and enjoyed the 2-3 nice hours of the day when the weather was good, and then seen it rain and get miserable. We were so happy then to have used those few hours to enjoy ourselves and get some exercise. We see a lot of tourists who spend the whole day in the town, wandering around because they are afraid of impending rain. Don't be. Sometimes it is cloudy and doesn't rain. Other times, rain comes without much warning when you are on a long hike. No worries, it is only rain. Also, when you are skiing. Sometimes if it cold and windy, or cloudy and foggy, it is nicer to stay in the valley and go cross-country skiing. If it rains, you can go to the swimming pool in Garmisch or in Grainau. Be aware of the weather, but don't let it intimidate you. Dress for it, but beat it at its own game. Then at the end of the day, you will enjoy that beer even more, and have a real appetite for your Bavarian dinner.
Essen Gut, Alles Gut.
packing light is sound advice
Packing light is not just sound advice, it is essential for group dynamics. I ski tour with special forces soldiers, who are big, and strong, and I have seen them beaten by the size of their packs. For one, you are up at 3000 meters and higher. You are ski touring the whole day. On a hot day, the snow sticks to your skins on your skis and every step is like lifting 5 lbs. of snow, boot, and ski, not anything like gliding. You sweat, you lose a lot of water, you get tired and dehydrated. And, if you are carrying too much it will kick your butt. But, even if you're an uebermensch, and can carry 40 kgs or 80 lbs. all day, you still have to reckon with skiing. I have been in breakable crust, able to jump turns, and glide between turns to regain my balance, as I am not that heavy and did not have a large, heavy pack. My larger friends, with their monster packs, were breaking through the crust, sinking down, unable to properly unweight their skis during the turns, and not able to spring up out of snow to execute jump turns. They were also not able to keep or regain their balance if they lost it. Therefore, they were falling a lot. This tires you out a lot and slows the whole group down. Nothing worse than waiting for the slowest person all the time. A group that skis at the same speed is more enjoyable and safer. If you work hard and sweat, waiting around for people to catch up means you're more likely to freeze if it is cold and windy or if you are in the shade. The worst experience I had was with two snowboarders that I was forced to share a snow cave with. They had way too much stuff, and all the wrong stuff. Not only were they slower on snow shoes than I was on skis, but due to the weight of their packs they struggled on the downhills on snowboard. One became so exhausted, that we had to divvy up his gear amoung everyone else, to help speed him up. After 6-hours of ski touring, we had to dig our snowcaves. He was too tired to help us, so we did the hard, wet, and tiring work of digging the snow caves, which means we were even more drenched in sweat when it got dark and cold. Then once in the snowcave, it turns out that the snowboarders forgot what they were supposed to have. A sleeping bag, a bivvy bag, and a thermal matt to sleep on. Between the two of them they had just one sleeping bag, one bivvy bag, and one thermal matt. I had all three, plus the stove and fuel, and extra dry cothing to change into. However, I was forced to share my matt with them, so they did not have to sleep on the snow, without a proper sleeping bag. So, I was forced to lie half on my matt, and half on the cold snow, instead of being warm and dry and looking forward to a good night's sleep after a long, hard trek. I was furious. Their inconsiderate behavior and stupidity, meant I carried all that gear, and then could not even enjoy it properly. They brought the most useless articles, and too much food. What are you going to do with 5 lbs of gorp? The worst case of group dynamics, but I have seen it again and agian. Guys that think they are big and strong, and they bring too much gear. And, worse when they bring the wrong gear. Also, you have to think about how you are going to ski with your stuff on. It has to be well packed and tied down well. If you have stuff hanging off the outside of your pack, and take a fall, all that stuff is going to get lost in the snow. I have seen water bottles shoot out of the outside of the pack and head clear down the mountain. Everything should go in your pack, unless it was designed to be on the outside, like ice axes, and in this case my skis. And, it should be well tied down so it does not move around while you are skiiing.
Less is more when you have to carry it. It is not just yourself, but the whole group, who have to evaluate and reduce what you bring, so divide up the communal gear, and only bring what you will need.
childhood dreams never really go away
When I was a kid, we used to have this VW bus that my dad camperised, and we used to drive all over Western Canada in it and go camping.
Then when I was a little older, I read Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck, and a little later, The Drifters by James Michener.
It has always been kind of a dream of mine to pack all my stuff - bike, skis, kayak, hiking boots, etc. - in a VW bus and spend at least 6-months discovering Europe without any fixed agenda. Just travelling around to places, hanging out, being able to sleep in the van, and then get up in the morning and go hiking or biking or whatever.
I might go to Toulouse and learn some French while exploring the Pyrennes or I might just kick around the Alps for a while. Unfortunately, it is getting the six months off. This could come between jobs and/or on my way back to Canada someday.
My other problem is finding someone who wants to come with me. Adventures are more fun when you have someone to share them with. But, in a VW van, it has to be someone that doesn't complain or get on your nerves too much.
Just a ways outside of Garmisch (approx 40 minutes) is the castle of King Ludwig II. This is one of the most beautiful castles in all of Germany. It is worth the tour and especially the hike up to Queen Victoria's Bridge. They say that the Disney Castle was modeled after this one....
Walk to Mittenwald
It's about 12 to 13 miles but you get the train back.
Take the cable car up to Eckbauer. At the top turn left & follow the signs to Wamberg & Elmau. After about 20 minutes the path descends down an incline to a well signposted junction. Straight over takes you to Elmauer Alm via a poorly marked path. The way is marked by paintmarks on trees. If you turn right the path goes down a fair way but after about 10-15 minutes you reach the road where you turn left & it's a steady incline which takes you to Elmauer Alm in about 45 minutes. It's a wooden mountain hut with a terrace with great views & a welcome beer or two. Leave Elmauer Alm through the terrace & follow the path down the hill & through the trees. It's a little steep in parts. When you come out of the trees Schloss Elmau will be in front of you. Head to the left of the castle & follow the road & signposts to Ferchensee, Lautersee & Mittenwald. The path follows a stream up for some of the way or you can stay on the road. From Elmauer Alm to Ferchensee takes about 90 minutes & there's a gasthof by the lake. Have a look at the fish in the lake or have a beer. The menu's good at lunchtime but it's cold plates after 2.30. Leave the gasthof & turn right for Lautersee. There's a steep path down to the lakeside which you reach in about 30 minutes. There are several bars by the lake so you're spoilt for choice if you want another beer. At the end of the lake is a small chapel on a little ridge which is worth a look. Keep to the right of that & follow the signs to Mittenwald. After about 5-10 minutes take the left hand path when you get to the fork by the woods & you descend to a waterfall & small gorge. The path leads to the outskirts of Mittenwald in about 30 minutes. Head for the church & the centre of town. The road past the church goes to the railway station. Times are approximate but if you say 4 hours all in that's not far off. There are some good mountain views, two lakes & a waterfall & 3 refreshment stops. Not a bad day out.