An Amble Across a High ‘See Through’ Alpine Bridge
Bari (Mick) Logan
Located near the town of Reutte and not far from the the famous ski resort of Garmisch Partenkirchen, so on the Austrian/German (Bavarian) border, is the ‘Highline 179’ suspension bridge and according to the Guiness Book of Records, it is officially the longest pedestrian bridge in the Tibetan style in the World.
Opened in 2014 it is constructed entirely of metal, with a height of 114.6 metres (376 feet), span of 406 metres (1,331 feet) and has a walking floor width of 1.2 metres (4 feet) which provides just ample space for two people of moderate sized proportions to comfortably pass.
Situated above the Ehrenburg Castle, it links the Ehrenburg ruins on one-side of the narrow valley to Fort Claudia on the other and being almost 10 metres (32 feet) higher at one end has therefore a very noticeable quite deep central ‘dip’.
Although certainly not for the ‘faint hearted’, those that is, who have a fear of heights, it has become a very popular tourist attraction particularly amongst ‘thrill seekers’ and is especially busy at weekends, so best plan a very early morning mid-week visit to get the best experience.
A bar-coded ticket, obtainable from the visitors centre at the floor of valley, costs just 8 euro’s for a single adult, sadly there are no concessions for OAP’s and even the normally highly regarded Cambridge Bus Pass is not accepted, but always worth a try!
A well maintained broad gravel path at each side of the valley ‘zig-zags’ up through the forest to reach either end of the bridge and the walk takes about 20 minutes for the fit to arrive at the full height enclosed turnstiles.
As there is a strict limit of only 100 persons on the bridge at any one time and the bar-coded turnstiles ensure that this number is not exceeded; I would imagine that at very busy times queuing is most likely and in this situation you might only be able to complete a single crossing as attempting a return journey might incur a lengthy wait before access is allowed.
I did make the mid-week early morning start and on reaching the turnstile found to my delight that I was the only person there intending to make the crossing, fortunately I managed to persuade a bystander to take a picture to record the momentous event.
Initially, the most striking feature of the bridge is its basic (seemingly flimsy) construction of four 60mm main supporting cables, vertically attached to which are evenly spaced anchoring bars for the flooring sections. The sides, which rise from the floor and angle slightly outwards to just below shoulder height comprise of wire mesh immediately above which is a continuous stout handrail.
On walking along the bridge for just a short distance one immediately felt a slight sway caused by only a very light breeze blowing down the valley, so in a good wind it would really move, also there was a distinct ‘tremble’ underfoot when walking which would, I am sure, be more noticeable if more people, particularly those of generous weight, were crossing.
The combination of, sense of height, seemingly delicate see-through construction, wind and the movement, certainly heightened the senses somewhat and this feeling took me right back to the very first time that I stepped onto the top few rungs of a 100 foot free hanging electron ladder into an abyss and the slight anxiety that that created until I quickly built up safety- confidence in the equipment.
For me, confidence in the bridge very quickly ‘kicked in’, but I can easily see that for some this could prove a real challenge and at the worst cause a more than hasty retreat back to the turnstile and the sanctuary of terra firma.
On reaching the other side of the bridge I exited the turnstile walked up to a viewing point and took a few photo’s, on returning, a couple with two young children appeared and I patiently waited for them to completely cross before setting off for my return excursion, again alone.
About mid-point, pleasantly ‘suspended’ in bright sunshine, total serenity and in awe of the grand alpine surroundings, the thought suddenly came to my mind, that it must be a very, very rare occasion to pay only 8 euro’s and have a World record breaking bridge all to yourself to walk on and in such wonderful weather conditions, what a brilliant almost ‘heavenly’ unforgettable experience.