Geierstein (1491m) – Sod the Summmit
(the 611 from Lenggries)
As part of my rehabilitation, I am finding that going hiking is pressing all the right buttons for me at the moment. It’s a great cardio-vascular activity, it’s building my muscle strength in all areas and it’s not too demanding on the upper body muscles, ligaments and bones – an area where I still need to be a little bit careful. Not to mention what it does for my heart and soul. Mentally, I am also getting a lot of satisfaction preparing and setting myself what I hope are realistic and achievable goals. Meeting them and/or going beyond them is exhilarating. Before cancer, at my hiking fittest, I could walk up 1,100m in 3 hours (The Wankberg with Andrea, October 2016 – ironic to think now that I did that with a bloody great tumour strapped to my chest!). After the brilliant but brutal treatment that my body has endured this year, returning to full bodily strength in all its marvelous complexity is currently the chief focus of my life. Going beyond my previous fitness is my dream. But one step at a time…..
This week I had chosen to hike up Geierstein, a relatively small mountain on the other side of the Fockenstein, where I went last week. Both mountains are in the Bavarian pre Alps between Tegernsee on one side and Lenggries on the other. Last week, on a sunny day, I found the route relatively undemanding and so on Friday, I was looking forward to completing a similar distance but with a bit more of a challenge on the 611 route from Lenggries.
I set my alarm, as usual on a hiking day, for 5.15 in order to get the 6.10 S Bahn to the Hauptbahnhof and the 7.03 BOB train to Lenggries. Things started to go wrong at 5.15!! I did wake up but these days, I am so happy just to feel happy when I awake that I frequently just wriggle around in bed smiling to myself , enjoying being alive. It is still something of a novelty to be able to flip over easily from one side to the other without pains in my chest or cramps in my arms and to sleep deeply for a whole night with only one trip to the loo. Being able to stretch my arms back behind my head onto the pillows is my ultimate luxury so today, rather decadently, I dozed for longer than planned……
There was hardly anyone on the train, it being a grey and dismal day. I’m always slightly anxious at the start of a trail I’m unfamiliar with, especially if I’m on my own. Maps rarely give street names and, on the ground, the trail numbers are not always signposted clearly. But these days my map reading is pretty good and I found and started the trail, easily enough at 10.15. I enjoyed walking up through the first bit of forest – a gentle climb, mostly beech trees with a smattering of firs. There were lots of leaves on the ground creating a springy, cushioned path. But it wasn’t long before the path became quite muddy (we’ve had a lot of rain this week). The forest became more dense and much darker and the path became steeper as exposed tree roots and hidden stones created an increasingly slippery climb. I was in no hurry. I listened to my heart. I took it easy. But it was quite hard work, even at this point.
As I gained height and the path opened out, the ground dried up a bit and I could see through the thinning trees to some fabulous views of the Isar valley and to the mountains beyond. I reckoned I must be nearly at the top by now.
At this point, the path started to get really quite narrow in places with some steep drops to the side. There had been no indication on any of the signs that this was a red route (or black route?) and there were no steel cables attached to the rocky bits to support. Interesting. The switchbacks increased and the path continued to climb. Obviously, there was still some way to go. Then, with no warning, I came face to face with an unavoidable obstruction– a fallen tree across the path. I sussed it out, looking uphill and down. It had lots of short sharp branches attached – impossible to crawl under but substantial enough to offer a hand hold. I would need to climb over.
I paused to consider this: would I be able to get my leg up that high? Would the trunk stay securely in one place or go sliding down the mountain with me on it? Having exerted the required energy to get my right leg up, would I have enough energy left to bring the left leg over to join it or would I get stuck, legs akimbo? More importantly, once I got over to the other side, would I be able to get back? So many questions…..! Only one way to find out, I decided. I did think about turning back but was so psyched to bag this summit, I decided to give it a go. In the end, I got my leg over just fine and dandy and was happily relieved to find myself landing safely on the other side.
Puffing and panting a little, a bit more climbing took me to what I was sure was the summit but this turned out to be another false alarm –This was Markeck (1057m) a mini, mini mountain, instead.Precisely how many rocky outcrops were there in this neck of the woods? I continued for a while then hit a really stinky section.
It should have been beautiful – the track dipped down from Markeck and was covered in beech leaves again. But the path narrowed so much I had to hang on to the side of the mountain (to rocks or roots) with my gloveless hands in order to find my balance and prevent slipping on the muddy path. This walking ‘at an angle’ was a bit unnerving to say the least but I was sure it would not last for long and in any event, I would soon arrive at my desired destination. But the challenges continued – in two places I had to pull myself up and across the path, hanging on to the tree roots, using my upper body more than it’s been used for months.
The path was so slippery and hard to make out I dare not risk anything else. At this point, snow began to cover the path. It was only a light dusting but sufficient to both lower the temperature considerably and to make the going even wetter and harder.
I had intended to save my perusal of the map till the summit. All the way up I’d been thinking, “This is hard but I don’t need to come back this way. Once I’m at Geierstein I’ll take the path to Aueralm” But now cold, hungry, tired and still not at the top I sat on a snow covered branch and knew I should check my bearings now. So I studied the map. The route from Geierstein to Aueralm was probably twice what I’d walked already and although it would be less steep I was not optimistic. I looked ahead at the wall of thick black tree roots cutting through snow that were facing me and I decided I didn’t need to do this anymore.
I’d achieved what I set out to achieve. I also, rather reluctantly had to aknowledge that my ego had already taken me further than I really wanted to go. I now had no option but to go down that same slippery path and it was my own responsibility. I didn’t dare hang about for a hot drink or any food at this point– I thought this might dull my senses – so I promised myself I would rest once I’d got over the stinky section. Safely.
So that’s what I did! I was very focused. Very calm. I took things dead slow and listened carefully to my body. And I talked to it and reassured it! It was far less scary going down than I thought it would be. I only slipped over once but because I was going at a sensible pace, the only accident was muddy hands. I did not hurt myself. I negotiated the ‘hang on to the tree roots’ section, mentally grateful for all the yoga I’ve been doing recently. I really enjoyed climbing back over the tree.
When I sat down in a clearing for my first hot drink of fruit tea and a cheese sandwich, I was very content. And I began to process my various achievements, not least, the decision to turn back. Refreshed, and now continuing down hill I was suddenly mindful of how much improved my balance and coordination were from a few months ago. It began to feel easy as I felt the strength in my legs when I landed on a firm dry bit, confident enough to keep going at pace – I felt like a young gazelle! But sure enough, no sooner was I feeling pleased with myself than the final challenge of the day loomed large – where was the path? Suddenly, one beech tree looked very like the other and there was not one target to be seen! (Targets are painted onto rocks or trees to mark the way) I also suddenly realised that I had not seen one other person since I left the station that morning. I was completely alone in the fading light. Jeez! This was turning into quite a hike!
I looked about me as I stood in quite a wide, muddy gulley, with beech trees all around me and a ridge and skyline up to the right. “I don’t remember walking up there on the way up” I said to myself, “Or did I?” Quiet and isolated, with only the sound of the woodpeckers to keep me company, this was the scariest moment of the day. I paused, tried not to panic and tried to think clearly. There must be a target somewhere. I looked all around me. Nothing. I walked downhill a bit and turned back to look uphill – aha!! Found one, up very high on the other side of the tree. In this way, ie walking downhill then looking back uphill, sometimes on the path, sometimes off it, I managed to get out of the big wide gulley and back on to the Hansel and Gretel path. Pretty stupid marking if you ask me!
Back on track, confidence returned and I stopped for another cuppa. I checked the train schedule. I still had loads of time. The walk back into Lenggries was lovely – it’s a very pretty town and the alpine cows were still visible (and audible) in the low pastures. No sooner had I emerged from the forest and set foot on the pavement when it began to rain but I had my umbrella so that was ok.
I was very tired when I got to the station, where I had a welcome cup of coffee, happy to be in the warm and snug before my train came.
And now? I’m glad I went. I’m glad I took my time. I’m very glad I turned back when I did and I don’t need to challenge myself like this for a while. I need decent boots, gloves, sticks etc before I attempt a hike like that again and it’s not one to be done alone either. That was an important message from today. I look forward to the day when I am strong enough to hike from Lenggries, up the 611 to Geierstein and Fockenstein, on to Aueralm and thence to Bad Wiessee. What an accomplishment that will be!
The biggest challenge for me at the moment is not to jump ahead of myself….. now that my hair is growing back and I am beginning to look ‘normal’ again, the excitement of stepping back into the ‘real’ world and actually living in it is tangible. But I need to balance the desire to push myself further forward physically with a realistic understanding of just how far I can risk pushing it. Life is different now. I am different now…and I’m in no hurry…..
Some facts and figures
- Began 10.15
- Total up and down approx. 9-10km (from station), just over 500m. On the flat I was walking approx. 1km in 15 minutes. This doubled with height.
- Estimate for the future: 5km to Geierstein (steep), another 5km to Fockerstein (even steeper?); 2km to Aueralm; 5km down to Bad Wiessee (easy ‘man made’ path). Total 17km approx. 1100m
- Good link for a route to follow when I’m ready http://www.auf-den-berg.de/wandern/bayern/wanderung-ueber-zwei-gipfel-von-lenggries-zum-tegernsee/
Sarah Halliday xx
November 12th 2017