A Hike, A Sleigh And A New Year
With the year closing quickly and having just recently returned home, I had one more adventure left in me, before the final countdown for 2021. It was a small tour, nothing spectacular compared to my usual exploits, but sometimes that is precisely the right approach to things. Especially in the current times, with many hospitals already under strain because of Covid, you should try and limit yourself in your tours' scope. Accidents are always a possibility, and any accident of yours will put additional pressure on the current medical system. So it is kind of an act of human kindness, to limit your activities to less dangerous, more localized spots.
In our case, we went for something I had not done in years: Taking the sleigh to one of the natural toboggan-runs in the Bavarian Alps. Those are plenty all over the Alps, built mostly on the access roads to mountain cabins. At least pre Covid those acted as a great funnel to bring additional customers to those cabins, in a slightly exhausted state of mind. Perfect for selling food and drink. And for the people, they are great as well. Activity suitable for almost all age-groups, fun, not too strenuous, not too challenging, with very little financial investment necessary compared to other Winter Sports. So it is quite usual to see plenty of families with young children on these toboggan-runs.
Well, as you are probably aware, nothing was quite usual in the year 2020, and this activity received a considerable boost in popularity. Because, while the ski lifts are close, no one can really stop you from dragging a sleigh a few kilometres uphill on a snowed over gravel-road. Also, compared to touring-ski, the whole thing requires neither specialized equipment nor difficult to obtain knowledge. So we had our own plan, to avoid the crowds that gather daily now at those runs. We would go up very early. Very, very early.
In fact, I left my home around five in the morning, and shortly afterwards, we found ourselves on the Autobahn, driving southwards. I was on the road with my friend Clemens, a relatively frequent guest on my blog. We arrived at the Spitzingsee around 6:30 am and readied our gear. It was ice cold, but luckily for us, the hiking soon got us warmed up while climbing in relative darkness over the icy road, towards our goal. The only hint of the coming sunrise was a tiny, orangish band of light over the mountain range in the east. Still, because of the full moon reflecting on the snow, we could walk without the aid of headlamps, which gave the whole thing quite a magical feel. And it was silent, aside from our voices, and those of around six other hikers working towards the same goal, because nothing gets people into a talkative mood, like dragging their sleighs up a mellow hike.
Anyways, we arrived at the top, quite early and so could take a seat on our sleighs, enjoy some pre-packed breakfast and wait for the sun to come up and over the mountains. And rise she did indeed, first bathing the white cliffs behind us in a rose-orange light, then forming a blinding white stripe at the horizon, and finally climbing over the mountain tops to give us warmth and light. We stat there, marvelling at the sight for a moment before it was time for us to get to the fun part.
The descent waited for us, with an exciting challenge. Clemens had brought a special sleigh, a ski-bob using a single ski as running surface, compared to traditional sleighs' wood and metal rails. And of course, we wanted to find out which of us would be faster. So we put on our goggles and made ready for a race, starting last in a group with the other hikers, and aiming to overtake every single one, counting a split after all the overtakes were done. Well, Clemens beat me tow to one in divisions, with me only gaining an advantage on the last, very icy part of the run, where he had to go a lot slower to keep any semblance of control over his sleigh. But in the upper sections, he had me beat by quite a margin.
So it was only natural to demand a re-match and transport all of our gear uphill again, which was not quite the hassle you would expect, considering it took barely an hour of fast walking to reach the top of the run. Here we set up for our second race, that would be conducted with a little more care, as there was now a steady stream of hikers walking up the same road, separated from us only by our ability to steer. I also had the moral support of the fans this time. A young family had just reached the top of the run shortly before we would start. And their young boy, upon finding out that we would race each other expressed his full confidence in my “fast looking” sleigh while explaining to my buddy Clemens that overpriced gear is no guarantee for a win. Quite honestly, my highlight of the day, but it shows again that you can quickly come to talk with plenty of people in these outdoor settings.
The reason it was my highlight of the day was, of course, because I lost again. Despite clocking a top speed of around 60 km/h on the icy part of the run, I had no chance to beat the ski-bob and even had to fight off some other participants to at least keep my second place.
As it got more and more crowded, and I had to prepare a Silvester dinner at home, we called it quits after the second run and made our way home again, with one last adventure for the year under our belts.
I Want To Try Myself
Now if you would like to try your hand at something like this, it is laughably easy. I can especially recommend the run at the Spizingsee to beginners, as it is a very short and relaxed hike up. Compared to other natural toboggan-runs in the alps, it is not very steep, with not so many tricky turns. If you would like to try, you can really use any type of sleigh you have, although it should be a model you know how to steer. You need hiking boots for grip and breaking, goggles to keep snow out of your eyes while riding, thick gloves to keep warm and most importantly a ski helmet, as a crash can occur with significant forces. If you have all of those, you are pretty much ready. And if you are missing some, or all of this, it will still be cheaper to acquire than a set of touring ski.