Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

back to overview

October 2003

Pace Maker

An interview with author Michael Pause and an excerpt from his hiking guide Münchner Hausberge

“The wonderful thing about Munich’s local mountains,” says Michael Pause, author of Munich’s classic hiking guide Münchner Hausberge (Munich’s Local Mountains), “is that anyone can hike here. Only a few of the trails are really strenuous; they’re just perfect for family outings. There is no heroism involved in any of these walks and visiting all the Wirtshäuser (inns) along the way makes it fun for adults too.” Pause, who publishes a mountaineering magazine called Berge and produces a bimonthly show about hiking for Bavarian Television, “Bergauf, Bergab”, caught the mountain bug from his father. Back in the 1950s Pause senior was a freelance journalist who decided to write a series of walking guides after a colleague had protested that Alpine guides were as dull as dishwater and nobody wanted to read them.

One of these hiking books was the original Münchner Hausberge, first published in 1965. This innovative guide was a huge success—the fifth edition was out just one year later—and has remained so to this day. Father Pause would often take his six children out on walks to “test” them for his book, but, says his son, these outings were never a chore. “Children can’t see the point in walking,” he adds. “There are two things that interest them out in the mountains: water and rocks and my parents understood that.” When Münchner Hausberge finally began to look a little outdated in 1988 Pause junior decided to give the book an overhaul. He included new graphics, removed obsolete information and added a few destinations. The latest edition, published a year ago, features 68 hikes. Each tour is described in detail, includes a map, offers alternative routes and is accompanied by a large color photograph—the three walks recounted below are roughly in the same format as they appear in the guide.

Should you decide to take up the challenge and try one of the trails we have chosen, Pause has the following advice: if you are an inexperienced walker a pair of hiking boots are, though not essential, definitely a help. Always take along something to drink on a walk and if you discover that you have a taste for mountain hiking, consider investing in a pair of poles. These have become popular with walkers in recent years because they help reduce strain on the knees and other joints. If possible buy your poles at a proper sporting-goods store, though, because the cheaper versions tend to break easily. Asked if he has a favorite trail in the book, Pause says that the Rotwand route is the one he likes best. “It has the reputation of being quite crowded, but this happens only on perhaps three sunny weekends a year. I liked to go to the Rotwand as a child and I still love it today.” We have included it in this article and hope that on some sunny day in the not too distant future you will find the time to strap on your boots and head out to this or one of the many other mountains around Munich.

Cozy turret with a view of Inntal
• Mountain hike
• 1,338 m
• Minimum age: 8 years
• 1/2 day
Starting point: Gasthaus Duft (785 m) near Nussdorf (487 m)
Character: Easy hike to a peak with an outstanding view of the Inntal.
Best time to climb: May–early November.
Hiking time: Ascent 11/2–2 hours, descent 11/4 hours
Mountain huts (Hütten/Almen), where meals can be had: Daffnerwaldalm (1,060 m, private)
Route: Gasthaus Duft—Daffnerwaldalm—Heuberg
Variations: It is well worth taking a 15-minute hike to the neighboring peak, Wasserwand, but here extreme steadiness of foot is necessary.
Winter hike: Though Heuberg is generally a year-round hiking destination, visitors tend to stay away once there is snow on the ground.
Train and bus: Train Munich–Rosenheim, then bus Rosenheim–Nussdorf

With its 1,338-m elevation, Heuberg doesn’t exactly stand out among Munich’s local mountains. However, its prominent position above the Inntal makes it an extraordinary place from which to enjoy a spectacular view, all the way to the central Alps. Those who have passed through the Inntal on the Autobahn—that will include almost every reader of this article—will certainly have noticed the mountain that has a steep meadow just below its peak. From the Inntal, there are almost 900 m to climb. It is a steep, grueling ascent that takes about three hours and makes Heuberg seem like a much larger mountain than it is. The more comfortable, tamer version of the hike begins a little higher, at the parking lot for hikers, near the tiny village Weiler Schweibern, at the south side of Samerberg (a few meters away from the Gasthaus Duft). Starting off along a narrow shaded track gives hikers the chance to warm up and find a comfortable rhythm. The first clearing affords a view of Samerberg’s flat basin far below. Only a few steps farther the panorama opens up to include the landscape to the south. The Daffnerwaldalm is about the halfway point, though it is probably best to march past this sandwich stop and keep it in mind for the hike down.

The walk to the Daffnerwaldalm is easy enough; the next 40 minutes of uphill hiking is, by contrast, considerably more taxing. The path is fortified almost all the way, though one section that leads through the forest can become slippery when it rains—not a problem for those wearing proper hiking boots.

Though this grassy “hill” reaches only 1,338 m in elevation, the spot in the northwest corner of the Chiemgau Alps is high enough to surprise its guests with a great view. While the Wilde Kaiser mountain is almost completely obstructed by the Zahme Kaiser and the somewhat higher Kitzstein cuts down on the view of the southeast, this does not detract from the beautiful panorama afforded by Heuberg.

Heuberg, in fact, has a couple of trump cards to offer hikers. The most exciting of these is the Wasserwand, where Gipfelstürmer (literally “summit stormers”) scramble along a small route fixed with cables in order to enjoy a view from an even higher vantage point than that offered by Heuberg. The most romantic of Heuberg’s aces, found near the end of the tour, is the charming cascade of the Fluderbach. A few minutes later, hungry hikers find themselves back at the Gasthaus Duft.

Brünnstein and Grosser Traithen
Ridge hike between Inntal and Bayrischzell
• Mountain hike
• 1,852 m
• Minimum age: 12 years
• 1 day
Starting point: Gasthaus Rosengasse (1,200 m) near Oberaudorf (483 m)
Character: For the more experienced hiker, this is no more than a mountain walk to a beautiful lookout point. The direct path to the top, along the Dr.-Julius-Mayr-Weg, is a well-secured, exposed route (“via ferrata”).
Best time to climb: Mid-June–late October.
Hiking time: Ascent 3 hours, descent 2 hours
Mountain huts (Hütten/Almen), where meals can be had: Baumoosalm (1,199 m, private), Brünnsteinhaus (1,342 m)
Route: Gasthaus Rosengasse—Baumoosalm—Seelacher Alm—Grossalm—Brünnsteinhaus— Brünnstein—Seeonalm— Gasthaus Rosengasse
Variations: It is also well worth walking along the ridge from Brünnsteinhaus to Grosser Traithen, about a 21/2-hour hike. Another route that leads to Brünnsteinhaus begins at Gasthaus Tatzelwurm and leads visitors over the Schoisseralm in about 21/2 hours.
Train and bus: BOB Munich– Bayrischzell, then bus Bayrischzell–Rosengasse

Brünnstein (1,619 m) is a virtual paradigm of a Bavarian foothill: in the middle of a gentle landscape of meadows and forest stands a round summit, replete with a steep rock “nose” pointing towards the Inntal—a playful alpine accent in a tranquil setting.

A mere glance at the map will tell any mountain enthusiast that he will, most days, have to share Brünnstein with other hikers. Here, the route possibilities are many and nearby streets and towns offer myriad tourist attractions. But anyone who knows the wonders of Brünnstein, with its picture book-landscape, understands its draw and is willing to share.

The hike begins at the Gasthaus Rosengasse, at the end of a delivery road leading from Tatzelwurm, and soon winds its way to the Rosengassenalm, where the path forks. Follow the left-hand path, where the trail slopes down into the lovely Baumoosalm hollow. (Fast hikers may prefer to take the right-hand path, which is the more direct route to Brünnstein, but those who are out to enjoy some beautiful views will enjoy the left-hand path more, wandering from one alpine meadow to the next). After Baumoosalm comes the Seelacher Alm, then Grossalm (1,248 m), which lies in the hollow between Brünnsteinschanz and Brünnstein.

A little further on a small, north-facing rocky outcrop prevents hikers from walking directly to the summit, 400 m higher. This obstruction can be circumvented by making a wide path around the north face to the easternmost point, directly beneath the peak and then taking a sharp right to the Brünnsteinhaus (1,342 m).

After a leisurely lunch it’s time to make the final ascent to Brünnstein peak. Two paths lead from the restaurant to the top: an attractive small-scale “via ferrata” (easly climb along fixed cables)—not for those who suffer from vertigo—and a simple footpath that does, however, go through some rather rough terrain near the end. Though Brünnstein’s elevation is nothing to brag about, the view from the top is. From there hikers are treated to a panorama that includes views of the Wilde and Zahmer Kaiser mountains, the ski slopes of Kitzbühl, the glacial peaks of Hohe Tauer and the Zillertal Alps.

The descent takes hikers past the Himmelmoosalm and then on to a small pond, which is near the Seeonalm. The paths join up with the outward trail near the Baumoosalm, and from there it is just a short walk to the Rosengasse.

Classic Munich “home mountain,” above Spitzing Lake
• Mountain hike
• 1,884 m
• Minimum age: 12
• 1 day
Starting point: Spitzingsee
Character: Popular, easy mountain hike.
Best time to climb: Mid-June–late October.
Hiking time: Ascent 2 1/2 hours, descent 2 1/2 hours
Mountain huts (Hütten/Almen), where meals can be had: Rotwandhaus (1,737 m, German Alpine Club)
Route: Spitzingsee— Wildfeldalm—Rotwand– Rotwandhaus—Kümpflscharte— Kümpflalm—Pfanngraben—Waitzingeralm—Spitzingsee
Variations: The paths from Geitau to the top of the Rotwand are far less traveled than others. Here a hiker will either climb over the Kleintiefentalalm or over the idyllic Soinsee and the Grosstiefentalalm, both trips taking 31/2–4 hours. The fastest way up takes about 11/2 hours and the starting point is the top station of the Taubenstein gondola.
Winter hikes: The Rotwand-Reib’n is a classic ski tour, but, during a winter with little snow, many hikers can be found walking those trails. Do NOT attempt to descend through the Pfanngraben! The Rotwandhaus with its restaurant opens in mid-December.
Train and bus: BOB Munich– Schliersee, then bus Schliersee–Spitzingsee

Which Munich-based mountaineer has not heard of the Rotwand? In spring of 2002, the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote of the popular hiking spot that “on nice weekends, the mountain is hopelessly overrun.” In fact the author of the article revealed two things in this statement: one, that he had obviously never been to Rotwand on a Sunday when the weather was good and, two, a propensity for gross exaggeration. Certainly, Rotwand has a reputation for being a sort of everyman’s mountain, a virtual amusement park on weekends. The reality, however, is quite different. Here, no one must, despite its popularity, fight for a spot at the summit. Even if several hundred “pilgrims” made their way to Rotwand on a picture-perfect Sunday, they still wouldn’t make it to the top at the same time!

Many trails lead to Rotwand’s peak. The classic route follows Rotwandweg from the Wurzhütte to the Winterstube, Gleiselstein and Wildfeldalm. After the first 15 minutes, the view opens to the right, exposing lush, green Stolzenberg. After a fork near the Winterstube, where the road surface turns into gravel, hikers will be able to view Schinder mountain, shortly thereafter the bulky Guffert mountain and then, after a left turn at the corner of the Gleiselstein, the Hintere Sonnwendjoch.

Far quieter is the path from Geitau-Mieseben through Krotten and Kleintiefental and from Miesingsattel up to an exposed path that leads over the northern ridge directly to the top (where hikers see, for the first time, the view that those who took the Rotwandweg have had for hours).

Hikers should, however, consider only one way back down: from the Rotwandhaus through the Kümpflscharte and Kümpflalm southward to the park landscape of the northern Pfanngraben and then on to its small gorges, waterfalls and rock basins. Those who are unfamiliar with the romance of the Alps will learn it here! Luckier still are those who have the time, on a hot summer day, to linger on the natural terraces or wade in the shallow pools along the stream. The path back down through the Pfanngraben leads to Valepper Strasse near Waitzingeralm. From here hikers can take the 45-minute walk—do not take the paved road, but a path on the other side of the stream—to Spitzing, or take the shuttle bus Valepp–Spitzingsee to its final destination (study the bus schedule before you start the hike).

“Münchner Hausberge” by Michael Pause is available from bookstores and costs €14.95, ISBN 3-405-16406-0.

tell a friend