Thursday, 26 July 2012

Today is my 41st day and 3000th KM!

Announcement (copied from Facebook): I meant to post this ages ago. If any of my friends (or friends of) want to join me for a cycle for a week or two then feel free. This is really becoming a bit of a holiday and I intend to keep it that way through the rest of Italy, Albania, Greece and Turkey. You can come for Iran, Uzbekistan, Pakistan etc too if you have the nerve!

All you need: A bike (literally any bike will
do), put a rear rack on it and get some panniers (all can be got from Argos for around £50). A tent, sleeping bag and nothing much else as I've got all the specialist stuff and have done all the planning already. It would really be a cheap holiday for you (flights the only major expense); I currently spend less than 10 Euros a day and that will go down soon!

I would happily slow it down a lot (think 30 or 40 miles a day) and it could be a ball.


This is my email address 

I've obviously got a fair bit of catching up to do. I'm not going to skip anything out but for those days where nothing major happened I'll keep it concise! McDonald's is my best friend these days; free internet, free power, free water, free toilet paper, shade, air conditioning! I don't even have to buy anything from them!

Unfortunately I am a bit rushed and thus I can't write quite as I'd like to, I'm afraid it's going to be more of a captions under photos affair. I should also say that if you have trouble viewing my large photos on your screen try hitting the F11 key to go full screen!

Day 27 - 12.7.12; Distance Cycled - 62.2km; Average Speed - 15.5; Max Speed - 68.9; Elevation Climbed - 900m; Elevation Lost - 400m

Over the next seven days I would climb and go down one mountain pass per day. Today was Gerlospass, standing at 1624 metres above sea level. According to my map is was only 1539, so I was pretty unimpressed when I got to that height and I still wasn't there (having been telling myself 100m to go etc.)

 Upon seeing this sign I remembered that our family isn't 100% sure where our surname comes from but that it could have been a town somewhere in Austria. I was hoping there would be a little place between these two towns where I could feel at home.

It wasn't until I'd done a few mountain passes that I realised it's much easier counting down distance to the top in terms of km of road remaining instead of metres of altitude left to gain. 17.5km doesn't seem bad, but 1100m straight up does (Passo Rambo).

Getting up to 1000m was quite gentle, it simply felt like going uphill as opposed to taking on a mountain pass.

I saw this waterfall at approximately 900m.

I do actually enjoy taking on passes. Well, I think I do. They're a huge challenge and that's never a bad thing. I rarely cycle more than twenty minutes without breaking. On some passes I'll break every one or two minutes at the steepest points (15% gradient).

A teasing pizzeria 100m from the top (or so I thought)

Where the top should have been. The valley that I'd cycled out of to the left and, to the right, the waterfall that I was below earlier!

At the actual highest point on the road there was nothing more than a toll gate. Thankfully cycles always go free. These moments on top of passes are hugely enjoyable; not only do I have the chance to look back on the mountain I just cycled up, I can see the mountain I'm about to race down. Due to the fast speed achieved going down a pass I always get completely changed at the top. I put on my thermal leggings, waterproof shorts, waterproof jacket, waterproof gloves, socks, overshoes and of course my helmet if I've taken it off while crawling up the pass. A 70km/h wind, or maybe an average of 40km/h wind blowing against me for twenty minutes when I'm high in the Alps would otherwise make me extremely cold!

Passing down through Gerlos was pleasant enough. As I often do I found a petrol station and bought a Twix and Snickers for the much needed energy/reward.
Those who have checked out my new Tumblr will have already seen where I slept that night.

I spotted the barn below the road that I was on which was winding along the hillside. The open door was simply too inviting. I cooked dinner outside before taking all my stuff (bike included) in as I really didn't want to burn the whole place down. In Salzburg my parents gave me a load of 'lightweight dinner' sachets into which you simply need to pour boiled water and you have a meal. I was over the moon when I discovered a chocolate mousse sachet that evening!
There were some fairly huge spiders in there but only in the corners. In these situations I try to simply not think about them.

Day 28 - 13.7.12; Distance Cycled 47.23km; Average Speed - 12.4; Max Speed - 49.5; Elevation Climbed - 1327m; Elevation Dropped - 646m

Today I would cycle up to a lake at 1800m near Schlegeis glacier. My plan was to camp near there and try and make it over a pass that heads towards the highest alpine road the next day. The problem was that on my map it was only shown as an unnamed footpath so I'd have to wait and see.

Steep looking roads as I finished descending after yesterday's pass.


At one stage in the road there was a choice of tunnel or no tunnel. There was a traffic light (even though there was absolutely no traffic) before the tunnel that had just gone green so I thought I'd give it a punt. It turned out to be 3km long and extremely steep.

The tunnel is actually as dark as the first photo, I just used a longer exposure so you could see what it was like

After about 10 minutes of sweating and being dripped on by the rocks above my head I heard a roar coming from the end of the tunnel. Tunnels do weird things with sounds. Sometime if I'm standing 20m from away from the end of a tunnel, a car will sound louder 30 seconds before it comes out the end than it will as it passes me, it can be really misleading and hard to judge!

I soon realised that the traffic light was due to the tunnel being only wide enough for one vehicle at a time and so long that you really wouldn't want to meet in the middle. I figured that the timer on the traffic light was set up for fast cars, not slow cyclists, and started to worry when I heard another roar coming down the tunnel. This time it got scarily loud so I jumped off my bike and lifted it up onto the curb (which was annoyingly high and narrow). As soon as I got off the roar stopped. Pretty scary.

I soon worked out that the roar was simply cars driving past the other end of the tunnel. Echoes work in weird ways. Well, they are actually very simple but can be misleading!

I stopped by this river for a break and to go exploring in the underground river. It led to underground water power-plant so I didn't go too far.

 On top of this tunnel was a secret lush green field, would have been a perfect camping spot but I still had a long way to go

 Much easier than the last tunnel

More tunnels

The start of the toll road

There's no point me writing about how hard the cycling is for every mountain pass I do, but I will say that this one was quite pleasant due to it being late and a lack of traffic.

Sun set was actually around 4pm due to how high the mountains were. I thought I'd see it again when I got to the top but I wasn't quick enough.

Going up

I think there were about 8 tunnels to get to the top

 On top of the dam!
The last bit of the valley I'd come from.

Below is a video (with a wire in the picture) of me having a jolly on top of the dam! As you can see, I was the only one there.

Taken by a machine - notice clothing due to low temperature!

Taken from where I slept that night. It started to pour just as I put my tent up, I ate dinner in the rain. The valley leading away from the centre-left is the route I ended up doing the next day, I tried a steeper one to the right but there were too many rocks so I turned back

Day 29 - 14.7.12; Distance Cycled (Hiked) 46.05km; Average Speed - 8.3 (yep); Max Speed - 65.1; Elevation Climbed - 801.4; Elevation Lost - 1511.4

The next morning I saw a couple of mountain bikers going on a route below me so I thought I'd try it out. I had to make it over this mountain range otherwise I'd have to go back on the last two passes I did and spend and extra 6-7 days to get to the high road that this was all about. There were no other routes. My map listed my camping spot as beyond the end of the road. The first footpath had failed me so I was going to make this one work no matter what.

 The photos pretty much say it all. It started off as a path which could be cycled, even though I didn't have a mountain bike.
 After less than a kilometre I was pushing the bike which wasn't actually that hard
 A lot of route planning and lifting of the front wheel  required, made easier by an incredibly heavy rear end of the bike
At one point it did get worse than this and I had to take all my bags and water bottles off the bikes and carry everything up separately. The MTBikers carried their bikes past me arrogantly. To be fair, one said 'respect' which was nice.

 Nearby waterfalls were rather loud (yes, I added a stone)

I couldn't get my bike up onto the bridge so I went 'Route 1' which was considerably easier than the uphill pushing I'd being doing

The trail ended up going over the hill directly above the path in the left of the picture - to the right, the land from whence I'd come now in a cloud

At Pfitscher Joch House at the top, 2285 metres above sea level! Notice that not a single bike made it to the top that didn't have disk brakes and front and rear suspension except my Surly Long Haul Trucker. I'm not saying that for any reason other than I was very proud and took about 10 minutes trying to find the perfect angle to show all their lightweight bikes with their hydraulic rear suspensions and no baggage and my steel beast of a bike that has v-brakes and thinks 'suspension' is a word best left in the science lab.

 Now you see it...
Clouds would come in every few minutes, soaking everything.

Looking down into the valley I was about to go into - such a great feeling. There is actually a video of the descent but it's 25 minutes long. If anyone's interested let me know, otherwise it stays in the archive.

At the bottom of the valley and in Italy (the border was somewhere at the top)! Drying out all 3 pairs of my socks as well as my gloves and t-shirt in the first half hour of sun I'd seen in days

I then had a few kilometres of flat cycling before I did 200m of the next pass, just to make the next day easier. 

A Ski-Slalom hut and my home for the night!

 I was going to sleep in the hut but these guys were everywhere. Instead I wanted to sleep in the sheltered starting point (for ski racers) but they were running around there too. All childhood innocence is lost the day you learn that spiders love to play in grass. I ended up putting my tent up right next to the hut and leaving my stuff out

Trying to dry a pair of wet socks while boiling water. I can now confirm that this method does not work.


  1. Hey Jude,
    Looks like you are having lots of fun! Can’t wait till you get to Greece, Thessaloniki as that’s where I used to live for 6 years - you should deffo visit Mountain Olympus while you are there a village called Litohoro is on Mount Olympus and that’s where I used to go every weekend to my summer house - you’ll have a fantastic time in Greece!


  2. Jude. Congrats on finishing your first 3000 km! All of us at St. Margaret's are all pulling for you and many of us read your blog with great interest and baited breath.

    Be safe & best wishes

    St Margaret's Hospice (brooke)

  3. love the sock drying experiment! and witty comments about the mountain bikes in that place you found up a mountain in austriaaaa! :D

  4. love the sock drying experiment! and witty comments about the mountain bikes in that place you found up a mountain in austriaaaa! :D