At Selva di Cadore (1335m), I turned east on Rt.N251 up the Forcla Staulanza (1773m), through a lush green landscape topped by jagged dolomite spires that vanished in the brilliant haze as I rode south over the pass. I had briefly looked at my map and knew I needed to head north in Forno di Zoldo (810m), to head over the Passo Cibiana (1530m) but didn't notice that here were several roads heading north. I headed up the road that had the common warning signs that I have seen often in the mountains, but as it turned out these were real.
As I rounded a curve on the climb, I came upon a field full of parked cars and a huge rock slide across the road. The weekend visitors had apparently taken a steep trail through the woods that didn't invite me. The backhoe shovel parked at the far side of the slide obviously was accessed from here so I followed the well worn footpath over the boulders and continued to ride up the grade. Then came a hairpin and I realized the road was recrossing the face of the cliff from which the slide had come. It was worse than that, the upper crossing showed no clear path and it was reposing at the critical angle. I saw that some people had crossed by climbing over a higher route and proceeded carrying my bicycle on my shoulder as I often have on hiking sections.
As I was descending from the rock pile I heard sections of the part I had just crossed moving. I could hear thunder from the larger boulders as they bounded down, far below. I did not look back but got off the rocks and rode away concentrating on the fact that the road was not going to double back once more. As I arrived in Zoppa (1461m) it all became clear. I had taken one road too soon and was on a dead end. I rode to the end of town where two small roads, shown on my map, fizzled out to nowhere.
There were plenty of cars parked in town so I was sure there was another exit. It was siesta time and only a few hearty tourists who had hiked up through the forest were to be seen in this beautiful village with breathtaking vistas. Fortunately their guide was abreast of things and told me to take the "dead end" road behind the church that would get pretty thin but eventually, and without much climbing, lead me down to Cortina. He mentioned that the descent was a bit steep. With new zest I followed the road that dwindled to two brilliantly white, dolomite-gravelled tire tracks in the grass. As he said, it was rideable and didn't climb, but then it began to descend. First it was just steep and narrow but then there was fresh asphalt and it got very steep, about 25% and it continued that way.
It was obvious that this farm road had been paved so that villagers could get in and out, because no two wheel drive car could make the grade otherwise. In some spots the road was in a slot, one car wide, for long sections, but the grade did not let up. Because there were no creeks, I waited two times for several minutes to cool my wheels during the descent, to avoid blowing the tires off the rims. Although the rims didn't sizzle with a wet finger, they were burning hot to the touch. I was amazed that the grade did not let up until the Torrente Boite where I crossed a bridge to Borca di Cadore (942m).
Back on Rt.N51, I rode down to Pieve and Lozzo di Cadore (705m) but it wasn't all downhill. It was getting pretty warm as I turned up Rt.N48 to Auronzo di Cadore (862m) located on the shores of a hydroelectric lake. I found a shady bar with a good pizza, ice cream, and soda pop to make up for the heat. Here I headed north on Rt.N532 to the Passo San Antonio (1476m) where the first car that came toward me stunk of overheated brakes, not a good sign on a hot afternoon. I was not disappointed as I found myself dodging back and fourth across the 14% road from one spot of shade to the next. It was hot. Even the descent into Padola (1215m) at the junction with Rt.N52 to Dobiacco (Toblach) was hot. The climb from there up the Passo di Monte Croce (1636m) was a mild 5% as it rolled easily through forest and meadow.
There was no doubt about the national identity beyond the summit. It looked like Austria, the people dressed like Austrians and the language was German, as were most of the tourists, whose big cars were parked in front of the hotels. Looking south into the mountains, the 3000m high Tre Cime di Laveredo (die drei Zinnen) made a magnificent backdrop to the picturesque village. It was cooling off now as I rode down to San Candido (1174m), down Rt.N49 to Austria, and on to Panzendorf where I found a comfortable hotel with an outdoor restaurant for the day's stop. No clouds this evening.
The Grocery store at the corner where the steep grade starts is always open and right through the noon hours too. Someone in government had pity on the poor tourists who were otherwise stranded without the necessities of travel, with all the legislated store closings in Europe. I ate a good lunch of fresh baked rolls, cheese, mortadella washed down with a liter of milk and a large strawberry yogurt for desert. I was ready. In fact I was so ready that the hill went away better than it had in years. Although the sky was crystal clear, the air was cool, and I made one water stop at the junction.
The Glockner (3798m) was glistening white in the distance as I wound my way up the sweeping curves. I saw a bicyclist above me now and then, and he was always walking. Obviously he got on and rode when I didn't see him because I wasn't gaining as fast as I would on a hiker. About a 300m from the top, I finally caught up to him as he exploded with an anguished "Ich kann es nicht", as I rode by and realized that he was racing. His friends were waiting at the top and offered me food and drink because they were sure that someone without a water bottle was dehydrated and famished. They should have eaten lunch first.
The summit is in a 200m long tunnel called Hochtor (2505m), that exposes the Salzburger Land to the north. A brisk descent passes through the Mittletoerl (2328m), and a 12% climb rises to Fuschertoerl (2328m). This last climb, although no steeper than the rest, is a kicker because it seems so close yet is so far. The view from here exposes the Glockner from the other side, along with a whole range of high glacier covered mountains, that seem all the higher when seen across the deep and narrow Fuschertal. First in big sweepers and then in straight runs between hairpins, the road dives down with a 12% grade, suitable for great speed. Traffic is light as I take advantage of the long runs.
As I reach the bottom at the toll gate, a wall of hot air hits me as if I had come out of a freezer. It was the heat that I had seen yesterday, except I was down in the flatlands in Zell am See (758m). I cooled my heels on the grass at the edge of the lake and enjoyed a snack before dropping in on my friend F. Alexander Porsche at his design studio. Then I headed up the Pinzgau along the Salzach river to Mittersill and Wald (867m), where the old Gerlos Pass road starts with a jolt. The hot weather gave way to great white towers of thunderclouds that saw fit to drop some rain for a few minutes as the shadows began to fall across the valley. From Wald I rode up to the 17% section, where the family run Hotel Muehlbach has enthusiastic friendly service, comfortable rooms, and great food.
After crossing the Gerlos river the road hangs on the south wall of the canyon for a long gradual slope to Gmuend (1192m), whence it dives down in usual alpine pass style to the Zillertal in Zell am Ziller (575m). Here after crossing the 760mm Zillertal steam railway and the Ziller, the old road rolls along through several villages and for 25km to Strass (560m) on the Inn river. There is an old road that snakes its way through hill and dale, but since the freeway on the other side of the Inn opened, the new highway near the river is a pleasant bike route to Innsbruck. The Inn is at full snow-melt level and its cold water is apparent whenever the road comes within a hundred meters of its raging waters.
I stopped for food and drink in Hall im Tirol and rode on to Innsbruck (574m) where I took the outer city loop to head up the south side of the valley. Having seen the tourist crush in the city center, I decided to appreciate the ambiance by riding through other parts of the city and on toward Kematen. As it got warmer, I realized that I had gotten a sunburn on the Glockner, in spite of my dark tan. The sun on the backs of my legs and my arms made that hot feeling, but only the discerning eye would detect the chestnut color that invaded my otherwise dark brown tan.
As I approached the Oetztal (Timmelsjoch, Pso Rombo) and crossed Ache river, the air got perceptibly cooler. Here the road first crosses the Ache and then the Inn on high bridges to begin a two kilometer climb before descending to Imst. Instead of going into town, I took the turn to the Rafting set-in, where a bicycle path parallels the river on the most direct route toward Landeck. The alternative is a climb through Imst and back down to the river. I rolled into Landeck for a refueling and headed up Rt.A187 to the Reschen pass (1508m).
On the way out of Landeck, the road clings to the side of cliffs over the Inn and might be a hassle in heavy traffic because there is no shoulder. Soon the road widens and rolls along fairly flat until the valley becomes wider. Here there is a "freeway no bicycles" sign, although it is neither a freeway or even a bicycle unfriendly road. The road is wide and has ample paved shoulders, and as usual, I rode on. I also noticed other bicyclists heading the other way. Just after Pfunds (971m) the road crosses the river and begins to climb to the high valley beyond Nauders (1365m), and on to the town of Reschen and the summit lake.
At first the lake seems small but it soon becomes evident that it is a long ride to the other end, where the road finally begins to descend at the dam. The descent doesn't last long and at San Valentino (1470m) at the Lago di Muta, the road climbs again for a while. The real descent is a full speed road with wide sweeping bends that snake down to Mals (1051m), where a road cuts across Laudes (967m) to Muestair and Santa Maria in Switzerland where the Umbrail pass climbs south to the Stelvio.
The afternoon clouds consolidated to a dark overcast with the shades of dusk as I crossed the border. A food stop in Muestair gave the fuel to climb the steep pitches from here through Santa Maria (1375m) to the upper valley of the Ofen pass and Fuldera (1638m) my goal for the day. I put my bicycle in the garage just as it began to drizzle and noticed that I was an hour earlier than I thought. The dark sky had been deceptive.
I coasted down the canyon to Punt la Drossa (1706m), the north portal of the uphill tunnel to Livigno and the foot of the climb over the gorge of the Val dal Spoell. The road climbs to Ova Spin (1900m) before descending to Zernez (1473m). From Zernez it's a short ride down the Inn valley to Susch (1426m) at the base of the Fluela pass, that starts right out in town with its ruling grade of 13% up the narrow canyon. The road has been improved immensely over the years that I have ridden it, from the days of a one lane dirt road, to a smooth two lane highway. The clouds had a pleasant cooling effect although this wasn't good for the scenery. I could see the Ortler (above the Stelvio) from the Ofen Pass, but I saw no distant mountains from the Fluela where the view is usually better than from the Ofen pass.
The descent to Davos (1560m) is undistinguished except the first few curves from the top, after which there is little to see and the road is bland. Davos was looking as neat and tidy as it always does as I rode around the Davosersee and over the Wolfgang pass 1625m). The descent to Klosters is fairly swift in places, as it sweeps down through the forest. I stopped for a large grocery store early lunch and proceeded down the Praetigau along the Landquart river to Landquart (530m) on the Rhine river. In Mastrils, just across the Rhine, I caught a hot lunch and cool beer before heading on to Bad Ragaz and Sargans (483m).
An excellent bicycle path connects Sargans with the Walensee and canton Glarus. I took the path from Mels to the lake at Walenstadt (427m) and rode along the lake to where the road to Karenzerberg (743m) a small pass that cuts off just before Muehlehorn to go over the corner of the mountain into canton Glarus. From Mollis a small road heads up the valley and a bicycle path leads all the way into Glarus. Traffic on Rt N17 is light from Glarus to the end of the Linth valley. It is partially overcast as I head toward Linthal (662m). The Glarner Alps are spectacular as always because the mountains, although not exceptionally high, rise steeply around the narrow valley to vanish in the haze, making them seem immense. The Kloental to the west of Glarus is especially narrow with a lake filling the bottom of the high valley that ends on the Pragel pass (1550m) to Schwyz.
The first climb up the pass starts after Linthal, where the road heads into the cliffs through a pair of one way rough hewn tunnels that are being replaced by a long modern one that has been under construction for nearly three years. As all the hillsides here, this one is steep but the road finds benches as it winds up long traverses through a hardwood forest. The road finally breaks out into the Urner Boden at 1300m, a long broad high valley with near vertical walls on three sides.
At the upper end of the Urner Boden (1400m), the road begins to climb the end of the box canyon as the Toedi (3614m) and its surrounding glacial peaks become visible. Free falling waterfalls and the private cableways, whose cables vanish in the distance in single spans that appear to rise nearly a thousand meters, underscore the steepness of the terrain. The mountains were obscured on the last section to the summit but opened to view just beyond the top of the Klausen pass (1948m) above the floor of the Schaechental 700m below.
By now the clouds closed in for their evening percussion concert and washdown, in preparation for a beautiful morning. Still the view straight down into the Schaechental onto the roofs in Aesch (1234m) was breathtaking, especially with the flimsy railing that borders the edge of the abyss. For emphasis a waterfall falls freely into the village from several hundred meters above, where it separates from the wall of the canyon. The road was in excellent condition, so I could blast down to Hotel Urigen (1300m) where an American motorcycling couple that I had seen on the way up had stopped. They chose to eat outdoors but I decided to avoid the rain that soon came and finished my dinner inside before joining them under the eaves at their outdoor table. We talked mountain roads till late.
I like to call the Susten pass (2224m) the glacier highway of Switzerland for the great ice flows and snowy peaks. The climb is also a little defeating, because nearly the entire continuous grade can be seen at once on the way up the long curved valley. In spite of its good alignment, it is neither steep enough nor smooth enough to make a high speed descent. For some who expect to go fast, descending the south slope is disappointing bicycling, if you ignore the scenic compensation. Although the pass opened late this year, it had less snow at the top than in other years.
The view and ride down the Gadmental is exciting and beautiful, with broad curved tunnels opening vistas to ice fields and waterfalls that go over some of the short tunnels. The Berner Oberland becomes visible as the road breaks out into the Haslital and drops to Inertkirchen (625m). It was a short sprint up the four legs of the Lammi (700m), where I stopped for a hearty lunch and joined three other bikies of about my category and type of equipment. We got talking about rides of years ago, before I remembered that I had a ways to go and they had to backtrack for a pooped out rider.
Its a short coast down past the Hotel Tourist and into Meiringen (595m) before the grunt up the 13% part of the Brunig pass (1008m). The weather was great with scattered clouds, no wind and mild temperatures as I rolled down to Lungern (752m), around the lake and down to Giswil (485m) on the Sarner lake. I stopped at the Pilatus dual cogwheel railway and bought some postcards before riding on to Luzern and the Reuss valley. No flats, no spokes, no crashes; only a broken frame and jammed freewheel. That was OK for 2900km and 19 days on the road.
You might wonder why this report doesn't list daily distances and climbs. I lost my notebook after the trip and could only give those days that coincided with ones from previous years.