Swiss Alps Ride Report, part 2

by Karin Kirk

Day 3 — Pragelpass

Here is part 2 of the ride report from our Swiss trip.

Linthal departure

Leaving the cozy town of Linthal. The morning began with 16 km of downhill under cold and sunny skies.

After a successful day on the Klausenpass, our next target was Pragelpass. This is a minor road in the valley next to the Klausenpass. George had to return to work, so Megan and I set out on our own. The day began easily enough with 16km of descending from Linthal to Glarus. In Glarus, we found our way to a small road that was the start of the climb.

Pragelpass profile

Pragelpass profile - 1039 meters (3400 feet) over 21 km

Pragel base of climb

The beginning of the Pragel climb, just leaving the town of Glarus.

On paper, Pragelpass looked easier than Klausenpass. It had less elevation gain and was at a lower elevation. Over 21 km the road climbed 1039 meters (3400 feet) in two sections of climbing with a nice flat section in between. (http://www.climbbybike.com/climb.asp?col=Pragel-Pass&qryMountainID=5536)

What became immediately clear was that while yesterday’s climb had thoughtful swtichbacks to moderate the pitch and offer you some rhythm, this road just pointed itself straight up the hill. Right from the gun the road was steep, and it maintained steep pitches for a long time. The landscape was different too, and the lower slopes were entirely forested.

approaching lake

Nearing the lake, meaning the first section of the climb was complete.

Klontaler See

The Klontaler See, a lake partway up the climb

Klontalersee

Higher on the climb, looking back down to the Klontaler See

Pragelpass, just above the lake

The climbing resumed after we got above the lake

Partway up there was a dam containing a beautiful turquoise blue lake and the road was flat as we cruised along the lake shore. But after a few kms of respite, the road resumed the ascent in earnest. Again, the road climbed in extended sections at a steep gradient. The lack of switchbacks and the forest cover made it so that we did not have a sense of what was coming next, and there were a few moments when we were grinding our way up a steep section and wondering what we’d find around the next curve. Would the road relent, or become steeper yet? We tended to ride a bit conservatively so that we wouldn’t get caught flat-footed and I also noticed that we were less chatty than we were yesterday.

Pragelpass

Still smiling - good thing we really like climbing!

Upper Pragel

Megan cranks out the tempo on the upper stretches of the Pragelpass

On the map of Switzerland, the road over the top of Pragelpass is a faint line. At this point in our ride we realized that in fact, this is barely a road at all but was more of a paved path. It was sort of driveway-like, was only a single lane and had rough pavement that seemed to be loosely draped over the ground. This only added to the interesting experience of the climb.

18 percent

This sign sums it up nicely: an 18% grade and twisty roads for 18km. Luckily the 18km refers to the length of twisty roads, not the duration of the 18% grade.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet? Hard to say how much father, but at this point we were ready to see the top of the pass.

Eventually we figured that we ought to be nearing the top, and unlike yesterday I was more than ready for it. After one last steep section, the road leveled off, the landscape opened up and we were greeted with — what else — a meadow full of happy cows. The bucolic scenery at the top of the pass belied the effort it took to get up there.

summit view

Pleasant view from the top of Pragelpass

summit smiles

We made it, yay! Now let's eat something, pile on the layers and plunge down the hill.

Our summit celebration was brief as we were late to meet my Mom back at the train station in Glarus. The descent was not as freezing as yesterday’s, but the narrow road made for some frightful moments when cars approached from the opposite direction. About 50 minutes later we arrived at the train station, and I think we both had a sort of shell-shocked feeling — that was a hard ride. But we were jubilant to have made it and we had a great time. We bought as much food as we could carry and hopped on the train for the trip back to the Bodensee.

post ride cheer

Celebrating a successful, albeit tough, ride up and down the Pragelpass.

apple cake

No amount of apple cake could possibly be large enough to satisfy our post-ride hunger. But this was a good start.

Phew!

After that we had a day to unwind, recover, do an easy ride and eat more cake. The riding around the Bodensee is warm and flat and pleasant and helped us to recharge (the cake helped too).  It was sad to pack up the bike and have to head home so soon, but at the same time I was excited to see Dave and be back in Montana.

Birnau

Relaxing recovery ride along the Bodensee, with the Birnau church and vineyards in the background

more cake

What good is a recovery ride if you don't stop for cake?

The travel bike was a major success and it was such a treat to have a properly-fitting, light and sporty bike to ride on these roads. I was really nervous that something might happen to the bike in transit but it was just fine. Now I can look forward to many happy returns, since there are quite a few Swiss passes left for me to climb!

Thanks for reading!
Karin

This entry was posted in For Fun.  

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2 responses to “Swiss Alps Ride Report, part 2”

  1. Karin, This was great to read about! I am not sure what your writing left me craving more — the climbing, the scenery or the food! What an amazing trip 🙂

  2. vhien says:

    I’m actually craving for the adventure and the FOOD. Love the cakes! Looking forward for your next post.

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