“The hills are alive with the sound of music
With songs they have sung for a thousand years
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music
My heart wants to sing every song it hears”
Have you ever seen a landscape so beautifully picturesque that it makes you want to dance in the fields below the towering mountains, pluck the wildflowers and smell their sweet perfumes as you sing and frolic about? Well, welcome to Bavaria!!! And because I turn every vacation into some kind of hiking trip, I thought that the Austrian and German Alps would be the perfect backdrop for sightseeing mixed with a bit of rugged adventure. With scenery straight out of the Sound of Music, you will want to be dancing up one of the many attainable mountain summits that dot the landscape here.
Schneibstein summit appealed to me when I was seeking out a feasible day hike to escape the hustle and bustle of Salzburg, Austria. The summit of the mountain is an international gem; straddling the border of Germany and Austria. Standing at 2276 meters (7467 feet) high, it certainly isn’t the highest peak in the range, but gains some real elevation and offers up some pretty amazing views from the top.
There are a couple of different routes that you can choose to reach the summit. You can check out the details on this great outline on summitpost.org. I took the most convenient way up which was also incredible scenic. You can catch the Jennerbahn cable car to the “top station” from the parking lot at Lake Königssee in Berchtesgaden, Germany. This will put you close to the top of Mount Jenner. This is also where you can catch the trail junction to Schneibstein; cutting off several miles of trail so you can start getting to the nitty gritty parts of the summit climb much sooner (shouldn’t every hike have an easy button?).
Make sure to check the cable car hours for the last ride down if you want to get back at the end of the day this way or you will end up having to hike back down Jenner Moutnain to the trailhead.
Another added bonus of this route is that you can take a quick side trail from the top station and check out the views from Jenner Summit as well (a short 15 min hike return from the top station). The view from Jenner provides a great vantage point to Lake Königssee and a close up view of Mt Watzmann. Despite the popularity of the trail, it’s not one to be missed in my opinion. And you get to kill two summits in one day !
The trail from top station to the Carl-Von-Stahl Hut is a cake walk on a wide, well maintained path. The trail beyond the hut requires some fancy footwork as it becomes signficantly more rugged and can be tricky to follow. The trail from the hut to the summit is marked by a white rectangle with a red circle inside and is painted on the rocks. These are not always easy to spot when you are climbing.
This trial was rated as “moderate” and let me tell you, it was pretty rough. For the distance and elevation gain that was listed I thought it to be an easy trek to the top. I would have benefited from some high ankle boots and trekking poles on this one. The trail was slow going as it’s laden with slick rocks to dance around. There are several points where hand and feet climbing is required. There are no really exposed sections, however the terrain just made for a knee and ankle beating trek.
About half way up the mountain, you will begin to see the final ridge to the summit, which seems impossibly far away, especially if there are a lot of ant-sized hikers slogging their way up in the distance. Along the way, stop and catch your breath and take in the incredible views; Mt Waztmann-the 3rd highest peak in Germany, is the magnificent beast in the backdrop of this climb.
Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy some time on the wide, flat summit. From the top you can choose which view you wish to enjoy; the peaceful valley on the Austrian side, or the rugged and aggressive mountain range looking towards Germany. You can’t go wrong with either.
The route back down from the summit proved more difficult without poles than the trek up. Each rock ready to claim life or limb. I would strongly advise that anyone unfamiliar with the trek not try this in foul weather. It is difficult enough to catch the right trail on a clear day let alone a day when the mountain is socked in with cloud and fog.
As far as summits go, the payout for time invested:views on this trek was phenomenal. I loved the way the clouds hung tight to the tall mountain peaks and the how the green mountainsides contrasted with the cold hard rock. I also didn’t hate that half way back down, I could stop at a beer house for a cold brew or glass of vino and a piece of cake; all while sitting on a patio overlooking one of the most spectacular views! Germany and Austria have it right. I wager all mountain trails should have a beer garden strategically placed.
Every vacation needs a little adventure (and wine!). This day hike was a perfect combination of both. Maybe it was the spectacular views or maybe it was the wine or a combination of both, but I found myself with a song in my soul and a pep in my step as I danced my way back to the trailhead.