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At 9,718 feet, Zugspitze is the highest peak in Germany. It is situated in the southern part of Germany that borders Austria, in the Bavarian Alps. There is a train that runs up and down the mountain, making it accessible to everyone without the strain of climbing. The summit of Zugspitze is marked by a golden cross, which is a popular tourist attraction.
First Summit Climb
Officially, the summit of the Zugspitze was first reached in 1820 by Josef Naus, Johan Georg Tauschl and Naus's assistant, but people from the local area had been visiting the mountain top for decades before that. A map discovered in an archive in 2006 proves that people in 1770 must have been on the summit, as it depicts details that would not be known otherwise.
Originally, Zugspitze consisted of three peaks, and one of these was 6.6 feet taller than the current summit. The lower middle peak was blown up in 1930 to make way for the trains and the train station, while the highest western peak was removed by the Nazis in 1938 to allow for the establishment of an airbase that never materialised.
Many trains run up and down the Zugspitze. A cogwheel train takes skiers and snowboarders to a glacier just below the summit. A cable car line runs alongside the entire mountain side and another cable car line takes visitors from the glaciers to the peak.
The summit cross was erected in 1851 after a German minister complained that the country's highest peak lacked an ornament to mark its significance. An iron cross was carried to the summit by 28 climbers, but it had to be taken down for renovation at regular intervals, since it was prone to lightning strikes. After the end of World War II, the cross was used for target practice by U.S. soldiers and had to be replaced. The current cross is gold-plated, weighs 300kg. and is 16.01 feet tall.
Avalanches and Deaths
The Zugspitze experiences frequent avalanches. The mountain has been monitored regularly ever since an incident in 1965, when a restaurant was covered in snow and 10 people died. The Bavarian Avalanche Warning Service has established safe zones that are under constant surveillance and are treated with blasts to remove layers of snow that could cause an avalanche. However, between 1965 and 2010, 114 people lost their lives on the mountain by either leaving the safe zone or because they didn't take appropriate precautions. In one instance, two cross-country runners participating in a race to the summit died in 2008. The sportsmen were only dressed in shorts and T-shirts as they attempted to run up the mountain side. They were surprised by the sudden approach of cold weather and died of hypothermia.
- Alexandra Beier/Getty Images News/Getty Images