The tour this year
The last long Alps tour? Still got 10 more asphalted passes above 1400m in the French Alps to visit and 3 more in Italy and 1 in Liechtenstein and maybe one more in Switzerland. But all other passes should now have been visited by me. I also have around 25 more asphalted roads above 2000m still to visit (some I have been up part of the way before). There are also several BIG climbs that I could possibly visit if I would want to. There are then many more other nice roads left unexplored, so there is still a possibility to discover new ground in the Alps even now. It could also be nice to revisit some classic climbs and I tried to get two of them this year, but was a bit unlucky – Klausenpass 1948m is a nice classic pass, but once again the weather was no good. I had also planned to visit the Passo del San Bernardino/St. Bernhardinpass/Pass dal S. Bernardin (2067m) mainly because I never got any good photos the first time I climbed this pass, but the tour got an abrupt end a couple of days early on with an accident in Liechtenstein.
I managed to cycle for 3 weeks of the close to 4 weeks planned before the accident that forced me to get back to Chamonix by train. I fell on the flat main road through Liechtenstein where there road was wide and nearly had no traffic at this time and place. I cycled along the white line on the side of the road looking up the mountains trying to figure out where the road I planned to take went. Suddenly it felt like the bicycle exploded underneath me and I fell. I looked at the bicycle but saw no big problems and then looked at the road to try and figure out what happened. The white line I was cycling on some clever (?) road planners had converted into a stone line that slowly got elevated into a stone curb in nearly the same colour as the line. Even though the curb was not high and contrary to similar road work at home in Sweden didn’t have a sharp edge, it was hard enough when falling on the side of it.
A couple stopped shortly afterwards to see how I was and then the police showed up all of a sudden. I got up and got a bit dizzy for two minutes, but apart from that I was clear all the time. With some adrenalin and thinking it was going late, I really wanted to find a hotel for the night and get something to eat, so convinced the police that I maybe did not need to get right away to the hospital and they instead took me to a hotel (apparently there were no hotels along the road I had planned to take they told me). I filled my lungs with air and moved my right arm to feel if something was terribly broken or not. It just felt like I had been having beaten up severely. At the dinner I still thought that maybe I could recover and cycle a bit more the next day even though I suspected I had broken a rib or two.
After the dinner as I got back to bed, I realised that there would be no more cycling for me that Summer. In the morning I dragged myself to have breakfast and got a taxi to Sargans train station. From there I took the train back through Switzerland to my sister in Chamonix (who came meeting me in Martigny). I missed some connections as I had problems moving quickly, but got back to Chamonix around 18-19. It was now terrible weather and pouring rain and thunder. I went with an Alpybus van (that I also took from Geneva airport to Chamonix) and my sister had to see her boyfriend to take their car to the hospital. It was a rough ride on the terrible roads in Chamonix with road bumps and the driver forgetting himself to watch out for them. Told him when we eventually got to the hospital after collecting a few more people, that if I wasn’t beaten up badly before, now I surely was … he could not bring himself to charge me anything though (he was also stressed).
Got into the hospital and got scanned, but as they were trying to develop the scans the lightening hit somewhere near and we had to get back the next day. The next day the developing machine still didn’t work, so we had to get down to Sallanches, where they later after several scans found out that I had 7 rib fractures (2 on one rib), 1 back fracture (not so serious), and that my right leg was off and that needed surgery immediately. Got two screws in my leg and from then I had to walk on crutches, but first in a hospital bed for almost a week. But I am now recovering and all looks well, so likely I will be back on the bicycle soon again.
Last Summer I had to face some of the coldest weather ever in the Alps and started with rain and snow the first days. This year it was the opposite and the hottest weather I have ever had for the length it lasted. It was so hot that I actually had to stop on some climbs that I normally would not need to stop on. This also meant that I had to skip a lot of planned climbs and got much shorter day rides than planned. I did keep going on and make sure to get the key climbs I most had wanted to do – mostly the paved pass climbs over 1400m that is. In cold weather you do not want to stop, but in heat it is harder to get going. Oh well, one should expect extreme weather when going to the Alps!
Statistics: 23 days of cycling and no real day where I could say I could not bicycle most of the time. 3437.43 km = 149.45 km/day (which is almost 40 km/day less than I planned for). 72849m of climbing equals 3167,35m/day is also not impressive. +170 km/day and +3500m/day that is impressive by my standards, but then again there are so many factors that underlies the figures and this Summer it almost makes any figures irrelevant. You will find out why, but mostly due to the heat and terrible roads (steep, gravel, places where I had to walk, bad surface, etc.). After all I was very much trying to swoop up a series of missing obscure climbs in the Alps and some were more obscure than others. Too much willingness to explore is a curse as well!!
The two first photos are from Chamonix on the day before I departed. I write next to the relevant photos from now on instead of continuously.Note: Internet Explorer is not recommended. Instead use a good browser like Firefox, Opera, Chrome or Safari. These pages looks best in Safari on a Mac.
It was already warm outside when I departed on the 1st of July from Chamonix. First is was the easy climb up to Col des Montets (1461m) where there is only a short stretch before the pass that is steepish. Nice views as always here and happily some new asphalt on the way down the other side, which soon came to an end though and although a fast road down to the border, one has to take it careful until they repave the road all the the way down there. The photos from Col des Montets are the two above. Here and in the next two photos we see the next pass on the way to Martigny i Switzerland – Col de la Forclaz (1527m). This is also a nice pass and a big climb from down in Martigny with over 1000 height metres. Climbed it at the end of a day some years ago in just over an hour, which I was happy with.
Here we look back.
And here we look ahead toward Martigny and the grand Wallis/Valais valley. After a nice and fast descent to Martigny I went through the centre of the town and found the short-cut out over the wooden bridge in the direction of Lac Leman. Just as I came out on the main road a group of cyclists came down from the Salvan road and I just hanged on to them. It was a very comfortable ride in the head-wind and accompanied them down to Monthey.
After riding ahead I finally stopped in Vouvry (387m) to look on the map and to have a coke and cookie to eat. Did not know I had turned off on just the road I was supposed to turn off at in order to try the climb up to Col de Taney (1440m), which used to be known as the steepest paved pass climb in all of Switzerland, but it is no longer paved, but still as steep at up to around 27%. It was now horribly warm and I had to fight to merely survive without getting off the bicycle. Overtook two younger cyclists that stopped here and there along the way and met them going down again, but no really serious cyclists would be out cycling in this heat.
After the parking at Le Châble (1070m) after Miex, the asphalt ended and the gravel road ahead was good enough for most of the time to use with a road bike (at first a bit stony, but soon better), but given the steepness and the heat this was simply not worth trying out this day (I would have failed rather shortly and was totally exhausted when I arrived there). I walked up a bit to see if I could perhaps try to bicycle some and get to the pass itself, but around 1230m, where this photo was taken, I decided it wasn’t worth collecting this pass as I would have to walk down again part of the way. I asked a man resting on a bench behind me where I took the photo how long it would take walking up and he said it was still more than half an hour or so, so I went down again.
Very nice up around Miex and above and a great climb to here in less hot weather (slightly dangerous at some place in the middle with curves and some stones).
Looking down the valley at Miex.
I crossed the valley diagonally to reach the shore of the huge Lac Leman lake at Villeneuve, where I stopped on the trafficated road to take a photo with Montreux in the background, where I was heading.
I stopped early in Montreux (Veytaux) at an old café for a coca-cola and ice cream (all I could consume in this heat). Then eventually found where Montreux (Bon-Port) (390m) where my next climb started. I found the short-cut road (which you see in the photo here) taking me sort of straight up under the motorway and further up. The cobblestoned short-cut was around 19-20% all the time and just what I could handle.
After a stretch of more reasonable steepness, with steep sections when crossing the railway in Chernex, I then finally came to the last short-cut up the Chemin de Chamby (Chernex/Chamby) and was greeted by this 34% sign. This steep section started by the woods up there. Maybe it was only like 31-32%, but enough to make me walk (I think I started walking after this photo already as I was on the verge of collapsing when getting there).
Now this was merely the start of the difficulties with this climb. I got up on the normal road again, where I have been once before when climbing the exact same way up to Col de Sonloup (1149m). But even though the road was nice and relatively easy, I now had to stop for rest. After getting over a distinct feeling of unwillingness to proceed, I slowly and carefully made my way up to Col de Sonloup and from the turn-off on the main road to the pass, this road was, just like last time, filled with small stones and bubbly asphalt that glued the stones to the wheels and it only gets steeper as one approaches the little pass here, while being bitten by stinging insects. I stopped there and carefully cleaned the tyres off stones before proceeding.
This time I was not getting down the other side, but instead continued the climb above. I walked shortly and then jumped on the bicycle even though the road here is quite steep. That did not last too long. Eventually I reached the Auberge de la Cergniaulaz (1283m) where I just rested in the shadows a little again, before trying the next part up the woods, where I soon again had to give up as the road only got steeper – in less heat, nothing apart from from the Chamby part should be impossible.
Finally I got out of the woods and was greeted by nice views (here and below from the same place).
Looking toward the road up Col de Jaman.
Now it was nice and easy to cycle again and I continued, but at the next road choice I chanced upon the less steep road (which was of course wrong) and ended up at La Planiaz (1425m). A walker said I could continue on the gravel road to join the other asphalt road going up again, but soon turned around as I doubted that was a good idea (if it was even possible, given how much the asphalt road had climbed here).
I went back and again after a while had to walk some, but then finally I could manage to bicycle the rest to the top as it was a bit more breathable and not consistently so steep.
I went up to the end of the asphalt road at a parking and continued on the gravel road (to 1645m at a nice viewpoint) that was indeed a bit too bad for a road bike and descended a bit to claim the little La Forcla/Forclaz (1614m) pass that you see here.
Here is the view down the side I had climbed up earlier before changing into a different valley after the Auberge (from the same point as the previous photo). The Lac Leman could vaguely be sensed in the background far below.
The place you come up to on the asphalt road looks like a pass, but isn’t. However, the main road here continues to the right on a barred off gravel road that descends slightly from 1617m, which I had heard should be too bad for a road bike, but it is actually just good enough if you go carefully and after 1.4 km you reach the real pass here – Col de Soladier (1576m)
From here I knew there was only a steep path down to the road on the other side, so changed my shoes to my old nice Nike Lunarlite (seems like they have not done as good light shoes after that) and walked down there.
I was surprised to find the road down by the Gros Caudon (1449m) to be asphalted and happily wheeled down the road. But further down it was back to gravel again and only just about possible to negotiate on a road bike (not reommended). (The Swiss maps are does not suggest correctly where it is asphalted.)
One comes down to a place where the road crosses the river without a bridge, so you might have to ford it depending on the water height. On the other side the road is at first not rideable, but soon becomes asphalted again. I stopped to clean up my shoes and put them on again, but later there were some gravel sections too, but very short and some funky asphalt parts (be careful!). I first started out on the wrong road to Pontet, but turned around after a while.
Finally got up to Col des Joncs (1197m). Now the road was smooth and wide and the temperature was better, but I was sort of tired by now and it was starting to get late.
I decided to keep going as I at least wanted to have climbed the Col de Belle Chaux (1508m) in order not to get too far behind my over-optimistic (as always) schedule. I found water early on, but even though I managed to bicycle all the way up this time, I was very tired. Here I am up on the ridge overlooking a prior minor pass simply called Le Creux (1495m).
This should be how it look back on the other side of the Le Creux pass.
Finally at Col de Belle Chaux (1508m), which was a pass I had planed to climb before and one of the few asphalt passes above 1500m left to do for me in the Alps, so an important one.
There is only a gravel track here also on the other side of the pass.
Looking back toward Col de Belle Chaux and Le Creux. Just below the grass there is a restaurant (Vuipey d’en Haut) where I was hoping to stay for the night, but they had no beds. Instead of going back down I decided to take the short-cut over to the next planned pass – partly to avoid part of that quite steep climb, but also partly because it was nice up above the woods in the evening sun. At first there were a steep concrete road up from the restaurant to where I took this photo.
Then there was only a path through the high grass for a short but nice part. You see the Teysachaux mountain ahead that some people ahead of me continued to walk up to (even though it was getting late).
The only signs actually showing the proper pass names for Col de Belle Chaux and the pass I was going to – Col de Villard (1459m).
At La Chaux (1542m) I was surprised again to be met with a nicely asphalted road down in the direction to Col de Villard (1459m). This also abruptly came to and end before reaching that pass and the gravel part was really bad here too.
Then the last steep little climb up to Col de Villard where I had the last photo for the day. Here I continued down and then up on a gravel road that was partly possible to bicycle on and partly not. This is a popular walking road to/from Gros Plané where they told me at Vuipey d’en Haut that I should find a bed for the night.
It was a nice place and wished I had a photo from there too. It was only one other man staying there for the night in the shared big room with mattresses next to each other in two long lines. They had food, but no hot water and no showers, which was a major disappointment to me given how sweaty I was. A girl there brought me some hot water though, but I managed to pour it all on the floor, but got another chance and could wash myself a little. Also washed up the jersey. (Almost impossible to get a connection there with my iPhone, but got it charged in the morning.) It had been a tough first day and I slept well even despite some mosquitos in the room.