My first visit in the Alps was about 30 years ago and as in case of many Nordic people, it was a skiing trip. Target was Badgastein and slopes were of course amazing! However, despite nice skiing, the most impressive thing was something else. We arrived to Badgastein late in the evening and during the drive I was wondering ”lights on the sky”. In the morning, I opened curtains of my hotel room and realized that ”lights on the sky” were not on the sky, but on the slopes of the mountains… It was almost shocking moment! I understood how huge and impressive mountains really are!
Since then I have done almost everything on the mountains. Skiing trips were followed by long hikes up to one month over the mountains from north to south and south to north. Then rock climbing, from one pitch sport climbing to long trad routes. Ski touring was the next step which was followed quite naturally by alpine climbing. Some kind of ”climax” of my alpine activity so far was last spring and climbing to the summit of Mt Blanc and skiing down from there. It more or less ”gathered” everything I have done in the Alps so far, skiing, hiking, climbing and ski touring. Mt Blanc was a little like ”a summit” of my ”mountain career” on the Alps. When I reached the top of Mt Blanc despite all of my health problems during last winter, I felt that I am a bit full of climbing, both mentally and physically. I needed something else…
…and luckily I had started mountainbiking about two years ago with my fat bike Fat Alice. After successful Mt Blanc trip I decided to take the next step in mountainbiking and bought a full suspension bike. My wife Päivi did the same and soon we were totally ”sold” to mountainbiking! The main summer hobby was clear, as well as a new mountain hobby! So, ”naturally” we decided to book transalp mountainbiking trip and after some searching we found TransAlp Engadin by Go Alps. We booked the tour and decided to combine it to our already traditional annual autumn climbing trip in Kalymnos. About three weeks autumn holiday was waiting for us!
Summer training for the trip happened mostly in Fiskars Village Trail Center and Central Park of Helsinki. Finnish trails are technically demanding, so technical aspects didn’t worry us beforehand. However, in Finland it is impossible to train long ascents. Highest point of Finland is 1324 m high and it is located about 1000 km north from Helsinki and we were going to climb such height differences in one day, probably in distance of 20-30 km…it was a bit worrying…
Worries even increased when we travelled to St Anton am Arlberg, our starting point, and Päivi said that she has a feeling that she has probably caught a cold, and unfortunately it was not just a feeling. We had decided to arrive to St Anton a day before to acclimatize at least a little. We were lucky with the weather on our acclimatization day, as well as during the whole trip. Sun was shining and we just took the lift to the highest possible point in St Anton, walked a bit up there and just relaxed.
In the evening we met our tour group. We had a group of totally 11 clients, 10 men (Sebastian, Martin, Colm, Klaus, Victor, Oliver, Robert, Andrew, Christoph, me Ville) and Päivi plus our guide Adrian. The most people in our group had strong biking background, but maybe more on the roads than off-roads.
The first day started from St Anton with very big uphill. Firstly on gravel roads and later on trails. Partly we had to carry our bikes. Must say that our beforehand worries were relevant. Biking endless uphill was really hard! Especially for Päivi who was a bit sick. Our lunch brake was on Hellbronnerhutte, highest point of the day and Päivi looked and felt very tired. However, good alpine lunch helped and downhill to our first overnight stop in Iscghl went much better. And this downhill was very nice and beautiful! We followed small gravel roads and nice trails with magnificent mountain views around us! Day was a perfect start for this mtb alpine crossing. Video summary of the first day can be seen here.
As said, I have spent lots of time on the Alps and this was the first time, when I accommodated in so high class hotels. And must say that these hotels felt a bit funny sometimes, especially when a memory of a mountain hut of Des Grands Mulets on the slopes of Mt Blanc was still clear in my mind, but of course they gave one new view to mountain traveling and there was nothing to complain with our hotels. Certainly dreams were beautiful in the high class beds!
The second day started easier. We took lift up and started with nice flow trails down through alpine meadows against valley. Unfortunately I started to feel symptoms of Päivi’s flu, which was not a surprise. However, the second day was still strong for me. As said, the downhill was very beautiful! We came down an excellent flow trails kilometer after kilometer. I took one ”smooth falling” in one grassy curve, where I had a bit too tight line. After a long downhill and lunch we still had a relatively big uphill where I decided to test little bit my speed, partly because I felt that I am catching a cold and coming days might be not so strong for me. Maybe I was too eager and started absolutely too fast. Soon I noticed it, but of course it was a bit too late when lactic acids already made their damages in my muscles. Despite that I survived quite well that uphill. The second day ended in Nauders. Beautiful small village. Päivi had problems with her shoes and she bought new ones, which were luckily perfect! Video summary of the second day can be seen here.
An originally planned route for the third day was not possible, biking there had been disallowed for some reason. So, our guide Adrian decided that everyone who wants can take again lift up and we can take trails down. There was also an option to skip the second lift and bicycle instead to the top. I felt myself already a bit sick and decided to take lift as high as possible. Trail down was this time not as nice as day before, or the fun part was short and on that rocky fun trail I managed to get flat tyre. Luckily our team was very competent. Almost before I had opened my backpack, the tyre was changed. Amazing! After this we went through a very beautiful alpine meadow area and saw war memories in a form of tank barriers. Those barriers were also border of Austria and Italy. Soon we reached a beautiful lake and followed its banks long time before lunch in a beautiful Italian city. Soon after lunch we changed again country, this time to Switzerland, but also Swiss side was extremely beautiful. Relatively late in the evening we arrived to a small city named Santa Maria where we overnighted in a small cosy hotel. Video summary of the third day can be seen here.
During my trips in the Alps I have seen many marks of wars we have had in Europe. There are roads made by armies, bunkers, barriers, tunnels etc. Maybe the most interesting ones are tunnel systems built through the mountains during the world war I, tunnels from base to top. I think they have been really impressive efforts and everything just for war. I have visited in the Strada delle 52 Gallerie in Monte Pasubio and the Lagazuoi Tunnels near Cortina d’Ampezzo. Both of them were on the line of battle of Italy and Austro-Hungarian. I climbed both from base to top and it was really interesting, but of course also sad, to try to imagine feelings and condition of the soldiers who were living and fighting for their lives and countries. Some of them survived, some didn’t. I must say, that we are very lucky that we have had relatively long period without wars in most parts of Europe! However, there is one positive heritage from those days, which mountain enthusiasts can still enjoy and they are amazing Via Ferratas! I have done some very beautiful Via Ferratas around Cortina d’Ampezzo and also up there it is impossible to avoid thinking feelings of soldiers who have used Via Ferratas during the fights. It is sad that we have had so many wars in the history of Europe, but hopefully we have learned something!
The day four started with huge uphill. We ascended through endless mountain forest until we were in the middle of the uphill having brake with friendly cows. So, then we continued another endless part of the uphill. But this was the first day when Päivi started to get healthy again and unluckily I started to get sick. As a result of this Päivi was finally climbing faster than me and some other members of the group…but nevermind, the landscape was so beautiful that it was easy to forget stress and fatigue of the endless uphill! And if the uphill was beautiful, following downhill was even more beautiful. We came down rocky narrow trails following small blue river in the middle of a deep green mediterranean forest! Unluckily, memory card of my action camera was full after this downhill and when I tried to empty it during the lunch, I accidentally destroyed just the videos from that downhill. Awful disaster! Anyway, we had a lunch in a nice mountain hut, which was located next to very beautiful lake. After the lunch we had another big uphill and after that we came down to the valley through the mountain forest on slippy gravel road. Our next overnight was in Livigno. So we got some gelato, Italian ice-cream! Video summary of the fourth day can be seen here.
The fifth day was a real mountain day! We started on easy roads, starting to get slightly upwards. After 2-3 hours of climbing we reached a steep serpentine uphill. The one which any client had never managed to top without breaks. This fact didn’t change this time. After the climb we had a coffee break and after that we continued ascending on narrow mountain trails. Päivi had again a good day and she was doing very well! I, in contrast, felt that I had totally forgot how to ride a bike…but neverthless ascend ended and we started long and very enjoyable downhill towards our lunch break. Just before the lunch we had probably the best downhill during whole week, very enjoyable flowtrail in the middle of a beautiful mountain forest! Our lunch stop was in tradional Swiss mountain hut where we got tasty hams, salamis and cheeses with bread as well as deserts from each Swiss canton. Tasty! Soon after the lunch we got the only rain during the whole week. When we arrived to Sils, we were fully wet. Laundry service and warm shower were very welcome this evening! However, one surprise was still left. During our dinner we had a priviledge to listen really high class music! Short example can be listened and seen here in a summary video of day 5.
Last day from Sils to Colico in Lago di Como was long, but mainly downhill. It was nice to ride downwards through the fantastic mountain views and old beautiful villages. We also passed famous climbing destination Biz Badile, which face in Swiss side is considered to be one of the six great North faces of the Alps. The classic “Cassin route” first climbed by famous Italian climber Riccardo Cassin in July 1937, has been also in my todo-list for years. Some years ago I was climbing on Italian side of Biz Badile, but Swiss side is still not done by me. Maybe in the future… The last day went smoothly until last kilometers where Klaus suddenly fell just in front of me and Oliver, who collide with Klaus, I manage to brake just early enough. Klaus was unlucky, he got serious shoulder injury, but luckily surgery was not needed. Klaus also really bravely ride a bike until the final end with help of Andrew who carried her backbag until Colico. Despite this unfortunate accident, we all were anyway happy when we arrived to Colico and Lago di Como. These six days had been excellent tour with very nice group! Our group spent nice evening in Colico with pizzas and wine and beer. Video of the last day can be seen here.
Nothing lasts forever and in the morning we had to put our rental bicycles into a bus, which carried the rest of our group back to St Anton. We rested for two nights and days in Colico and then continued to Kalymnos for 2 weeks climbing holiday. Thank you once again Go-Alps, our guide Adrian and the whole group for a perfect Transalp tour!