Cycling Switzerland: My first solo journey

Day 5 | Hospental РMeiringen (70KM)

Today was a great day but the weather was horrible again. I went from 25C in Bellinzona two days before to what felt like -5C at the summit of the Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass! At 9AM on July 14 2011 I left the hostel in Hospental to climb the Furka Pass at 2436m and the Grimsel Pass at 2165m to arrive in Meiringen. This time I was ready!

I looked outside the hostel that morning and saw fog and clouds. I packed as much as I could in my cycling jersey, and headed down to prepare my bike. Not wanting to make the same mistakes as the previous day, I asked a few people what the conditions were like at the summit of the Furka Pass. They were touring on their motorcycles and were able to give me some good information about the conditions. Other than being cold and cloudy, they said I should be OK. They had even seen other cyclists going up that day so I decided to go for it!

The climb for the Furka Pass started not too far outside Hospental. Once I started to climb, it did not take long for me to remove layers even if the weather was cool that morning. The fog started almost immediately but I hoped I would climb above the clouds. The climb was long but not very steep and I passed a few cyclists on my way up and that was reassuring since this meant I was not alone and not the only crazy person attempting the pass! The visibility was bad and the clouds were thick and a heavy mist was floating in the air that felt like ice. I could see my breath as I started to get closer the to summit.

I reached the summit of the Furka Pass and could see nothing so I only stayed a few moments to put all my layers back on and began the descent. I was a little disappointed that I could not see the view but was really happy I had been able to complete the climb and was dressed appropriately. I made my way down as fast as possible as I did not know if the weather would worsen.

As I started the descent the clouds parted in the valley below, the sun came out, and I had an amazing view of the road going down. I could also see the road winding up the Grimsel Pass and it was also covered in clouds – it did not look good. I went down cautiously as the road was wet and the wind was very strong. I was so cold when I arrived in the valley in the town of Gletsch.

I went to the Hotel Glacier du Rhone to eat and warm up before my climb up the Grimsel Pass. I had a delicious soup and plate of vegetables and it was just what I needed but one of the most expensive plate of vegetables I have ever eaten – it cost 20 chf! I ate quickly because the weather was getting worst.

The climb up the Grimsel Pass was not difficult but this one took a lot out of me mentally. The clouds were dense, it was cold, I could not see very far ahead, and this time I did not know what to expect at the summit. I could not even tell if I was even at the summit however at that exact moment I looked to the left and saw the sign for the summit – I had almost missed it!

I only stayed at the summit long enough to take a quick video and started to go back down immediately.

This time it was bad – the wind was blowing so hard, I could hardly see ahead of me and it was raining. The descent seemed to go on forever, the clouds were not dissipating, and there were these long dark tunnels to go through. I kept thinking I had to find a place to stop to change my wet clothes but there was nothing in sight. Again, I was so cold I was shaking and my hands and feet were becoming extremely cold. Finally, I saw a small town ahead and I stopped. Guttannen was my saviour! I walked into the restaurant shivering and I felt like I was in a scene from a movie, for a few seconds everyone stopped talking and turned to stare at me! I sat at a table, took off a few layers and went directly to the bathroom to get changed. I removed all my wet clothes and put on my dry layers – I was so happy I was prepared this time. I went back to my table, ordered a coffee and warmed up. I knew I only had about 25 kilometres so I took my time and relaxed. I eventually got my courage back and left for Meiringen. I arrived at Simons Herberge and was feeling amazing – I had done it! My luggage had already arrived but there was no one around. I called the number on the voucher and a gentleman answered and said he would be there right away. As I waited, another gentleman walked in to the hostel and I introduced myself. As soon as he started to speak I knew he was Canadian. He was also travelling with SwissTrails but was following another route. He was so happy with his experience with SwissTrails as well! The host eventually arrived and I was able to shower and get ready to explore Meiringen.

I went into town and had a big piece of apple pie and a coffee – I really took the time to savour it! I found a tourist information booklet and saw there were beautiful waterfalls to visit and a funicular that could take you to the top of the falls. These falls have an interesting story that involve Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. Apparently the novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle chose the Reichenbach falls as the setting for the death of his character Sherlock Holmes. (Sherlock Holmes Museum)! The city has statues of Sherlock Holmes and a museum dedicated to him…I had no idea! I did not have time to visit the museum however really wanted to see the falls so I walked to the funicular and was lucky to get the last one of the day. It was so much fun and I had a wonderful view of Meiringen when I arrived at the top. I walked further up and was able to reach the falls in time to catch the last ride down.

I returned to Meiringen and went out for dinner. I ate so much and had a huge ice cream for desert – I could hardly walk when I left the restaurant and was really tired. I went back to the hostel and cleaned my bike and organized my things. It felt good to think back on the days events and I felt so proud of what I had achieved. I was already looking forward to my next day, the Susten Pass!