Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 3rd: Handegg to Disentis/Muster

We woke up the next day to sunny skies, which lifted our moods and got us ready for our first substantial day of climbing. The climb up to Grimsel hospice actually gave us to sunny skies.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
Near the hospice, a staff member from the hotel caught up to us and told us the hotel had billed us incorrectly, and we owed them more money than they'd thought. We paid it and they graciously invited us to a cup of coffee at the hospice, but that would have added gratituous climbing to a day that promised a lot of climbing already, so we declined.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The top of Grimsel pass saw a shimmering lake, as well as a good view of the Furka pass, clearly taller than the Grimsel, with a descent into Gletsch between us and the pass proper. The descent to Gletsch was as fun as usual, long straight stretches separated by consistently engineered Swiss hairpin turns. At the bottom, you could look up and see from whence you came, knowing that you're not nearly close to done with climbing for the day yet.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Climbing the Furka pass is initially a gentle experience, until you cross the railroad tracks and just before the Hotel Belvedere the road suddenly turns up at a 12% grade. The day was warming up and we no longer had to wear leg and arm warmers at that point. Past the Rhone glacier, which is a shadow of its former self, the grade eases up a bit and then levels off until the pass summit sign.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
Pass the summit, the grade is easy until you hit the hairpin past Hotel Tiefenbach, where hairpin after hairpin greets you as you work your way down to Realp and Hospental. That day, headwinds greeted us, but that meant that some turns gave you sidewinds instead, necessitating a judicious speed reduction. Once in Hospental, we searched in vain for the supermarket, which was probably closed, and settled instead for a restaurant at the foot of the St. Gotthard pass.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The plan was to ride St. Gotthard and then head over to Biasca and then either climb Lukmanier pass or ride down to Bellinzona. Italian-speaking Switzerland frequently has better weather than the northern sections. However, a perusal of the weather apps on the phones indicated that this usual situation was in the process of being reversed. Chur was projected to have better weather than Bellinzona, so we changed our plans to ride the Oberalp pass instead. This type of weather information on-the-go was unavailable until relatively recently, and we were more than happy to take advantage of it.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

I'd remembered Oberalp pass as being an exceedingly easy pass, but that was based on memories of climbing it early in the morning when fresh. Despite the relatively easy 8% grade, it's still 600m from bottom to top, and a bit of a drag in the warm afternoon sun. By the time we reached the summit with the lake and cafe, Arturo had proclaimed that he was pretty darn tired. It turned out that he had bonked without realizing it, since an ice cream later he was ready to roll on.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

I'd remembered the beautiful ride between Ilanz and Versams from the 2005 tour (later replicated in the 2007 tour), and hoped to make Ilanz to start the next day fairly early, but it was already 6pm and so we found a hotel using TripAdvisor, which had a 3 person room and a half pension, as well as being a short walk from the famous monastery in the town. The monastery was closed in the evening, but we were hopeful for the next morning.

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