Trekking Blog for ultralight and outdoor – Trailblaze

The Harz Witches Climb winter trip

March 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Having just completed my Christmas indulgences and learning that the weather forecast promised blue skies for the next few days, I decided at short notice that I would undertake a two-day solo trip of half the Harz “Witches’ Climb” (50 km).

The Harz “Witches’ Climb” is 97 kilometers long in total and crosses the Harz Mountains from West to East. It is a main hiking trail signposted throughout and enables walkers to familiarize themselves with all the diversity the Harz Region has to offer in a single trip.

The Harz “Witches’ Climb” begins very gently near Osterode (200 m above sea level), and the start of the route does not convey the impression of being in the Harz Mountain Range. The first stage takes the hiker over fields which do not feature any great uphill gradient.

The Harz Witches Climb near Osterode

I have planned to spend the night near Torfhaus in the foothills of the Brocken (800 m above sea level) and thus have 32 km before me. I have taken the precaution of packing my snowshoes, although there are no signs of snow during the initial parts of the route.

Long sections of my route take me past the canals which are the remnants of the mining activities which once took place in the region. As early as the 13th century, miners were building a network of ponds, canals and dams for the purpose of energy generation. These then later gave rise to the so-called Upper Harz Water Shelf.

The Harz Witches Climb

At about 4:30 pm it gradually begins to go dark, and I still have a number of kilometers to go. I use my new Petzl e-Lite headlamp (27 grams) for the first time. The light it gives out on the extremely crusted trail is, however, marginal. I plan to pack the Tikka XP again when I go on my next winter trip. The narrow pathway is now snaking its way around a mountain. There is a steep drop to the left and a steep drop to the right. It is impossible to spend the night here, and I am left with no choice other than to walk for a further two hours in the darkness until I finally see a clearing in front of me. I put up my tarp in about 50 cm of snow.

The Harz Witches Climb

The next morning has a nasty surprise in store. Overnight temperatures have dropped to -12 degrees, and my water has frozen!

my frozen water reservoir

Unfortunately, I have forgotten to pack my large pot (1.1 l) and the Trail Designs Caldera Cone designed for use on such winter trips. All I can do is use my small titanium 450 ml mug for the laborious task of melting the snow for my tee and porridge. Despite wind protection, the Anti Gravity Stove and the 450 ml pot are too ineffective to melt large quantities of snow. Fortunately, I have enough spirit with me.

Day two takes me from Torfhaus over the Brocken to my finishing point of Schierke. I finally get a chance to use my snowshoes and end my trip in true winter style.

Harz “Witches’ Climb” elevation profile:
Harz Witches Climb elevation profile

Gear List:
Gear List The Harz Witches Climb winter trip


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Trekking Blog for ultralight and outdoor – Trailblaze