Another day with some problems, but also two great climbs and getting to Italy by train. I had planned to do the next climb from Leuk/Loèche but I really had to get the rear wheel fixed first and it turned out the closest place able to help me was a bit off in Visp. So I got to Visp and the first shop was closed, but the second near it was open and they helped me while I was having a coca-cola and cake in a café nearby.
So the climbing did not really start until ca. 11 am this day and I now had to go back a bit to Getwing (623m) and went over somewhere on the other side of the valley to take the recommended cycle road down there, but it was a bit of zig-zagging and confusion – do not believe I will take that road again.
It was already getting very hot now and a reason I was not perfectly happy either with the slow start this day. However, the climb up from Getwing is on a nice and steep road and actually the one I most wanted to climb, so just went on and hoped the temperatures would eventually get better higher up, as they eventually did, but not much.
Alpe Galm (2236m) is again one of the highest asphalted road in Valais/Wallis and a climb with a mythical status among road cyclists as it is also one of the hardest climbs in the Alps. The shortest climb is from Getwing for 17.9 km with 9% on average, but long sections are much steeper (there is like 4 km at 12% from the turn-off to Tschärmilonga to Oberu/Teugmatte before the last easier section to the top). From Erschmatt to near Feschel the road is virtually flat which explains why it can be very steep while not having an alarming average steepness (none of the roads goes quite directly up in the middle).
Above I look up the gravel track that soon stops and then a path continues up to the Schnydi (2397m) pass. And in this photo I look back from where I came up.
From here at 2351m I look over the rooftops in Alpe Galm and the views are great all around!
The asphalt ends at 2236m by the little parking you see in this photo. Said hello to one of the house inhabitants (just people coming up here in the Summer) as I went down again.
A better and more classic photo of the Galm houses with the nice mountains behind.
And a photo from where you would stop if you do not want to go any longer when the asphalt ends, but good enough views here.
There is a small little roundabout here that they claim on the sign to be the highest (2218m) such in the middle of Europe, which I think is false as I remember having seen something similar higher up, but where escapes me now – anyway it is surely the cutest one (you do not quite see it in the photo and it is not asphalted).
Roads like this is hard to say no to! Great views and one has to be careful looking after oncoming walkers and the occasional car.
Here the last section up which is easy and apparently this was asphalted much later (as salite.ch says the asphalted road stops before here, but guess the profile for the climb is quite old now).
A house with a view! Nothing much blocking the views from Teugmatte (2134m), which is where I guess the asphalt earlier ended.
The views up the Valais.
Some walkers coming by and a last glimpse back up to Alpe Galm before starting the descent on the very steep section.
This is the last steep section from Oberu and I was close to giving up on the climb up here, but persevered.
Now just after getting down to the twisty and steep and narrow road in the wooded section below the thing one fears most of all happened – the front tube exploded due to overheating! Luckily the speed was very slow and right were it exploded the road was straight, so could stop without falling. It is in fact hard to descend at higher than ca. 30 km/h on this section (skilled mountain bikers possibly go faster). I noticed I had a bad no name tube there and was wondering why and also a bad BBB rim tape – guess that was what the wheel builder had in the shop at home and I reluctantly kept the stuff there, but will never again cycle in the Alps with bad tubes, nor with anything less than proper high pressure rim tape from Continental (it had to be the best variant and at least 18mm (the best does not come in wider size), Schwalbe also got one that might work (have one of each now). Velox wide enough cloth tape is also good enough and perhaps combined with a no-tube tape underneath. No other rim tape solution should ever be used on any bicycle ever anywhere. Rim tape is the most important part of the bicycle, but you might not understand it until it is too late.
I fixed the flat and continued carefully down. The rim was so hot I could not touch it. I stopped later by the water tap in Erschmatt and put the whole bike into the water basin to cool off the rims that again were so hot I could not touch them. I then carefully descended the steep Getwing road in 40°C almost melting me down. I switched braking from front to back levers, but occasionally had to brake with both and it is steep enough there is simply no way to avoid constantly building up heat in the rims. Back in the same Visp shop they told me to brake properly and I wondered if they had really been up to Galm before. They knew it, but somehow thought it was possible to brake better, but guess the biggest problem was the tube in this case. Got new high pressure continental rim tape and new good extra tube and had them look over the trueness of the wheel as it was not really so good after their first fix.
Some people claim the disc brakes would be better, but having heard that the oil in them could evaporate when building up massive amounts of heat which would be unavoidable on descents like this, that sounds even more frightening, but mountain bikers use them so maybe, but then again this has only happened once to me over 15 years of cycling on roads like this so guess disc brakes is of minor importance either way.
Eventually all was fine again and I continued up the second very high climb for the day. It was time to climb the Stausee Mattmark (2205m) from Visp (652m). I took the normal road to Stalden and then continued up the at first narrow Saastal to Saas-Balen (1483m). Here are the walking signs in Saas-Balen and this is also the start for a steep asphalted climb up to Heimischgartu (2076m) that I was meant to do, but did not have time for now.
I filled up water and continued straight away up to Mattmarksee and just before the last ramp up to the dam I was overtaken by a likely older man, but seemingly a very good local guy. Tried to say hello to him when he started to go down as I arrived at the dam, but not the polite type of guy.
Here I am just were the asphalt ends (2215m) by the lake in nice early evening weather. Tried to cycle into the tunnel to see if maybe there was b etter views a bit ahead, but it got all dark and had to walk. there were two tunnels and choose one and there was a lot of goats hiding inside. Then I stepped into a hole and fell, so got tired of that and walked back.
A great evening here with very few people around.
The view back down from the dam building and now the valley started to get into the shadows and get colder, but it had been a hot day so no worry over that.
A good photo with the bicycle and the lake if I may say so. This climb had been on my list a long time and it is also a BIG climb.
This, the last long ramp up the dam, is likely the steepest part of the whole climb up from Visp, which goes in stages otherwise.
Here looking back up the dam from below. I went back down again.
Here I stop down in Unter den Bodmen (Saas-Grund) to look up to the famous Saas-Fee ski resort and village which has the most really high mountains so close to it in maybe all of the Alps. Up there is, I believe, the highest density of +4000m peaks in the Alps and it looks impressive from down here. I was meant to also go up to Saas-Fee, but one cannot go very high up there on asphalt. More interesting would be a climb up the back of me here to Tewald which is also paved above 2000m as I told my Hungarian friend collecting those roads and he subsequently went there to confirm this.
I continued down and it stayed about the same temperature as the sun had disappeared much earlier lower down the valley. I stopped briefly at the grocery in the village in this photo to have a soda of some kind before going down to Visp (as I also did not want to stop there once more this day).
The end of the day was a bit exciting too. I wanted to get to Domodossola in Italy this evening somehow to be in a good position to catch up on my plan to go east in the Alps the next day. I had planned to cycle over the Simplonpass/Passo del Sempione (2006m) and also visit one more +2000m I had discovered and even helped map out on OSM maps (an area now very much more worked on by others) to Wasenalp/Wintrigmatte (2042m), but I had to shelve the plans for a visit there until another tour of Valais (which is still needed).
I got to the train station in Brig and looked for the next train to Domodossola and it was coming rather soon it turned out and the clock was already like 20:00 and the next train would be considerably later. The problem was that the next train was a fast train not accepting bicycles (for what I knew). I got a ticket for myself, but think I was too late to try and find out if I could buy a ticket for the bike. Bought a beer and some cookies and jumped on the train and tried to place it as good as possible not to be in the way for anyone. Some train personell passed by but forgot to ask me about tickets and luckily no one came to complain about the bicycle. Once we were gone the next station to throw me off at would be my destination anyway.
It is a surprisingly quick journey to Italy from Brig and a very useful connection. I could have made it up to Wasenalp and stayed there for the night and got down to Domodossola in the morning, but needed to be there pretty early to catch a train to the east, so it was likely smartest to do what I did. I thought I would have no problem finding a good and decently priced place to stay at in Italy, but it turned out to be less than easy in Domodossola. A bed & breakfast I asked at was not open and was told by a man at the restaurant on the south side of the town to go a bit outside the village south to stay for the night. He called and booked a room for me so I could have dinner at his restaurant before going down there. It all worked out fine and had a beer at the kind of truck driver hotel down the road in the evening.