Trekking Blog for ultralight and outdoor – Trailblaze

Snowshoeing trip along the Harz Mountains Border Trail

March 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

At last the time has come. My 3-day trip draws ever nearer, and snow conditions in the Harz Mountains could scarcely be better. The snow on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz, is 1.80 meters deep!

We begin our trip in the North of the town of Ilsenburg and have planned to cover 20 km over the Brocken before spending our first night. After only a few paces, we find ourselves in deep lying snow and are overwhelmed by the snow conditions. We slowly make our way towards the summit accompanied by sunshine and a strong head wind.

Harz Mountains Border Trail

Darkness soon falls as we descend from the summit along the Goethe Trail, and we put on our headlamps. A few steps later, heavy snow begins to fall. This adds a genuine sense of expedition to our trip, and on this occasion I am glad that I have packed the Tikka XP headlamp and left the Petzl e-Lite at home.

We fight our way through the snow and the darkness for two hours before putting up our tarps near the sandy cliffs at the foot of the Brocken.

My companion succeeds in erecting the first tarp in only a few minutes by using the snow pegs. These weigh 250 grams, and I have decided not to pack them because of the weight. I have instead opted to carry lightweight storage sacks (which can later be filled with snow). I bury these securely using the SnowClaw snow shovel and was completely happy with the construction I had created, which seemed extremely solid. The only problem was that this procedure takes up considerably more time, meaning that there was a delay of a good 10 minutes before I could start cooking.

Between 20 and 30 cm of fresh snow falls overnight. I remain largely oblivious to this in my MLD DuoMid Tarp, which is considerably larger than the Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis Tarp and features much steeper walls to allow to snow to slide off effectively.

Our Tarps after a lot of snow

Although the Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis performs very well in snow, the MLD DuoMid is a fully fledged 4-seasons tarp. Its walls extend down to the floor, and I am also able to bury them slightly into the snow. This makes it much more wind resistant. Although its dimensions are larger, the Cuben Fiber Version of the MLD Duo Mid (275 grams) still manages to weigh in Pokies 110 grams lighter than the Wild Oasis!

The next day, we continue along the Border Trail in a southerly direction along the old patrol route. A few kilometers of this are still (unfortunately) used for cross-country skiing.

Harz Mountains Border Trail

We are pleased when the cross-country skiing route branches off to the left into the forest near the Winterberg, enabling us to regain a genuine feeling of moving through open countryside.

Things then become really Siberian as we reach the “Warm Bode” Valley behind the town of Braunlage. The “Warm Bode” River flows attractively through this wide valley, providing a chance to strike out across country in ideal conditions for a snowshoeing trip.

Harz Mountains Border Trail - Valley of Warme Bode

We need to take care as the Border Trail takes a left turn in the valley to meet the B242 main road at a later point. Our hope is to make our way right through the valley to the B242, and the official Harz Mountains Border Trail map seems to confirm that this is possible. Nevertheless, the Warme Bode cuts off our route after we have travelled a further distance of approximately 1 kilometer, and we are forced to retrace our steps.

Having carefully crossed the B242, we come to a border museum featuring an original part of the former border fortifications. Exhibits also include an original barbed wire fence complete with watchtower and floodlight system.

Darkness is unfortunately upon us again, and I realize that I have no wish to spend the night here. We set off again and hike our way through the night for a further two hours.

It takes us a long time to find an appropriate site to put up the tarp. Finally, just before the town of Hohegeiß, we reach a clearing near the Ochsenberg where we set up camp for the night.

bivouac with MLD DuoMid

During day two, we have descended so far down into the valley that the constant snow is sometimes turning into drizzle. A true test of our equipment! But both our bivy sacks and our (Mesh-GoreTex) shoe system featuring waterproof sealskin function well under the conditions and do not leave us in the lurch.

Unfortunately, we are already nearing the end of day three. We have now covered 55 kilometers on our snowshoes. It is hard to imagine that the trip could be any better. A true fairy-tale with a genuine sense of adventure right in the heart of Germany!

Gear List:
Winter Gear List


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Trekking Blog for ultralight and outdoor – Trailblaze