I woke up on my final day of the tour feeling like death.
My body was aching from a week of riding in the mountains and my sunburn had turned my coffin-tent into a sauna. However it was my final day on the bike, and I knew I’d miss these times when back in London, so I dragged myself out and slowly got on the road.
Touring is all about routine. Life is simplified to a few basic tasks – set up camp, take down camp, look at maps, ride, eat etc. My morning routine in Switzerland would always include an iced coffee from a petrol station, a caffeine and sugar fueled injection straight to the legs. On good days I’d only need one, bad days two or three, today I contemplated a fourth.
On that note you should read an in-depth review of Europe’s many iced coffee variations from Drop The Beat On It – HERE – sounds weird but it’s a surprisingly good read.
Once my joints eased and my muscles warmed my mind eventually cleared, before long I was loving life in the saddle again. Today I knew that I had to get over something called the Grosse Scheidegg, a 1,972m mountain pass that would take me to the town of Grindelwald (proper Lord of the Rings shit!) where my tour would finish. Probably because it was under 2,000m I hadn’t paid it much attention and I certainly wasn’t giving it the respect it deserved, which is dangerous in the Alps. However as I turned off the main valley road and saw what lay ahead of me I quickly realised the error of my ways:
Located in the Berner Oberland this climb is surrounded by some of Europe’s largest mountains and after only a few kilometers my view was dominated by a wall of rock. The road up, pretty much from the start, was small with a road surface so bad it sometimes turned to gravel. These small mountain roads are always worrying as they generally mean steeper gradients. The Grosse Scheidegg was no exception – I was in my lowest gear from the start and it didn’t ease off until the finish.
It was just steep enough to be a constant struggle so at no point could I relax into it and the nearer the top I got, the steeper it became. However the views, especially near the top where the road is closed to traffic, were spectacular. The section in the photo below was especially mind-blowing:
I sweated a lot, I swore a lot and I may have potentially cried but eventually I got to the top.
Reaching the top was quite a weird experience – there was a restaurant which looked closed, a very old man on a mountain bike who’d overtaken me (said quietly under my breath) and a weather beaten old flag. That was it!? You’d think there’d be some sort of welcome reception after what I’d just gone through.
From the top I could just make out the ominous North Face of the Eiger (center of photo below), from here the road weaved its way down the other side of the mountain towards Grindelwald, where I camped for the night. The campsite was filled with mountain climbers, sitting, watching the mountains eagerly for things I didn’t understand.
I spent a few more days in the mountains with family, happily resting my legs as I put my bike on the back of the many mountain trains they have here:
The journey home was almost as painless as the trip out, Switzerland is just so efficient! The trains were all on time, they have ample space for bikes and you can book everything easily online. They even (prepare to have your mind blown) have a shop in the airport that sells cardboard bike boxes – so I literally wheeled my bike into the terminal, bought a box, packed it up there and then and checked it in. Couldn’t have been simpler.
This was one of my all time favourite bike trips, I can’t recommend Switzerland enough.