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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, France.

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 necessity.

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.

Ziende!