Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 7: Goldswil to Grimsel Pass Summit

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From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

The morning greeted us with beautiful sunshine and calm wind. It was still cool, but that was OK, because we were to climb Grimsel pass today, making for a very long day. But first, the approach. The road rose gently at first, and then dropped rapidly down along the Brienzersee's South side. The official bike route goes around the North side of the Brienzersee, but Jobst had always gone around the South side, and this was my chance to see why: the road while lacking bike lanes, is quiet, and unlike the North side which is frequently cluttered with vegetation and trees, granted us clear views across the lake towards the high mountains. In the cool morning air with calm winds, the lake took on a highly reflective surface, looking like a magic mirror as we rode by, fast, quiet, and smooth.
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

Past Brienz, the road dropped us onto the Hauptstrasse main road towards Meiringen, but just before the entrance to the road I spied a sign for the bike path pointing in the opposite direction. I turned around and found the entrance for the Meiringen bike path. It took a lot of convincing but I eventually got the others to follow. "Who builds these bike paths?" asked Cynthia. "They're farm roads that serve a dual purpose."

The bike path was quiet and beautiful, winding around little streams, under the shelter of trees, and occasionally granting us a peek across the valley at Unterbach. At Brunigen, the bike path eventually dumped us onto Brunigstrasse, which dropped us towards Meiringen. Not wanting to ride through Meiringen again, I opted to route around the town and head once again over Kirchet pass. We got there just before 11:00am, and the Lammi restaurant had just opened. We had barely sat down, however, when the owner came out and told us that the kitchen was only open at noon. Until then they were strictly drinks only! That bummed us out so we headed on down towards Innerkirchen, which then led us up to Grimsel pass. There was no way the tandem could keep up with the singles, so I told everyone to wait for us at the grocery store at Gutanen. As everyone else pulled away into the distance, Lisa and I stopped, took off our helmets, and replaced them with cycling caps. For an entire day of climbing, helmets would have been painful and unnecessary.

Grimsel pass is the least pretty of the major Swiss passes. What that means is that it's far better looking than any of the roads in the Sierras, and probably in the continental US. In the lower regions, it winds along bucolic farms and pretty houses (no MacMansions here!), alongside a running stream and river. In the middle section, it runs along waterfalls, gorges, and places where Canyoning is allowed. Nearly every tunnel has a bikeable bypass, including one which is almost a kilometer long with hand-laid cobbles (I know it was hand-laid because when Lisa and I last came by in 2003 we saw workers hand-laying them!). In the upper section it has no less than 3 reservoirs, each cascading into the other, generating clean power for the region. This accounts for the unsightly power-lines and pylons which you see all the way up the road.
From Tour of the German Speaking Alps 2010

When we got to Guttanen, we found the others waiting outside the closed grocery store. I had forgotten that the stores close for lunch! "If we had known we would have rushed here to buy food before it closed, since we were taking it very easy up the hill," said Cynthia. "Oh well. There are restaurants open. But let's fill up our water bottles first." "Where?" "At the water fountain across the street, of course!" "Wow. OK, I've got to get better at spotting these things."

After lunch, we made the slow, laborious climb up Handegg, and then up Grimsel. I always forget how painful it is to climb on the tandem, but Grimsel delivers reminders in the form of steep sections and a climb that seems to go on forever. By the way we arrived at the top it was 5pm, but I could see that there was ice on the summit lake --- I had never done the climb in weather this cold before. Cynthia and Kekoa had taken a room at the summit hotel, and after a much needed shower, it was time for dinner. We packed away so much food that the restaurant waiter just laughed and laughed as he brought out dish after dish.

At bed time, sleep came swiftly and was well deserved.

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