I started out a bit amused by the fact that I was heading up an unknown pass with unknown difficulties for me despite that I had to be back to Aprica in another country far away from here by nightfall. I would be home in Sweden late the next day and it all seemed very improbable. The Safiental is one of these very remote valleys in the Alps which are not often visited by tourists (not even local tourists it seems like). The road was superb up to and a little after a somewhat long (but lit) tunnel (shown on maps), but then it seemed like they had only put too thin a layer of asphalt on the road and tried to even it out with a lot of gravel on top! Not exactly ideal for road bike cycling! Fortunately the road was mostly flat from here on and thus it was usuable.
Safien-Platz is the central tiny village in the upper valley. They have a hotel, perhaps only one restaurant and maybe one shop. I sort of guessed where to go to get up to the Glaspass which I had decided to do on this trip. By descriptions I had heard of beforehand people said that it was not really possible to cycle all the way and thus I had imagined that they were talking of an old gravel road to bad for road bike cycling up the west side, but it soon became clear that there had never been a road up here – at least not from Safien-Platz (I noticed higher up that some gravel road descended a bit on the opposite valley-side, but do not think it continued down there). It was only a steep path up the woods and I just started out walking and never really stopped before reaching the beginning of a gravel road by a farm house. Where I took my first photo there were two guys cutting down trees and they worked with improving the path (for walkers) – you see some work on the path here. It was very steep here and it was pretty steep all the way up. The surface was good for walking in my cycling shoes and I no longer cared much about damaging the cleats – actually the Shimano cleats helps to get a good grip.
There is some guesswork involved in getting the right path up the last part, but you could not get totally lost (the best thing is to take the one that continues to climb most and get over a fence near the farm, which I think you are supossed to do even if a farmer there looked a bit wondering and never answered my hello). I reached the gravel road after 50 minutes of walking in a steady pace. After close to 10 minutes more I reached the actual pass (I stopped just before the pass at Usser Glas to take a photo (not here) as I first thought this was the real pass). There is a very steep ramp on the gravel road here that I just managed to climb (ca 17%). The asphalt road starts just before the Glaspass, from where good views to the east opens up. The first photo was taken westward over the upper Safiental by the first farm where the gravel road starts/ends. The second photo is taken eastward at the pass.
The east side of Glaspass is known to be a quite steep road. The upper part is a narrow and not so good asphalt road, but just a little further down it gets wide, smooth and quick down to Thusis (720m). It is around 15% at most but very often above 10%. It did not come across as a very difficult pass to climb on the east side to me though. Just before coming down to Thusis, you actually have to turn off the main road and go down to the right if you want to come straight into the town. I stopped again in Thusis for a sandwich and more.
I had originally planned to go over the Splügenpass (again) from here, but I really want to climb this pass from the south and I also figured that it might be harder to get that way for me as it would mean longer stretches on flat, busy and hot roads which might be more draining on a hot day like this than staying up in the mountains as much as possible. It was also a little shorter over Julierpass and Berninapass, but with some more climbing for sure. As this was the last day, a little bit more climbing could not really matter much, I argued.
It all started out nicely and the busy road up to Tiefencastel (851m) was actually somewhat pleasant and I got to see an impressive viaduct here (Punt da Solas, see photo). I continued up the somewhat steep road at the beginning of the Julierpass road. At Cunter (where the road dips a little) it is mostly rather flat up until Mulegns. From Mulegns past the Marmorera lake it is quite nice. I was only interested in getting home now and took myself the liberty to stop on the way up the pass at Bivio for pastry and Coca-Cola. It took me extremely long time to get up to Julierpass and it was tiresome in itself. It is a busy road but the heat was the main problem and the length of the climb, and I could feel that I had been cycling for some weeks now.
I cheered up on the way down from the Julierpass as it now felt like I had more or less finished the tour and the rest was only there to enjoy. I already regretted that the tour would be over soon. I was trying to find a souvenir shop in Silvaplana in order to buy a new Swiss knife, but to my surprise I did not find any such place there. I continued to St. Moritz and took another photo on the road there. I never bothered to visit busy St. Moritz and continued straight up the Berninapass very slowly. At the beginning of the real little climb I was passed by by some other road bike cyclists and thought, what the hell – last chance to show off and it would not matter as it was the last climb apart from the Aprica one. So I cycled up to them and passed them by, then stopped to take a photo and then cycled passed them again and left them far behind. I later caught up with a good local cyclist and we had some rain, but he eventually was forced to let go off me as well – he wondered whether I was a professional. – With such comments you can feel fine even in rain! ;-)
After the furious climb up the Berninapass, which was longer on this easy north side than I had remembered it from earlier, I reached the top and had two photos taken of me there. I more or less escaped the heavy rain coming in. I felt fine and continued down before any of the other guys got up to the pass. It is a rather quick descent at first and it is easy to become careless on descents – one easily becomes a little arrogant of the dangerousness of descending after many descents and it is easy to not take it with enough seriousness and concentration. However, it went well and I went down almost too cautiously to make sure I got home safely.
I bought a Swiss knife just before the border and spent the rest of my Swiss coins on an ice-cream. I found the alternative (there is at least two more such) road up the Aprica pass via Stazzona (400m). This nice and good road joins the main road up to Passo di Aprica (1173m) at a point (646m) above Motta and just before the first bend on the main road. From here up it is still quite some stretch to climb, but I went rather slow as it was now clear I would be up just before dark at around 20 pm. I had a last photo on this climb up over the big Valtellina valley in the twilight.
I got the normal rate at the hotel (Meuble Stelvio) now (lower than at the Marco Pantani event when all prices had been rigged in the town). I had a difficult day the next day too with a lot of travel and I actually got sick for while after coming back home, probably due to all the bad air conditioners on the trains and planes. I took the bus to Sondrio and train to Bergamo via Lecco. I got to listen to some of my favourite music again, which felt very healing (both mentally and physically) really (listened to Martyn Bates & Troum To a Child Dancing in the Wind’ and Fit & Limo Indian Worm Moon’ (limited release)). Then a hot hopelessly late bus to the airport there. I forgot to place my Swiss knife in the bicycle bag and were told to throw it away in the security check and to come back again for a new check later. I got the crazy idea of getting back to the Ryanair personell at the check-in desk to ask if they could somehow get my checked-in baggage back to me so I could throw in my knife there. Oddly enough it worked!! Don’t expect this to work with Ryanair (or any other company for that matter) elsewhere – just a friendly advice! ;-) I went smiling through the security check again and took the plane to Rome and back to Sweden from there with another company.
Next year, I am probably not going on any real tour in the Alps or the Pyrenées, but I have not decided yet on what exactly to do. However, I hope to do a tour in these areas soon again!