Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2008 – Monday July 14th

Innertkirchen — Grimselpass — Brig — Simplonpass — Gondo — Furggu — Zwischbergen (138,4 km, 4154m, 3-25°C)


I woke up and noticed it was raining down on the window above me in the small room in Innertkirchen (625m), so I decided to sleep a bit longer than usual. I only did not want to get up too late for breakfast. This was the journey’s longest breakfast as I tried to wait out the rain. I talked with a nice woman for quite some time who was also out on a little bicycle tour with her two children.

At 11 am I left the hotel and started by stopping at the local grocery shop to buy a coke. When I finally got on my way it was almost not raining any longer, but it never really wanted to stop entirely. It was too little now to be of any real problem on the ascent up the Grimselpass (2165m). This is the second time I have done this pretty long and hard climb (similar to the alternative over Sustenpass (2224m)). The climb up to Grimselpass is really a very nice one and one of my favourites in the Alps actually. There were streams across the road at some places. Higher up it was snowing. By the first big dam I saw the clear sky shortly, but it continued to rain/snow until I got down to Gletsch (1757m) on the other side of the pass. I had wanted to get up to the Oberaarsee on a small side road from near the top of the pass, but the road was probably not even cyclable today, so I did not spend much thought on it. The last two kilometres up the pass had snow on the side of the road and at the pass there was even some snow on the road itself. It was cold! But it would get more cold on the downhill, of course.


The nice serpentines down to Gletsch was a pleasure only in theory, not today and I was simply trying to keep myself from turning into an icicle (by changing hand positions and spinning the legs). When I was down in Oberwald the road was dry, but I was still shivering. I stopped and bought an expensive inner tube there. Then I slowly got warm again and by Lax I was so warm I had to stay and take off the wind jacket (it was over 20 degrees and sunny, so … ). I stopped at a café in Mörel (I believe), which was better than trying to find a place in busy Brig and had a coffee. I noticed the clock was already 16 when I was sitting at the café. I really had to get going now when the weather finally went fine again.

Well, from now on during this evening, I made some decisions that may come across as somewhat ”odd”, even knowing what I had done before. I did not stop in Brig (668m) and continued straight up the old road to Simplonpass/Passo del Sempione (2005m). I stopped once for a photo on the way up (second to last) – the Simplonpass is really a very nice pass road (forgetting the traffic). However, I discovered just before entering the main road up the pass that I once again had a flat on the rear inner tube. The air was going out very slowly though and even though I had just bought a new tube, I was not in the mood of changing the tube as my bicycle was again very dirty and I was also a bit stressed to get on. Instead I stopped to pump up the tire and then I continued all the way to the top. The last part I bent forward as much as I could, in order to not put too much weight on the rear wheel.


I stopped again at the top and pumped up the tube and then descended all the way to Gondo, where I asked if they had air at the gas station there, but no luck. It was now late, I was tired, I was slightly crazy. Gondo was destroyed some years ago (Oct 2000) in a devastating landslide and nearly all houses were destroyed apart from one curious building (Stockalperturm) (I learned that morning from the Swiss woman I talked to). There really is not much at all in Gondo – a couple of houses, two gas stations and a staffed border customs house. I rolled down toward the customs house and the guard waved me through, but I turned around as I was not on my way to Italy. So where do you go from here? Well, there is a small side valley reachable through a narrow serpentine road that quickly gains in altitude at first.

I was on my way into Zwischbergental. I was under the impression that this was a valley with a regular village in it called Zwischbergen (looking at the Michelin map), but those small white circles on Michelin maps are not really suggesting villages, but maybe a couple of houses at most. I had not looked carefully, but there were some houses in the valley (less than 20, I think). The idea with going up this cul-de-sac road in this lonely valley was to climb one of the least well-known tarmacced pass roads above 1700m in the Alps to Furggu (1872m). I had to stop twice on the climb to the pass to fill the tube with air, but probably should had stopped at least once more as I was cycling the last part up the pass feeling the rim occasionally touching the ground. In order to not have to stop so much, I was standing up on nearly all the stretch up the pass and that got very tiresome, I can assure you!


I passed by a restaurant in Zwischbergen (actually that was Zwischbergen) on the way up and then the climb started to get steeper again. I had not looked much at a detailed map and the Michelin map I had for this section is confusing, so I was worried for a long time that I was on the wrong road as I thought I was supposed to turn of the main road somewhere (but that is not the case). The climb from Gondo (839m) is quite long with over 1000 height metres and it felt. The sun was starting to go down and the clock was near 20:00 pm before I reached the pass.

There is only a steep track/path down the other side toward Gabi/Gstein (not cyclable). This pass was used before the road through the Gondo gorge was built by Napoleon (1801-1805) (maybe there was a path built all the way around 1650 through the gorge, not clear to me from official webpages).

I inflated the tire one last time and descended down to the restaurant Bord in Zwischbergen, where I asked if they know of a place to stay for during the night (as the hotel down in Gondo looked very expensive and I only saw one – the alternative would probably have been to go back to Simplon Dorf as the hotel in Gabi looked closed). Luckily it turned out that this restaurant also had a “massenlager” – a big room full of mattresses. I was even more lucky as I had this second floor of the building all to myself this night and if I had arrived there the day before they would have been fully booked.


Further luck was that they made me something good to eat! They asked if I liked the sausages and potatoes and I said yes, and that in fact I would be happy with one more plate with the same, but they were nice and got me another dish (eventually). I just threw the bicycle in the grass somewhere and left considerations for changing the tube until the morning. It was not hot in the night but since I was alone I could turn on the only little heat source they had there and put it close to me and hang the clothes nearby and used double blankets (felts?). It was wonderful and quiet!

The last photo is from Furggu in the direction of the Monscera pass (also part of an older route) and one could see a road winding its way up toward that pass during most of the climb up the Furggu.

Maybe not so “odd” end of the day, but I forgot to mention that after my coffee before Brig I did not drink anything at all on the Simplon pass climb (at least not soon after the start) and then I also did not drink anything at all on the next +1000m climb to Furggu – hmm. But sometimes when it is not so hot one can go far without water.