Time: 9.5h. Up: 1110m. Down: 1720m.
Distance: 28km. Difficulty: hard/easy.

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Stage 6: Herzogstand Haus (1550m) to Oberammergau (837m)

Click and drag on map above to see area around trail. Click here for large zoomable map.

This is a long day, in fact the fourth longest distance you'll hike in a day on the H2H... you'll be more than ready to stop by the time you get to Oberammergau.

After a short climb up from the Herzogstand Haus you start with an exhilarating hour-long traverse of a high ridge to the summit of Heimgarten. From there you descend over 1100m to the village of Eschenlohe in order to cross the Loisach (first seen in Stage 2), before climbing almost 600m to a saddle under the Laberberg. As the sun sinks you finish with an easy, but by this time almost certainly painful, walk down into your goal for the day -- the world-famous home of the Oberammergauer Passionsspiele.

If you have hiked straight through from Munich to Oberammergau, then today will be the third long and strenuous hike in a row. Given this, consider taking tomorrow off. After all, the H2H is supposed to be fun and there is plenty to see and explore in Oberammergau... if you have the energy to do so!

Today's hike is identical with the Via Alpina until Eschenlohe, where the Via Alpina heads south to Garmisch-Partenkirchen while the H2H continues on west to Oberammergau. From the Herzogstand Haus climb to the summit of Herzogstand (1731m) then cross via the narrow ridge to Heimgarten (1790m), where there is a mountain hut that serves refreshments. Descend as if going to Walchensee, but at the Ohlstadter Alm saddle (1420m) take the path to the right down towards Eschenlohe. After a while you'll reach a forest road that... hours later... deposits you in Eschenlohe (640m). Cross the Loisach and follow roads to Plaicken. If your map shows a footpath going across the fields to Plaicken ignore it... it doesn't exist. Ignore also the series of signs at ten minute intervals all saying "Oberammergau 3h"... they are just trying to demoralize you. From Plaicken take the path straight up the hill. After the saddle near Unterstand (1220m) a forest road will take you down into Oberammergau.

Alternatives: if the weather is bad, avoid the exposed ridge between Herzogstand and Heimgarten by descending to Walchensee and taking the low-level path along the Eschenlaine river to Eschenlohe (it won't save you any time, but it is much safer). If you spent the previous night in Walchensee and do not want to take the low-level valey route, but are nevertheless unwilling to add the climb to Herzogstand to an already overlong day, then a good compromise is to take the path from Walchensee in the direction of Heimgarten. Before you get to Heimgarten, however, you turn left at the Ohlstadter Alm saddle and follow the standard H2H route down to and through Eschenlohe (total time and distance roughly the same as the standard route, but with more climbing and less descent).
Map: K-5 Wettersteingebirge.

The House to House blog... stage 6.

Click here to go to all of our H2H photos on Flickr.

Room and Board Options
Lunch: plan on having a picnic, or rather, given the length of the day, two picnics. The restaurant at Heimgarten is reached too early, and those in Eschenlohe too late, assuming that they are open (which, in my experience, they frequently are not).
Dinner and overnight: there are many restaurants and places to stay in and around Oberammergau (for a complete list, see here). We stayed at the Hotel Alte Post, which was excellent.

Getting There and Back
Herzogstand Haus: Klais and Kochel am See both have railway stations from which very infrequent buses run to Walchensee (for bus and train schedules see Die Bahn). Take the cable car up from here up to the Herzogstand Haus, but note that it only starts running at 9:00.
Oberammergau: there is a railway station here.
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on Walchensee, centered on Oberammergau.

Background Information and Links
Wikipedia: Eschenlohe, Oberammergau. If you can read German, click through to the German version of the Oberammergau page for more information.
Local websites: Eschenlohe, Oberammergau.

Interesting local topics:

  • Eschenlohe. This charming village in a beautiful setting is as visitor-unfriendly as any along the entire H2H. Why this should be so, I'm not sure, but it is no less true for being inexplicable. Here is my evidence....
  • For a start, the trail sign-posting around Eschenlohe is awful: when walking down from the east we ended up scrambling through a private garden when the trail petered out without warning, in the center of the village there were no signs to or even towards Oberammergau, and then, when we finally did work out where to go, while walking out to the west we passed three linked signs at 10+ minute intervals all saying "Oberammergau 3h". Even worse: this is the only time in my many years of hiking in the Alps that a hiking trail on a map has had no counterpart in reality. There simply is no trail leading directly across the fields to Plaicken... you have to take a round-about route along roads. Coincidence? I think not.
  • In part this mistreatment of Oberammergau-bound hikers might be due to a fairly obvious passive/aggressive inferiority complex vis a vis the hugely successful neighboring village. Further proof: the path up the Laberberg to Oberammergau, once you finally find it, is of a positively medieval quality, unlike any other trail I have been on in Bavaria. Funnily enough, Oberammergau seems to be aware of, and not above teasing Eschenlohe for, this attitude. How else to explain the cheery "Welcome to Oberammergau!" sign at the saddle, where the medieval trail from Eschenlohe is abruptly transformed into a perfectly laid-out, white, crushed-stone, path?
  • Then there are the restaurants, or rather the lack thereof: nowhere else in this part of Bavaria, at least in my experience, will you find all three of the village's restaurants closed in the middle of a hot summer's afternoon. It's just not done... someone always stays open for the tourists. However, I guess for chicken and egg type reasons, perhaps there are no tourists in Eschenlohe.
  • Lastly, there is a little bit of local history which suggests another explanation for the visitor-unfriendliness: the inhabitants of Eschenlohe are just plain incompetent. In 1999 a major flood on the Loisach caused extensive damage in Eschenlohe. This wasn't entirely unexpected: state planners had been warning of the danger for years, and for years the village had been discussing flood control measures, but had been unable to agree on any of the proposed plans (despite the fact that the vast majority of the costs were going to be borne by the state of Bavaria and not by the village). In any normal place you would expect that the 1999 flood would have led to a quick decision (closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, sure, but that's only human). Not in Eschenlohe. In 2007 there was extensive damage from another major flood... because they still hadn't agreed on a plan. Sigh.
  • Oberammergau. What a contrast to Eschenlohe! This picture-perfect village is one of the loveliest in the Alps and is well worth a rest day to get to know. Archaeological evidence shows that the Ammer valley was already settled in Celtic (pre-Roman) times. The name means "Upper Ammer Meadow", whereby "Ammer", the name of the river, also has Celtic roots ("Ambra") and means "quietly flowing". Documents first mention the village in the 9th Century, when one of the major north-south roads through the Alps from Venice to Augsburg ran through the Ammertal.
  • The root of the village's wealth dates back to 1332, when it received the right to be one of the stops on the Rottstrasse -- a feudal monopoly on trade over the Alps which specified how goods were to be transported, by whom, and where they could be sold. The right that Oberammergau received in 1330 was the so-called "Niederlagsrecht" (right of entrepôt), which meant that goods being transported through the village had to be unloaded from wagons and deposited in warehouses for a certain number of days, thus generating substantial direct and indirect revenues for the village.
  • Essentially the Rott was a tax on trade. The medieval economy was very different from a modern economy in that it was based upon monopolistic rights and privileges that were "granted" to specific towns or individuals by the rulers of an area, either in exchange for a yearly sum of money, or sometimes as a reward for services rendered. Most significant towns in Europe trace their rise back to specific rights that were granted them in the Middle Ages.
  • If you look in Oberammergau you can find a memorial to the Rott: it is in a quiet side street -- a bronze sculpture of a man on a wagon.
  • With the rise of modern nation-states and the changing of trade routes in the 16th and 17th Centuries the Rott gradually lost its importance and was finally shut down in the middle of the 18th Century. However, by then Oberammergau had found another -- and probably eternal -- source of wealth, although it wasn't until the 19th Century that it became a major money-spinner: the Passionsspiele.
  • Passionspiele (Passion Play). Today Oberammergau is famous for its Passionsspiele, which has been performed every ten years (more or less) since 1634. Passion Plays portray the events leading up to and just after the death of Jesus. They used to be quite common: villages and towns would commit themselves to staging them as an expression of piety or in thanks for some perceived grace bestowed upon them by God.
  • In 1633 the plague came to Oberammergau and many died. In October the villagers swore that if they were spared they would, as thanks for deliverance from the plague and in order to forestall its return, henceforth stage a Passion Play every 10 years. From that day onwards the plague deaths stopped, and with two exceptions (in 1774 and in 1940) the play has been performed at least once every 10 years since then.
  • Only those who live in Oberammergau can participate in the production... and an astounding 50% of the 5,000+ inhabitants are involved one way or another. In the last two hundred years the Oberammergauer Passionspiele have become ever more famous -- and ever more unusual as other towns and villages gradually stopped their own performances -- and it is today a major tourist attraction. In 2000 the 40th Passionsspiele had over 100 performances (each about seven hours in length!) and was seen by almost half a million people.
  • You can read more about the Passionspiele here.

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