Episode 01 – The Benediktenwand in Bavaria, Germany
Our first destination is the Benediktenwand in the Bavarian Prealps. According to an old folk tale, the mighty mountain ridge rests on four golden columns and contains a vast trove of treasure. We’d like to take a closer look.
1,801 metres high and situated directly on the edge of the Alps, the mountain promises climbers breath-taking views and photo opportunities. We reach the small village of Arzbach around evening, and spend our first night at the campsite, for a change. Perhaps that’s not so adventurous, but it guarantees us a secure place to leave our stuff while we climb.
Eight in the morning. During the night fat drops of Alpine rain hammered against the walls of our tent. It was a long night, but not exactly restful. ‘Hopefully our shoes won’t be soaking wet underneath the trailer, at least,’ we thought. This vain hope was crushed with a single peep out of the tent. Somehow we had managed to park the trailer above a small dip in the grass, so that a large puddle of water had formed beneath it.
But our plan to climb the mountain leaves no time for sulking. We want to reach the peak by midday and decamp as early as possible. With three heavy rucksacks holding about nine litres of water and our camera equipment, among other things, we set off about nine. The first hundred metres are incredibly idyllic. With each breath we draw in the scent of the dense forest. The gravel crunches lightly under our feet, and the birds sing in the treetops.
After about an hour the forest thins out, giving way to a wide, flat expanse of grass with a narrow gravel path that will lead us past a mountain pasture, numerous cows and Bavarian Warmbloods to the foot of the Benediktenwand and up towards the peak.
Grabbing hold of branches to steady ourselves as we go, we climb the narrow, stony path. After a few hundred metres in elevation, we come across a small mountain waterfall, a convenient place to catch our breath and fill our bottles with crystal-clear water. It takes three hours longer than planned to climb the first 1,500 metres in elevation, as there’s plenty to photograph along the way. We were supposed to reach the peak two hours ago.
About 2pm the clouds begin to gather, and wafts of mist hover only a few centimetres above the ground. The clouds shift rapidly. We find a suitable viewpoint barely two hundred metres away from the mountaintop to set up our tripod and camera, positioning the camera towards the cross on the summit to take a time-lapse photograph. Click. Click. Click. As our camera eagerly snaps picture after picture, we share half a loaf of bread, a large hunk of Alpine cheese and a salami.
We pack our things and scale the final few metres to the peak. Through the gaps in the clouds we glimpse an indescribable view over the Prealps. We feel a sense of boundless freedom. We choose an alternative route for the way back, stopping off in a nearby meadow. Our toes stub uncomfortably against the ends of our shoes as we climb down, pushing and burning. Thinking of cold beer in the meadow, we grit our teeth.