GERMAN HILL AND MOUNTAIN HIKES

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Harz National Park20 Mar 2005Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Molkenhausstern - Illsenburg






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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg
Start at Wernigerode Station, circa 240m
Highest point reached was Monkenhaus, circa 740m
Distance circa 30kms
Vertical altitude gain of circa 600m
Total time from start to finish of 7hrs 50 mins
Weather was cold and sunny with deep frozen snow in the forests above circa 650m.

(Without detour to Toten Moor walk would be circa 24 kms, 500m height gain and circa 6 hrs)
This weekend saw my first German Steam Loco trip for 2005 from Braunschweig on Saturday 19th March. Braunschweig has a good train service into the Harz NationalPark, so when booking flights in January added an extra day for a hike on the Sunday. I expected very late winter walking with little or no snow so planned a new route: from Wernigerode to Brocken. I had not counted on the severe winter weather that Germany encountered from mid January onwards, and so setting out early on 20th March I had full winter gear except for snow shoes. I still did not expect to meet much snow as the last few days had seen a rapid thaw in the area, with the Brocken Station web cam report showing snow level at the 1142m summit rapidly reducing from 2.5m to less than 1.9m.

The Saturday was very dull and damp, but Sunday morning was clear and frosty, giving a lovely sunrise as the train hurried to Vienenburg where a change of trains was needed for Wernigerode.
Departure from Braunschweig
Sunrise
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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
The Brocken is highest Harz Mountains summit but at 1142m it is not that high: although with surrounding areas as low as 240m it can be visible from quite a long. Mostly it is covered in low cloud: it does have very poor visibility record as well as being likely to suffer very high wind speeds. But not today. From well before my change of trains at Vienenburg the distinctive summit with it's massive telecoms mast was clearly visible. Approaching Wernigerode after changing trains I was also pleased to see very little snow on the lower slopes, giving me some encouragement that I may be able to achieve the long hike up from the East.

At Wernigerode Station, the summit was again clearly visible from the narrow gauge railway station, (right). A railway that operates a frequent steam locomotive hauled service to the summit on every day of the year: except when the line is blocked by heavy snow as it had been less than week earlier. I could perhaps have waited from my 07.30 arrival for the 07.50 bus which would have taken me through the town, but I wanted to walk the entire distance and so endured over an hour of boring town streets until at last entering the forest near to Wernigerode-Hasserode.
Brocken seen from Wernigerode
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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
Weringerode-Hasserode Steinerne Renne Waterfall
The forest track started out as a tarmac road next to the river running off the Brocken, and before long it had crossed the railway at Steinerne Renne and headed into the forest as a quite steep rocky path. It ran next to the river, and soon came to the bottom of the well known Steinere Renne Waterfall. A waterfall that is long and steep!
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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
Weringerode-Hasserode Steinerne Renne Waterfall
The path now got steeper and was formed mainly of rocks and boulders for a while, (above), later on partly covered with ice and snow, where I should really have used my crampons as the rocks became very slippery. But the roaring waterfall was great to walk next to, especially where the spray had frozen on one of the trees that had fallen across the water.
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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
Forest Gasthof Steinerne Renne Waterfall
Another steep, icy and rocky section got me to the top of the waterfall, overlooked by a Forest Gasthof. That had a better track to it, but I had enjoyed the challenge of the trail I had used. At the Gasthof I met three other hikers, the first since Wernigerode, and the last for another 5 hours. I was about to have a very large part of the Harz National Park entirely to myself in some of the most superb weather I have ever enjoyed there. I guess everyone else knew more about the snow levels higher up than me!
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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
Brocken Signpost
Snowy track
The Brocken was sometimes visible and the signs warned of a steep climb ahead as the track gained a snow covering.
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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
The snow got deeper but was frozen on top and there were no more footprints, but ski tracks were firm enough to walk in. But not for long! Soon the ski trail ended leaving only animal tracks. Now I was breaking through the frozen surface. Oh for my snow shoes which would have stopped me sinking to knee depth: and that was painful on knees and ankles. So this was why there were no other hikers, and why I was left with just animal tracks on such a super day. The thaw may have started, but overnight frost and the remaining snow meant this route was not yet passable on foot! But it was fun hiking on my own, and I retraced my steps and picked up a better track to Molkenhausstern, (right). Out of the forest the snow had gone, but the tracks back into the dense cover of pine trees looked to be no better than that I had left earlier, so I decided to take a snow free track towards Illsenburg. Molkenhausstern
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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
View from Molkenhausstern
The view North from Molkenhausstern was lovely, but deceptive. No sooner had the track dropped into the forest than a deep layer of frozen snow was met. But easier to get through as the grade was downl. Before long some frozen snow shoe tracks were found, and I followed these until the main snow line was left behind.
20th March hike continued










20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
At times my hike was like an "outward bound course", leaving the deep snow, (although the frozen snowshoe tracks had helped), onto cleared tracks then having to negotiate a fallen tree! But great fun as I stopped for a chocolate break overlooking the South West end of the Illsetal: still enjoying the wonderful weather on my own as I hadn't seen anyone since Steinerne Renne Waterfalls a few hours earlier. That was soon to end as I was now close to the Illsetal Waterfalls, which after the first part of the thaw was now easily reached on foot from the car park near Illsenburg. South West end of Illsetal
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20th March 2005: Wernigerode - Toten Moor - Malkenhausstern - Illsenburg continued
Illsefalle
Meltwater had turned the normally gentle Illse Waterfalls into more of a torrent. Although feeling very tired, I still found time to stop and enjoy the view before two more weary kilometres saw me at Illsenburg Railway station in time for my train back to Vienenburg and then Braunschweig.
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