Rescued on Col du Sanetsch …. and some snow


Above: End of the road, a few kms past Col du Sanetsch. I crossed the col directly at back of photo.

26 kilometres and 1750 metres of ascent. Sanetsch is one of the biggest, most beautiful climbs that you may not have heard of. Stats aren’t much different than Stelvio.

In summer, there is a small cable car here that ambitious cyclists can use to descend with bike down to Gsteig and make a huge loop via Col du Pillon and Col de la Croix.

Most Octobers in the Alps there is a small window to do big climbs WITH snow around before they close for 7 months.

Basically one waits for the first snow fall low enough that it touches high roads, then hopes for a few days of sun. The authorities close the roads (this climbs was officially closed), but the small amount of snow melts ON the road but not the landscape. Always beautiful.

The strategy doesn’t work in spring as any road that has been closed for ages requires ploughing and cleaning of debris.

A few years back, this strategy led to a truly special snow ascent of Galibier.

Back to Sanetsch. Great hairpins:

Nice Hairpin

I hate tunnels. And there is an 800 metre long tunnel as the road approaches 2000 metres. It’s dark, wet, narrow. But wow! They have added motion-detect lighting. I love Switzerland.

After reaching the Col, don’t stop. There is an additional 5 kilometres, slightly downhill to the beautiful dam/lake.

Other side of the Col

One needs to keep the eyes open for ice, and I saw a patch or two …. and plenty of wet stretches as snow melted across the road. Caution is important, but the road was in beautiful shape.

I lost the sun climbing back to Col du Sanetsch from the lake:

A couple of weeks ago, I got a fancy bike re-resizing session that led to a few adjustments that has eliminated my lower back pain on my new Trek. Wooohooo.

At the same time I had them change my rear tire due to wear. I asked for the toughest tire available and bought a relatively expensive Continental 4000.

On the descent, going reasonably fast – but fortunately I descend like a wimp – the rear tire exploded. Bang! And the tire was shredded in several places. I managed to hold my line, skidding on the rims for a long time. The wheel is toast, badly damaged.

The new tire:

Scary stuff. I was still fairly high but found a restaurant that called me a cab …. I have hitch-hiked before, but traffic was zero.

The taxi driver was a hilarious Italian guy that was very excited as his first time up this mountain.

He was a worse descender than me. I kept my helmet on in the car. 😉


Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Whoa – scary story with that tire. -.-
    Glad to hear that you could hold your line. Wonder how a carbon rim, especially a carbon clincher would have coped with the skidding on it…

  2. scary… What pressure did you have the tube pumped to, and what width was the tire? Did you run over any particularly nasty debris?

  3. Hi

    Had a similar idea to you with a climb over the Roselend on Tuesday. Ok it is “low” lying so will probably be open until the end of the month

    and guess what, blew the sidewall on my Conti 4000S on the way down to Moutiers. Ok it is an awful road. The 4000S have a problem with the sidewalls. After walking 5k to Moutiers the local bike shop man sucked through his teeth as he fitted me a Hutchinson Kevlar tire weighing nearly twice as much as the Conti. Can’t say I noticed a big difference. My blowout happened with a huge truck baring down on my and I was lucky to escape its wheels. The driver was an idiot getting so close to a cyclist. I also damaged the rim which needs replacing (actually cheaper to get a new wheel).

    I’m actually looking at the Galibier for this weekend. The pass is closed but hoping the snow will have melted.

  4. Looks like they sold you a very old tyre Will, the sidewall looks ‘dry’, this was what I said to my friend who sells conti tyres;

    Ian Hayward
    Wotcha Mr Tickle, check out blown conti, apparently a new one (but did they give him new old stock, looks like older design sidewall?)

    Looks like a very old 4000, not sure how long ago they switched to black side walls, if he asked for the toughest tyre the shop should have sold him a gatorskins!

    I’d have a word with that shop, they’ve palmed you off with old stock. They should replace the tyre and rim/wheel, worst case could have been you coming a cropper – tell him you’ll sue!

  5. After some thought, and talking to some people, here is my best guess to the cause of the accident.

    First, my brakes were perfectly set, so they were not rubbing on the tire.

    I think my air chamber blew, perhaps twisted or something and this caused the tire to unseat.

    The rip in the tire was likely caused by the rims as I skidded down the road. I skidded for a while, my rims were damaged fairly badly, and the tire was almost completely off once I stopped,

    So, the lesson? I don’t know: Check your tires before every ride. Be careful when changing inner tubes to ensure properly installed.

  6. Hi Will, I’m very happy you managed to stay up. Your analysis seems very possible to me. My advice is baby powder and attention to detail – line up the valve and the sidewall inscription 😉
    Sanetsch with you a few years ago is still fresh on my mind : there was no light in the tunnel yet, we saw 2 ladies coming down on a tandem and we had good food at the top. And we had full summer heat that day. Keep up the riding and posting while I juggle my time between Nathalie and the house (windows are coming on Monday, yeeeha).

  7. What tubes do you use? The bike shops round here (Routens, Grenoble etc) suggest avoiding latex and using standard Michelin Butyl which they say deflate less explosively.

    Got over the Galibier yesterday. I cycled Modane -> Galibier -> Grenoble. The col was opened on Saturday morning and there was almost no snow left on the summits after the foehn.

  8. Hi David,

    Fantastic! Well done getting over Galibier.

    Yes, thanks for that. I usually ask for and buy heavier tubes, versus weaker light ones. But this was a latex tube as you guessed.

  9. Hi Will, what a scary story ! It was a chance that nothing happened to you (or your new bike) !
    And I have a silly question: how did you manage to take those beautiful pictures with you on them ? You seemed to be on your own…

  10. Hi there will – just as Antoinette mentioned… your pictures are amazing!!! Really cool that you have the courage to carry a tripod, however small it is, with you on your cycling aventures! I’ll be coming back to your website in the future (I’m a first timer)…

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  12. Great pics as always, thanks for sharing. Serious “Oh crap” moment, huh? I’ve been riding the Conti GT4000s for 3.5 years including several high-speed descending expeditions in the Alps and Dolomites. I doubt if I was you that I’d ever trust them again, but they have been rock solid for me. Long wearing and sticky on the turns. So as not to jinx myself I won’t say it outright, but the number of flats I have had is less than 1 on those tires. Not that you are likely to ever find a contact number for Continental, but I’d be curious to hear what they had to say. Glad you kept it upright – I’d have been cartwheeling down the mountain I suspect.

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  14. Hy ! My challenge for 2014 is to climb 53 passes. Today I have allready climbed 48. Next Saturday, Col du Sanetsch. . . . 29 th of August I celebrate my 53 rd birthday. . . Thru Facebook you can find all my trips. Best regards. Michel

  15. Epic climb, remember lights, not only to be see, but also to see. The lights in the tunnel didn´t work when I did it.

  16. Horst Storkebaum on

    ” I kept my helmet on in the car. ?”

    Hahaha. Made my day.

    Imagine what that taxi driver told his wife in the evening.

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