This page was last updated Wed 21 May 2014.

Contents: Tours (20)   

Reports by Jobst Brandt

All descriptions are in English, unless otherwise noted.

Tours

Ice Princess 1963 - The Big Freeze of 1963
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1963, submitted 18 December 2008

The winter of 1963 brought the longest cold spell to central Europe in a many years, freezing the landscape deeper than it had in 100 years. Realizing that such weather probably would not occur again in my lifetime, if ever, I decided to do more than read about frozen lakes and deep frost [...] The ice was glassy smooth here [in Zürich], the sun and warmth from the city having melted the surface during the warmest part of the day. I walked down onto the lake and mounted my bicycle carefully. From having ridden on snow packed streets, I was aware that the best gear was the highest (50-13) to prevent undesired wheelspin that could dump me onto the ice. Traction would have been even poorer had it not been -20 Celsius.

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Tour of the Alps 2008
by Jobst Brandt, tour started July 2008, submitted 16 December 2008

Stelvio summit with Valle di Trafoi background. Weather in the picture was typically cool with constant chance of rain and snow. It was a cold summer.

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The great day
Tour of the Alps 2007
by Jobst Brandt, tour started July 2007, submitted 16 December 2008

Ibach - Rosenlaui - Hospental - Biella - Ivrea - Tenda - St. Etienne - Arvieux - Lanslebourg - Bourg St. Maurice - Lavachey - Brig-Ried - Bignasco - Thusis - Brusio - Stelvio - Astfeld - Marebbe - Brixen - Landeck - Urnerboden - Alpnachstadt - Brunnen

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Tour of the Alps 2004
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 2004, submitted 22 April 2006

While the railway stayed mostly in tunnels, our road wound its way through short tunnels on our way to Flüelen at the end of the lake. It was along these cliffs that William Tell was said to have duped the Austrians, who had taken him captive and were returning by boat to their headquarters when a fierce storm arose.

Now with over 50 images.

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Tour of the Alps 2005
by Jobst Brandt, tour started June 2005, submitted 1 January 2006

The Axenstrasse is noted for its rugged cliffs that drop steeply to the dark green lake. The Gotthard railway lies below the road near the water, mostly in tunnels, while the road wound its way through short tunnels on the way to Flüelen in the Reuss valley. The Axenstrasse can best be appreciated from a bicycle with its view of towering snow capped peaks above the lake.

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Tour of the Alps 2003
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 2003

We descended to Selva di Cadore (1336m) and headed east to Passo Staulanza (1773m) along the Torrente Fiorentina all the while heading straight for Monte Pelmo (3168m). The Staulanza is an easy pass and comes as a surprise because there is no apparent gap past Monte Pelmo. After a hairpin turn just before the mountain, the pass shows up unexpectedly.

Typical of the Dolomites, this route is a scenic wonder. We rode to Longarone (472m), notorious for the dam disaster at 22:42 on 09 October 1963 when the town was destroyed by a ``tidal wave'', that a landslide from Monte Toc (1921m) had forced over a dam and through a narrow gulch across from the town, to claim 1909 lives. Our hotel as, most in that area, had many before and after pictures on its walls.

[The following day] we started out under blue skies that gradually turned cloudy as the day passed. We crossed the valley and rode up the granite wall through tunnels as we headed to the gap of death for Longarone. Below, carved into the vertical wall, we saw the old road notched and tunneled into the gorge as we passed tunnel openings in our road. Then we saw the hollow arch of the dam, still intact, with only a bit of the rim cracked of on the far side. It is less than 50m across but at least three times that high, narrowing to almost nothing at its bottom.

After the last tunnel we emerged just above the dam that still has a bit of water between it and the mountain that slid into the former lake. A memorial chapel by Corbusier stands vigil over this disaster.

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Tour of the Alps 2002
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 2002

I rode along the Vermenagna River below the Tenda rail line, famous for being either in a tunnel or on a bridge most of the 80km from Borgo San Dalmazzo to Ventimiglia and Nice. The river and its tributaries had ripped out bridges and carried away parts of the road in recent floods. While the railway gained altitude in looping tunnels and bridges and vanished in the mountain for long stretches, I cruised up the 4% grade to Limone (990m), where the climb to the highway tunnel begins and the 8090m-long Tenda Railway Tunnel, completed in 1913, bores through the mountain to Vievola. [...]

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The unpaved Tenda road in 1989
Tour of the Alps 2001
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 2001

[...] We crossed the to the north side of the Lenta and climbed above the clouds into a brilliantly clear blue sky as we broke out of this box canyon through cliffs and bare rock tunnels, above the high waterfall into the Gorge de la Lenta. Here we entered a wintry scene with empty chair lifts running in anticipation of skiers from Val d'Isere on the other side of the pass. In one more zigzag, similar to the lower climb, brought us to the summit. Although we were in summer clothing, our leather gloves came in handy.

At the summit we took pictures sitting on the large concrete and stone Col del l'Iseran (2770m) sign, something I first did in 1960. We found a photographer, a guy from Colorado, who had slept in his car at the summit that he had reached in the heightof the snow storm late at night. Without chains, he thought the next day would be safer, and it was.

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Tour of the Alps 1999
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1999

We stopped at the gazebo with two flavors of rusty, bubbly mineral water, that give strength to those who dare climb this hill, before heading up the Gavia. It starts as a smooth wide two lane road with center stripe and a collage of warning signs that might make the wary traveler wonder what's going on. Land slides, falling rock, dangerous narrow road, and a chain requirement from September to July, are not the usual fare for mountain roads. After a short climb, past the first hairpin, reality strikes as the road goes from highway to driveway width and the 16% sign of poster fame sets the tone.

I was impressed with the aesthetics of ANAS, the highway department. They seem to have grasped the beauty of the Gavia and stopped the march of man against nature, right there where it meets the mountain. The road has lost nothing through paving. It is exactly the same narrow one lane Gavia that it always was. I have never seen a road so thoughtfully restored without a gratuitous widening job, but here it is. I hope it never changes. We continued through the thinning larch forest, up the east side of the canyon, finally rising above tree line. Here only thick bushy grass and wildflowers cover slopes where going off the road assures a long tumble to the Frigidolfo, far below.

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Tour of the Alps 1998
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1998

We took the old road that hangs in a notch carved high above the Aar in the slot below. As we climbed above the upper Grimsel reservoir of the Haslital Power Company, the Finsteraarhorn (4275m), the source of the Unteraar and Oberaar rivers, came into view to the west.

After a light breakfast under a partial overcast, we headed up the wide concrete Gotthard highway that starts climbing in town. Here, above tree line, only scrub brush, grass, wildflowers, and alpenrosen, an azalea prevalent throughout the Alps, decorate the landscape. The alpenrose, among the many wildflowers, adds a lovely bouquet of pink and red with its dark green leaves, as do the striking deep blue gentians, pale blue forget-me-nots, and many varieties of daisies and dandelions.

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Tour of the Alps 1997
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1997

3400km, 55337m, and 22 days on the road in rain, sun, and snow.

We set out toward Luzern and the central Alps in a cold rain, riding south across the Reuss valley to Merenschwand, in canton Aargau, with its slender church steeple and red tile roofed houses with window boxes of geraniums.

I looked out the window at first light and thought I was wearing red filters. After some more sleep and better daylight I checked again and it was true, it had snowed more than 15cm during the night. We got a good breakfast before heading up the hill on the freshly plowed road.

Only intermittent drops fell as my max speed record also fell, recording a speed that newscasters would have you believe occurs regularly in the TdF and on far gentler slopes. This is a 13% descent, perfectly straight into Ciapela (1450m) and smooth enough to reach terminal velocity. It was a gas.

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Tour of the Alps 1996
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1996

This is the great report of a tour in the Alps that Jobst Brandt did in the summer of '96.

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Tour of the Alps 1995
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1995

This is the great report of a tour in the Alps that Jobst Brandt did in the summer of '95.

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Tour of the Alps 1994
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1994

This is the great report of a tour in the Alps that Jobst Brandt did in the summer of '94.

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Tour of the Alps 1993
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1993

[...] I rode past the emerald Lago di Carezza in whose glassy surface the myriad spires of the Latemar (2846m) were mirrored. Then after passing the huge magnificent hotels with massive 1920's architecture near the summit of the Costalunga (1753m), I descended to Pozza di Fassa (1220m) and on to Canazei and turned up the Pso Sella (2257m), the Gardena (2121m), and the Campolongo (1875m) and onward to the Giau (2236m). The view from the Giau was magnificent with the great Dolomites, the majestic Le Tofane, Monte Cristallo, Monte Cadini and the Marmorola above Cortina, clear and bright in the afternoon sun while to the southwest, the glacier glistened on the Marmolada.

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Tour of the Alps 1992
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1992

The adventure of riding over Frut to Tannalp and Engsteln from Sarnen was out of the question because the snow level was about 1500 meters and I am not so hot on trails on cliffs in the snow. We rode over the Brunig (1008 m) and down to Meiringen, where we wolfed down some good bratwurst with potato(e) salad, hot soup, and good fresh whole-wheat bread.

The rain lifted in the morning as we rode up the Grosse Scheidegg (1961m), directly beneath the face of the Wetterhorn that was making artillery like sounds as enormous icefalls crashed down its walls before we broke out of the clouds. By the time we could see the mountain, the show was over. About 15 cm of new snow made a beautiful spring scene as we reached the summit where Eiger, Moench, and Jungfrau with their glacial appendages made a striking appearance in spite of grey skies.

The climb [up the Izoard] crosses a false summit from which the rest of the road is visible on the opposite side of the canyon. After stopping at the Coppi memorial for a picture I found mysterious power for the last two kilometers and rode like 30 years ago feeling no limits but the size of the carburetor bore as I breathed at max volume. Marc asked, ``what happened back there?'' when he arrived at the top. It was great!

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Tour of the Alps 1991
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1991

In the morning we headed back up the hill in a light drizzle that turned to snow just below Gletsch. But wait there's more. As we entered the high valley below the Rhone Glacier and Furka Pass (2431m), we saw snow blowing about in brilliant sunshine on the summit. It was so cold and dry our clothes were completely dry as was the road where the snow just blew to the gutter. The drifts of powdery snow on the summit were so deep that my bicycle would stand alone in it. It was an exhilarating climb with storybook weather.

I passed the closed Lingotto FIAT plant, with test track on the roof, that is being refurbished as an automotive trade center. The modern streetcars with antique trolley poles and bronze trolley wheels wend their way between ancient buildings on narrow streets paved with 0.5x1.0m red and tan granite plates set at a 45 degrees. The rushing sound of the trolley wheel on the wire is truly a sound from the past for me, reminiscent of four trolley tracks on San Francisco's Market Street in my youth.

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Tour of the Alps 1990
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1990

The Iseran probably earns the ``highest pass in France'' title, being actually higher and because it is steep, spectacular, and is surrounded by glaciers and snow. When you're there you know there's a There there. This is truly the haute Savoie, whose red and white emblem was the inspiration for the emigrants who took their red flag with the white cross along as they founded Switzerland.

The Stelvio may not be the hardest, longest or anything else, but it has a special place in my heart for its magnificent and exquisitely orchestrated landscape. It seems to have its own Wagnerian accompaniment, magnificent and grand. I have ridden it in every weather and it is always an emotional moment at the top with the ice caps of the Ortler and snowfields of the Gran Zebru as a backdrop to the road that drops 1000m into the canyon in the Shadows of this deep ravine. Forty nine numbered hairpin turns and 2000m below lies the valley.

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Tour of the Alps 1960
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1960

Jobst's 1960 tour started and ended in Tuscany. The Net was not in place yet, so the report had to wait...

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Tour of the Alps 1959
by Jobst Brandt, tour started 1959

Well, there's a first time for everybody, and Jobst too had to discover the Alps once. If you are looking for the inspiration to do it yourself, just go ahead and read this glorious report.

I had asked Mr Cinelli what the greatest road in the Alps was, to which he replied without hesitation, the Stelvio, but that I might not like it because it was unpaved. That especially caught my interest so here I was heading up the Valtellina at Tirano where the road to the foot of this great pass starts its climb.

I arrived in Bormio at 3:30 and decided to go to the top in beautiful afternoon sunshine. After a snack at the store I headed up the road that ran out of pavement at the city limit and became a coarse gravel and grey powdery road that, with a little rain, was pretty solid. I discovered that standing up easily caused wheel spin, so I pulled my straps tight and worked on a smooth stroke to keep traction.

Farther up the Braulio canyon the road went through several tunnels for avalanche and rockfall protection. These stone arch tunnels wind along the wall with ventilation holes near the floor that give a little light, and because they are not straight, I could only see where I was going from reflections from the wet floor. Everything was dripping and water rushed in drains under the walls. The amazing part is that these are one lane tunnels in which uphill traffic has the right of way, as is common here. Therefore, downhill drivers had to assess when to enter by watching what went in from below, something that is possible from the lay of the land.

I was discovering why Pirelli named their top racing car tire the Stelvio. This has a special meaning to people who know this road. At the end of the Braulio canyon the road goes up a wall in a series of traverses with tight hairpins to reach the upper Braulio Valley at Bocca di Braulio, that ends at a ridge over which the Umbrail pass from Switzerland joins the Stelvio, about three kilometers below the summit.

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