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Monday, September 12, 2016

2016 Tour of the Alps: Rosenlaui to Hotel Tiefenbach

"See? That wasn't too bad, right?" We were in the top floor room at Hotel Tiefenbach, with 3 separate beds. "I was going to kill you! I don't remember the army being this hard." said Pengtoh, flopped over onto the bed. "Also, you lied to me about how much climbing we'd be doing. You said 2000' but it's actually 2000m!" "Really? That's unlike me to mix up the units like that." Indeed, when I went home and looked at our e-mail exchange, I really had mixed up the units! No wonder the amount of climbing on the first few days seemed surprising to him.

I smiled. "Tomorrow's going to be easier. Guaranteed."

At breakfast, Pengtoh looked at me and Arturo and said, "You guys are drinking a lot of coffee. Is it performance enhancing?" "Yup," I said. "I don't usually drink this much coffee at home!" With that, he switched his breakfast beverage of choice from chocolate to coffee.
The riding day started with partly cloudy skies, ideal for doing a lot of climbing. The day before, I had looked up where the Post Office was in Innerkirtchen, and it was indeed at the very start of the Grimsel pass road. We had organized our bags so that the stuff that needed to be mailed back (a selection of maps, our sleeping sheets, pack towels, extra spare tires) were all on the top of the bags ready to be shipped. For the rest of the tour we did not plan on dorm housing, but would stay in regular hotels.
At the bottom, it turned out that the post office was an automated mailing center inside a tiny supermarket. Since everything was going to Zurich things weren't too expensive, and after taking a picture at the bottom of the hill we started up, agreeing to meet in Guttanen at the supermarket for an early lunch.
Grimsel pass is probably the least pretty of the Swiss passes, but even the least pretty Swiss pass is still pretty good looking, with bypass roads avoiding the one major tunnel that we'd have to climb. It's a long climb, however, going from around 600m to 2164m at the summit. I arrived at the summit around 1:30pm, and then proceeded to look across to see Furka pass, which at 2431m was taller than Grimsel, with a good 400m descent in between.
At 1:30pm, there was no doubt that it was too early to stop. I texted the others: "I'm at the summit, 2154m. No sign of rain. I vote to push in over furka to realp." Without waiting for a reply, I looked online for a good place to stay. Jobst always rides all the way to Hospental to stay for the night, but in the past, I've always discovered a painful headwind waiting for me in Realp, whereas in the morning there's absolutely no wind at all, so why kill yourself over a few kilometers?
I had fond memories of having tea at Hotel Tiefenbach during my first visit in the Alps. The hotel had great views of the valley, and was high, granting us additional altitude training and cooler weather, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I called the hotel via Skype, and asked for a hotel room for 3. The price was 94CHF for a half pension, which seemed like a good deal. Right after Arturo texted back: "Less than 100m to go..." I responded with: "I'm at the kirstalmuseum. Hotel Tiefenbach. Booked. 94chf per person half pension."

Arturo arrived, followed after a little bit with Pengtoh. Arturo wasn't surprised that we weren't going to stop at 1:30pm. But Pengtoh when he arrived and I showed him the direction of travel, said, "You've got to be kidding me!" "Furka's a lot easier than it looks, and is a lot easier than Grimsel. It's only steep near Hotel Belvedere half way up." He didn't look very convinced. "You can do it!" He looked even more dismayed after we rode over to the start of the descent and saw the 400m of descent to Gletsch.

We ate some chocolate and then descended into Gletcsh where, at the intersection with the Furka pass road there was a water fountain. We refilled our water bottles, took off our leg and arm warmers, and I showed Arturo and Pengtoh where the DFB Cogwheel Steam Railroad ran. During the summer, the steam train ran on a frequent basis, but despite there being a Tiefenbach stop on the rail road, there's no easy way to get to the hotel from the railroad, so I didn't even mention the train as an option.
The climb up Furka is much easier from Gletsch, with an easy 5-6% grade until you approach Hotel Belvedere, at which point you suddenly get a section of 12-14% grades. But after the Rhone glacier, it becomes easy again, and with the tail wind it was much easier than expected. I got to the summit sign at 4:10pm, and waited until Arturo arrived. I decided that it would be easier if I went to the hotel, checked in, and then flagged down Arturo and Pengtoh when they arrived than if we tried to find the hotel together. A descent at speed could mean missing the hotel as the thrill of the ride made stopping an idea of the past. We could also have canceled our reservations and find something in Realp, but this being a Friday I didn't really want to take the risk. Furthermore, Pengtoh looked tired enough that I didn't want to risk the possibility of him crashing on a long descent.
Tiefenbach turned out to be more than acceptable, of course. (And yes, we did get the top floor of the hotel) I parked the bike in the hotel garage and went on to wait outside to flag the others down. As I was waiting the waiter at the restaurant told me that I should have gone for the dorm rooms to save an additional 20CHF per person. I said we didn't bring sheets or towels and he said that wasn't a concern. Oh well, lesson learned for next time.
Dinner was very generous, with the waiter constantly asking if I'd had enough food, and giving me double/triple helpings of the entrees. He was right --- I was famished and could eat everything he gave me. When we were ready for our after-dinner walk, however, the forecasted rain showed up, though it turned out to be a short shower which turned into a light drizzle after we waited it out. We took pictures of the surrounds and of course, the Tiefenbach waterfall.

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