Brilliant ride round the three Swiss passes around the watershed between the Rhône, the Rhine and the Po. Each pass is different, they’re all well higher than 2000m and to ride again the trio one after the other has been difficult to arrange. Yesterday’s precipitation fell as snow on the peaks so the views are as distracting as they come. Glaciers, deep valleys and many, many tetrahedral granite peaks with relief outlined by the new snow.
The Susten pass (2224 m.) is the most obvious choice for “best ride”, both the brilliant road engineering of the climb up the valley of the river Aare from Meiringen and the deceptively fast curves on the long run down the mountainside to Andermatt. Deceptive: even more than usual it’s one missed apex and it’s light out or back to the wheelchair, game over.
Up to the Furka Pass (2436 m.) from Andermatt, the route hasn’t been “improved” like the Susten. So a more rustic surface and old-style granite or concrete markers on the edge of the precipice. The vertiginous drops affect the car drivers too, meaning they don’t stay on their side of the road.
The views at the Furka col are the best of the trip. You see the stacked hairpins of the Grimsel south side as well as those of the Furka west side. But the eye is drawn to the peaks of the Oberland and the Valais, today glorious in fresh snow contrasting against the blue sky.
Just an up-and-down trip to the Grimsel col (2164 m.) as I needed to get down the Valais to Sion for new tyres. So sadly no time for a lunch with the various other riders with whom I’d shared the route, chatted with waiting at the various road works and exchanged cameras to make photos. Most of their bikes will be back in their home garages tonight having had just a day ride out from Lucerne or Berne.
So I did it! Again and at last, after much planning and various disappointments. That has been my third time on a motorbike, first time round was riding my XJ750 in 1984 when I was camping at Evolène, the Rhône glacier still extended almost to the road. l also included a ride round the Nufenen and St. Gothard passes. Second was riding my ever-faithful orange CBR600FW on the rest day of the 2003 GLME summer bike camp at Les Diablerets. I had no baggage on that trip so an extra-special treat; although it was a very long day, also including the Nufenen Pass.
Then the run down the upper valley of the Rhône, rural as far as Brig then fiercely industrialised on to Sion. I left my bike with the Honda concessionaire for new tyres, changed from leathers to shorts and explored Sion old town on foot.
Back on the bike, now running sweetly, benefitting from new tyres and a quick look-over by the mechanic.The road up to the Grand St. Bernard pass (2473 m.) is a helluva route to scrub in new tyres! Fast and sweeping curves to the tunnel at about 2000 m., then unimproved and rustic surface up to the Hospitz and the frontier with Italy. It feels like the little bike is battling the granite like a rock climber for the last 500m altitude up to the Hospitz at the col (where the dogs are), the highest pass of the day. Over the border to Italy, the Vallée d'Aoste that used to be Savoie. A fine meal from the firendly crew in the Albergo, in the style of the Vallée d’Aoste.