AInitially it is still wide, the river bed of the Partnach. Gravel and sand banks accompany its banks, maples and spruces stand on the mountain flanks. A hiking trail follows the rocky river that feeds from the Schneeferner glacier on the Zugspitze. Then the water flows faster and faster, rushes over stones and rushes towards a rock wall, which suddenly pushed itself into the scenery. As if swallowed by the earth, the river disappears.
But not the hiking trail, it just narrows to a path. If the hiker follows him, he comes to a rock tunnel. And once you have escaped, you stand in an oppressively narrow gorge with rock walls up to 80 meters high. Although there is little of the sky to be seen here and there, the Partnach is there again.
And now, in summer, the hiker is also feeling a refreshing coolness, the thermometer seems to have fallen by several degrees. Water from the high mountains is ice cold, and it looks just as fresh in this rock cellar. The air smells earthy and damp.
You literally breathe water, and you can’t ignore it either: It thunders and roars with up to 100 decibels, which corresponds to the noise of a circular saw and makes the body vibrate. The path along the Partnach is also a strangely sensual experience – it won’t let you go, it seizes you, you feel the power of nature, and that at 700 meters, because that’s how long the Partnach Gorge is.
The river eats its way deeper and deeper into the Alps
In 10,000 years the river has cut into the rocks. Its energy is everywhere, you can feel it immediately; it booms and rustles, rumbles with the rubble in the river, the sediments are sanding the Partnach deeper and deeper into the Alps. Every year the gorge deepens in places by up to two centimeters.
And because something can always break, it needs men like Rudolf Achtner who take care of the gorge, especially the path, and ultimately the safety of the approximately 400,000 annual visitors. Men who keep an eye on the weather report and react to heavy rain and thus possibly rapidly rising levels or even tidal waves in the narrow gorge. Then the gorge must be cleared as quickly as possible.
Like in summer 2018, when the Partnach Gorge was closed from mid-June to early August after severe storms. Or like in the summer of 1991; at that time tons of rock had fallen from a rock wall at the southern end of the gorge and blocked the way and the water bed.
A small reservoir was created; the Partnach made her way around the boulders. A year later, a 108-meter-long tunnel was blasted into the rock, past the rock masses and the reservoir.
The Partnach Gorge is different in every weather
The Partnachklamm is a magnificent natural spectacle, the manager of which has an astonishingly sober title: Head of Department V, Building Yard, Garmisch-Partenkirchen Market. Rudolf Achtner has been doing this job for almost 20 years and yet he never knows what to expect when he comes to work in the morning: “Before we open the gorge in the morning, my employees and I check the condition of the paths – boulders or branches can lie there. ”
And tells of the fact that probes are stuck in the rock that identify movements and weaknesses in the rock and that wire nets and ground anchors secure the rock. But despite all these precautionary measures, tree trunks can be tilted in the gorge.
Then his people have to get into the cauldron with the chainsaw and clear the way again. In the end, Achtner is in charge of all safety measures in the gorge, including the railings that limit the path.
Achtner is fascinated by the many facets of this eerily beautiful gorge: “The gorge is different at any time of day and in any weather. On sunny days I feel like I’m in the Grand Canyon. And when it has rained for days, then I can feel the wild, pure nature here. ”
Depending on the weather conditions, i.e. how much precipitation there was, the water looks different. Sometimes it’s turquoise, sometimes milky gray. In the river bed there are rocks and woods, mostly shattered and shattered.
“In the past, the mountain farmers and forest owners even drifted wood through the gorge,” says Achtner: “To do this, they saw the felled wood into one-meter-long trunks above the gorge and threw it into the river. At the end of the gorge they intercepted and collected it again. Each piece was marked with an identification mark of the farm owner, the house march. “
Reverence for nature in its original state
The locals also ventured into the gorge themselves to transport firewood from the Rhine Valley to Partenkirchen on Trift trails. From these trift paths through the gorge, the visitor path was created at the beginning of the last century. Spectacular, sometimes dizzying, but thanks to Achtner and his employees, today they are completely safe.
The caretaker has a number of favorite spots in the gorge, he also reveals one: “There, where the Illuminated Madonna is, located in the upper third of the gorge.” The path comes out of a tunnel, it’s narrow, the rock hangs far over, the Partnach is very close. And opposite, the image of the saint watches over a ledge in the rock.
At that time, belief in God was certainly necessary to even dare to come here. Nobody needs Traute today; the reverence for nature in its original state – rock, water, kinetic energy – but has remained.
The path is carved into the rock; Chest-high ropes and railings prevent falling into the raging tide. You are close, right in the middle, the open gallery creates an immediate experience. Where there was no other way, tunnels, nine in number, were blasted into the mountain. At the end of this, the hiker always has a different perspective and a new perspective of the gorge.
Sometimes it is more of an entrance than a view, because you rarely see the sky. Instead, shiny, wet rock keeps pushing into the picture. Small waterfalls hang over them like delicate curtains. Around the next bend, trees grow vertically into the gorge on rock ledges.
Where the river comes to rest a little, ponds have run out. Bathing is of course prohibited here. It is most beautiful in the Partnachklamm in the early morning and late evening, when it is quieter, and in the summer around noon: the sun is at its zenith and shines deep into the gorge. Then it’s selfie show time.
Tips and information
Getting there: The Partnach Gorge is located near the Partenkirchen district. Those arriving by car should take the B2 to the Olympic ski stadium, where there is enough parking space. It’s a two-kilometer walk from the stadium to the entrance to the gorge in the Wildenau; carriages are also available.
Accommodation: The best hotel in the region is the five-star wellness hotel “Schloss Elmau” at the foot of the Wetterstein Mountains, with breakfast and various services from 220 euros per person in a double room, schloss-elmau.de; “Biohotel Garmischer Hof”, central location in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, double rooms from 146 euros, garmischer-hof.de
Partnachklamm: The gorge is open all year round (June to September, 8 am to 8 pm; October to May, 8 am to 6 pm); however, there may be closings for security reasons. In this case, the gorge can be bypassed. Adults pay six euros entry, children up to 17 years old three euros, information at partnachklamm.eu.
Alternatives: There are a number of spectacular gorges in Germany, especially in the central and southern federal states, for example the Drachenschlucht (Thuringia), Kirnitzschklamm (Saxony), Bodetal (Saxony-Anhalt), Ehrbachklamm (Rhineland-Palatinate), Breitachklamm (Bavaria), Schluchtensteig ( Baden-Württemberg).
Participation in the trip was supported by Bayern Tourismus Marketing / Garmisch-Partenkirchen Tourismus. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.