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Garmisch Wildwasser Weltmeistershaft '98
You may have heard stories about the Loisach from Garmisch veterans; the 1984
Pre-Worlds and 1985 World Championships were held there. It is a river that rewards both
patience and agility on very tight, technical water. The Loisach is unlike any river you
will ever race a wildwater boat on. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany is located near the
Austrian border about 1 hour south of Munich and 90 minutes northwest of Innsbruck.
As is the case with most alpine villages, Garmisch is surrounded by picturesque mountains.
It is a resort town that is an official sister city of Aspen, Colorado and Chamonix,
The Loisach is a mountain stream strewn with large boulders. The race start is located
about 15 minutes outside of Garmisch. Unlike the big water of the Sana at Landeck, Austria
(the site of the 1996 Wildwater World Championships) the Loisach is a natural slalom
course with gates made of stone. It should be at a great race level since this years World
Championships are scheduled for May. In a normal snow year, the river typically is
runnable by mid to late April (similar to race levels). A reading above 1.30 meters on the
gauge near the race start is ideal for great runs. With a level below 1.30 meters on the
gauge the river starts becoming shallow and rocky in places in addition to being
technical. Weather in Garmisch from April through June is very similar to Colorado.
It can be sunny and warm with blue skies, or cold with rain or snow. The river can come up
quickly during periods of rain, but otherwise flows are very steady during normal runoff.
In 1985, Garmisch had a bad snow year, so the water level was below normal for the World
Championships which were held during June 10-13. All boats had difficulty making runs
without suffering boat damage; C2's had such a difficult time running some of the narrow
slots that the French C2 teams sawed off the wings of their boats for training runs(the
wings are the widest portion of a wildwater boat), then glassed them back on prior to boat
measuring. That is just one of many stories describing how technical and tight the first 5
minutes or so the top part of the course is. No part of a boat is safe from hits while
learning lines. Bow pitons and stern hits are normal, but all other parts of a boat also
take hits while negotiating some of the tight slots. Having an ample repair kit is a
There is a lake just 15 minutes from the Loisach, called the Eibsee. The
Zugspitze (the tallest mountain in Germany) looms high above the northern shore of the
Eibsee. The setting it quite inspiring. It is an excellent lake for speed maintenance
workouts or just a great place to relax and do some hiking and swimming.
The put-in is along the road heading from Garmisch towards Ehrwald, Austria and Fern
Pass, about 7 km from the campground at the southern edge of town. There is a parking area
on the east side of the road and the river is visible from here. This is the start of the
race course. There is alternative put-in on the Loisach that provides about 5 to 10
minutes of warm-up paddling on easy chop before you reach the start of the race course. To
get there, continue up the road past the normal put-in for a couple of miles. There is an
obvious dirt road crossing railroad tracks that leads to a dusty parking area. If you come
to the German/Austrian border check, you missed the turn.
After studying the C2 splits from 1985, it is apparent that the race was won, not in the
difficult sections, but in the easier sections where raw horsepower rules. The two most
significant sections where this occurred was Green Bridge to S Turn and Ziende to the
finish. So what is there to learn from this detailed account of the Loisach? Probably not
too much before you get your own paddle wet on it. However, knowing how the rapids were
named over a decade ago should expedite your memorization of "the line" down the
river. It is an easy river to scout. It is a small stream and there used to be a foot path
along most of the top section. The boating season on the Loisach is dependable from about
mid-April through the end of June. The season can last longer due to rain.
The shuttle is only 3 miles, one way, and there is a bike path that leads from the
finish back up to the start. There is a campground along the river about 1 mile downstream
of the race finish or you could camp on your own at the put-in or upper put-in (though
there are no facilities).
There is a youth hostel in Garmisch that would be about 20 minutes from the put-in.
Also, there are numerous Pensions in the small town of Grainau which is located minutes
from the take-out on the way up to the Eibsee. Training wise, you all know what produces
results for yourself. I might recommend, however, that you make turning the boat a part of
every workout when preparing for Garmisch. If you are near a slalom course, do downstream
offsets, or paddle around milk jugs on a lake - anything to make you turn the boat
quickly, sharply and often; all while not losing glide. And, concentrate on getting some
serious horsepower and acceleration for shallow water/small chop. The Loisach is not a
big, splashy river. It is a small, technical stream. I welcome any questions or comments
you may have concerning Garmisch.