Saturday, 28 August 2010
Distance: 55-60 km
Ascent: 1800 metres
Descent: 1350 metres
Time: 8.75 hours
Markus's sentence for the day:
"I am not The Boss; I am just The Coordinator."
From our window, once daylight had taken hold, I could see the mountains come and go. Outside, rain pattered in the puddles it had created on the flat roof. It was a day for Sealskinz socks and full waterproofs.
Breakfast at the Bäer (aka Bär) Hotel was a sumptuous affair, taking our minds off the hardships to come. But by 8.30 we were on the road again, splashing through the puddles on yesterday's muddy track.
On a positive note, we were heading downhill. Through Susch to Lavin, where we crossed to the north bank of the River En and rose gently on excellent cycle tracks through a series of picture postcard villages that would eventually lead us all the way up to 1700 metres before dropping steeply down to deposit us beside the river again at Scuol.
En route to Scuol we passed thus through Guarda, then above Ardez to Flan, where the prospect of coffee and cake drew us into the only café. We weren't disappointed.
A man on a bike, both covered in mud, flew past. We ventured back outside, the rain having eased to 'intermittent', for a final ascent before the plunge down to Scuol.
More bikers flew past. They were travelling light apart from the caking of mud (still only a thin veneer compared with the Calderdale Marathon!), but their presence - they were flying past every few seconds despite the fact that we (I?) were travelling at top speed - was somewhat disconcerting. They were in a race - The Swiss Naturepark Bike Marathon. The main event is a 130km off road ride, with over 4000 metres of ascent, but even though the winner takes only six and a half hours, he couldn't catch us. The short event, only some 50+km with 800 metres ascent, starts near Zernez and follows our morning's route. It was these people who were catching us. They looked very keen as they flew down to the finish at Scuol.
We had wondered all morning why crowds of people had been cheering us on. We had been leading the Swiss Bike Marathon!
After that the 1100 metre ascent to Passo da Costainas (2251 m) was positively peaceful, especially as the rain had stopped.
Lunch was taken at the hamlet and bus terminus of S-charl (pictured), at the end of a long dirt road frequented by numerous walkers and a few other bikers, including a man on a curiously clean orange bike who flew past as if we were stationary, before he slowed down and fell off.
After that, easy going on a good track then a narrow, slightly technical, path to the scenic pass, where we lingered for a while with a German biker.
Then a rocky descent - care needed, we had to dismount on some steep sections, led to a contemplative break in the sun (The Coordinator insists on these) before the final fast downhill section to our five roomed refuge in Lü.
A sociable evening and a filling spag bol washed down with expensive Swiss beer completed another excellent day.
I have to finish now as Markus has decreed "lights out".
Next Posting - A Sunny Day in the Alps
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Friday, 27 August 2010
Distance: 60-65 km
Ascent: 1900 metres
Descent: 1900 metres
Time: 8.5 hours
Q: "Markus, could I have a sentence from you for today's blog, please?"
A: "S**t weather; I'm a fair weather biker; roll on Italy - sunshine and dolce vita."
We started with an excellent 600 metre descent to Küblis, where the Co-op provided sustenance for the day.
Then a gradual ascent to Klosters on good bike tracks, under increasingly heavy skies. Coffee and cake in a nice café, watching cars in the road outside turning on their wipers.
Up more undulating cycle tracks, with waterproofs on and off, then definitely On. Somehow I got ahead, then missed a turn in the downpour. Usually Markus stops at such junctions even though I carry the map. Serves me right for going ahead. So I found myself on the main road to Davos on a wet day. Uphill. I been in nicer places. I could liken this to the main road from Macc to Buxton in the rain.
We rendezvoused at a station then found a restaurant. It was p***ing down outside. We stayed for nearly an hour. Option 3 was discussed, and then actioned. This involved the 900 metre ascent by road of Flüelapass (2383 m).
It took two hours. The rain eased, and briefly continued whilst the sun shone from the west. The traffic was a bit of a nuisance but we made it to the top, as confirmed by today's image.
The 900 metre descent to Susch, unrelentingly downhill for over 10km, was routine for Markus. Sue and I had envied cyclists on such descents on our recent trip to Italy. I can confirm that it's as much fun as it looks. One of the most enjoyable 10-15 minutes I've had on a bike. I tried to explain this to Markus, adding
"You just can't do this in the UK".
"The other options were much better" he retorted.
The undulating cycle track from Susch to Zernez was a bit muddy after the rain. Markus doesn't really like mud. It was a bit like the Bridgewater Canal towpath after a light shower. We have to return along it tomorrow.
"I suggest we use the road" hazarded The Boss."
Anyway, we got to Hotel Bär at 5pm, a very respectable hour, so enjoyed a beer before checking in. Having dried out nicely we were both much perkier than yesterday, when the heat seemed to take its toll more than today's rain.
The hotel is excellent. We have the penthouse. The restaurant serves good food. The beer flows nicely. And there's a helpful and friendly manager.
Finally, in response to comments:
Sue - neither of us went to sleep for some time...
Paul - have a great time around Arolla, it's a lovely area.
Alan - vaseline is a wonderful substance...
Alan Sloman - Markus went searching for you tonight, he thought it was the sort of place where you would jump from the shadows, in traditional dress! (Hope all is well BTW, and "hello" from both of us.)
Next Posting - Day 3
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Thursday, 26 August 2010
Distance: 30-35 km
Ascent: 1800 metres
Descent: 850 metres
Time: 8.5 hours
And tomorrow's plan is 60 km with 2300 metres ascent. I wonder how we'll fare, as we are both a bit tired after today's exertions, summarised by Markus (we are sharing a room and he needs my light to go off in order to sleep so this has to be brief) as "The English mountain biker who went up a hill and came down a mountain."
In truth, after a 12km warm up on the gently rising cycle path from Bludenz to Schruns, it was quite a long, unrelentingly steep apart from one short but memorable section through some woods, gravel track up to 2000 metres. About 10 cars and 5 mountain bikers were encountered, all except one car were on their way down.
Above 2000 metres the (heavy) bikes had to be pushed and carried a further 200-300 metres to Grubenpass. A fine viewpoint with brightly lit mountains. I should have mentioned that it's been a day of high heat and unrelenting sunshine. Lesser mortals may have succumbed to heat exhaustion but we are made of sterner stuff!
The pushing and carrying continued for much of the way down, from which you may correctly surmise that the path was undulating and rough. Markus hadn't been here before. It was an experiment.
My damaged knee was painful but held out, but the 'sting in the tail' 50 metre ascent to our guest house was not really appreciated.
We do have a nice view from our room though (pictured above as I forgot to take any other blog photos today).
Right. Markus needs sleep. Goodnight.
PS Now proof read by The Boss.
"You missed the Highland Cattle, Ibex and Marmots we saw, and the fact that we have drunk gallons of liquid and you are at least as tired as I am."
Next Posting - Day 2
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Wednesday, 25 August 2010
"Do you fancy an Alpine journey in early September?" I had queried in passing.
"No, because I'm already going on a Transalp bike ride" was the response; "You're invited!"
So, after carrying out a small test on our local canals, I accepted the kind invitation.
Now, on a Wednesday afternoon in late August, I find myself rummaging through an assortment of gear in Markus's brother's flat in Dornbirn, whilst Markus gets his office work up to date and packs his own small bag. We are staying in hotels, so don't need much. But there does seem (see picture) to be quite a bit to rummage through!
Thanks go to Wolfgang - absent on a guided Transalp bike ride - and his wife Jutta - on holiday in Thailand - for the use of their well-appointed flat.
5.30 pm: Markus returns and we head off to collect my bike. It's seven years old but after being serviced earlier today looks new to me. Markus's friend (pictured in a recent posting) has sold it, so it's this new owner, "a friend of a friend" says Markus, who is lending it to me.
Then it was off to Gasthof Gutle, by the Rolls Royce museum, for a leisurely beer, before returning to town for more carbo-loading via pizzas at the Bella Napoli. With a van outside emblazoned with the words "BBQ eat as much as you can", we could have been...well, anywhere really.
A bit of rest is now in order as we have a longer day than expected tomorrow. The mileage has more than doubled due to the railway line between Bludenz and Schruns being closed, with the replacement bus service not taking bikes.
So there will be a sting in the proboscus?
Next Posting - Day 1
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6.15 am: have been transported (thanks, Sue) to busy Ringway Airport where security checks are much more efficient than in the past. Now happily ensconced with coffee and croissant.
7.20 am: on EZY1865 airbus, ready to leave on time (7.20). I'm next to a chatty couple who are visiting their daughter.
7.45 am: sprint down the runway, past geeky plane spotters, and up above a misty Peak District. Early visitors to those parts may have enjoyed an inversion. Rise above queues of commuters striving to get to work in the Potteries, before settling at 39000 feet, our peaceful sunlit cabin now shielded from the bustle below by a thin veneer of cloud. It's a jolly crew, and there are reassuring words from the captain; it seems normal on such flights to leave up to 30 minutes late and still arrive on time.
10.15 am: we've lost an hour to the European clock, but after deserting the cloud and starting a long descent at Paris, we disembark at Zurich with timing to Swiss watch precision.
10.35 am: Markus draws up, with Austrian precision. Only 5 minutes late!
12.00 noon: we are happily lunching outside Berghof Fetz, at Bödele, high above Dornbirn, on a lovely warm afternoon.
1:30 pm: I'm stuffed (see picture, lunch is usually toast). Is this 'carbo loading'?
Next Posting - Prologue 2
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Andrew led us into the pub on arrival (that’s a wallet he’s holding), then rattled us along on a 9 km ramble through woodland and fields, past places of interest and antiquity. As well as Richard and Jenny, on their last evening walk of the year due to nights drawing in and a darkness phobia, David turned up, taking an evening off from his massive garden and from playing the recorder that is taller than most men. It was good to see you Dave. Thanks for making the effort.
Good timing really, as Dave was a stalwart member of our Alpine journeying team for a good dozen years in the ‘80s and ‘90s, a tradition which continues (literally) to this day.
Lush fields, a result of the sunshine and showers that dominate our weather at present…
…led to unexpected encounters. Here we found a row of gravestones.
The farmers had been so busy in their fields that they’d failed to find time to block this particular route with their ubiquitous electric fences.
The sun set, and by the time we finished our stroll at 9.40, the moon was lighting our way quite nicely.
Here’s the very pleasant route, which took a smidge over two hours.
Thanks go to Andrew for acting as MC, though I do think that his terms whereby I provide this report tonight were a little harsh!
[Will this goad him into working out how to make a comment? I suspect not!]
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Schruns – St. Antönien
Route: Schruns – Tschagguns – Tilisunaalpe – Grubenpass (2232 m) – Partnunsee – St. Antönien (Night: Gasthaus Alpenrösli)
St. Antönien – Zernez
Route: St. Antönien – Küblis – Klosters – Laret – Davos – Sertig Dörfli – Sertigpass (2739 m) – Alpe Funtauna – Susauna – Brail – Zernez (Night: Hotel Bäer)
Zernez – Lü
Route: Zernez – Susch – Ardez – Scuol – San Jon – Val S-charl – S-charl – Alp Astras – Passo da Costainas (2251 m) – Lü (Night: Gasthaus Hirschen)
Lü – Arnoga
Route: Lü – Alp Champatsch – Pass dal Fuorn – Alp da Munt – Buffalora – Jufplaun – Lago Livigno – Passo di Fraele – Lago di San Giacomo – Trepalle – Bochetta Trelina – Arnoga (Night: Hotel Li Arnoga)
Arnoga – Val Rezzalo
Route: Arnoga – Passo di Verva (2301 m) – Eita – Baite dei Rossi – Passo della Forcola (2208 m) – Sondalo – Le Prese – Fumaro – Baita Rezzalo (Night: Rifugio)
Val Rezzalo – Ossana
Route: Val Rezzalo – Passo dell´Alpe – Passo Gavia (2618 m) – Pezzo – Case di Viso – Alta Via Camuna – Bochetta di Montozzo – Lago di Pian Palu – Pejo Terme – Ossana (Night: Hotel)
Ossana – Val d´Algone
Route: Ossana – Malga Fazzon – Rifugio Copai – Rifugio Orsa Bruno – Madonna di Campiglio – Lago di Val d´Agola – Passo Bregn del Ors (1836 m) – Albergo Brenta (Night: Albergo)
Val d´Algone – Torbole
Route: Albergo Brenta – Stenico – Ponte Arche – Vido Lomaso – Rifugio San Pietro – Tenno – Riva – Torbole (Night: Hotel Villa Franca)
This all looks rather exciting. An Alpine journey….
No mileage or ascent/descent data has been provided. Perhaps just as well, though a piece of string on my map of Europe doesn’t produce anything too terrifying. (20 cm, actually; and I hope I don’t need to use it for navigation as most of the above place names are absent from it.) But whilst my map is a flat piece of paper, it does have some rather heavily shaded areas between the two points!
A call to a physio (carefully selected via Google) to discuss the recent damage to my knee provided the necessary comfort… “sounds like a torn cartilage, but you shouldn’t make it any worse; just try to ignore the pain – enjoy your trip.”
So a bag is being packed, batteries are being charged, and the next few entries on these pages will be from ‘on the road’ which I know many people prefer.
This will be quite an adventure. I’ve not been on such a trip for over 30 years. I’ve just failed in a search to illustrate this posting with an image from that trip, so instead there’s a picture of the transport I’ll be using this time (rather different to what I used 30+ years ago). I’m hoping that the owner is staying at home on this occasion!
Monday, 23 August 2010
“Hello Martin” said the voice under the baseball cap. “I’m Jamie”.
A glamorous lady sidled up… “Who’s this?” she enquired.
”It’s the Postcard” explained Jamie, after introducing Nicky.
I’ve been following Jamie’s ‘Trekking Britain’ blog and website for some time, and he has been following these pages and even on occasion the actual footsteps described herein. So I think we feel we know each other quite well.
It was just as well that I hadn’t loaded the ice cream for the evening’s BBQ until after our chat in Sainsbury’s frozen foods aisle. It could have melted.
It was a lovely to bump into you, I’m glad you spotted me. We should meet up for a walk or a ride sometime – feel free to email me using the ‘Contact us’ button here, Jamie, and I’ll try to let you know of any short notice activities that may interest you both.
In the meantime, have a great honeymoon.
[I hope you don’t mind me using the above photo, especially as your baseball cap seems to have blown away! Or was it being used as a tripod?]
Here they are, 52 members of Sue’s family at Charlecote Park.
The rain held off, just about, and everyone seemed to enjoy a great day out. It’s an ideal venue for a ‘mass picnic’ on the old cricket field.
Sue took lots of photos which she will set about processing and distributing to family members once I’m off the computer.
A link to a Picasa album should follow at some point. The family tree will also be updated, though some of this may by-pass the blogosphere for reasons of privacy.