Monday, July 23, 2012

Grossglockner

I arrived at Bruck (near Zell am See) after 4.5 hour drive and started riding at 0800.  It was quite nippy at Bruck so I tried to warm up as quickly as possible up the gorgeous green valley of roiling Fuscher River.  This valley has more waterfalls than anywhere I've been, mind-boggling quantities of waterfalls.  Just past the small town of Fusch the Hochalpenstrasse starts, and immediately the road begins climbing.  A bit later it levels out briefly at a toll plaza and kid's nature park.  Luckily bicycles are now exempt from the toll (though they were originally included).  After the toll plaza the gradient steepens again, and mostly stays that way.  The low and middle portions of this climb have very few switchbacks, so there is not much chance to catch your breath.  The middle 13.5 kilometers have an average gradient of 9.5%, which is quite strenuous.  Higher up, more-frequent switchbacks give you a little chance to breathe at the bends.  Luckily the cool temps kept my radiator from boiling over, and the spectacular views made it difficult to dwell on the suffering.

At the top I was confused about which of the 2 summits to climb, so I continued up the main road to Hochter, a viewing area at 2504m.  Then I rode back downhill slightly, and began the hard climb up to Edelweisspitze (also signed Bikers' Point).  This is a 12%-average-gradient stack of switchbacks, paved in porphyry-block, ending at 2571m.  Panoramas here are unbelievable.

I put on arm and leg warmers for the descent (it was slightly above freezing up there, though sunny). The switchbacks were fun, as well as a few of the long straight plummets where there wasn't too much traffic.  But for the most part it was too congested to descend at full speed.  Not only cars, buses and motorcycles but quite a horde of bicycles, mostly mountain bikes and hybrids, a few fully-loaded tourers and some road bikes.

I want to return and do the climb up the south side, from Heiligenblut to the glacier at Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Hohe, then roll back down to the main road and continue to Edilwesspitze.  Definitely recommend the Hochalpenstrasse- you've got to see it to believe it.

Grosse Wiesbachhorn (3564m) with fresh blanket of snow 

Snowy Hohe Dock (3348m)

Grossglockner (3798m)

Hochter with Hochalpenstrasse looping around it prior to descending the other side

Some of the upper switchbacks, with natural history museum lower right

Glacier below Grosse Wiesbachhorn

One of many glorious waterfalls

The valley below Hohe Dock

Pretty wildflower

Looking back up the valley from below

Another noisy waterfall

The warm-up

The upper climb

13km of 9.5%
Garmin reading about 95 meters low

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