Thursday, September 29, 2016
"Hm.. I think we went the wrong way." "Really?" "Yup. Looking at the map, it doesn't look like this goes anywhere."
Indeed, the climb was beautiful and as pretty as I remembered, though the surface quality left a lot to be desired. It's definitely far easier on a single than a tandem. At the top of the pass was the view of the lake I remembered, the Speicher Durlassboden reservoir.
The descent from Gerlos pass was fast and scenic, though with a flat section in the town of Gerlos where we saw mountain bikes for hire, plenty of hikers wielding walking sticks, and plenty of ski-lifts, some still opertaional for the summer hiking season.
Down in the valley itself, we were in the Zillertal. I made a turn without consulting the map, always a mistake, and ended up navigatin us all the way to Mayrhofen before realizing my mistake. There was nothing to do then but to turn around and head down-river towards the Inn. At Schlitters, we stopped at a supermarket for lunch, and ended up at the intersection where the Zillertal bike path met the Inn river bike path.
We had debated various options during lunch: Silvretta, or Hahntennejoch. Silvretta was well known to Arturo, so he pushed for a different ride. "My memory of Hahntennejoch is that it's a 20% grade in Imst, but after that it's a fairly easy ride to a beautiful valley on the other side. The only problem is that it'll be late afternoon when we arrive, which will make for a painfully hot climb." We looked carefully at the map and noted that there was a pass I hadn't done before on the other side: Flexenpass. There was also another pass option that would dump us out near Feldkirch as well. Well, it was no big deal. If we started up Hahntennejoch and discovered it to be too painful, Landeck and Silvretta just wasn't that far away.
Riding along the Inn river valley would have been easy, but we were still in Austria, which had cheap trains. Thus, we headed over to Jenbach's train station and bought train tickets to Imst. Now, the train station at Imst isn't actually in the town, which is at around 800m. Instead, the train runs along the Inn river, which was at about 600m. So from the Imst train station, we immediately had a 200m climb up to town. Sweat came down my body in rivers, and despite filling up our water bottles near the train station, by the time we were in the middle of town we had to stop again.
The temperature was at around 98F when I removed my helmet. I soaked my cycling cap into the fountain and immediately felt relief when I put it on, but by the time we'd filled up our water bottles and refilled it with salt, the cap was dry again! After a couple of wrong turns we decided to just follow the main road and ended up finally on the correct road to Hahntennejoch.
Fortunately for us, at 1000m in elevation, which was right after we left the town behind us, we immediately got shade. That dropped the temperature down to a much more manageable 90F, and another 200m of elevation gain made it even better at 80F. Arturo had read up on the construction of the pass, and said that it had been built quick and dirty during the war, which accounted for the grade and the narrow road. It was a spectacular pass from the Imst direction with views every which way and a river far below us.
It was easily 6:00pm by the time we got to the top of the pass, however. I'd earlier identified a cheap-looking place to stay at Bschlabs which had great reviews and proximity to a restaurant, but unusually for Europe we had no signal! There was nothing to do but to descend to Bschlabs to find the place. We first visited a restaurant that had a hotel attached to it, but it was 30 Euros more. Arturo wanted to take the place, but I convinced him that it was worth rolling 100m down the road to the other place. It was indeed what I had identified on booking.com, and it was more than acceptable.
We didn't bother even changing out of our bike clothes, as we wanted to walk back to the restaurant and eat there before the kitchen closed. The restaurant staff was very understanding about us taking the cheaper place down the street, and gave us an excellent dinner anyway.
The morning saw us in great spirits. After the rain, the road had dried out overnight and we looked like we were in great shape for another great day of riding. Now that 14% grades were easy for us, I was confident that the climb up Old Gerlos pass would pose no serious difficulty.