Jerry’s Tour of the Dolomites and Central Alps 2003 – Day Sixteen

Obergurgl — Ötztaler Gletscherstraße — Oetz — Kühtai — Sellrain — Axams — Mutters (128 km, 3115 m up, 11-34° C, Max speed 91 km/h)
Day 17: Innsbruck — Tulfés — Schwaz

Rettenbacher Gletscherstraße

I had a little breakfast before leaving Obergurgl down the valley toward Sölden. Just before the last little steep slope down to Sölden, there goes a road up the Rettenbacher and Tiefenbacher Gletscherstraßen (glacier roads). One could also turn right after some hairpins and go up another steep road to Hochsölden (2083m).

After climbing many hairpins through woods at gradients of around 8-9% you reach a toll station, where cars have to pay to get up the glacier roads. From here there are few hairpins and it is even steeper (up to 13-14%). You will see the road ahead of you all the time here, so no surprises. If you continue straight up, you will eventually come to the end of a tarmac road which should be at 2803 meter at that point (first photo). A gravel road continues up from here, but after cycling a bit on it I found it was best to walk up and looked on my map again and as it did not seem I would really reach a pass above there by walking up there, I forgot about walking up there and went down instead a few hundred meters of height and took the road going left from here up the Tiefenbacher straße, which goes through a long tunnel that ends at the height of 2822 m and then descends a few meters to a ski resort. This is the highest asphalted road in the alps and it is really a pass as well – you pass under the real Seiter Jöchl in the tunnel. So this is properly the highest surfaced pass in the alps (as tunnels below passes usually are counted as well), though the one usually acknowledged to be the highest is Col de l’Iseran (2770m) and there is also a path down the other valley as you see in my second photo.

Tiefenbacher Gletscherstraße

I noticed very acutely the height inside the tunnel and the air seemed very thin so I had to take deep breaths. It was 11° Celcius inside the tunnel and almost no traces of ice, but then this was a hot summer. I went down to Sölden rather quickly again and had lunch there. Now it was time for Austrian weather again and I hardly came out of Sölden before it started to rain again and I took shelter for some time at Huben. Arriving at Unterlängenfeld it stopped raining and I found a bicycle shop and bought an extra tire, since I was rather worried how far I could go on with my fixed back tire.

Down in Oetz (812m) I stopped to eat some more, before I went up the Kühtai pass. It is a sometimes nice road up there and sometimes steep, but never for long. The name suggests it has something with cows to do and sure it has – I was only worried that there would be more muck on the road than there was. ;-)


Arriving at Kühtai (2017m), the weather again seemed to get ominous, but I had no rain before the descent. It was moderately cool and gloomy at the top and I had no wish to stay up there for long. Down the Kühtai to Sellrain (where the rain came, but the name does not have anything with that to do with that I believe ;-)), I made a new personal record when I wheeled down at 91 km/h! I guess I could have gone a couple of kilometres faster still, but the road was slightly narrower there and I also met a car just where I had this speed. It was very fast in other parts too!


At Sellrain I hoped to avoid the bad weather hunting me, by turning up the road I had planned from the beginning but was not quite in the mood of taking now. It was a very nice alternative to the main road, but unfortunately I did not escape the mighty powers in the sky and soon had to cycle in full rain. When I arrived in Axams I was beginning to get really wet and the clock was about 19 already, so I was looking for a place to stay. Unfortunately I was all too willing to continue instead of trying a bit more at Axams and went on to the next village, Götzens, where I simply could not find a place to stay, despite some possible places. I continued to Mutters (the villages up here are more like the suburbs of Innsbruck and thus not typical tourist villages). I really did not want to get down to Innsbruck and happily I discovered that Mutters had more lodging alternatives (I think it was a bit more touristic and it had a very special church which was very small and extremely high). It was a fine place run by an older lady that I stayed at. I had trouble finding a place to eat at (think most were closed because it was Monday or something), but one was happily open and I had a wienerschnitzel there.


Next morning started as sunny as every other morning had done and I was soon off down to Innsbruck (which was less than 10 minutes away). I spent 9 minutes to get into and out of Innsbruck (574m) and started climbing up a road to a continuation of similar above the valley villages and landscapes, like at Axams, Götzens and Mutters on the west side of the Brennerpass road. It was quite nice up there away from the hotness and busy traffic down the Inn valley. Unfortunately one has to descend to the valley a little later after passing through Tulfés (923m). I went down the most obvious road (I thought) and after a while it got very narrow and nice. Just before coming out on the main road, the road went under an opening in a building and I saw some tourists walking toward me and turned around and was a bit startled by the nice little pink castle I obviously had cycled through.

I joined a smaller road going parallel with the big motorway you see in the photo. My original plan had been to cycle up from Weer to Weerberg and over the Geiseljoch to Vorderlanersbach in the valley in the Zillertal valley. I had heard it would be a difficult roughstuff crossing and that I would have had to walk for a couple of hours, so I had decided that I had done enough rough-stuff already and planned to cycle around on the easy tarmacced road instead.

Unfortunately I was in bad luck and arriving at Schwaz, where I had planned to stop and see if I could find a good café, I instead had a fatal accident with a car turning right in front of me. There was a long line of cars going into the city at very low speed (around 30 km/h) and I went in something like 25 km/h and noticed one car earlier on turned off the road to the right rather quickly and it looked a bit dangerous and I wondered if I should perhaps go even slower in case someone would forget to turn on the blinkers before they turned – I did not get to think much longer before one of the cars suddenly went in there without blinking and he really did not even slow down. I was to close behind him and could do nothing but ended up with my side into the side of his car and as he quickly continued I could not find any balance and dropped into the asphalt and hurt me badly.

I managed to get up after a few minutes (I was a bit afraid of laying in the middle of the road) and walked off to the side with my bicycle and sat down on the stone wall by the side of the curb. Just when the worst pain seemed to disappear, an ambulance turned up and a police car (some lady had telephoned as there were plenty of people out there), so I had no choice but to go to the hospital even though I thought it was probably not necessary. It turned out I had some damage to the back and had to be cast in a plaster bandage and had to stay at the hospital. I was a bit worried about insurance and everything, but things turned out well in the end. My injury was not too bad and the hospital staff were nice. I even joked a little with the ”plaster-man” while I was hanging in something that looked like a big meat hook and got plastered (to his surprise), but what could one do … . It was a really hellish thunder and lightening that evening (sirens were screaming for many hours and ambulances went back and forth all the time, must have been an accident there somewhere) and I told my room mates that perhaps it would not have been too nice cycling out in the mountains in that weather also! I managed to get my travel case transported to me and SOS Alarm did a fine job of coordinating my journey home with a plane from Munich. (I was around 43° Celcius in the ambulance at airport in Munich.) I spent some more days at a hospital in Sweden (with more sloppy staff). I got a new metal bandage that I was really happy over though and could get home. In a months time I could begin to train a little again, but first after three months I got rid of the bandage. Then only two weeks after I had an accident in a local bus and fractured a few ribs, that I m just now beginning to recover from (I feel a bit tired in my back and side sometimes, but I will be back fine eventually).

Watch out for next adventure, with less hospital time I hope! ;-)

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