You can ride the gondola to the top of the Zugspitze from the Austrian (western) side of the mountain, or take the cog train, which is what we did on this trip.
The cog train departs from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and winds its way up the side of the mountain with beautiful views of the surrounding area.
The lake in the distance is the Eibsee, which is just north of the Zugspitze and southwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
At the base of the Zugspitze you switch trains from a more traditional style train to the specialized cog train, that climbs to the top of the Zugspitze through an unbelievable tunnel carved into the very mountain itself.
Although the gondola ride takes only about 10 minutes, if you don’t like heights take the cog train instead, which is an adventure to itself and an amazing feat of engineering.
The cog train takes you through a tunnel and you arrive inside the Zugspitze at this “station” – where you can either ride a gondola down to the ski slopes or take a gondola higher to a restaurant on the very top of the mountain.
This is a view up to the gondola that takes you to the restaurant and observation platform on the very top of the Zugspitze.
The restaurant and observation platform is perched on the very highest point of the Zugspitze and commands a view of the entire Alps.
The cog train station is on the very side of the Zugspitze that overlooks the ski slopes, which lie in a natural “bowl” carved out of the top of the mountain.
My fellow “Warhawk” shows how steep the slope is from the ski slopes up to the cog train station on the side of the mountain.
Other tourists venture out to see the glacier that will form the base snowpack of next winter’s ski slopes.
In this September photograph the summer sun has been melting the glacier for months, and the resulting runoff drains into this small lake at the base of the glacier.
I doubt that the snowfield on top of the Zugspitze properly amounts to a glacier, but the snow does last all summer long and contributes to the base snowpack for the following ski season.
As the snowpack melts throughout the summer months, the bedrock of the Zugspitze is slowly revealed from underneath the snow.
I stand in the September sunshine, in contrast with the many ski photos of the same area that I’ve previously taken.
Here is what the ski slope cafe looks like in the summertime, whereas the wintertime photos show the place crowded with skiers sitting in the sunshine with their skis and poles “planted” in the snow.
The entire Zugspitze and surrounding mountains consist of solid rock, and are a testament to the steadfastness of nature, compared to the fleeting timeframe of our own human existence.
This is the classic view of the jagged mountain peak that I have photographed many times before while skiing.
Here I am in a September summertime photograph, instead of my usual wintertime ski portrait in front of the same jagged mountain peak.
I stand at the edge of the snowfield that may in fact be a glacier by definition, in that it remains year round and never melts completely.
Rope tows sit silently as they await the start of a new ski season, as the gondola brings summertime tourists down from the cog train station perched high above the slopes.
The Zugspitze slopes are smooth and easy to ski, and provide the longest possible ski season for this region of the Alps.
In the summertime the high Alps are a forbidding place to venture out into unprepared, just as the wintertime creates an opposite contrast of a snow and ice covered desolation.
The Zugspitze looks like an utterley wild and desolate moonscape in the summer, only to be transformed into a fantastic fantasy snow kingdom during the winter.