Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2011 – Friday July 8th

Kaiserstuhl/Bürglen — Brünigpass — Bäregg/Oberaarsee — Grimselpass — Randa (165.8 km, 3671m, max 22%, 13-27°C)

toward Brünigpass

Another morning and it seemed to have just started to dry up outside from the heavy rain yesterday. I was a bit slow to get out this morning as it was rather cold and not quite dry, but when I got on my way it started to get decently warm and also almost dry and the weather was fine. However, the man at the hotel had told me it was going to be less good weather in the afternoon again. However, I was hoping that all of Switzerland could not have bad weather and my plan was to move far away from this area. This partly worked.

Had very nice views up the Brünigpass (1008m) in the clear morning after yesterday snowing at higher altitudes. I was soon up at the pass and he weather was now perfect. After a quick descent to Meiringen (591m) I continued over the Aaresschlucht/Chräjenburg (710m) down the two serpentines to the flat area around Innertkirchen (625m), where two of the most imposing climbs in all of the Alps start: Sustenpass (2224m) and Grimselpass/Col du Grimsel (2164m). I was on my way up to Grimselpass for the third time from Innertkirchen and I do not mind climbing this side again as it is a lovely climb. It was not open at the shops in Innertkirchen, but I think I got my tyres inflated at the bicycle shop.


I continued rather slowly as I felt really bad and not too keen on reaching the colder higher areas too soon. I really hoped that I would not encounter bad weather up there, but could see it was cloudy. I got up to Guttannen (1057m), feeling a bit out of power and decided to stop for a coffee, but only the little grocery was open. Luckily the little grocery had one little table inside and I had a camomile tea and yoghurt there very inexpensively and the lady working in the grocery was quite nice. I have once spent a night at the hotel here and I have never slept as well at any hotel as here, so if that is something you value high, then stop here.

I continued up again feeling slightly better, but now it started to get colder and less sunny. After Handegg it was time to go up the nice alternative road outside the tunnel again. One would have wished the whole climb was on a road like that, then it would be a real dream. Beautiful views here and very steep down the side of the road. Then a little later one reaches the first dam at 1770m and now one starts to feel getting close to the pass, but still there are steeper stretches ahead. First up to Grimselsee (the upper bigger dam) where it is quite nice. Then the last set of serpentines up to Grimselpass. Here I noticed a guy trying to catch up with me and felt it was time that I tried to go a little faster, so I slowly raised my speed. Not daring to go too fast when feeling a bit bad like now. After raising the speed a bit more the guy failed to come any closer.


I stopped by the pass and he was somehow impressed that I kept the distance between us. I told him I would have gone faster if I had been in good health ;-). Oh well, one has to be happy for the small victories. Then I got a phone call from a customer (architect) (the signal was apparently ok up here) – so now I was aware my phone was working. However, Grimselpass was actually not quite the goal for me this time, but rather the Oberaarstrasse that I have wanted to visit the last two time when I was here, but was obstructed by bad weather. First time I was at Grimselpass in 2002, I could have gone there, but then did not know about this road (or had not thought much about it when looking on the Michelin map).

However, this is a quite nice panorama road that continues to climb quite some more metres to ca. 2385m height before it descends to the Oberaarsee (2305m). I had also realised that there might be a pass here possible to reach on a road bike, called Bäregg (2451m). There is a bar across the road to Bäregg, but it is easy to get around with a bicycle. The pavement is gravel with some asphalt content or only oily asphalt. Thus it is a bit more compact than normal gravel, but it was also partly a little loose and the stones were a little big and worryingly sharp. I was lucky not to have a flat though and could cycle all the way up, but think I lost traction in one of the steepest ramps and had to walk a few steps there. There are a few hideously steep but short ramps. It is a 150m climb from the asphalt road. One could continue up to the refuge at ca. 2458m, where I took the first photo. There were walkers and kids here, but it is not a restaurant.


One could walk down to the Oberaarsee on the other side here on a path and I had first planned to do so partly to avoid having to go down the same way, which would likely be as hard as going up. But after talking to some walkers coming up there and then going to start of the path, I finally realised that the path was simply too steep for too long to be worth the trouble and I returned down and had to be very careful in the steep sections (otherwise the road is fine as long as your tyres are in good health).

I continued up to the top of the asphalt road and descended just a little to where a path climbs up to Bäregg in a staircase at first (here was the only place the name appeared on a sign). Then I went back in the chilly weather to Grimselpass, stopping for a few photos along the way. I was lucky to have pretty open views this time and no rain or snow. I only stopped at Grimselpas for a photo before heading down to Gletsch (1757m) and now it started to rain and it was very cold. I just went ahead not too fast and not too slow either, in order to try and optimise getting ahead down while not freezing to death. I just wanted to get out of the area. Of course, lower down came cyclists on their way up – good luck to them (but most of them were likely prepared with better pull-on clothes than me).


Oberwald looks like a pretty stern and chilly place. I think the bicycle shop had closed down that was here the other year (not totally sure). I just continued even if it was basically dry and not much rain in the air now as I was still shivering of cold. I just wanted to go on until things got warm again. I did however stop in Ulrichen (1346m) for a coffee and cake inside the café. They have an original lady here. I know I have stopped here another year too, but last time it was closed when I passed by. Ulrichen is the start for both Grimselpass/Col du Grimsel (2164m), Furkapass/Furca/Col de la Furka (2429m) and also Nufenenpass/Passo della Novena/Pass da Nueinas/Col de Nufenen (2478m), which is the highest asphalted pass in Switzerland where both sides belong to Switzerland.

I just went ahead on the long, winding, rather narrow and trafficated road down the Oberwallis. In cycling the big mountain passes in central Switzerland one soon becomes familiar with this road as it is impossible to escape. It is lined with nice villages with old tree houses all looking a bit too orderly. As I approached Naters and Brig (673m) I had to make up my mind as to where to go this day. It looked like I could not, or would not want to, try and do two more climbs down here, but I knew I wanted to make one of the two planned climbs. One was going up to Galm (2231m) from Getwing (opposite to Turtmann) and the other was going up to Täschalp (2214m) from Visp.


I decided against Galm as it was slightly further away and that I had the possibility of seeing Matterhorn for the first time on the second one. Both should be pretty hard (at least Täschalp should be hard from Täsch up). I had also wanted to explore a road up beyond Grächen, but in all likelihood it is gravel and maybe too bad for a road bike anyway. I found no specific account of the road as mountain bikers typically do not care to mention what quality the roads are they are going on (as long as they can ride it). So it was Täschalp for me.

The problem was that I might not be able to reach even the Täschalp this evening and I did not quite realise this until on my way up from Visp – ever too optimistic! But I surely did not want to stop early down around or near Visp, so I had no choice but trying to get up to Täsch and see if I could find a bed for the night there. I think I stopped at McDonalds in Visp (once again). I had taken a bicycle lane part of the way down here from Brig. I turned off the road when crossing the river from Naters and followed the railway and later asked a lady about whether I could continue down to Visp on this, and she said I had to get off it at some bridge or so before, but I think I went away from it at some other point, but found my way to Visp anyway.


The sun had just stopped reaching the bottom of the valley up from Visp and only occasionally I got a little sunshine up to Stalden. Above Stalden I had to take an alternative road that looked like a not too old abandoned highway, made obsolete by a new tunnel here where cyclists are not allowed. Higher up the long valley it got a bit colder. Eventually I reached Täsch after a very irregular climb up there. Täsch looked a bit gloomy and serves as a parking place village for people visiting Zermatt as only local traffic is allowed up there (I believe).

After spending close to an hour looking for a bed for the night without any success and climbing up an odd asphalted road for fun and to see if there was any lodging up there (another road to the Täschalp road), I had to go back to the village before Täsch down the valley. In Randa I asked at the big hotel seen from the road that offered good prices, but it was also fully booked. I asked the lady if she had any idea of where to go next in my search and she suggested the hotel by the railway station in Randa, so there I went. They actually had one bed left and that was apparently all that was left in the whole valley between Zermatt and Stalden at least. There were also a running event the next day in the valley which explained why all rooms were booked.


It was not the cheapest room (had to pay up to 80-85 SFr 2-3 times in Switzerland this year, but figured it would even out with some cheaper lodging further on). The place was agreeable (surely a bit pricey in comparison to what I got, but) and more personal than one would think of a hotel by a station, and I got some food. At least I had a bed in a decent area that would serve as a good start in the morning.