Once again the day started fine and I felt a bit relaxed by the fact that I had done the worst of my plans now. However, if I were to follow the plan I had with me, this would be far from obvious. Anyway I had a nice and easy start of the day. I usually try and plan my overnight stops so that I could get a little warm-up phase before the real climbs starts.
I took the same road as I had cycled before down toward Bruck a.d. Grossglockner (755m) once before (in 2004, I think). It is a long detour around an air field – I wonder if there is no closer way straight out west when coming down the north side of the Grossglockner, perhaps via Kaprun. At Mittersill (788m) I stopped at the gas station just where the road up Paß Thurn takes off and had a an ice-cream.
The road over Paß Thurn (1274m) is known to have a lot of traffic, so given my expectations I was somewhat pleasantly surprised by this pass. It was a wide road so the traffic posed no big problem and there were nice views on the way up and a bit nice down to Kitzbühel too. The road is evenly graded and relatively easy at around 6%. It was getting a bit harder as there was another cyclist approaching from behind and surely I did not want him to catch up with me before the pass height! ;-) (He passed me by on the way down, but that is ok :-).)
Down in Kitzbühel (761m) I saw clearly where the Kitzbühler Horn (1988m) was that I had wanted to climb this time. I stopped for an expensive coffee and cake in the village and tried to decide whether or not I should climb up this very steep cul-de-sac road or not. I decided to try it, but soon afterwards decided not to as I noticed it was very warm now and the road would be very exposed to the sun and it simply did not look too inviting. I also wanted to make sure I would have time to climb the Zillertaler höhenstrasse this day. I stopped once again at a market (one of the few open places this Sunday) and drank a litre of orange juice (not a good idea) as that is about the smallest size of something to drink they have at such places.
I took the road over to Wörgl (514m), where one is supposedly not allowed to bicycle all the way, but I did not care this time. I had originally planned to take off at Hopfgarten (621m) and take a small alternative road down the main valley via Niederau (824m), but it did not seem so interesting here as I would be soon down in Wörgl anyway, but maybe it would have been a nice alternative (and more appropriate for a cyclist).
Then I was on the flat and relatively boring road toward Innsbruck. When I reached Rattenberg (a somewhat nice village along the road) one has to make a detour on a cobblestoned road through the centre of the village. There were some nice cafés here, but it was looking like it was soon going to rain and I wanted to go a little further before stopping for a coffee. I hoped the next village Brixlegg (523m) would have a nice café too, but it soon became clear there was no such place there.
Here I went up a small side valley toward Alpbach, but took off this road toward Hygna in order to climb a little pass over to the Zillertal. The road is pretty steep up to Hygna and beyond, but not very difficult. At Hygna one sees clearly which road to take to get to the Kerschbaumer Sattel (1111m). The last stretch is a very narrow well tarmacced road with nice scenery. Near the top of the pass I met four cyclists (none of which seemed to notice me on the small road). At the top of the pass there is a loop road (panorama road) going a bit higher that should offer exceptional views over the Inn valley, but I thought the views at the pass was nice at it was and I was not sure if it would be all asphalt (but probably so).
The Zillertal side of this pass was in fact much steeper and a real Alps pass actually. I tried to find a road going down higher up the Zillertal valley and took a road that climbed for some time. When approaching the end of this road I asked someone about it and alternatives down the valley, but apparently I either had to walk down a path or go back the same way I came, so I reluctantly bicycled back. Anyway, it was nice views along this road. Rain was in the air, but still not coming down over me.
When I came down the valley I took a small road going up the valley along the river, it eventually turned into a bicycle path and later into a gravelled bicycle path, which led me out on the main road up the valley at Ried. Here was a restaurant. Thought it looked okay and went in and had a wienerschnitzel and coke. It was in fact a rather odd place (Greta), but anyway it tasted fine and I got a lot to eat!
Before I knew it I was in Kaltenbach and the place for the start of the planned climb up the Zillertaler höhenstrasse. I was a bit worried over if I had found the correct start. It was first when I met with the road going up from Ried that I knew for sure I had taken the right way up. I had expected the road to be even steeper than it was as I had read that it should be one of the hardest approach roads out of 5 choices (all of them hard, but the one from Ried a bit easier). It was a very narrow forest road, with a steady inclination just above 10%. After the junction with the Ried road I came to a tool both (manned) but it is free for bicyclists (and the man did not even see me, I think). Very little traffic and the rain was still threatening – I had even considered waiting until the morning to do the climb as it seemed pretty certain I would not escape the rain here and the road goes up to 2020m height, which could have meant snow.
After the toll both the road continued even steeper though, so I got enough steepness not to be disappointed. When I reached the top (ca. 1800m) (the two photos before the last two here), I was getting tired but was happy I had got up with no rain. Now I had somewhat forgotten about the length of this high road. Some of the worst climbing was still ahead of me and after a chilly descent to Plötzeben (1471m), I started out bravely on the last section up to the highest point of the road Melchboden (2020m). Soon before reaching the top of this long-winding road without any passes along it, the rain started. There was light rain at Melchboden and it could be seen in the last two photos from there. The restaurant/bar at the top was closed.
Now I hurried down the road toward Hippach (608m). It starts with very nice serpentines and then becomes a very wide and good road down the valley. This is probably one of the easiest access roads to the Zillertaler höhenstrasse. I started to get dark just before I came down to the valley floor and as I noticed some hotels along the road I decided to ask at one of the last places, which was low enough not to be too cold and still offered a nice view over the valley. It was reasonably priced and I had a very good dinner there served by a very friendly staff.