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The most beautiful way to fail - crossing Tyrol from East to West

An Alps cross with Tobi Woggon

Taking a tour through the mountains with your friends is simply priceless, even if not everything works out as planned. The most important thing is to make the most of it. A travelogue by Tobias Woggon and his friends, who wanted to cross Tyrol from east to west with their bikes.

 

It is the beginning of August and the sun is beating down on us as I am meeting up with Konstantin, Fabian and Max at the Achensee lake. Our bikes are fully packed with the necessary things for the next 5 days in the mountains. Sleeping bag, warm clothes and, naturally, a lot of bars. On top of that, Fabian and Max also brought their video and camera equipment. While I am happy about managing to stuff it all in my backpack and the Evoc bag, these boys are lugging a few extra kilos up the mountain.

 

We start at the small Harfen at Achensee lake on our way into the Karwendel mountain range. And as it is custom on the mountains here in this area, this means straight up. Max and Fabian stop over and over to pull out their camera equipment and take pictures. While I am happy about the short breaks, Max tells me to look at the camera for a headshot because you won’t look that fresh anymore the next few days – flashing a sneering grin on his face. Oh boy, that scares me. I have to admit that I didn’t really pay that much attention to the route and thought “how bad can it be.” And just at the very moment when Max gave me his grin, I realize that I have made a gigantic mistake.

Across the Karwendel

On the first day, we ride through the Karwendel mountain range and, over and over, we split off the main trail left or right onto narrow trails to merge with the main gravel trail further down. Always with another big grin on our face. Since the rocks in the Karwendel mountains are more boulder-like and pretty slippery, you really have to pay attention not to get too confident or you will wipe out in the next turn. When we ride through the first village shortly before reaching Seefeld, our legs had already pushed us over a 2000 m elevation profile. Due to the many photo and video shoots where Konstantin and I have to push up the mountain and ride that turn or that jump for Max and Fabian over and over again, it got pretty late. Originally, we had planned another uphill climb with 800m of elevation gain, but as I looked up at the mountains and the dark clouds hanging over the summits, I give it my all and convince the other guys to skip the last trail and to go to Innsbruck instead. And indeed, the sky opens up and rain is pouring down on us just as we turn the last corner.

 

Phone joker in the pouring rain

Because we have to deviate from the route on the very first day, and didn’t manage to ride up to the Kühtai, we pull a phone joker for the first time and order a shuttle which takes us to the Alpine Club lodge at the Kühtai. But when we open the door to our cabin room, a wave of rain water hits us. The entire floor of our room is covered with inches of water. I guess someone did not expect the skies to open up and left the window open. After a lengthy back and forth and the quick action of a firefighter captain who happened to sit at the bar in the lodge, busy putting out his own personal internal fire and having come a long way already completing this difficult task, we are assigned a new room. Shortly after settling into our new accommodation, I fall asleep – exhausted. Did I hear Max and Fabian say something of a 3.45 departure? Off to bed!

 

Departure 3.45 AM

Before I close my eyes, I say a prayer that the 3.45 departure was just a bad joke and that I can sleep in a little longer tomorrow. But I am not really confident. When we leave the lodge shortly before 4, the village is still fast asleep, only the four of us seem to be lost in the streets before we find the right trail up the mountain. Up here, it seems like the whole mountain is being completely remodeled. There are cranes, backhoes and gigantic trucks everywhere hauling countless tons of dirt from A to B.

 

After another 90 minutes of carrying, we reach the cross trail which we take down to the next valley. But due to the climbing session along the lake which took quite a bit longer than anticipated, it is somewhat late now and the good light is gone and the sun is hiding behind the developing clouds. A sad Max says, well, we could have slept in and might as well have showed up here at noon. I am thinking, what, now you tell me…

From the pass we follow a pretty technical but fun trail down to the valley, where we eat a great lunch at a lodge and focus on tour planning. The weather forecast for the next few days doesn’t look particularly promising and is getting worse by the hour. Despite the forecast, we decide to go for it and tackle the next stage from Sölden via Pitztaler Jöchl to the Braunschweiger lodge. Even though you always have to be ready for snow at this altitude. And that’s exactly what is happening. When we get to the entry point at the Rettenbach Joch, the landscape is sugar-coated in white and thick flakes are coming down. Riding is not really possible anymore, so we do what we have done quite a bit already on this trip. We shoulder our bike and carry it up the mountain. This time, it is not only the weight of the bike and all the bags that makes the hike up so difficult, but the hardly visible and very slippery trail, snow covering up many obstacles over which we trip and stumble.

 

Thinking in stages

When we try over and over to find the trail with soaking wet shoes, we come to the realization that the entire plan is not feasible in these conditions. So we decide to think in stages and set new goals. And the first goal is to make it to the Braunschweiger lodge before sunset today. This is where we want to spend the night and plan how to go on starting tomorrow. From the moment we made this very decision, we feel instant relief and much more relaxed.

 

When we arrive at the Braunschweiger lodge shortly before night falls, there are quite a lot of people eying us through the windows in disbelief. Who in the world comes down from the mountain at this hour and in these weather conditions and why exactly do the guys have bikes with them. We find out from three mountain climbers sharing the table with us, that the traverse which we had planned on taking the next day from the Kaunertal valley towards Reschensee Lake, was covered in several inches of snow this morning already and that another 2 feet would be added overnight. With the realization that we would not be able to finish the route as planned, we go to bed.

By bus to Reschen lake

When we open our eyes the next day, the sun is out and lets the snow-covered valley shine in its full bright-white splendor. While a lot of hikers and mountaineers fight to be first in the bathroom and at breakfast, we are totally relaxed and feel no stress whatsoever. We let everyone behind us who seems rushed cut in front of us and sit down to enjoy our breakfast on the patio.

 

Nothing can faze us today. After a long and delicious breakfast, we grab our bikes and ride, pushing and carrying them in part down to the valley. Even without snow, the trail would have been challenging. But being slippery makes some sections un-rideable, and yet, we are happy about every turn that we manage to ride every once in a while. The sun is out and is warming us up while we ride through the most beautiful scenery on our trip. After a few hours, we make it safely down the mountain. The truly exhausting part of today’s stage would have started here, because we would have carried the bikes up to the traverse, a solid 1500m of elevation gain. But we sit down on the bus instead and get driven down to the valley and then back up to the Reschensee.

Even though we didn’t get to our destination the way we had planned, the wine still tastes good and the pizza up here does as well. And thanks to the shortened tour, we get to spend our extra day on the Three countries trail and, even better, without an enormous backpack, handlebar roll and waterproof socks in the shoes.

 

Text: Tobias Woggon

Fotos: Maximilian Draeger

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