Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 26: Winklern to Fusch

 
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We woke up to a beautiful clear day, which was a good thing, because climbing Grossglockner in the storm we had last night would be unthinkable!
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

The rolling climbs up to within 2km of Heiligenblut (1288m) were easy, but at about 800 meters the road suddenly took on a much more hostile character, climbing steeply and with spectacular views in just a couple of kilometers before dumping you into a traffic circle where there was a grocery store/souvenir store. We stopped for some pears, the bananas available not being very ripe. After that there was no excuse but to climb that Grossglockner highway, which started ominously with a giant signboard full of warnings. We did get to ride through the toll booths without paying, since bicycles get to do the highway for free!
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

Grossglockner has 2 summits: one at Hochtor at 2504 meters, and the second one at Fuschertorl at 2428m. We had 12km at 12% grade, which on a single bike would be challenging, but on the tandem was nothing short of exhausting. Fortunately, the views were good and plentiful. Since I couldn't say too many words during the climb for sheer exhaustion, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves here too.
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

For whatever reason, by the time we made it to Hochtor, I had it in my head that the second summit was Edelweissspitz (2571m), which made me start wondering if we were going to make it. Starting at 2000m, we started having to stop to take a break every 100m. At about 2300m, we passed a couple on fully loaded camping single bikes, but it did not make us feel any better to see the woman get off and push her bike. Each rest would make me feel good for about 100m, and then we would have to repeat. I ate the last of my Clif block packs on this segment, knowing that there was likely to be a restaurant at Hochtor.
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

I was right, but the work had left us too exhausted to eat much except soup, so we each had a bowl of soup, took some pictures, and went through the tunnel to begin a steep descent down to Fuscher Lake (2262m). It wasn't even a fun descent, as cars, pedestrians, and other obstacles made it difficult to build up a head of steam. The climb up to Fuschertorl was also at a 12% grade, but this time we had interesting scenery. Someone had parked his car at the summit parking lot but forgot to activate his parking brake. While he was out admiring the scenery, his car rolled down the hill and flipped. Apparently no one was injured, but there was a line of rescue vehicles and tow trucks lined up at the summit parking lot and a ton of spectators looking at it.
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

At this point, I still thought that the Edelweissspitz was the second summit, so we stopped at the parking lot to gander at the flipped car, so imagine my surprise when someone told us that when we went around the corner that would have been it! I almost didn't believe him, but then he told us that Edelweissspitz was out and back.
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

Fuschertorl was touristy in ways that Hochtor was not. It had a gift shop, a bus parking lot, and signboards pointing to all the various mountains you could see, including the Grossglockner (3798m)itself. I couldn't complain about the views, though!
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

The descent was fast, 14% grade in spots, but because this was a tourist roads, car drivers drove extremely slowly, so we had to stop a couple of times to let traffic go so we wouldn't be stuck tail-gating a car, an extremely dangerous situation. There was a place with construction halfway down the mountain as well, so we had to wait there along with other car drivers and motorists. But after that, traffic was clear, and we got the impression that car traffic was stuck behind us when all that ever passed us were motorcycles, who weren't going slow enough to reduce our speed.
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

The temperature rose dramatically as we descended the highway, and soon it was 80 degree weather again. Yet we saw cyclists climbing the road even in the later afternoon, towards what looked to me like a building thunderstorm. Since the southern approach is steeper, I could not imagine that it could be much fun, climbing a 14% grade in 80 degree weather into a thunderstorm. We passed the motorcycles again at the toll booth, and then ran into the ultimate obstacle, a head-on collision between two cars that had blocked the road for all but bicyclists and motorcycles.
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

We rode down the mountain and soon had to start pedaling again. I originally intended to pedal all the way to Zell Am See today, but I was tired, and it looked like another thunderstorm was brewing. Fusch looked like a nice quiet town with nothing but hotels, so we stopped, shopped around, and found that the Hotel Post had decent prices and good enough rooms. They moved their own personal bicycles out of their shelter so we could get our tandem in.

Indeed it rained, and after dinner we walked around town but did not find much of interest. We went to bed hoping for an easier day tomorrow.

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