Wank, Bavaria

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Wank (German pronunciation: [ˈvaŋk]) is a mountain in southern Germany, situated in the Loisach valley close to the Austrian border in the southwestern Estergebirge range near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It rises from about 700 metres (2,300 ft) above mean sea level up to 1,780 metres (5,840 ft) at the summit.[1] The mountain is crowned by a grassy summit which offers spectacular views over Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the surrounding region. The summit can be reached via the eponymous Wankbahn, a cable car system that runs during the summer months, or by an extensive network of footpaths that criss-cross the area. It is possible to both eat and sleep on the Wank at the Wank-Haus, a mountain hut on the summit, and a nearby scientific observatory plays an important role in monitoring atmospheric and climatic conditions. The Wank is a popular destination for hikers, day-trippers from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and paragliders, who are able to take advantage of its strong thermals to make exceptionally long flights.

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Physical characteristics

The mountain's geology, which is dominated by calcareous rocks, is typical of the Bavarian Alps. Its climate is also typical of the region. Precipitation is high, ranging from about 1,300 millimetres (51 in) at valley level to 1,800 millimetres (71 in) at the summit. It peaks in the summer and is lowest in winter. The Wank's mean annual air temperature ranges from 7 °C (45 °F) in the valley to 3 °C (37 °F) at the summit. The prevailing wind comes from a westerly direction but for about 30 to 40 days a year the mountain experiences a warm, dry föhn wind. A local wind system also operates in the area giving a daily uphill/downhill circulation. Inversion layers occur for about 30 days per year, predominately in the autumn and winter.[1]

Wank was originally covered by a forest consisting of a mix of spruce, fir and beech trees. A process of man-made deforestation that began in the Roman period, when the trees were cut down and the mountain's slopes were grazed by horses, sheep, goats and cattle, resulted in much of the forest being destroyed by the 15th century. Forestry in the area was taken over by the Bavarian government in 1803 but the former forest cover did not regenerate due to a variety of causes, including the continued use of forest lands as pasture, storms and browsing by game animals. As a result, the current Wank forest is predominately spruce (about 75%) and pine (15%). However, forestry programmes are currently underway to improve the arboreal diversity of the mountain.[1]

Wankbahn

The Wank is linked to Garmisch-Partenkirchen by a cable car system called the Wankbahn, which usually operates between May and September during daylight hours.[2] Construction began in 1928 under the auspices of the Wank-Bahn AG and the cable car entered service in 1929.[3] It is 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long and rises from 740 metres (2,430 ft) to 1,750 metres (5,740 ft) above sea level. The system has been upgraded several times since its opening. In 1960 its passenger capacity was increased from 125 to 210 persons per hour. A new Wankbahn was built in 1982, opening on 18 December, which increased the system's capacity to 1,000 persons per hour. Two 300 kW DC motors were installed to drive the cable.[4]

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