The air is cold, damp, smells of earth. Steep rock faces stretch high into the sky. At the foot of the rocks, the wild, turquoise Partnach River winds its way through the narrow ravine.
The Partnach Gorge: A popular destinationThe Partnach Gorge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen has been accessible to visitors since 1912, when it was declared a natural monument. Nowadays it attracts over 300,000 visitors each year, who make their way along narrow paths and tunnels through the high rocky cliffs. Below them, the turbulent Partnach rushes past - above them, water drips from the rocks. The Partnach Gorge is open to visitors all year round: On hot days the high cliffs provide welcome shade. In the winter months, the frozen water creates bizarre formations, with enormous icicles hanging down from the rocks. Hardy types can hike through the many beautiful areas around the gorge – and marvel at the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Rudolf Achtner is the gorge administrator. He is particularly fascinated by the many different aspects of the gorge: “The gorge changes with the time of day and with the weather. On sunny days I feel as if I’m in the Grand Canyon – and when it has been raining non-stop for three days I get a sense of wild, pure nature.”
The gorge administrator is responsible for safety issuesRudolf Achtner has an overview of all the safety work that is carried out in the Partnach Gorge. When the 54-year-old goes to work in the morning with his colleagues, he never knows what to expect. Overnight, various bits of debris can accumulate in the almost 700 m long and 80 m wide gorge, and could pose a risk to visitors. He and his colleagues therefore regularly walk the paths and check for fallen rocks or branches.
From the 19th century: Timber drifting down the Partnach GorgeEven before the Partnach Gorge became a tourist destination, it played an important role in the economy of the region: From 1886 the gorge was used for timber drifting. When a severe gale uprooted hundreds of trees above the Partnach Gorge, the timber was sawn into metre-long pieces and thrown into the Partnach River.
From here it drifted down towards the valley - marked with the “house mark”, the identifying symbol of the timber owner. This was dangerous work, but it was the only way of transporting the timber from an otherwise inaccessible region.
The best time to visitToday the Partnach Gorge is a popular visitor attraction. If you want to fully enjoy the natural spectacle with its countless waterfalls, you need to come early in the morning or late in the evening when very few people are about. The most beautiful light, on the other hand, is at midday: “Between half past eleven and half past twelve, when the sun shines directly into the ravine, the gorge is illuminated with the most beautiful colours of the rainbow”, enthuses the gorge administrator.
Rudolf Achtner is acutely aware of his role in conveying the tradition and history of the Partnach Gorge to visitors. It’s something he will keep doing for as long as he is able.