Swiss pastries by Bert Floss
Many hours were spent planning the logistics of this trip.Poring over maps,looking at Google Earth.Mountain biking in the alps can be an inexact science and you have to be flexible.A GPS is of little use as you traverse a morraine high up,where the track is dobs of red and white paint on rocks,or small cairns you try and line up in the distance.
Let me get the bragging out of the way.1400 k's of riding,22000m.of climbing.
Self supported,we travelled light.My pack weighed 6.5 kg's.Spare tyre,tool pump etc.we only had one between us.Weight saving was the order of the day.Though only taking two sets of underwear made for some tension,specially on our off days. Just jesting.
The three of us,Paul Graham,George Fyfie and myself,set off on the morning of the 11th of July,eastward from Zurich along the lake.Toward the end of that days riding was a 1000 m.climb,we could easily have avoided.It was agood way to give the body the message;get ready.As it happened,it was harder than expected.We ran out of food.By the time we came by a hut run by a Ski club,we were running on empty.Barley soup and some pastries fixed that.After a bit more climbing,we descended on a steep and difficult walk track with plenty of switch backs,into the valley.
At breackfast next day,the owner of our hotel ,gave me a map of local bike tracks.On it was a more interresting descent into the Rhine valley,than I had planned.Can't beat local knowledge!
Crossed border into Austria that day.Easy ride with some sight seeing.
Third day was up and over a pass,a bit over 2000m high,with lots of switch backs and stunning scenery
Rode up a valley,the following day,to a refuge.On approach,we noticed a chopper doing circles,with two people swinging from a cable.A new outdoor sport?No,just a group of ski instructors doing rescue training.After refuelling in the refuge,it was pushing,or hike a bike to the top at 2800m.Traversing large patches of snow did not make it any easier.After making it over the top,we walked a good 600 m.of rideable descent.Feeling tired,cold and with the weght of our packs,the savety margin was reduced and falling on the wrong side of the track would have meant a trip home in a bodybag.Fear not,there was plenty of fast and furious riding into the lower Engadin,then downriver past the castle of Tarasp,to the Spa town of Scuol.
Next day we rested and spent a few hours in the spa.Felt good.
The following day we rode most of the "Engadin Bike Marathon" route and then some.3000m.plus of climbing rewarded us with some truly mindblowing scenery.In Livigno,Italy,a duty free enclave near the Swiss border,we had to drag Paul out of a bike shop.He was about to pull out his credit card for a top specced bike,at a substantial saving.
Up and over the Livigno and Bernina pass and down some great single track,brought us past the beautiful lakes of the upper Engadin and more wall to wall scenery.Down the Maloja pass,on to Vicosoprano,on the south side of the alps.The Padrone at the hotel brought out his own,home made goatsmilk cheese for breackfast.Beautiful!That days ride was an easy one to Como.
Zig zagging across the Alps,one notices subtle differences,not all culture and language related.In Italy and France,there is a bidet in the bathroom,that is perfect for washing your gear in,after a hard days riding.Austria is good value,but you get served dumplings with every meal.Switzerland is expensive,but has the yummiest pastries and the best quality toilet paper in its hotels