After a half of a roast chicken and a couple of dishes of ice cream at a street fair, I was ready for the Sella pass (2214m). The sun was back in business and the view was grand as the spires of the Dolomites filled the skies. The Sella is surrounded by a skier's and rock climber's paradise. Off to the south the glacier fields of the Marmolada rise above the mountains with the gap to the Pordoi pass in the foreground. I rolled down toward Canazei and turn off to the Pordoi pass (2239m) a few km's before town. As the climb revealed more of the beauty of the Dolomites, I was tempted to take pictures before the summit. At the top the long valley to the east toward the Campolongo and Falzarego passes lay below while to the west I could see way down the Val di Fassa.
I rode on to the Falzarego pass (2105m) and down to Cortina d'Ampezzo (1210m) that is situated in an almost artificially beautiful ring of mountains. The town itself sits like a jewel in the center of this huge scenic bowl under elegant towering crags of white rock. I found that by riding up the sidewalk of the opposing one way highway into town I could avoid the chamber of commerce tour to the bottom of town. I headed right up the road to the Tre Croci pass (1809m) over which a new vista to the eastern Dolomites and the Misurina pass (1756m) opens. There is only a small climb between these two passes from the road junction (1641m). The Misurina lake was smooth as glass for the first time in my experience, so I took a reflecting pool photo of the Tre Cime di Laveredo, and from the other end of the lake, I took the view back to the eastern Dolomites. It was a gorgeous day. From here I rolled down the 20 km's to Toblach (Dobiacco 835m) for a big dinner after a lot of hills. It was a long day.
I pushed a headwind up the valley to Heiligenblut (1301m) but the cool air made it pleasant. In Heiligenblut, at the base of the real hill, the grocery store on the corner is always open, all day, every day, for people just like me who need travel supplies. In my case that was a good load of fuel and they have all the things I could want. I relaxed on the bench with a view and savored the goods before pushing off slowly knowing that 20 km of 12% with a descent in the middle doesn't benefit by hurrying. It was overcast by now but with good visibility. The glacier capped Gross Glockner peak (3798m) was visible to the west as I climbed over the first summit at Kasereck (1913m). After a swift descent the remaining climb to the main summit at Hochtor (2505m), the border between lands Kaernten and Salzburg, is is a series of long sweeping curves with a few hairpins in between.
Although traffic was occasionally dense, the wide road makes it no problem. The weather at the top was fairly cool but because I had just worked up a heat, I descended without putting on my jacket so I could dry off and also for the last summit at Fuschertorl (2428m) that requires a 12% climb from Fuscherlacke (2262m). At Fuschertorl the Glockner peak is straight across the valley and magnificent. From here the road dives at a fairly constant 12% into a series of hairpin turns and into warmer climate. I passed a Czech bus that I had seen twice before in Switzerland more than a week ago that still holding up traffic with its underpowered motor and brakes that required utmost descending care. After passing the long string of cars and the bus, I soon came upon a larger hindrance of many more cars waiting at a construction site that I and motorcyclists could pass. I was glad to leave the whole bunch behind because the road on this side of the hill is narrow.
I left the clouds behind as I reached the Salzach river at Bruck (757m) and headed west toward the Gerlos pass. The ride up the Pinzgau along the 720mm gauge Pinzgau RR took me through Mittersill where most traffic turns up the Thurn pass (1273m) to the north or south trough the tunnel to Lienz. From here it's pretty quiet to Wald (867m) at the foot of the old Gerlos pass. I rode up to the 17% section where there is a hotel that I tried last year and where, again, I was not disappointed. After finishing my dinner I saw the trout dinner on another guest's plate and ordered one of those too. With a great double dinner and a good night's sleep I was in fat city, so to speak.
I rode up the valley with clear skies to Hall just before Innsbruck and to some lunch before the store closes. Although most major gas stations have mini markets that are open all day, they have a selection that is more limited to snacks than real lunch. I cruised through the center of Innsbruck and headed west along the north shore until the road crosses at Zirl. These roads are all pretty friendly now that the freeway is completed. I rode up the valley with a tailwind and was feeling pretty good when I got passed by two riders who were hustling pretty hard.
Toward the junction of the Oetztal (from the Timmelsjoch, Pso Rombo) I saw them up ahead and caught up as they rested through a town. I joined them to discover they were foreigners on a short out and back ride to familiar places. As I mentioned that we were about at the beginning of the "big hill" one of them explained that there was a way around the gratuitous climb out of Imst. There is a dead flat bike path along the Inn that only locals know about, and is unmarked but easy to find. As you roll down the hill toward Imst it takes off over the bridge where the sign says OBB railway station and goes on down to the river rafting place. It was a great discovery for me although 150m climb isn't all that terrible.
I rode the bike path and on toward to Landeck (816m) where I headed south to the Reschen pass. This is a lovely and easy valley to ride except that a long section of the main road is designated as freeway although it is the safest part to bicycle. In the past I took the circuitous route prescribed for bicycles and found it to be about 50% longer and full of little climbs as it crosses the "freeway" several times. Last year I decided this was BS and took the main road. I did the same this time and got to Pfunds (971m), where all roads join, in good time. The climb went easily and at the top of the Reschen pass (1508m) as I rode around the lake I caught the wheel of a fast guy who towed me briskly to the descent. Unfortunately, he could not take advantage of my draft down the hill because he was not one to take curves fast and the Reschen has long 60+ km/h curves that can be taken without braking if you don't mind leaning low into curves.
It was great weather as I turned off toward Switzerland at Mals to cut over to the Ofen pass junction (967m) and headed up to Santa Maria. I was delayed by wild cherry trees that needed to be picked as I started up the hill to the border. As I neared Santa Maria the sky became more cloudy and I could hear the thunder over the ridge. A few drops fell as I passed the junction of the Umbrail pass, the north ramp of the Stelvio. From here, a few stiff km's rise to the upper valley and Fuldera (1638m) my goal for the day. The light and thunder show got better and better as I approached the hotel but it stayed on the ridge to the south until after I was under cover. I parked my bicycle in the garage with many others, the owner being an avid bicyclist himself.
The descent to Davos was uneventful and isn't especially scenic even when clear. In Davos (1560m) the sun was dimly visible as I rode around the lake to the Wolfgang pass (1625m) that is no contest from this side. The descent to Klosters (1000m) on the other hand is pretty swift but in the trees, so the big alpine scene is over for now. In Klosters I just barely got into the grocery store for lunch after begging the gal inside to let me in a couple of minutes after 12:00 noon. After good munchies, I rolled on down the hill and out through the narrows to Landquart (530m) in the Rhine valley.
From Landquart I followed the river on the old federal route on the west side to Sargans, with most traffic taking the freeway. Although I rode into a headwind the bike rolled along nicely. After Bad Ragaz the wind died and with the help of some cherries that I bought, I rolled, sitting up and eating cherries, into Sargans (483m). I am always impressed that the Rhine flows past Sargans about five meters below a divide that keeps it from taking a short cut through Zurich on its way to Basel. Someone must have at least considered tapping off water to the Walensee at some time. I rode over to Mels on the south side of the valley to catch the bike path that parallels the Seez river straight down to the lake at Walenstadt (427m).
On the lake, just after Murg, my favorite way to get to Glarus cuts off up the Karenzerberg (743m) a small pass that cuts off the corner of the mountain along the lake. The alternative is an undulating bike path along the lake that is scenic and uses a couple of long and abandoned RR tunnels, but it is tedious after you have seen it once. The view up the Linth valley toward Glarus was spectacular as always because the mountains, although not earthshakingly high, rise steeply around the claustrophobic valley and vanish in the haze, giving them greater than real dimensions. The Kloental, off to the west, is even more so, with a narrow lake filling the bottom of the ravine that rises to the amazingly steep Pragel pass (1550m) to Schwyz. I descended to the valley and took the agricultural road/bike path to Netstal and continued up the valley past Glarus to Linthal (662m). By this time the road was wet and rain is imminent.
As I began the climb up the Klausen from Linthal where the road heads into the cliffs and a dense forest that kept me from getting wet. As I approach the first of two curvy natural rock tunnels I passed the portal of a new tunnel that will go straight through and avoid the narrows. Higher, out of the woods, I got a cool shower that stopped after about 10km as I leveled off on the Urner Boden, the high valley before the pass. I rode into a wind and dried off quickly but as I approached the end of the valley at Port (1372m) the wind became so fierce that I used my lowest gear just to reach the hotel. I ducked under the Hotel roof just as a cloudburst let go but only for about five minutes, washing the landscape with a lively display of thunder and lightning.
On a wet road awash in water, I proceeded up the hill, glad that I didn't have to stay there for the night. Had it rained much longer, it would have been too late to go over the top and still get dinner. I rode to the summit with shreds of clouds rising out of the ravines while the setting sun gave the underside of the clouds some golden trim. At the top of the Klausen (1948m) the view to the west was cheerful with large gaps of blue sky. The view straight down into the Schaechental was as breathtaking as always with only roofs visible abut 300m below at the end of the box canyon that gives the pass its name.
At Urigen (1300m) I called it a day at Hotel Urigen where Steffan Truschner, who runs the place with his wife Karin, served me a great dinner with a couple of tall cool Eichhof beers. He was amazed that I arrived dry and left dry because in contrast to the last several years when I stopped there it had rained hard.
I climbed up to Wassen (916m) whose church is seen on three different passes by train passengers on the Gotthard rail line. The train station in this town is on a reverse loop such that the platforms are clearly marked Zurich and Bellinzona opposite to their actual physical directions to prevent boarding errors. At the center of town I turned north up the Susten road that starts out with curved bridges under bridges and curved tunnels until it breaks out in a high and steep valley that exposes most of the road to the summit. Knowing that in August, the road repair at great rock slide was to be completed after a three year wait, I assumed that the construction might still be in progress, so I took the detour for the first time. In the past I had climbed over the rocks. As it turned out bicyclists could ride through the structurally complete repair although this was not apparent from below.
The detour has a 13% climb returning to the main road. I was glad I had ridden it because next year there will be no sign of it left. The Susten (2224m) is the glacier highway of the Alps in my book. It is a beautiful road with broad vistas and steep cliffs. After the summit, when going west, a huge glacier reaching from high above to the valley below fills the panorama. The descent includes many tunnels in curves, s-bends, and hairpins. It has steep sections and flat ones that stretch out along pasture land after which unexpected descents go farther down ending abruptly in Inertkirchen (625m).
From here it's over the Lammi for the third time, into Meiringen and up the Brunig pass (1008m). The Brunig isn't high but it has a couple of 13% pitches from Meiringen before descending gently to Lungern (752m) and after the lake down to Giswil and Luzern (436m). In Luzern I dropped in on Mrs. Dierauer Sr. while the weather saw fit to drop about an hour's worth of rain. Without as much as feeling a drop, I was able to make the final dash to Affoltern before it rained again, riding down the Reuss valley back the way I had started out to end a great ride of 3064km.