Saturday I rode the Highway to the Sky time trail up Sustenpass in central Switzerland. There were just over 400 people signed up with riders leaving every 20 seconds. The road was also open for any other cyclists. It was a well attended, well run event with a great ambience.
Sustenpass (2260m) is one of a group of gigantic climbs in the central Swiss Alps. One can make all sorts of loops combining Grimselpass (2164m), Furkapass (2429m), Nufenenpass (2478m), Gotthardpass (2106m), Oberalppass (2044m), and Lukmanierpass (1915m) in some way or another.
Sustenpass is rarely too steep, but it’s 27.5 kilometres of uphill through beautiful Swiss countryside.
This west side of Susten is far more interesting than the east side. But, it has lots of tunnels cut into the rocks. Although rarely long, narrow or scary, it’s worth bringing a backlight.
For info on more car-free bike days in France/Switzerland,Italy, and Austria, see here.
This is Switzerland. Of course, they brought a toilet up the mountain:
Unfortunately, the event was forced to finish a couple of kilometres below the summit as the road still wasn’t cleared after winter. I snuck past the snow plough and rode perhaps a half kilometre further but stopped when I saw a little avalanche over the road. We actually saw a guy skiing down the road beyond the next tunnel.
Then the day became even more fun:
At the finish, Sébastien recognised me from my blog. He tells me and his friend Akira that he likes the blog because I recommend lesser known stuff. We chat a while and they were clearly very nice guys, so I say, “I am going to descend Susten and then climb (the lesser known) Lac d’Engstlen, if interested.” We agreed to have lunch near the finish and then ride together.
Lac d’Engstlen is the sort of ride I like. Narrow, off the beaten path, challenging and beautiful. It’s also a toll road which keeps it quieter.
Lac d’Engstlen shares the first four kilometres with Sustenpass. We turned off and happily found we climbed at similar paces as we struggled up the steep early kilometres through an alpine forest. The flat part of the profile rides through a plateau with mountains on either side. The rest of the ride we would see endless waterfalls, it’s beautiful.
The paved road ends at a hotel/restaurant. I knew from a previous visit that the lake required a gravel traverse. But today, it also required a snow traverse. I wanted to see the lake but wasn’t certain if my new friends would appreciate this. But then I remembered our lunch conversation. These very likeable young Swiss guys had travelled around the WORLD for 18 months together on bikes. A touch of snow was nothing to them.
You can read about their adventures here. It’s fabulous stuff. At a minimum, click just to see the map outlining their travels.
Anyway, there wasn’t that much snow, and we finally reached an early-season, relatively empty Lac d’Engstlen:
They had kindly paid for my lunch, so after visiting the lake, I bought the beer. Santé.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable day, with two fun new friends. Sébastien lives in Geneva and has promised to join my Steel Wheelers Wednesday Nigh Salève club – once he heard he gets a free beer on his first ascent. Excellent.
Akira and Sébastien sent me a few more photos of the day, many thanks: