Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Alps - Day 13 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 1 - Chiesa (Hotel la Betulla) to Rifugio Bosio

Monday 31 August 2015

16 km, 1300 metres ascent, in 6.4 hours including breaks.

Weather: sunny, hot and humid lower down; sunny periods and warm higher up (afternoon).

A leisurely start was to set the tone for the day, and perhaps for the entire Alta Via.

Our good friend Gillian Price recommended the Valmalenco area to us some time ago. Then she wrote a guide book covering a 9-day tour of the Bernina Alps and an 8-day tour of the Valmalenco. The Bernina area is mainly in Switzerland, as viewed yesterday as we wound our way over the Bernina Pass. On the other side of the snow clad summits pictured yesterday as we made our way to Toblino is the Italian side of the range, the Valmalenco. Sue and I paid a brief visit to the area last July and found it to be both scenic and very friendly. And that was in bad weather. So we decided on a longer exploration of the area.

Hotel la Betulla gave us a superb room with a lovely view from the balcony. They have let us store the luggage we don't need for the walk, and our car will be safe in their car park.

We said our goodbyes and set off at 9.30 through Chiesa, collecting luncheon provisions en route. The route described by Gillian starts 5 km down the valley at Torre di Santa Maria. We could have caught a bus, but we chose to start our walk gently by way of a 200 metre descent along the Sentiero Rusca.

We easily picked up the Alta Via di Valmalenco (AVV) route at 11 o'clock at the foot of a set of hairpins up to Ciappanico. The path soon set the tone for the day, an old mule track ascending through light woodland with fairly frequent views. Hamlets dead and alive were passed through as we rose steadily to Son, and then past huge anthills to the meadows of Piasci. We lazed here in the shade of a children's play house whilst enjoying our lunch.

Then a short further ascent took us past summer farms up to Rifugio Cometti Grande. Here the official AVV route appears to head over Sasso Bianco  (2489 metres), taking four hours to reach Rifugio Bosio. We were happy to take the route described by Gillian - path number 313 direct to Bosio. That took well under two hours, the path rising gently beside cascading streams and past copious amounts of raspberries together with a few micro-bilberries.

On this last section we met the only walkers seen all day, a few folk and one mountain biker coming down the hill.

Rifugio Bosio, reached by 4 pm, was a relative hive of activity. We received the friendly welcome that seems to be a hallmark of these parts. Sue was very quickly provided with a deck chair and a mug of tea when she commented that she was tired. Some folk wandered off down the hill, a mountain biker's hard tail mean machine was admired before he set off. "Don't break your collar bone" I advised...

Others are staying here but we have a six bed room to ourselves. It's a lovely spot, with good views to the mountains, if not down the valley.

The guardian wandered off wearing washing up gloves and carrying a plastic bowl. "Ortica for the rice" he told us.

There's no phone signal or wifi at Bosio, which is actually quite nice. People are playing cards, chatting, or reading.

Cesare is the guardian here. He served up a delicious meal tonight. We can see very few entries in the hut book from the English speaking world. Cesare says that until this year there were "zero" visits from that source. Gillian's book was published in March 2015, since when there have been a number of UK and US visitors, into double figures even. He hopes the trend will continue and that next year he will be able to go out and buy a new car.

All I would say is "well done Gillian" and "come to Rifugio Bosio, say hello to Cesare and his team, and if possible include Sasso Bianco and Lago d'Arcoglio on your itinerary. It's highly recommended by Cesare".

Today's pictures:
Our guide book and map
Getting ready to collect water at a fountain in Chiesa
Ascending the mule track to the hamlet of Son
Passing an ant hill on the way to Piasci
The view to the Bernina massif from our shady lunchtime perch
Sue relaxes outside Rifugio Bosio

Monday, 31 August 2015

The Alps - Day 12 - Dornbirn to Chiesa

Sunday 30 August 2015

Weather: blue sky sunny, and hot - 34C in Sondrio.

We slept well in our silk liners on Markus's double bed whilst he rustled on a Thermarest.

Coffee and linzertorte set us up for the leisurely drive to Chiesa.

It's just 170 miles. Scenic miles. Swiss motorway, then the Julienpas, with a pause at Hotel Edelweiss to allow further depleting of our dwindling reserves of Swiss Francs, took us to St Moritz. After that the Bernina Pass to Tirano is accompanied by a wonderful scenic narrow gauge railway line, and Tirano itself warrants a longer visit than our lunchtime excursion to 'Bar Tourist'.

Outside the bar a 16th century church, Basilica Madonna di Tirano, sported as many reliefs and paintings as any church we can recall. A wonderful place with the most amazing sculpted wood embracing the organ and the pulpit.

A short drive under a clear blue sky took us onwards to Chiesa by 4 pm, and Hotel la Betulla. Our car, my bike, and our excess baggage will live here for over a week whilst Sue and I tramp the paths of the Alta Via of the Valmalenco.

Sorting gear, a wander around town, pizzas and a bottle of earthy Rosso di Valtellina at Bar Dunvegan, was all we had time for before crashing out.

Today's pictures:
Sue near the summit of Julienpas
A view towards Piz Bernina from the Bernina Pass road
Basilica Madonna di Tirano
Reliefs etc inside the incredibly ornate Basilica
The view from our balcony in Chiesa

Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Alps - Day 11 - Return to Dornbirn

Saturday 29 August 2015

4 km, 100 metres ascent.

Weather: sunny and very hot and humid.

Daniel was last as usual to arrive at the charabanc that would take us and our bikes back to St Anton. Markus had forecast an eleven hour journey, so I'd been concerned that we would get to Dornbirn in time to meet Sue at 7 pm, even with an early breakfast and a 7.30 start.

It didn't matter. We were in St Anton by 12.30 anyway, needing only one stop, and despite heavy traffic.

Goodbyes were said, Thomas and Daniel disappeared off on another bike ride, Claudia and Emanuel went to catch a train, Rouven was driven to Dornbirn and dropped off at the station, and Markus and I went back to his flat.

Then I got out of his way whilst he ploughed through the usual getting home from holiday activities.

I sweated my way up sticky tar on a broiling heatwave sort of day, to Zanzenberg, a good viewpoint over Dornbirn and Lake Constance where there's a nice shaded bench on which to compose this short entry.

I'll anticipate that Sue will arrive on time on her train journey from Kandersteg, and that we will treat Markus to a delicious meal, and even an ice cream, up at the Fetz Restaurant with its fine views to the peaks of the Bregenzerwald, before returning to his flat.

Later: I didn't anticipate the wonderful full moon rise over the Bregenzerwald, nor did any of us anticipate messages from Thomas saying he had broken his collar bone on a cow fence whilst riding back to Dornbirn. Oh dear!

Today's pictures:
A view from the bike bus
Where Markus should confess all his sins
Two views from Zanzenberg
Moonrise over the Bregenzerwald

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Alps - Day 10 - Dosso Grande from Arco (Hotel Garden)

Friday 28 August 2015

21 km, 550 metres ascent, 7 hours including about 1 hour breaks.

Weather: sunny and hot; cloud on the summits; very humid.

Just to be clear, we have not sunk to staying in a hotel garden, we are in a hotel that goes by that name. Moreover, I have a single room. I'm required to pay €10 a night extra for the privilege, though I don't recall being offered a discount when required to share a  bed with Emanuel.

I'll start by summarising the statistics for the last six days. We cycled and pushed our bikes nearly 350 kilometres, with a total ascent of around 10,500 metres.

There were problems for some of us last night but that was yesterday. So far as I'm concerned it's a good group and we are all friends again.

I may be just a bit more 'bike fit' once the tiredness wears off, so expect a few longish rides on Stumpy - the old bike has performed superbly this week. Dave Oliver (who sold it to me) will be pleased to hear this.

Others went swimming or cycling, and Daniel even managed a via ferrata. I chose an easy but scenic stroll up to a fairly local summit - Dosso Grande. It wasn't really such a big doss as the temperature was 30C in the shade.

After a visit to the Mini Mart to collect some lunch, I set off beside the River Sarca, past the junior climbing world championships, which are taking place in an arena of manufactured climbing walls with a backdrop of wonderful rock scenery, perfect for climbing - the real thing. The championships start today. The Danish team is in our hotel, which backs onto the stadium.

The Sarca is an ancient waterway used for centuries to irrigate and provide power to this area. The river looks very clean. I didn't spot any fish, but there are lots of resident mallards. The bridge in Arco also has a long history of being destroyed or damaged in floods and wars. The current version was built in 1947 to replace one destroyed by retreating Germans in WW2.

I left the riverside path to follow route 667 through shady woodland, rising above the Sarca on a bed of pine needles, to the sound of industry in the valley below.

Taking advantage of a picnic table after 200 metres ascent, I then explored some wartime second defences - trenches and caves. Then it was on past cyclamen  and crosswort, on a narrow, rocky path to the 582 metre summit, which is a little further along the limestone ridge than the height marker indicates.

The steep descent to Dro includes wires and stemples to negotiate a wall of rock that the path then follows at the foot of the now overhanging wall that appears to be propped up by pit prop like beech trees.

Once down in the valley, a hot walk through vineyards and apple orchards led to the town of Dro, where grapes were being harvested. The red ones were small but very tasty.

By the time I reached the riverside cycle track I was hot and tired. Luckily the fleshpots of Arco were nearby and a litre of lemon soda together with a drippy ice cream soon sorted me out.

The others, now joined by Dieter, who today rode up to and down from Tremalzo with Thomas (impressive), have gone to Torbole to woo some Korean ladies. I've stayed in Arco and enjoyed a good pizza before attending the opening ceremony of the Junior Climbing World Championships, which took place on the evening of the first day of competition. Much as I expected - lots of flags.

Today's pictures:
A view towards Lake Garda
Orchards and vineyards
Sweet, juicy, petite, tasty grapes
Flags at the opening ceremony (I had to move to make space for them) 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Alps - Day 9 - Albergo Brenta in the Algone valley to Arco, near Riva (Lake Garda)

Thursday 27 August 2015 - TransAlp Day 6

73 km, 1600 metres ascent, 11 hours including about 3 hours breaks.

Weather: sunny and warm; cloud on the summits; very hazy.

We were supposed to leave at 8.15, but the regular tedium of a team photo delayed that. In a half hearted protest my bike is pointing backwards today.

Sharing a bed with Emanuel wasn't really acceptable, though we didn't make a big issue of it. Rouven now knows in future to warn anyone from the UK in advance about the possibility of sharing a bed with anyone but their partner on any trips he organises. I assume he and Markus also shared a bed. If not, they are out of order.

A cool 7 km descent to a main road led us fairly quickly, above an impressive gorge, to Stenico and thence to Godenzo and Comano, from where the 1200 metre ascent of Monte Casale started. It was ok at first, up a steep road. That gave way to an even steeper track that I could cycle, but I found it quicker to walk, then an even steeper concrete track that I stood no chance of cycling up. So, a third day of considerable pushing, which is disappointing.

Near the 1632 metre summit of Monte Casale is a small rifugio - Rifugio Don Zio. Everyone else seemed to get served with lunch here. Arriving last, and as usual deserted by tail end Charlie (I'm not sure what would have happened if I'd had a mechanical failure), they rather rudely indicated that they were too busy to serve me - presumably busy cooking for the rest of the group. The early bird (aka quicker cyclist) gets the worm (aka lunch). Luckily I had some Gatorade and a twix bar, and the hope of a proper meal later.

I trust the rifugios in the Valmalenco area will do better next week.

I wandered up to the summit and admired the hazy views to Lago di Toblino and beyond. It was a lovely calm, warm sunny day.

The descent to Lake Garda only involved 350 metres of ascent, so whilst I was slow I didn't cause any worse delays than the ongoing addiction to group photos. The trail led down undulating rocky and gravelly paths. Slowly we gained views down to Riva and the lake, but without the excitement of the paths leading down by the alternative Tremalzo route that Markus and I took in 2010.

The final section was on a busy road, after which we went to the slow serving Moby Dick café in the port for refreshments.

And that was the end of this TransAlp bike ride. More group photos were taken beside the lake, then we dispersed.

Unfortunately the 'proper meal later' never materialised, but I did have a pleasant wander around Arco, and I do have the luxury of a single room. Finding the hotel (Hotel Garden) was something of a problem as Thomas, Daniel and I were left to find our own way. Luckily I had the name of the hotel in my bag, but the address on its website was incomplete and took us to the wrong place. We eventually completed the 12 km journey by about 7.30. After a quick shower I went down to find people, and failed. I imagine the others are in one of Arco's many pizzerias, but I have no idea which one and I couldn't spot them anywhere. The place is heaving, there's some sort of climbing competition going on, with climbing harnesses being acceptable dress for dinner! At least I'm preserved from the agony of even more group photos.

So Mr Sloman, a day of contradictions - no beer and very little food, but plenty of exercise. Maybe I'll try to do the opposite tomorrow. 

Today's pictures:
Starting from Albergo Brenta
A lake below Stenico
Looking back to Comano
The view from Monte Casale
Happy TransAlpinistes outside Moby Dick in Riva

The Alps - Day 8 - Hotel Ortles in Cogolo to Albergo Brenta in the Algone valley

Wednesday 26 August 2015 - TransAlp Day 5

60 km, 1600 metres ascent, 9.0 hours including about 2 hours breaks.

Weather: mostly sunny and warm

You'd have thought that sharing a room with a dental student would have brought an offer of experimenting by way of gluing my front tooth back in. But Emanuel is wise for his age and the offer was not forthcoming.

Breakfast wasn't sparse. We stoked up for another energetic day. The first 18 km saw us swooping on roads at first then good cycle tracks, to Dimaro for coffee.

Then a 900 metre ascent on forest tracks. What a contrast to yesterday afternoon. This ascent was largely on well graded tracks that weren't energy sapping and didn't require much pushing.

Moreover, it was a lovely day, with fine views of the Brenta Dolomites. I just about managed to keep up with the group for a change.

Beyond Madonna di Campiglio we paused to enjoy lunch at the Rifugio Cascata di Mezzo, which overlooks the impressive eponymous waterfall.

A good descent led us to the start of another 400 metre ascent up the Agola valley by way of good forest tracks. This brought us out at Lago di Val d'Agola, where Daniel, Claudia and Markus all enjoyed a swim.

I didn't enjoy the next section - a 250 metre push up a steep footpath to Passo Bregn de L'Ors (1848 metres). A guided Korean group and three Germans were at the top, just a two and a quarter hours' walk up to the 12 Apostles Rifugio, visited some years ago when we traversed the Bochette via ferrata between Madonna di Campiglio and the lovely town of Molveno.

The Rifugio was clearly visible in its unlikely situation below a gliding eagle.

Gravelly tracks led quickly down to Albergo Brenta, where we have enjoyed another massive meal and a few rounds of 'birra grande'.

I'm sure there's more to report*, but I'm tired. There's no phone signal or wifi here.

Today's pictures:
From outside Hotel Ortles this morning
The Brenta Dolomites from the path to Madonna di Campiglio
Sculpture in Madonna di Campiglio
A view at Lago di Val d'Agola
The view from our room at Albergo Brenta

* Daniel says I nearly killed him in an overtaking manoeuvre on the gravel. I say he should get a better bike. Rouven says he should be more careful (Daniel had earlier been accused of distracting Rouven, causing him to fall on the gravel).

Four of the bikes are newish, with 29 inch wheels that are supposed to ride better over rocks. They are all state of the art full suspension bikes. My nine year old Specialised Stumpjumper bike has full suspension but Daniel and Emanuel have no rear suspension  ('hard tails'). Emanuel's is newer than mine and has had no issues. Daniel's bike is of unknown vintage and sports old fashioned and somewhat ropey equipment. He does well to keep up. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Alps - Day 7 - Albergo Pedranzini in Santa Caterina Valfurva to Hotel Ortles in Cogolo

Tuesday 25 August 2015 - TransAlp Day 4

52 km, 1900 metres ascent, 9.5 hours including about 2 hours breaks.

Weather: sunny periods

Heavy overnight rain eventually stopped at 9 am, just as we were about to set off. So waterproofs were stashed and we left the pleasant little town at 9.15, stopping first to relieve the local shop of all its bananas - free of charge as they were too ripe to sell.

An 850 metre ascent on tarmac to Passo Gavia (2505 metres) occupied a fairly tedious two hours. The harebells and spiniest thistles still looked bedraggled.

We were passed by a group of English road cyclists who appeared to be on a Geneva to Nice trip organised by After a break for coffees etc at the pass we found ourselves descending about 1200 metres over 11 km with this group. Their road bikes were quicker in ascent but the bumpy surface gave our mountain bikes the edge on the descent. The road bikes struggled to keep up with our flying septet.

Lunch at the bottom of the pass, after the enjoyable half hour descent, was followed by a steep off road climb to Rifugio Bozzi and thence to the 2613 metre Forcella di Montozzo. Whilst Rouven, Markus and Thomas were able to cycle most of the way, the rest of us spent several hours pushing our bikes up much of the 1050 metre climb. Not the most enjoyable experience.

The descent to Cogolo was over 1400 metres, mainly rough, rocky and technical. The skill was in knowing when to get off and push. Others explored their limits. Rouven and Markus are experts so they never fall off. Especially Markus, who as tail end Charlie has a fairly safe and relaxing experience. Thomas tracks Rouven as best he can and is very good, but on this descent one corner caught him out - I found his bike in the middle of the trail, with Thomas emerging from the undergrowth some distance away. He soon re-passed me.

Behind me there's usually a big gap, but at the start of this descent Daniel's squealing brakes indicated he was close behind. I nearly came to grief on some big rocks, so I slowed down, expecting Daniel to pass. Everything went quiet. He has bruised wrists from two somersaults. 

Meanwhile, Emanuel was also demonstrating a 'female' as it's apparently known, by gracefully somersaulting just in front of Markus.

Claudia is canny; she knows her limitations, is conservative, and doesn't fall.

I'm the only one who, despite not falling, shows signs of injury, as my front tooth crown fell out this morning.

After a final swoop down tarmac we reached the town of Cogolo shortly before 7 pm and once the hotel had been located most of us managed to wash our bikes, and shower and change for dinner at 7.30. I'm sharing with Emanuel. Claudia is even more lonely than she was last night.

The hotel staff are friendly and the dinner was good, which Markus and Rouven are relieved about as this is the only place on the itinerary that they haven't used before.

It was nice to hear from Sue, who is enjoying her visit to Kandersteg and reports:

'Great day up at the lake today. Three goes on the Rodelbahn then a swim in the lake followed by an hour rowing across to the big waterfall. Walked down. Cool under the clear sky now.... I got invested as an honorary member of 1st London Colney scouts! So two neckerchiefs now.'

It was also good to hear from Humphrey, who has enjoyed a very sociable stroll along GR5 (the Geneva to Nice path).

Today's pictures:
Last night's hotel - Albergo Pedranzini
On the ascent to Passo Gavia
Me and Stumpy after a good lunch
Two pictures from the ascent to Forcella di Montozzo 

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Alps - Day 6 - Gasthof Mayor in S-Charl to Albergo Pedranzini in Santa Caterina Valfurva

Monday 24 August 2015 - TransAlp Day 3

65 km, 2100 metres ascent, 8.5 hours including about 1.5 hours breaks.

Weather: intermittent cloud and rain.

In the expectation of a long day in the saddle, we breakfasted at 7 and set off at 8.15 on an overcast morning.

The ascent to Passo Costainas was easy enough, on a good track as far as the final entertaining single track path to the 2230 metre pass.

We milled about for some time before descending another lovely sweeping technical path with steep gravel and rocks, requiring some care with the brakes. I was careful to follow Rouven's line wherever possible. The trail eventually landed in the village of Santa Maria, at the bottom of the Swiss side of the Stelvio Pass. By now it was raining. We had adjusted the planned route to cater for bad weather. Hence the rest of today's ride would be on tarmac.

The rain eased as we rose 400 metres in improving weather to the Alpenrose café. Soup or salad to accompany some welcome rehydration fluids. Our final encounter with wealth draining Swiss prices.

Then a further 700 metre ascent past squealing marmots, flitting dippers and bedraggled flowers led to Umbrailpass at 2505 metres. The others got quite cool in the damp weather while they waited for me to complete my ponderous ascent. From here the top of the Stelvio Pass was very close, but our descent to Bormio took a right turn and plunged down 1200 metres through various layers of cloud.

The wetness gradually subsided and the temperature warmed to the extent that by the time we reached a café in Bormio after about 30 minutes my waterproofs were dry. The descent, albeit on tarmac, was brilliant. The Garmin download will eventually produce data, but I'd guess that some of the 15 or so kilometres took little more than a minute.

I followed Markus down at the head of our peleton. Our bikes seemed to corner better than the more timid motorcyclists, one of which Markus had to restrain himself from overtaking. Great fun. It left me with admiration for the motorcyclists who accompany bike race peletons.

Coffee and cake or ice cream all round fuelled us for the final 600 metre ascent to this fine albergo, reached well before 5 pm.

There was plenty of time to wash bikes and enjoy several different saunas before heading down to our half board meal. Five courses, with plenty of choices, starting with a help yourself salad to match that of the hotel in Nuria where Tobi and I stayed just a few weeks ago.

All in all, another great day in the saddle, and nobody's even admitting to having a sore bum!

Tonight I'm in a room for three, sharing the twin bedded area with Emanuel whilst Claudia has been relegated to a private zone with bunk beds. Emanuel and I are debating what to charge her for the use of our bathroom.

Everyone on this trip has a great sense of humour, which is just as well given the nature of some of the banter.

Thomas rounded of the evening with a story about a game show in which he successfully appeared with Jennifer Lopez.

Today's pictures:
Ascending to Passo Costainas
Milling around at Passo Costainas
A view from our hotel in Santa Caterina Valfurva 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Alps - Day 5 - Berggasthof Bodenalpe to Gasthof Mayor in S-charl

Sunday 23 August 2015 - TransAlp Day 2

43 km, 1600 metres ascent, 7.75 hours including about 1.5 hours breaks.

Weather: sunny and warm at first, clouding over with spots of rain later.

After what can only be described as a luxurious breakfast, Rouven and I found Markus praying in the local chapel.

Perhaps he was praying for sunshine, more likely that his brand new Canyon 2016 bike would have no more teething problems - his front suspension needed pumping up yesterday. Hopefully Daniel's new front cassette would also work fine.

In the event we had no further bike issues today.

The biking day started at 8.45 with a long ascent. It was easy enough from our lodgings at 1930 metres, up to the Heidelberger Hutte at 2350 metres. Two electric mountain bikes passed us. Cheats? After that it was mainly pushing, up to Fimberpas at 2608 metres. En route there were a few interesting sections that could be ridden. Rouven, Thomas and I enjoyed these and pulled ahead for a long break at the pass.

We needed all the rest we could get. The next hour or more was spent on the most technical long descent I've ever experienced. Absolutely brilliant. Stumpy (my bike) took it in his stride and we all arrived safely, at our own speeds, at Griosch. A couple live in this remote spot all year round and provide welcome sustenance to walkers, cyclists and skiers who pass that way. The carrot cake was delicious.

Markus had devised a variation to the planned route that dived down a grassy field, took a footpath across three suspension bridges, and led our decreasingly merry band a merry dance up a near vertical path composed mainly of big rocks and tree roots.

That eventually put us in a great position to descend via an exciting track/path to Scuol.

The supermarket was raided before we went down to the river and commenced the 650 metre ascent to S-charl. I soon dropped back. The others do non technical ascents rather more quickly than me. But it was still early. No need to hurry, despite the occasional spot of rain.

Sleeping arrangements are more 'normal' tonight. As we had four rooms for the seven of us, I was expecting Claudia to be able to have a room of her own, thereby avoiding the need to share a double bed. However, as I arrived late I found my sleeping quarters had already been allocated. We are in a twin room next to Markus and Rouven in a really nice attic suite. At least we don't have to share a bed tonight!

The meal was a la carte, no half board tonight. Excellent. Pricey.

Today's pictures:
The Chapel at Bodenalpe
Milling around near the start
The view towards Fimberpas
At Fimberpas
Claudia and Daniel arriving at Fimberpas
Scuol, looking towards Lischana, where we went last year

Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Alps - Day 4 - Dornbirn to St Anton to Berggasthof Bodenalpe, beyond Ischgl

Saturday 22 August 2015

50 km, 1730 metres ascent, 7.25 hours including about 2 hours breaks.

Weather: sunny periods and warm - perfect for mountain biking.

It was good to finally be in the mountains after the long drive through fairly nondescript countryside, blighted in Germany by numerous motionless wind turbines, standing in silent groups like monstrous sculptures.

After driving up to St Anton (50 miles, 1.4 hours), our seven TransAlpinistes, already reduced from eight by Dieter's illness, assembled for the off:

Rouven, our guide
Markus, assistant guide and 'Tail End Charlie'
Daniel, Thomas, Emanuel, Claudia and me - the tourists.

Having met Rouven at Dornbirn railway station at 7 o'clock, by the time we had assembled at St Anton we were in need of a breakfast. So after riding for about 1 kilometre we wisely stopped. For breakfast. Very nice it was too. Coffee and bread and butter.

Then we set off at 9.45 past masses of people about to set off on a mountain bike race. That was the last we saw of them. They weren't going in our direction. Unlike my 2010 TransAlp when Markus and I found ourselves ahead of the peleton.

The long ascent up the pretty Schönverwalltal valley was easy for most of the way. Frequent stops for photos were in order. Conditions were as good as they get. I was at the back, but not too far behind.

The rough track eventually turned into a muddy rocky path. This is my territory and I was soon tracking Rouven and moving steadily ahead of the others, who were pushing or carrying sections that Rouven and I were attempting to cycle. Rouven was more successful at that than me, but I was pleased to be enjoying the technical ascent.

Eventually we we forced to push for part of the way up to the Neue Heilbronner Hutte at 2300 metres. Those behind me were baulked by cows.

it was nice to have lunch at the Hutte without the smell of muck spreading wafting over the sandwiches, as it had done on my picnic stops during the journey to Dornbirn. 

The descent to Ischgl - a good 20 km, was almost entirely downhill, mostly off road. Absolutely brilliant.

Ischgl provided a bike shop into which several members of the party rushed their bikes. Repairs and maintenance were duly provided, much to the relief of Daniel and Markus in particular.

We all enjoyed coffee and applestrudel or coke and cake or whatever, in a nearby café.

Then a thrutchy (don't you just love that word) ascent on steep tarmac led up another 500 metres to this fine mountain guest house at above 1900 metres.

5 pm. Beer o'clock. Then a leisurely evening with an excellent meal - fridatten soup (pancake strips in beef stock), schnitzel with a lovely cream vegetable sauce and pasta and salad, then a cake and cream dessert.

An excellent start to the trip. It's a really good group to be with. We have bonded well and are ensconced in two very smart and well equipped rooms for four.

I won't mention the sleeping arrangement for want of causing a scandal.

Today's pictures:
Milling around in St Anton
3 pictures taken during the Schönverwalltal ascent
Berggasthof Bodenalpe