GHDI logo
German History in Documents and Images
return to system

Hiking a Glacier (c. 1890)
Through the writing of the Romantics, who used nature to reflect human emotion and glorified nature uncorrupted by the influence of mankind, the German middle-class became enamored of hiking in the 19th century. Hiking became a way to commune with nature and to acquire a special and specific knowledge about one’s home (Heimat) through the details of its landscape. Numerous hiking and nature clubs were founded at the turn of the century, among them the Wandervogel, a hiking club for young people founded in 1901 in a Berlin suburb. While some clubs focused on touring the German countryside on foot, others took their enthusiasm for time spent in nature to a more extreme level, climbing mountainsides and glaciers in the Alps. Both Germany and Austria had Alpine Societies by the late 1800s. These groups facilitated Alpine recreation by constructing trails and building huts to provide climbers with a place to rest and protection against the elements. The photograph here shows a group of mountaineers traversing an Alpine glacier in the 1890s. Ladders are being used to aid the climbers in crossing a crevasse in the glacier’s surface. Mountaineering of this kind, also known as alpinism, has evolved from merely attempting to reach the highest point of a mountain to include diverse specializations such as ice climbing and telemark skiing.