Accident gondola of the Zugspitz cable car rescued

The damaged cabin of the spectacular new Zugspitz cable car during an emergency exercise last week could be salvaged. However, for safety reasons, the cable car will have to stand still for a longer period of time.

About a week after the accident at the Zugspitze cable car, experts recovered the damaged cabin. It was brought to the mountain station on Friday morning, according to the Bavarian Zugspitze Railway in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The cabin had been pulled up about 280 meters at a speed of ten centimeters per second. "We are very relieved. The first important step has been taken," said Martin Hurm, Operations Manager Cable Cars and Lifts Zugspitze.

It’s still unclear when the cable car on Germany’s highest mountain will be operational again

Following an accident during an emergency exercise on Wednesday evening (September 12), the new cable car at the Zugspitze, which was only opened in December 2017, was so badly damaged that it had to shut down for an indefinite period of time. The cost of the material damage had not yet been determined. The cause of the accident had to be investigated further, and the ropeway manufacturer was also involved. According to a report by broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, the cable car could be out of action for months.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

Germany's highest building site

50 million euros were invested. No other cable car in the world traverses a longer unsupported span: more than 3200 meters from the support tower to the summit station. It has the world's tallest aerial tramway steel support, 127 meters in height. The cabins travel 4.5 kilometers, covering a difference in elevation of almost 2000 meters in one section. Those are technological world records.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

The first new cabin

Adorned with a white outline of the Wetterstein Massif, the new cabins offer more comfort and a better view. They have room for 120 passengers. The new cable car can transport up to 600 people an hour to the summit. When the glass-walled cabins whisk passengers at high speed over the single support tower, an adrenaline rush is guaranteed on the ten-minute trip.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

The new summit station

Engineers and technicians worked on the new cable car for three years. Now the cranes have been dismantled. The three-story summit station glistens from afar. It's fully glazed, including the station platforms, technical buildings and panorama restaurant. Even getting into or out of the cabin is a thrill: the new building hangs 30 meters above a precipice.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

Worn out after 54 years

The Austrian side already had a cable car to the Zugspitzkamm ridge, 2805 meters above sea level, in 1926. In 1963, the Bavarians went one better: in the following years, the Eibsee cable car took more than 21 million passengers up to 2960 meters. The last cabin traveled to the valley in spring 2017. Adding up all the kilometers, the old cabins circled the world more than 76 times.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

Around Lake Eibsee

The old cable car was named after Eibsee lake. This emerald-green mountain lake lies near the valley station, 1000 meters above sea level. Its name derives from the "Eiben", or yew trees, that once lined its shores in even greater numbers than now. Hiking trails lead around the lake, with its eight islands in crystal-clear water. You can also explore the area on a mountain bike.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

The cross on the summit

The golden cross at the summit was damaged by a crane in May 2017 during construction work. The crane's chain tore off several of the cross's golden rays. Some of them fell deep down but could be salvaged. On December 6, 2017, in a spectacular operation, the Zugspitze's 4.88-meter-tall landmark was put back in its place.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

Panoramic view

This view attracts more than half a million visitors a year. In fine weather you can see more than 400 peaks. Mountain enthusiasts know their names, but you can simply look them up on the Zugspitze app on PeakFinder AR. Still, many tourists are perfectly contented just enjoying the sun and magnificent view over Germany, Austria, and the Swiss Alps as far as the Dolomites in Italy.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

Zugspitze Plateau

The Zugspitze region is a veritable winter paradise and an ideal arena for winter sports, and it still has a lot of natural snow. The season for skiing and tobogganing on the glacier often lasts well into May. However, in recent years snow has rarely fallen as early as this winter. The Alps are already suffering from the early effects of climate change.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

The cogwheel train as an alternative

The Zugspitze cog railway first turned Germany's highest peak into a tourist paradise. It has been taking passengers from Garmisch-Partenkirchen up to the glacier since 1930. The final meters to the Zugspitze plateau are now bridged by a short aerial cable car. The trip on the historical cogwheel train takes about 75 minutes. In the summer, many hikers use this way to get to the summit.

The Zugspitze cable car - it's the tops!

Germany's highest beer garden

Most tourists visit the Zugspitze in the summer, and the cable car operators rely on them. The slogan "a mountain experience for everyone," aims to attract more passengers with disabilities to the summit. The barrier-free cable car is expected to carry up to 600,000 passengers a year and run for at least 50 to 60 years. Whether there will still be snow-covered Alpine peaks remains to be seen.

It is regarded as a showcase project at Germany's highest peak: the 1,945 meters' difference in altitude from the valley station to the summit station is a world record. The two gondolas can carry 580 passengers per hour to the summit and thus cope with the rush of around half a million visitors to the Zugspitze each year with considerably less waiting time than with the predecessor, the Eibsee cable car.

The Zugspitze can also be reached by rack railway

Until further notice, the Zugspitzbahn will remain out of service. In the meantime, visitors to the Zugspitze can switch to the rack railway. The "Gletscherbahn" cable car to the summit is also still in regular operation. 

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is/ch (AFP, dpa, br,