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Wednesday, August 03, 2022

June 20th: Hotel Franzenshohe to Hotel Alpenrose, Switzerland

 When I first planned this trip, I recalled that Bowen and I effectively climbed 4 passes to Pontresina the next day, so making it to Livigno shoud be possible. There was 1161m of climbing, however, from Bormio to Livigno, and there were conflicting statements as to whether the tunnel from Livigno back to the Musair Valley was available. On the other hand, if we descended the Umbrailpass, there was a hotel halfway down that I had seen in 2014 that intrigued me. It would make the next couple of days really easy, but that was not necessarily a bad thing. I sent e-mail to the hotel and they replied that they had plenty of room, though there was no special half-pension offer for dinner. We would have to order everything a la carte.

Before we did any of that, however, we first had to finish the climb up the Stelvio. With having relatively poor sleep the night before, I expected it to be a big challenge. Indeed, we found ourselves having to stop and rest every other corner. Hotel Franzenshohe was on the 22nd numbered corner, so that was a lot of stopping and resting. The scenery was outstanding, of course, and at this altitude heat was not a problem, though Bowen, Boen and I were all warm enough that we did not need jackets.

When we finally got to the last corner, we rested one final time on the last straightaway before all of us stood up and sprinted the last kilometer, going into oxygen debt in the cool thin air.

Now, we'd been getting encouragement and thumbs up all to this point, but what I hadn't realized was that the Transalp Tour was running that day from Zernez to Bormio through Stelvio, and pieces of the caravan had already gone to the summit. The result was that as we approached the last 300m of the summit, every supporter who was there for that other event saw us and started summit cheering us. A cacophony of bells, clapping, cheering, and yells accompanied us as we approached the summit, increasing in crescendo until we reached the pass sign, though I had a hard time hearing it over the sound of my gasping for oxygen and my heart pounding. A casual observer might have thought that we'd won some sort of prize, though in retrospect I would realize that we might very well be the first triplet tandem to summit Stelvio, or at the very least the first with children under 11!
Spectators were happy to take a summit photo for us, and then Xiaoqin had to replace her sunglasses, left a couple of days ago at the park at the bottom of Stelvio, while I reorganized the luggage to relieve the ebike of the load. With gravity assisting us, we wouldn't need her to carry the luggage for the next few days. We probably should have bought some Stelvio jerseys as well, but they probably didn't make them in kid sizing anyway.
The descent down to the Umbrail pass intersection was fast and furious with minimal turning. After turning right into the Swiss border, there was a slight rise, which gave Bowen a chance to complain about how I had promised only downhill. I had to explain that all passes had to have a rise, but that it was a short, barely preceptible one.
From Umbrail pass, the descent down to Hotel Alpenrose was a series of hairpin turns, laid one atop the other, and we would do our usual trick of stopping every so often to cool the brakes. These corners gave me a chance to take multiple exposures of Xiaoqin descending and stitch them together with panorama software later. On a single bike you would think nothing of the road but on a triplet it was better to be safe rather than sorry.

We arrived at Hotel Alpenrose right at noon, and after inspecting the rooms, Xiaoqin determined it good. We could have descended down into Mustair Valley but with the heat wave staying at 1400m would not just help our altitude acclimation, but also keep us cool.
The view from the hotel's panorama lunch deck was amazing, and we ate lunch after parking the bikes and settling in. I hoped that the hotel had decent hikes around it, but the owner explained that the brochure on the website with the waterfall hike, etc was for stuff down in the valley! The hiking itself here was not very good, with a lot of road walking before finding a cow poop infested series of rugged trails. We were very disappointed after the wonders that we had seen the day before at Hotel Franzenshohe.

Nevertheless, I wasn't too put off by it. You always take these risks when exploring a new place, and in the late afternoon from the hotel window I saw a red fox right in the hotel driveway! The facilities were great, and the board games available let the kids learn to play Stratego and we played Uno in the afternoon before an adequate dinner. It wasn't a big deal as the next day was a descent all the way into the valley to Vetzan.

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