Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Riding the Alps

The Zugspitze as a backdrop
Sandi on her way to the Steig
Somewhere up there is the summit
Fresh cut single trail
Old farm building in town
Morning traffic in Ehrwald
It would seem to me that some of the world's best engineers would have figured out the need for switchbacks, or atleast how they make the vertically challenging life of riding/ climbing up mountains an easier proposition. I pondered this thought over many hard fought vertical meters during my extended weekend of riding in the Zugspitz Area surrounding Ehrwald, Leermoos and Bibierwier, Austria. Granted, the Germans are most know for their engineering feats, but hey, Porsche was started in Austria.

The Ehrwalderhof served as our launching point for our four days there. Designated as a 'Mountain Biker' hotel, they had a work stand station, bike wash, sauna & spa, but most importantly a good espresso machine. Day one was spent poking around and getting acclimated, which included riding up a road that I am guessing was somewhere around a 20% grade straight up the mountain to descend in the rain one of the more technical singletracks I have ridden. Berni's, our host,eyes noticibly widened when we told him of our climb, and were followed by headshaking in disbelief of our descent, saying only crazy locals ride those trails.

We must have earned his respect, because the next day he sent us to check out some sweet recently built singletrack off the mid-station on Leermoos. He didn't tell us that between us and riding paradise was a 450 m climb in 30min, you do the math... For giggles, we rode to the top of the mountain first to check things out, that was an additional 375 m, all together taking us 55 min. The new trail was designed for both trail riders, and downhillers, featuring some big obstacles and super steep lines. It had stopped raining but things were very slick and tricky. I had perma-grin, but my brother in law was not so amused...

The next day after climbing 1200m with Colin on my back during a hike in the morning, I took Sandi up to the top of Leermoos in the afternoon, she wanted to make sure we made it up under Jochen's time, so there was no rest for the weary. The singletrack had substancially dried out and this time my riding partner was having as much fun as I.

On the last day, Jochen picked out our tour around the Wanning. The tour book said 4 1/2 hours, we figured on 3 hrs, and we would have made it in that time if it were not for Jochen's poor sense of direction... Still, we managed to make it around, and find the final climb after having missed the first 3/4 of the ride searching for the trails. Once again, I pondered the use of switchbacks as we rode up sections that exceed 30%! That climb alone we did over 900 vertical meters, out of our grand total for the tour of 1600 hm. Ouch. The backside dropped us back into the valley, and once again I discovered another sick singletrack, rock strewn, twisty and tunry, it ripped down the side of the mountain in a free-flowing ribbon. Sometimes it went right down the fall line, and even crossed a avalanche chute or two. I called it sweet, they call it a 'steig'.

Our four days in paradise quickly came to a close. I look forward to our next trip to the mountains and some more Alp style riding, now if I just can find that granny gear...



Nice stuff and you were just a few short miles away from us here in lovely Bavaria. Glad that you had a good time. If you ever get that close again we should try to hook up for a beer. Oh... happy 4th of July!

Ken Bloomer said...

Actually we were right in your neck of the woods, went spent a day in Munchen and Garmisch before heading over to Ehrwald. I used to live in Stockdorf, there on the edge of Munchen...ah beir