Transalp.info by Andreas Albrecht

Albrecht-Route english

translated by Katie Stephens

Trailer DVD Abenteuer Alpencross 2 - Transalp auf der Albrecht-Route - © Sebastian Runschke and Roland Schymik - SERU Film


route:

Garmisch- Fernpass - Landeck - St. Anton - Verwall-Tal - Galtür - Ischgl - Fimberpass - Scoul - Passo Costainas - St. Maria - Val Mora - Passo Verva - Grosio - Val Rezzalo - Passo Gavia - Ponte di Legno - Montozzo - Val di Sole - Madonna di Campiglio - Gardasee

distance: 487 km
meters of ascent (moa): 11.921 hm
stages (7): km, moa

day 1: 79 km, 849 moa
Garmisch-Partenkirchen - Ehrwald - Fern-Pass - Schloss Fernstein - Strad - Imst - Landeck

day 2: 78 km, 2240 moa
Landeck - St. Anton am Arlberg - Verwall-Tal - Heilbronner Hütte - Galtür - Ischgl - Fimber-Tal - Bodenalpe

day 3: 68 km, 1996 moa
Bodenalpe - Fimber-Pass - Vna - Sent - Scoul - S-charl - Pass da Costainas - Lü - St. Maria im Münstertal

day 4: 73 km, 1503 moa
St. Maria im Münstertal - Val Mora - Lago Cancano - Arnoga - Passo Verva - Eita - Grosio

day 5: 50 km, 2254 moa
Grosio - Le Prese - Fumero - Val di Rezzalo - Passo dell' Alpe - Gavia-Pass - Ponte di Legno

day 6: 64km, 2217 moa
Ponte di Legno (Precasaglio) - Pezzo - Montozzo - Pejo - Fucine - Dimaro - Madonna di Campiglio

day 7: 75 km, 862 moa
Madonna di Campiglio - Val d'Agola - Passo Bregn de l'Ors - Val d'Algone - Stenico - Villa Banale - Sarche - Arco - Torbole

hint: here the Albrecht-Route is described how we rode it in 2004. Since then I developed the route slighty to avoid tarmac roads. See the differences on the map and profiles. See also height profiles and some hints in the detailled infos according to the german tour report - day 1: click here

little helpers to find the right way

GPS-tracks, scanned maps, TOPO-map on mico-SD-card for Garmin GPS devices, Transalp Roadbook, DVD for the current route: see Webshop


Overview map

Important: please type internet address with WWW if you see only a white box (in same cases with some browsers)

black: main route 2004 - blue : main route 2017 - open in lightbox: click

 

height profiles of classic Albrecht-Route 2004 and 2017

blue: road, mostly less traffic ----- green: track, bike path ----- red: gravel, dirt road ----- black: single track

albrecht route2004komplett

Albrecht Route 2017

maps

KOMPASS: digital maps: The Alps, Switzerland, hiking maps: WK 5, WK 35, WK 41, WK 42, WK 072, WK 73, WK 94, WK 98, WK 101
overview map : Kompass: roadmap Tirol - Trentino
maps to order via Amazon: click on the number

tourplanning, tourguiding:

Andreas Albrecht
ridden from 5th - 11th of September 2004: Andreas Albrecht, David (München), Reiner (Arnstadt), Matze (Gräfenroda), Uli (Gelnhausen), Olaf (Mainz), Christian (Deggendorf), HaPe (Ulm - only the first 3 days)
shuttle, luggage transport:
www.bikeshuttle.it: Mals am Reschenpass - Tel: 0039-320-3114552
www.bikeshuttle.at: Nauders am Reschenpass, TRANSALP-HOTLINE: 0043-664-1217050
PKW-Shuttle from Gramisch to Lake Garda: www.transalp-shuttle.com Tel: 0049-171-3240804 or 0043-676-6877008


tour report (translation by Katie Stephens - thank you so much)

"And in the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)


Prologue

Transalp Roadbook1 enI got the transalp bug having completed my first one in 1994, it started years of experimentation looking for my perfect route. Year by year, tour by tour I've honed it and since 2000 think I have been on the right track. Now, a few years later, I'm happy, everything fits together : the route, the group, and even the weather's cooperating. 7 days of sunshine are predicted, clear blue sky and not too hot, it couldn't be better. Whilst planning the tour I based our departure date on the moon phase (well, it couldn't hurt now, could it?) and we set off at the end of a full moon, as this is meant to bring the most stable weather. With a lot of jiggery-pokery I've managed to work into the route all the highlights that I've ridden in the last few years. Internet feedback and talking to hotel owners in towns at the end of stages confirm that since I started posting my tour reports the web numerous mountain bikers have taken up my suggestions, and done variations of my transalps starting in Garmisch. At first I was astonished by such a response, then naturally very happy that so many people had followed one of "my" tours. They are all made to my concept of how one should mountain bike in the Alps. I want to be able to actually ride as much as possible, also or rather especially in the high mountains. Getting off and pushing your bike should be kept to a minimum; I get really irritated by having to drag my bike, particularly downhill and it seems that I'm not the only one. I've always made sure that there's an alternative, bad weather route, so the tour doesn't have to be called off, but luckily have rarely needed them. On this tour I could have saved a good 2 kilos in my backpack between unneeded waterproofs and winter stuff, but better safe than sorry.


Day 1: The Fern-Pass

01 350 1 4 DSCN1420route: Garmisch-Partenkirchen - Ehrwald - Fern-Pass - Schloss Fernstein - Strad - Imst - Landeck
79 km, 849 hm

By now this route is burned so well into my mind I could easily cycle it from memory, still safe is safe, and I pack three A4 pages of road book and 18 sides of scanned maps into my pack. I rarely actually look at them, and then it's only to see how we're doing for time. This is a good group - we met up on Lake Garda last Easter and have ridden a few tours together. We all work well together as people which is one of the most important things for me, especially after my predominantly positive experiences in the past few years. Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany is our starting point where we meet on a sunny late summer morning in September at the car park behind the train station. It's a Sunday which has the advantage that we'll be more or less alone, most groups starting on Saturdays. Only one other group is riding parallel to us, and as it turns out when we meet them again that evening in Landeck, they're using my road book.

Slowly all our group members arrive at our chosen meeting point - the Garmisch Partenkirchen train station, and we leisurely set out in the direction of the Zugspitze. This first stage is really good for getting into things, everyone can find their own rhythm. There is a little of everything: rough gravel, tricky trail passages, easy stretches to just ride, up hill, down hill, but not too much at any one time, and of course forests, lakes and the Alpine mountains. With this wonderful Indian summer weather, it's a treat for the senses and it feels great to be getting some sun on the skin. From Grainau a cycle road runs parallel to the Loisach towards Ehrwald. At first it's asphalted and later turns into a good logging road that often runs near to the busy main road. In Ehrwald we reach open land again, cycle across the meadows and after a few hundred metres turn left. At the round-a-bout at the end of the village you take the short, steep ramp going up to the left which brings you to a scenic route going through light woods and crossing a ski slope near Biberwier before reaching the Via Claudia at the Weissensee Lake. Here you meet the first steeper gravel hills on the old trade route.

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When we reach the old Fern Pass we can see a snake of cars crawling towards Imst on the road below us. We're free of all that, and race down the gravel track. As we cross the road we have real trouble finding a gap in the relentless traffic. Without doubt, the most impressive bit of this first stage is the exposed stretch of the ancient Via Claudia running high up over the Fern Pass lakes which shimmer turquoise blue below us. Deep ruts have been carved into the rocks by the iron rimmed wagon wheels of the Roman carts. The path has been rediscovered over the last few years by hikers and bikers. A few mountain bikers approach us in the opposite direction fighting their way up hill.
The way to Fernstein Castle has partially a trail character. The Bavarian king Ludwig II kept two rooms at the castle inn as he was spellbound by the romantic magic of the area with its deep blue and emerald green lakes. In winter, by full moon he would drive his sledge from Neu Schwanstein, his fairy tale castle, over the Fern Pass to Fernstein. With the building of the modern road in 1856 the old Fern Pass became obsolete and was left to disintegrate, which despite the fact that it has been repaired and maintained for the many bikers and hikers you can still see at a few narrow and exposed bits along the rock walls. Today the threatening weather doesn't leave us with a lot of time to look at the old Roman caravan tracks which have been carved deep into the rock. For us now it's almost all downhill. We go past the Imst's modern church and reach the cycling road to Landeck at the banks of the Inn river. We waste no time and cycle on in formation. Olaf provides wind shadow, he does a lot of road biking, as I used to, and we make good speed. No one wants to be the first to break ranks, but it's not actually important to any of us to arrive first. We stop for water shortly before the finish and regroup. A nun we thought we'd zoomed past rides leisurely by, I guess we weren't so fast after all! On we go, and soon we reach the Hotel Mozart in Landeck.

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The hotel pool and sun terrace are waiting for us. The weather forecast is excellent and we're looking forward to a delicious evening meal. Since I've been staying here I've had to somewhat amend my evening attire: light micro fibre trousers and a t shirt that isn't too bike-like. Landeck is a strategic point on this transalp: no matter what the weather you'll go this way if you've started in Garmisch. If the weather looks bad (for example, there's risk of snow on the Fimber Pass) you can proceed from Landeck by riding along the Inn Valley, like I had to in 2001. I joke around with Thomas Radlbeck the hotel boss, who I got to know at a trade fair in Erfurt a few years ago and always look forward to seeing again. Thomas is my idea of a typical Austrian, a breed I've learned to value: dependable, professional and always welcoming. He tells me that more and more bikers are using his hotel, some real characters. It is commented on that some turn up to dinner bare foot and in their underwear due to a lack of dry clothing which doesn't overly impress the other guests or his mother, the senior boss of the house, so a word of warning: not too slovenly in the Hotel Mozart , but you don't have to go as far as suit and tie…

accommodation

Landeck: Hotel Mozart - www.mozarthotels.at, 0043/5442/64 222, perfect


Day 2: The Verwall Valley

350 2 9 DSCN1472route: Landeck - St. Anton am Arlberg - Verwall-Tal - Heilbronner Hütte - Galtür - Ischgl - Fimber-Tal - Bodenalpe
78 km, 2240 hm

To the others Lake Garda still seems far away, but as I think through the stages and look forward to all the highlights awaiting us it already seems close. My plan for the second day takes us over St. Anton, through the Verwall Valley towards Ischgl. It's a good choice in good weather, even if you have to just eat up kilometres at the beginning. As far as St. Anton we more or less roll along the road or hard shoulder. Once the tunnel between Pians and Flirsch opens the traffic will get better. As we turn off into the Paznaun Valley Uli and HaPe say bye for the day, they're cycling the shorter route to Ischgl as both had knee problems in the past few weeks and want to take it a bit easier today. Uli remembers the way from last summer, and we'll meet up again at the Bodenalpe. They send me an sms around midday to tell me they've arrived. As expected the traffic is lighter from Flirsch on. From here you could take the back roads which are used for cross country skiing in winter, but it's not really necessary. In St. Anton am Arlberg we stock up in the supermarket, I've got into the habit of eating little and just small portions during the day. On the whole we just make short breaks as it's easier for the endurance. The body has to cope with prolonged low level strain, but thankfully isn't permanently asked for maximum performance. In good weather it's really no problem stopping every now and then for a banana break or to eat an energy bar. In the next few days we find ourselves stopping more often on the down hills and flat bits, as much as anything because the imposing mountain scenery forces us to. After the village we turn left at the Hotel Mooserkreuz and into the Verwall Valley.

I first cycled along here in 2000 and remember feeling rather nervous about what awaited me on a transalp. Today I'm more relaxed and enjoy the slow transition into the mountain world. After an enormous building site where they're putting up a power station we have the Verwall Valley to ourselves. It is a so called U-shaped valley, which has a relatively soft climb up to the tree line at around 2000 metres. Before long we reach and pass the Konstanzer Hütte, taking a break so early on wouldn't be wise, it'd just make things twice as hard later. At the Schönverwall-Hütte the good gravel track comes to an end. The group isn't far apart and we dribble in not long after each other before making our way on to a wooden bridge. Up to here the trail is good but after the bridge comes the first of the pushing / carrying passages on the way to the Heilbronner Hütte. Before it gets really irritating we reach a high plateau. We pass the picturesque Scheidseen and beat the last climb to the Heilbronner Hütte. Matze and Christian ride it all while the others mostly push the last steep bit. On the terrace the sun beats down as if it were high summer. I eat a bowl of soup not wanting more.

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The downhill to the Kops reservoir is a dream in this weather, there are no technical difficulties and we roll on, stopping every now and then to take in the view of the Silveretta group. After the Verbellaalpe you have to pay attention not to miss the steep uphill going off left after the barrier up to the reservoir. To keep going down hill and right towards Partenen may well be tempting, but doesn't really help - you'd then have to carry on over the Schlappiner Joch as, for example, the Heckmair route does. It has it's attraction but then maybe you should be consequent and start in Oberstdorf. We grind up a short steep uphill, a few hikers coming in the opposite direction give us moral support to get over the annoying slope. At the reservoir we stop for a moment, the water is a milky sky blue due to sediment. Shortly after the way up to the Zenis Joch you can get around the lake by turning left by the restaurant on the footpath. This brings you out directly on the mountain bike track heading for Galtür, which you can also get to on the road. In this case you would turn left shortly after the top of the pass; the orientation point is the toll free road to Galtür.

A short comment on the Zeinis Joch: it seems to get it's name from a local word for the tears of the Tyrolean children. As late as the 1940s many had to leave their terribly poor homeland to go into service in Swabia. They would say goodbye to their families and be handed over to that time's version of people traffickers here at the top of the pass. Today it's hard to imagine the levels of poverty prevalent in the Alps not so very long ago. In the at that time rich and powerful Germany some "employers" became the all-powerful rulers over the lives of the people they'd in effect bought. Luckily with the outbreak of the Second World War this terrible tradition came to an end. Today we Germans could learn a lot from our Austrian neighbours about steadfastness, hard work and especially the ability to adjust to outwardly changing circumstances, most of us are simply no longer able to do this, but enough of the historical digression. Here and now we enjoy the fast downhill to Galtür which soon comes in to view. You can clearly see the reinforcements which were built after 1999's avalanche catastrophe and hopefully will protect the village from a repeat performance. We clearly see the slopes where the avalanche started. They have never been forested, and are also not covered by ski lifts. It was an unlucky chain of events which after days of heavy snowfall brought the "white death" into the centuries old village. After Galtür we keep on the cycle path next to the Trisanna, going downhill. By now we've got used to the hoards of cycle tourists. The path is well signed and there's no temptation to just take the road. Shortly after Galtür you reach some white houses which stand by themselves (Apart. Alexander). Here I really recommend that you don't take the officially signed bike route , but the gravel track that goes to the right, following the Trisanna. It takes you through a magical narrow ravine where the rock walls feel like they're pressing in on one another. Next to the stream there's just enough space for the track. Heaven only knows why the official route ignores this way.

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Above the village of Ischgl we reach a turning into the Fimber Valley, the end of the line for us today. Taking this way you save yourself the first bit of the tough final climb. In the first hairpin bend we reach the main track and grind the steep but definitely rideable way up to the Bodenalpe. We've chosen to stay the night here, and not at the Heidelberger Hütte like the majority of bikers which has become way too crowded for my taste and has none of the mountain hut romance left. Once I counted more than 80 mountain bikers there, along with around 100 hikers from the Heidelberg section of the German Alpenverein who unfortunately had a fondness for singing. The remote isolation of the Alps as mass experience. The young landlord Esma of the Bodenalpe gives us a warm welcome (something you don't necessarily get at the Heidelberger Hütte) and we go to find our rooms. The rooms are newly renovated and have there own bathroom and TV; even our sweaty bike clothes get washed and dried overnight. The evening meal and breakfast are both good (and large), and in general it's very good value for money. Conclusion: highly recommended.

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alternative route

· From Landeck over Tobadill and the "Almstüberl" to Paznaun valley
· Then the Paznaun valley road to Ischgl and on into the Fimber Valley

accommodation

St. Anton am Arlberg: Hotel Montfort: A-6580 St. Anton am Arlberg, Dorfstraße 57, Tel. 0043-5446-2310

Ischgl: Bodenalpe  www.bodenalpe.com  Tel.: 0043-5444-5285


Day 3: Fimber Pass, Pass da Costainas

opener 350 opener 1000 opener DSCN1543route: Bodenalpe - Fimber-Pass - Vna - Sent - Scoul - S-charl - Pass da Costainas - Lü - St. Maria im Münstertal
68 km, 1996 hm

Looking forward to this great day.

3 0 Fimber

3 0 Pass Costainas

It's still cool as we climb onto the bikes. The sun bathes the mountain peaks in a red light and slowly makes its way down to the valley bottom. The gravel track is good to ride on, sometimes steeper, sometimes less so. After not too long we cross the border between Switzerland and Austria, the only marking, a cast iron sign on a pole: the border isn't watched anymore. Still, at least officially we're leaving the euro zone. In Engadine the European single currency has long been accepted next to the Swiss Frank as a second currency though, and often I've even received my change in Euro cents. We keep having to stop to take photos as the morning light is so good. After about an hour we reach the Heidelberger Hütte. All the bikers who spent the night are already on their way and we have the climb up to the Fimber Pass to ourselves.

On the way to the pass there are a few places where you have to push, but it takes barely an hour and is rideable in part. In the middle ages Ischgl's dead were carried over this pass to the graveyard in Sent in Engadin: for centuries the Paznaun valley was part of the municipality of Sent. In winter the pass was inaccessible so the corpses were left out to freeze and got buried in Sent in the spring. In crossing this border we also cross the first language border of our tour, in the Engadine they speak Retro Romanic ("romantsch grischun"), the fourth official language in Switzerland which has its routes in Latin. Hikers and bikers greet each other with "Allegra". (info by: Cla Rauch - village Sent).

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We regroup at the pass and are all amazed by the wonderful panorama. The following downhill on the easily visible path is one of the legendary alpine trails. To reach the tiny Alp Chöglias you have 500 metres of descent to get through. The amount you're going to have to push depends on your technical ability and the ground conditions. Today the trail has perfect grip - not to wet and not too dry and even I manage the majority of it. Skilled downhillers will manage almost all of it in good conditions. The path is partially washed out and has rather abrupt edges, but as long as you pay attention it shouldn't be too problematic. Later you cross an "adventurous" bridge and a glacial stream and finish on a bumpy forest road to Griosch. From here we took a good natural road towards Vna.

Shortly before the village we take a sharp right towards the Kurhaus Val Sinestra. Later the track through the meadows divides. A sign shows that the lower left hand path goes directly to the Kurhaus. A little later it becomes a tricky path, full of roots with a crumbly sides, following the edge of the stream and heading steeply downhill. The upper right hand path on the other hand (signed as "Panoramaweg") also takes you where you want to go. It also has a few roots, but in the main is a passable trail, making you get off the saddle only every now and then. After a right curve you have to pay attention, there's a rock fall with about a 1.5m step in it. I wouldn't risk it.

350 3 7 Matze 2004Transalp 057  350 3 8 DSCN1534 350 3 9 HaPe 2004Transalp 061 350 3 10 HaPe 2004Transalp 065 350 3 12 Matze 2004Transalp 066 350 3 13 DSCN1565

From the Kurhaus there's a nice track running high above the Inn Valley to Sent with a direct view into the Val d'Uina. From Sent you have a high speed downhill along the road to Scoul. If you want to stock up in Scuol's supermarket you'll have to get there before 12:15 when they baton down the hatches for a siesta. The climb to S-charl is just hard work. The village well doubles as a bus stop and is a natural meeting place. If you want to (or have to) save your strength you can stick your bike in the boot of the bus and get a ride. I suggest to HaPe that this may be a good idea, but his ambition wins. Unfortunately he doesn't do his knee any favours and on the following climb to Alp Astras and it swells right up. He can't go on and has to roll back to Scoul. David brings us the news as we wait at the Alp Astras. We had decided that In such situations we would have to make clear decisions. By SMS HaPe tells me that he's taken a Hotel room in Scuol and will be picked up by his niece. It's a shame he had to stop, next year he wants to try again, hopefully then as finisher.

From Alp Astras' terrace we can see way back over where we've come from, through idyllic mountain meadows with a lively burbling stream. There was only one steeper bit that could bring you out of breath. The high plateau leading to Alp Astras became a race track, Christian and Matze were the winners. The beautiful trail through dwarf pines leading to the Pass da Costainas is just fantastic. One of our group nobly opens and closes a gate so that the rest of us can say that we reached the pass without leaving the saddle. I still love this, the only way of getting over the main Alpine chain in the saddle without having to resort to an asphalt road. Really a pleasure for all who've had enough of pushing through unrideable terrain.

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The following downhill starts with a short, very steep gravel bit. Unfortunately Olaf makes acquaintance with the dirt. A couple large grazes decorate his arm and shin for the remainder of the tour. As we reach the meadows our difficulties are forgotten. We have a dream of a downhill on good gravel to Lü waiting for us. Visibility is fantastic, the Ortler with it's thick snow cap seems so close you could touch it. Photo break. Shortly after the hamlet my front disk break starts to squeak terribly, the break lining is completely worn out. Luckily David has a replacement lining which fits, I was so daft not to check if I had a spare before starting the tour. One learns from one's mistakes, It won't happen again.

Thanks to the warm late summer weather the obligatory pasta party in the youth hostel "Chasa Plaz" can take place outside. I phone HaPe in Scuol again who understandably is disappointed about having to drop out of the tour. I cheer him up, as much as I can and have no doubt that he'll make it next time.

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alternative route

· If there's a risk of snow on the Fimber Pass stay in the Inn Valley and go over the Reschen Pass.
· or you could try the Val d'Uina

accommodation

S-charl: Crusch Alba www.cruschalba.ch

: Pension Hirschen - Telefon: +41 / (0) 81 858 51 81 http://hirschen-lue.ch/  

Tschierv

Hotel Al Rom

Sta. Maria im Münstertal

Jouth Hostel Chasa Plaz, CH-7356 St. Maria, Tel.: +41/81-8585661
www.chasa-jaro.ch


Day 4: Val Mora, Passo Verva

opener 350 4 16 Verva M095route: St. Maria im Münstertal - Val Mora - Lago Cancano - Arnoga - Passo di Verva - Eita - Grosio
73 km, 1503 hm

We have breakfast in the youth hostel. There's a Swiss school group staying so it's worth Frau Tinner, the matron's while to make the meal. Fortified, we start our attack on the long gravel climb into the Val Mora. The climb starts straight away and I miss the warm up kilometres. At the Alp Pra de Vau there's the first flat bit and the first chance to relax the legs. Things go better after that and I grind on up to Alp Praveder. After a short break light work is made of the last bit of the climb to Döss Radond. It is sunny, but still a little on the fresh side. We have the mountains completely to ourselves, that is if you don't take the thousands of marmots into account, who draw attention to themselves with their characteristic whistle. Matze can imitate them brilliantly and it's like they're entertaining one another. We pull on out wind jackets and enjoy the downhill through the Val Mora. The high valley is overwhelming in this weather and we have to keep stopping to gawp at the surrounding three thousanders. The isolated high valley is just like a set for a western, incredible that it's all real and not just a painted backdrop. The gravel track turns into a trail first through meadows and then snaking through dwarf pines. From a bridge over a stream the valley gets narrower with the path running on the left hand side of the stream over scree slopes which make you dismount every now and then. It's wildly romantic, at any minute Winnetou could come riding around the corner.

At the Passo Val Mora we leave Switzerland behind us, another border and another language. Italy. The path runs through the last of the scree slopes which have been caused by mountain erosion. At the Passo Fraele a reservoir comes into view where they're doing some building on the middle dam wall. I guess the huge reservoir has to be kept in condition even if the dust thrown up by the trucks is somewhat irritating. We ride around the right side of the reservoir which is the more interesting from a landscape point of view and go past where the gravel track up to the Passo Alpisella comes out. David and I came along here from Livigno in July. Then it was late afternoon and we were on the look our for somewhere to stay, which we finally found in Arnoga.

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At the Passo Val Mora we leave Switzerland behind us, another border and another language. Italy. The path runs through the last of the scree slopes which have been caused by mountain erosion. At the Passo Fraele a reservoir comes into view where they're doing some building on the middle dam wall. I guess the huge reservoir has to be kept in condition even if the dust thrown up by the trucks is somewhat irritating. We ride around the right side of the reservoir which is the more interesting from a landscape point of view and go past where the gravel track up to the Passo Alpisella comes out. David and I came along here from Livigno in July. Then it was late afternoon and we were on the look our for somewhere to stay, which we finally found in Arnoga.

Today we've still got plenty of time. At the Rifugio Giacomo the deck chairs are laid out invitingly in the sun. Coffee stop. As if no time has gone by in the past year there's a little kitten again who is doing circles around David. After the break we set off , still on the gravel track along the edge of the lake. Above the dam we stop again and wonder at the mountain scenery. You can clearly make out the summer ski area on the Stilfser Joch with it's dark lift pylons against the white of the snow. we can't however tell if the lifts are running. You can also see the zig zag trail that makes its way up the rock wall of the Valle Forcola. With weather like this it's just a fantastic stretch. We would also have been able to do this bit starting in St Maria, just we'd have had to leave out the Val Mora and take the road (which doesn't have much traffic on it) up to the Umbrail Pass to get on to the high path to Bocchetta di Forcola. It's always a tricky decision, but up to now I've always gone for the Val Mora. Somehow this way seems more logical. I feel that the route over the old World War One military roads fits better to a transalp coming over the Stilfser Joch.
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Well, I don't have to sit and puzzle for long about the chosen route of the day. After the Torri di Fraele in the third hairpin we take the right hand turn towards Arnoga, along the old "Decouville" military road. We need a lot of time for this today, not because we're lazy but because the views are so amazing and we have to keep stopping to soak it all in. In the past few days knowing what's coming with the landscape highlights I've kept saying "tomorrow it's going to be just a tad sharper!" It really is so. The impressions of one day just keep getting beaten by the impressions of the next and so on and so on in the sequence of this dream transalp.

We stop for a cappuccino in Arnoga. It was an unnecessary mistake, with the break we lost the relaxed feeling in the leg muscles which we'd just got through the longer flat passage. A feeling one really could do with on the Passo Verva. Matze and Christian manage to ride the whole of the tricky gravel trail. The rest of us push our bikes every now and then. You can take in the majestic mountain scenery so much better that way... The downhill on the rough gravel trail to Eita we make good pace on stopping every now and then, it would be a sin just to let this remote landscape to rush past us.

In the little mountain village Eita we see signs of life again. Ancient landscapes are still worked in ancient ways mostly by the elderly inhabitants of the valley. A farmer and his wife are busy with a type of chaffing machine chopping up dung so it can be better spread on the fields. In the front garden of an old farm house an old man is lying in the shadow covered with a thick felt blanket with his wife next to him. I greet them with a "Buon giorno!" they nod and wish us a good trip "Buon viaggio, ragazzi!" It really is idyllic, but I can only imagine how hard life is up here and how hard it must be for people who've lived like this for centuries to find a place in the world today. I think though to myself that despite all our newfangled mobile phones, full suspension bikes and GPS, if it came to the crunch the people who live up here would without a doubt manage better when they had to save themselves as us 21st century townies. Enough of the philosophy. In Grosio the Hotel Sassella is waiting for us. The speedy downhill over 1000 metres of descent on little lanes blow all questioning thoughts out of the head and the Mediterranean air of the Valtellina does the rest to get rid of any little doubts about the sense of lack of it of a transalp. The valley isn't touched by mass tourism and has kept its quiet lifestyle. Cycling through the villages it occurs to us hectic Germans that the people still stand chatting on the streets. With joy I greet Marcella and Jim Pini, the boss of the family run hotel. I feel quite at home here. I first stayed here on a transalp in 2001. The classic Italian evening menu and the in house service is as usual from the very best. I know I haven't stayed here for the last time.

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350 4 20 SassellaM099

alternative route

· From the Torri di Fraele take the gravel hairpins down to Bormio and the old road down to Grosio
· Or you can go straight on to "La Baita" in to the Val Rezzalo (shortens the transalp by a day.)
· if you are strong enough to ride on a little bit ont thr route of day 5 - so try to reach Sondrio. In Bolladore there is a nice little hotel on the route: HOTEL DELLE ALPI -from Grosio to Bolladore only ca 5. 5 km and 150 moa

accommodation

Grosio: Hotel Sassella - , I-23033 Grosio, Via Roma 2 0039/342/847 272, super Küche, ist das Geld wert; www.hotelsassella.it

Grosotto: Hotel Le Corti, Via Patrioti 73, I-23034 Grosotto, www.garnilecorti.it


Day 5: Valle di Rezzalo, Gavia

opener 350 5 Gavia 085route: Grosio - Le Prese - Fumero - Val di Rezzalo - Passo dell' Alpe - Gavia-Pass - Ponte di Legno
50 km, 2254 hm

A frightened look to the sky in the morning. A veil of clouds is hanging in the sky. Looking down the valley you can see a dark cloud formation which seems to be moving our way. Is our luck with the weather leaving us? I discuss with David who also knows the weather signs in the Alps and we analyse the situation: no strong wind, no strong drop off of temperature overnight, the air pressure has stayed just about the same; nothing to point to a major swing in the weather. If it looked bad there's no way I'd go through the Val Rezzalo to the Gavia Pass. As we reach the turning to the Passo Foppa about 2 kms after Grosio the first peaks are poking out of the clouds which are slowly burning off. Question answered, we're off to the Val Rezzalo. To be on the safe side I'd e-mailed Alessandro the hut keeper at La Baita to let him know we're coming. As we're on our way he passes us in the car making his way to the mountain refuge. We're being waited for. In Le Prese the steep but technically easy climb to Fumero begins. The sun has chased off the last of the fog and is warming us up. There are more than enough places to find water on the way. At the end of the village in Fumero there's a car park and the gravel track begins. We wait until the last of the group show up. Uli has taken it easy and is the last to arrive. He's clearly well warmed up and with a refreshing "Auf geht's, Jungs!" he rolls on without stopping. His power and endurance astonish us over and over again. The steep bits start quickly which are covered in a rough concrete. The gaps have been filled up with gravel and sand. As far as I can I try to keep to the narrow strip at the edge which is better to ride on. Three quarters of an hour one has to torture one's self, but hen the high valley opens up and it's still a revelation that something so beautiful exists. At an altitude of 1800-1900 Meters there are a few farms scattered in the valley. There are no electricity pylons to be seen. A little bit of farming is being done. Many of the old huts have been carefully put back into working order in the last years and serve as weekend houses or holiday places for the townies to escape the summer heat.

350 DSCN1736La Baita's terrace is bathed in sun. We slurp Latte macchiatos and enjoy the home made blueberry cake. I'm happy to see Alessandro again. We swap memories in a mixture of German and Italian and he tells me how the summer's been in the valley. He runs the only overnight possibility for transalpers on their way through the high valley. He gets his electricity from a little generator powered by water. In the last couple years more and more holiday makers come in to the valley encouraged by the various tour reports in the internet. If you want to stay the night here you should definitely reserve by e-mail before hand (www.rezzalovacanze.com) or call the day before, as the refuge isn't always manned. When planning a tour I always have a tough time deciding whether to stay in Grosio or at La Baita. Both have their special attractions but are unfortunately so close to one another that you have to choose. I guess that next time I'll have a change and go for La Baita. As we come to pay he waves it away "Mille grazie per pubblicitá!" - "thanks for the publicity!" he says to me. I thank him in return and say good bye for this year.
Freshly strengthened we resume the climb. For military reasons a road was laid up to the last farm at about 2200m and regularly kept in repair. Depending on your level of fitness and the weight of your backpack you may have to push a bit in the first of the steep passages. As to be expected Matze and Christian stay in the saddle to way up over the second plateau, but after the second bridge even they have to get off. It just gets too steep and the path goes partially over sheer rock. There's nothing else for it but to get off, push and enjoy the view of the Gavia massif's glaciers as long as they're still there. Ulli announces that he'd like to take a swim again in the ice cold mountain stream. This time he's even got a thermometer with him: it shows 6° Celsius. He's a crazy guy.

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The last bit to the Passo dell'Alpe can be ridden again, I promised Ulli to take a photo of him reaching the pass and wait for him. Click, and the photo is done. The sun is shining, but a cool wind is blowing so no one hangs around. Instead we have a break in a wind protected hollow shortly after the top of the pass. Next to us a glacial stream is murmuring, and there's no one else in sight, which makes us all the more surprised when we hear the sound of a helicopter. it's a few hundred meters away and flying past at eye level. Soon it's all quiet again, just broken by the odd whistle of a marmot. It's hard to make ourselves start again, such beautiful days high up in the mountains are seldom and should be enjoyed. In the end we manage it and roll down to the Gavia Pass road.

This is where the asphalt climb to the Rifugio Berni at the top of the pass starts. Everyone goes at their own speed. Shortly before the end the road gets relatively flat by the lakes. This is always a signal for a little race when two bikers aren't far from one another. I keep peddling, Olaf is in my wind shadow and wants to get past. I think to myself, let him take the mountain points and want to let him go ahead. He takes this as a sign to go on together, which is what we then do.In front of the mountain restaurant we toast ourselves in the strong sun, surrounded by proud conquerors of the pass: racing bikers, cabriole fans and the unavoidable convoy of motorbikers in black leather. The descent from the pass starts with a fast ride through a moonscape. Huge boulders lie left and right of the road. At the tunnel which we pass on the right we catch a glimpse of the old gravel road that the Gavia was until the end of the 80's when it got asphalted. At that time a huge landslide blocked the road to Bormio. The Gavia pass was the only way there from the south. David remembers it in it's original state. At that time though, he did it by motorbike. On the rocks we study the inscription on a commemorative plaque. It's more than 50 years ago, when in 1954 54 Alpini died. The driver of a military truck lost control and killed the young soldiers. Fresh flowers show that they are still thought of. Pensively we look into the several hundred metre deep ravine before we move on. On this side the road is sometimes so narrow that only one car could pass. In the lower part it gets wider again and we race on with high speed down into the valley.

At the Albergo Pietrarossa we regroup. We postpone the ice cream eating to Ponte di Legno. Before hand we check in to the Hotel Frigidolfo, at that time the only hotel in Precasaglio (not recommendable - much better: Da Guisy in Pezzo).
Tomorrow Montozzo is on the agenda.Freed of our luggage, riding is easy. In Ponte di Legno we get a delicious ice cream opposite the one star hotel the Albergo Cervo. The hotel manager rejoices and hopes that we'll be staying with him. We're going to have to disappoint him as we've already made our choice for the day. If you can remember the old French film with Fernandel, a remake could be made here. I don't mean this as a criticism, I stayed here once and was perfectly happy, the food was good and the mountain bikes were given a safe place for the night. David and I treat ourselves to a beer, the free seats on the market square were just too enticing. The price however, exorbitant. Back in the Albergo the bike group we met on the first day in Landeck wanders in. They obviously take the whole day over things. For example in Grosio they only turned up at around seven thirty as we were sitting down to dinner. It gets dark, we go to bed early as tomorrow the next highlight is waiting for us.

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05 da guisy DSC00460alternative route

· from Grosio over the Passo Foppa/Mortirolo (a side road with not much traffic) to Monno and on along the side road to Ponte di Legno

accommodation

Pezzo: "Da Guisy"

Ponte di Legno: Hotel Raggio di Luce


Day 6: Montozzo

opener 350 6 10 DSCN1804route: Ponte di Legno (Precasaglio) - Pezzo - Montozzo - Pejo - Fucine - Val di Sole - Dimaro - Madonna di Campiglio
64km, 2217 hm

Another misty morning in the mountains, but it is obviously only fog. I don't need any time to decide that today the road route to the Tonale Pass won't be our first choice. We have about 1200 metres of ascent waiting for us up to the Montozzo saddle, which can mostly be done on an old military road. You have to go back along the way that we rolled down yesterday from the Gavia Pass for a bit, but soon we turn right to Pezzo, pass through the sleepy mountain village and reach Case di Viso. This is where the road stops and the gravel track begins. You can see the hairpins working their way up the mountain, firstly moderately steep then a few steeper passages which may force you temporarily out of the saddle. The sun gets buried behind the veil of mist which is fine by us. I did this once in 2000 in hammering sun and it wasn't a pleasurable experience.
By the time we get to the Rifugio Bozzi al Montozzo the field has spread far apart. Matze powers on, probably still on the big cog. The Rifugio is on a little saddle with a fantastic view over the mountains, and soon also into the valley as the fog clears just at the moment we're all together again. We make a longer break and visit the remains of the old war instillations. What they possibly were trying to defend up here heaven only knows. The defence lines go right over to the Passo Tonale, the old way is still there and would be worth an exploration. But not today, with these perfect conditions there can be only one route: over the Forcellina di Montozzo.

My thoughts return to September 2000. I was up there then too. At the moment we reached the saddle a thunder storm broke out with hail and all. The rain turned the track in to a torrent. Completely dirty and soaked we had to seek refuge in an hotel in Pejo. I don't think we need fear a repeat performance today. The sun has chased the last of the mist away and laughing, we get our bikes up the last few metres. We can see the remains of war time trenches. A small commemorative plaque remembers the victims of this senseless mountain war. We stop for a moment and let the grandiose panorama of the Cevedale group work its magic on us. The mountains here are way over 3500 metres. The air is unbelievably clear, the sky steel blue. The trail is ridable from the highest point. We cross a few little streams which don't have much water in them. After a little alm hut it gets steeper. From a rock plateau the view suddenly opens onto the turquoise blue Lago di Pian Palu, which lies about 500 below us in the kettle of the Valle del Monte.

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The single trail to it is just a pleasure for all technicians. The 111 path forks at around 2150 meters. Left or right? It's the same, both lead to the reservoir and both have their own appeal. This time we take the left hand fork, cross another few streams and enjoy the challenge of the single trails. Matze is out in front and waits at a sunny spot for all to catch up. It takes a while. Rainer comes along, he has a little accident behind him, the helmet came off worst. We examine dent in it. Without the helmet it could have been nasty. Olaf and David are still missing. Matze and I in the end ride back a bit, but no ground to worry, Olaf used a stream crossing to wash a graze on his knee. As we reach the dam wall all the tricky bits are behind us. A fisher is pulling a big trout out of the water: "Buon appetito!" I call over to him and watch his efforts for a bit before moving on. There's a good gravel track down to Fontanino di Pejo. At the well the locals fill up water in big canisters, it's reputed to have healing properties. We put our trust in the stuff we already have and cycle on. The track turns to asphalt.

In Pejo we briefly stop. I suggest that we get the following road passage behind us quickly. There aren't many cars on the road. There's a strong headwind, like there often is in the mountain valleys. Half way to Fucine there's a bike road going off to the right which quickly looses altitude. It leads directly to the Val di Sole bike road. We stay on the bike road to Dimaro. Olaf and I take turns making a wind shadow and are there in no time at all. It's early afternoon and the supermarket is still closed. Time for a rest. The sun is hot. We sit in the shadow and eat a little. We still have a 800 metre climb before us. At the edge of the town we leave the road in the first hairpin. The mountain bike track goes straight ahead to Madonna di Campiglio. Along the flanks of the Brenta from time to time we get great views of the rock towers of the mountain group, as much as you can take them in between peddling, sweating and panting for breath. It is attributed to English mountain friends that alpine tourism started here in the Brenta. Through the many fixed rope climbing paths the massif belongs to one of the most comprehensive hiking areas. In the meantime the mountain bike tourism has established itself here too.
The path markings are not to be missed: always follow the signs MTB-Madonna. The track goes along the edge of a canyon which we cross on a covered wooden bridge. Time for a little breather. The track gets flatter and stays in the shadow of the trees and therefore the temperature stays comfortable. Later there are a few steeper bits, until you get near to the road. Nearly there. At the Malga Mondifra we fill our water bottles for the last time. At a little ski lift we've reached the highest point and just have to go down hill.My friend Matteo's Hotel Arnica is right in the middle of Madonna di Campiglio. I have often stayed here. Matteo is in the middle of planning his first transalp, and I can give him lots of tips. I recommend that he takes the route we've just done. One of the others he's going to do it with arrives and I show them the route from my scanned maps. I leave the sheets there and wish them luck and good weather. It worked, after a successful tour Matteo sends me a photo from the Pass da Costainas. We end the day in a Pizzeria, take a night cap in the hotel bar and fall early into bed.

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350 6ragazzi

alternative route

· from Ponte di Legno the road over the Passo Tonale and on on the Val di Sole bike road

accommodation

Madonna di Campiglio

Hotel Arnica
phone: 0039-0465-442227

Hotel Vidi
phone: 0039-0465-443344

Chalet Campiglio Imperiale
phone: 0039-0465-507393

Garni dello Sportivo
phone: 0039-0465-441101

Hotel DIANA
phone: 0039-0465-441011


Day 7: The Bear's Pass - Lake Garda

opener 350 7 10 IMG 2345route: Madonna di Campiglio - Val d'Agola - Passo Bregn de l'Ors - Val d'Algone - Stenico - Villa Banale - Sarche - Arco - Torbole
75 km, 862 hm

It's chilly as I peer out of the window in the morning. The sun is slowly climbing up the mountains, it's going to be another beautiful day. Great finish for our last day. Breakfast is plentiful: cheese, ham, jam, fruit and lots of different cakes. We give ourselves a good lining to the stomach as today is not a day for long breaks: Lake Garda is calling. We cycle through the town centre, past the lake and through the still cool woods towards the Rifugio Vallesinella. At the car park the concrete road comes to an end and our path heads off steeply downhill to the waterfall. The Rifugio Cascata di mezzo is still shut. Under the hut we cross a little, slippery wooden bridge and then part ride, part push the following single trail.
Soon we come to a logging track which brings us down to the Malga Brenta. The dew is still rising from the grass and the morning atmosphere is like a fairy tale. The gravel track into the Val'd Agola is only moderately steep and great to ride. I challenge myself and keep up with Matze and Christian (more likely, they reduce their tempo so I can keep up). Before long we reach the path that leads to the Lago d'Agola, we three wait here for the others to catch up. As per tradition, we take a break at the lake by the tree stump. We're still in shadow, the sun is just making its way over the Brenta peaks. Slowly the lake is also bathed in soft sunlight. Leisurely we undertake the short but very steep carrying passage. I spur Christian on to cycle as far up the meadow as he possibly can. An impressive achievement. The last big climb before Lake Garda is behind us. On the Bears Pass (Passo Bregn de l'Ors) we stop for breath, take the obligatory group photo with the Adamello Group glaciers in the background and get ready for the downhill. Still first we have to get over the Passo del Gotro but that is no great problem.

The Val d'Algone lies in front of us in the late summer haze. An incredible downhill starts: 700 metres of descent on gravel to the Rifugio Brenta and then another 500 metres on a small asphalt lane. At the end of the valley we pack away our wind jackets, it's got much warmer. Astonishingly this time the wind is only blowing moderately in our faces as we cycle towards Stenico, none the less everyone tries as much as possible to get behind someone for wind shadow. The points for the sprint are awarded in the Piazza Centrale in Stenico. From here there are several ways to get to Lake Garda. The two classic routes are known to all: one is over the Passo di Ballino, a often done road version. The more interesting from the landscape is the more remote Val di Lomasone. The bitter pill with this one is that you have two very steep passages on the old roman road where you have to push. Both versions reward the successful transalper with the first glimpse of the Lake from several hundred metres above it at Tenno. During our tour week at Easter we did both versions.

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For this reason we wanted to do a third version, which has the advantage of hardly adding on any more climbing metres, and still has fantastic landscape; the route on the old Sarca road. Between Ponte Arche and Sarche over millions of years the river has carved a canyon through the rocks before reaching the plain at Torbole flowing in to the Lake. On the Ponte Sarca which swings boldly over the canyon we cross the abyss. We have to do a short bit along the road, but the hard shoulder give us enough space to make it quickly without getting too stressed by the traffic. They're obviously in the process of building a bike lane which will make this passage a little friendlier. Before the first tunnel the Strada Vecchia turns off to the left into the Sarca valley. It snakes its way along the rocks high above the canyon floor. At this time of year there's not a lot of water in the river. The old road's surface is covered with broken off bits of rock. Slowly nature is reclaiming the road for itself, trees and bushes are growing out of the cracked asphalt, in some places there's only a narrow strip left for us. We ride in single file. In a curve we carefully roll up to the low wall at the edge of the road. The cliff falls off vertically and way below the river gurgles. It takes your breath away. We elegantly avoid three tunnels like this which even on weekdays are full of traffic. This stretch reminds me a lot of the old Ponale road on Lake Garda and must have been built at around the same time. Finally our trip into the past ends above Sarche. This is where the fertile plain starts which stretches from the Lago Toblino over Dro and Arco to Lake Garda. At the beginning of the village Sarche we cross the Sarca again and turn straight onto the bike road which follows the river. As of this year you can cycle it completely. Unhurriedly we roll the last kilometres to the end of our transalp. In Pietramurata we choose the way along the Lago di Cavedine which involves a short climb through the stony desert of the Marocche. It was formed during the last ice age by a huge rock slide from the whole rock wall of the Monte Brento as the huge glacier that also made the Lake Garda retreated. This is where we see the Lake for the first time, fabled destination of many a transalp. There's no stopping us now, at high speed we race on towards Dro, though as Olaf is always saying "there's still space for just one more ice cream". Behind the shoe shop there's the Gelateria "Maui". Here you find what I think is the best home made ice cream for miles around. Our ice cream specialists Olaf and Rainer are sceptical at first, but are forced to agree with me. From Dro we follow the banks of the Sarca again, on an old cart track through the olive roads. Fig trees grow by the old roman bridge in Ceniga, the fruit is ripe and we pick some to try. The way goes on past Arco's famous climbing walls, there's always a lot going on up there. The last race happens on the bike road to Torbole. At the lake Matze wants to trade his bike for his much loved surf board, the wind is so strong this afternoon. We go a few metres along the beach and reach the café in Torbole where I always finish my transalps. Our reception committee consisting of Simi and Diana are there with the finisher T-shirts. We've certainly earned them.

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Lake Garda is the target Number 1 for ever and ever in case of crossing the Alps. The reason why? Look at these pictures.

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altissimo1150

alternative route

The route via Ponte Arche and Passo Ballino is now an integral part of the main route. It's well documented in Transalp Roadbook 1. 

accommodation

Torbole

Villa Stella: Via Strada Granda, 104 - Tel + 39 0464 505354, www.villastella.it

Aktivhotel Santalucia Via Santa Lucia 6, (Gps Via Pontalti), Tel.: 0039-0464-505140, www.aktivhotel.it

Tonelli-Hotels in Riva und Nago:  www.tonellihotels.com


conclusion

So, that's it. I can't come up with many ways of improving on this transalp route. Maybe one at the end going over the Tremalzo, but in order to do that you have to do a few dozen kilometres on the road which kind of goes against the character of this route, at least in my eyes. In the last years I did slightly changes as I told you before. But the charcater of the Albrecht-Route still remained: it's always a dream crossing the Alps like that. Some more tracks you can find in the version 2 of the Albrecht-Route. Look here - but it's only in German.

7 225pxhoch gardasee von ponale