Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2011 – Wednesday July 6th

St. Stephan — Sparenmoos/Nüjeberg — Jaunpass — Euschelspass — Salzmatt — Selibüelpass/Gurnigel — Rinderalp (150.7 km, 4692m, max 24%, 12-31°C)


Another lovely day, but I started to get a bit sick now and that I made itself reminded a little later this day. First it was a nice and easy start down to Zweisimmen. I think I stopped for a coca-cola right here to get the energy depots filled up. I went eastward out of the village and asked a lady at a turn-off if it was a good road up to Sparenmoos and she said it was fine and thus I took this road even if I had been thinking to start the climb from down at Garstatt (858m), where I knew it would all be asphalted to the end of the climb up here. But why not get off the main road right away and I would anyway go down to Garstatt on the return.

So I turned on this fine asphalt road at Zweisimmen (930m) and climbed up through the woods above on a newly re-asphalted road. It turned out to be quite a nice alternative road to the one from Garstatt with great views when reaching Heimersberg, where the first photo was taken. One soon afterwards joins the Garstatt road and now it got quite steep with up to ca. 15%. I passed by a girl on mountain bike (guess this area is popular with MTBers). Then I came to the turn-off for Vorder Schwarzesee (1616m), which must be regarded as a pass and thus included in my list of asphalted passes above 1600m.


The road continues to climb however, even if more irregularly now. First one comes to the Sparenmoos restaurant and then one continues up the Nüjeberg, where the asphalt runs out at ca. 1778m at Schiltenegg, from where a gravel road (and maybe only track) continues east down to Jaunpass, but it looked unlikely as a worthwhile way to get there with a road bike. To the west the road also quickly deteriorates and is only practicable for mountain bikers. The views are quite fine up here though, so it is a nice and worthwhile climb even for road cyclists.

I turned around after going some hundred metres on the gravel road. On the way down in the steepest section I met a guy riding a road bike with a child in a wagon attached to the bicycle – apparently this guy were quite fit and I had to give him thumbs up for this! Perhaps it is a good place to train for local cyclists as there is very little traffic. Down at Garstatt (865m) I turned off just before reaching the main road, to climb up to Jaunpass/Col de Bellegarde (1509m) on the alternative road up there. This road is quite a nice and narrow alternative road up there with close to no cars on the road. It is only slightly harder than the main road climb and it joins the main road for the last 150m climb up to the pass.


There are some roads at Jaunpass going a bit higher with likely better views, but I continued straight down to Jaun (1015m). At Jaun I stopped by a bar to have a coffee and look on the maps. I was going up to the Euschelspass (1567m) from here and had heard the road should be possible, but was not sure of the state of the road on the other side which was supposedly a good gravel road. I had thought there would be gravel for a while on the west side too, but there is only gravel on the stretch were you go down sideways to the actual pass from the high point of the road (1580m).

I had hope for better views down to Schwarzsee on the east side, but that lake was not easy to get a glimpse of from anywhere around. THe gravel road is really a bit too rough for a road bike and it only becomes worse lower down, where I had to walk on a steeper stretch as I would almost certainly have damaged the tyres otherwise and might still have fallen off. I managed to navigate all but ca. 200-250m of the road though, but I doubt few would repeat that feat. I met a lot of kids out walking up to the pass in a group and like one of the boys I met said (in German): “you should have had a mountain bike instead”. Nothing much I could respond with there! So even though this could have been a great short-cut out from Jaun to Gurnigel, I cannot really recommend it for road bicyclists, even if the climb to Euschelspass itself is well worth the trouble.


Yes, I almost forgot to mention that the road up from Jaun to Euschelspass is almost to 50% concrete ribbed pavement (but not troublesome and rather smooth). However, in all honesty I should warn you about the end of this climb. I was cheered on there by walkers (numerous up here). The last stretch is very steep and it only gets steeper and steeper up to ca. 22-25% at the end, but luckily it does not last so long. This is as you pass by a restaurant up there and you will see what is coming on a long straight part of the road just before arriving there. This climb could serve as an interesting end of a stage in the Tour de Suisse. (Do not tell the riders I suggested this … ;-).)

Down by the Schwarzsee I finally had asphalt again and felt a bit relaxed and and had a coca-cola at a grocery shop and maybe something else, before I continued down the road (where I met some cyclists). Down at Friesmatta (888m), I turned east up the road toward Gurnigel. After a little up and down I turned off the main road again at Sangerebode (977m) onto a narrow road up the woods. This road climbs irregularly, with some places where it is a little steep, but on the whole it is a nice road that becomes better and nicer the further you go. The road becomes more consistently steep after getting out of the woods. The last part up to Salzmatt is a fine climb with nice mountains and a steady climb. From Salzmatt (1636m), which is a pass, but only has tracks and paths down to Schwarzsee, you also have no views of the Schwarzsee (much to my surprise). Still the views are quite nice in other directions. This must be one of the most obscure asphalted mountain passes in the Alps. I did however meet walkers asking me for the way, but I did not know for sure where they should turn off even if I had looked on the paths on the maps when planning.


I was down at Sangerebode (977m) rather quickly again and continued on the road up to Gurnigel. This is a long and winding road. I had first though to go up on a road from Sangerebode in the other direction to get to Otteleue and Süftenepass (1547m), but was not sure if the road would be all asphalted and I thought I had had enough of gravel road for the day already, so decided to take the normal and direct road to Gurnigel instead.

The weather was great, but I started to feel tired and sick, as it was, so the climb to the Wasserscheidi (1584m) pass was a struggle even if the road was not particularly steep. I stopped at the highest point Stierehütte (1609m) and had a coffee sitting outside trying to get a little warm, but soon had to move on. I stopped at the pass – Selibüelpass/Gurnigel (1594m) where I took photos before starting the speedy descent on the wide and fine road. Here I went down in quite a good speed for once (I am rather slow down bad and technical roads these days), but still it is easy to go a bit too fast and my technique seems to get worse for every year, which I do not understand, but maybe because of having had accidents and being in odd situations where I have had to use the security margins. Given how many descents I do, I guess I am getting a bit too much respect over all odd variations there can be. There is never a descent that is like another. But basically I feel no need going faster than what feels secure when I am not in a race, even if speed is nice.


Perfect weather helped keeping me going despite feeling a bit bad. I took the first asphalt road going down south (to the right) over Grund (869m) (which is arguably also a little pass). This is a sweet narrow road apparently popular with local cyclists. It is a bit steep down from there to Wattenwil (596m), where I stopped for a last coca-cola for the day (that I did not really need, it felt like). I continued on the slowly raising road south to Rohrmoos/Engi (707m). Here the road descends a little again until one turns around the mountain and enters the Simmental (again) (616m).

It does not seem to make much sense in going back up toward Jaunpass and the area where I have been for two days before, but after much tearing of hairs in planning I came up with this as the best plan to also include another climb that I had failed to do when getting over the Gestelenpass/Meieberg the year before. I followed the main road and then turned off to Oey (669m), which is not so far up this valley. I just continued through Oey, even if it started to get a bit late now and I had no idea of where I could find lodging higher up here.


For some reason I managed to keep a good speed up the Diemtigtal, probably as it is at first rather evenly rising and not very steep (going on the big chain ring). Eventually it becomes a bit steeper and more irregular in the woods. I saw a restaurant that was open but it did not look like it offered lodging. I saw a sign or two pointing to restaurants that might have had lodging, but it was not clear how far up they were in the wrong directions, so I continued up to Zwischenflüh (1041m), where I looked around for a place to stop at it was 20 pm and the sun was going down.

Not even a restaurant here, so I continued a bit up the valley, but there were nothing much there, so instead of trying to get too far off and having to return, I turned around somewhat soon and started a little on the road up toward Gestelenpass/Meieberg and Seeberg. Then I saw a man there and asked him. He said there were no place for lodging nearby that he knew of. I asked if he though there could be lodging up at Rinderalp, which is were I was heading. He said that they had lodging but had no idea if they would have any place, being a small house up there.


I decided to cross my fingers and hope for the best and get going so I could reach the alp before it turned dark. The road to take is the second asphalted one to the right. It starts out through the woods, but it is a good somewhat narrow road. At one place along the way there was like 20m of gravel, which might get fixed before you get there, but it posed no problem. Then it becomes a little steeper as really starts to climb up the mountain. For Rinderalp one turns right when coming to a choice of two roads. This road soon stops to climb and a little later it turns to gravel surface. I had hoped the road would be all asphalted and could not get clear on it when planning, but the road is a good gravel road and there are no problems with a road bike here.

The clock just turned 9 pm as I somewhat without much hope parked my bicycle at the house. It looked rather closed down, but something suggested there was at least someone there, so I went down and up the staircase to the house and a nice German young lady opened and wondered what was on my mind. I asked if they had a bed for the night and apparently that was no problem and she told me the price. I was happy to be able to stay there and asked if it was possible to also get something to eat (always the second question on my mind arriving late). She prepared some bread with fresh cheese made in the house that was warmed up. I got tea (my idea) for drinking as I still felt rather bad. The sandwiches with cheese were good, but she had prepared a bit more for me than regularly and I actually could not quite eat it all (for once). Apparently they had no guests apart from some people including her that worked here for the Summer. I got a shower before eating, but they had to save on energy and that was partly why it looked like there was no one there as they had turned off all lights.


It was apparently not too common that tourists turned up this late on road bikes looking for lodging, so she wondered a bit about how I came up with the idea to get there at this time and also some people apparently find it a little hard finding the way there (not too difficult really if taking the right turn at Zwischenflüh). Not sure I could give a good answer, more than that I had made a plan that I followed.

It was good I had brought my rear lamp light with me as I could use it to find my way in hanging up clothes on lines up on the second floor where I was also sleeping. The next morning was perhaps the only time I did not also take a shower in the morning. The girl from Stuttgart warned me that I might not be able to sleep very well in the morning as they would take the cattle out around 6 am, but I usually sleep well enough after riding like this so I was much worried.