Day 52 - Furka and Grimsel

Saturday 16th August 2014 

High up on the Furka Pass. Grimsel Pass in the distance

We eat a massive breakfast this morning, in an effort to squeeze some value out of the hotel.

Coffee and tea, cereals and fruit, croissants and rolls with ham, salami, prosciutto and various cheeses. Boiled eggs. More rolls with jam and marmalade. More coffee. Another boiled egg.

Mick and I arrange to leave our panniers and other luggage in the bike garage so we can enjoy the passes without encumbrance. Clive is still in lazy mode and is not joining us until later.

Steam cog railway on Furka Pass
The location of Ulrichen is just perfect. It sits at the junction of three of the finest passes in the high Alp, Grimsel, Furka and Nufenen.

The sun is shining in the valley when we set off, though cloud is hovering around the mountain tops. We ride north to Gletsch and turn left up the Grimsel Pass road.

A beautifully surfaced road beribboned with hairpins and fast curves winds up the mountain. We intend to take the small dead-end road from the top of the pass up another 500 metres in altitude to the Oberaar lake and dam with its glorious views.

But at the top of the Grimsel the clouds defeat us. The mountain tops are completely obscured and it's cold and windy. So we stop for coffee in the restaurant at the top of the pass then head back down into the sunshine.

Classic Swiss pass road

We turn left in Gletsch and wind up the classic Furka Pass road. There are lots of photographers staked out along the road waiting for the little Furka steam train to cog it's way up and down the valley, through smoke filled tunnels and over small viaducts on its way to Andermatt.

From the summit the Andermatt valley is enshrouded in cloud and the wind is tearing over the mountain top. So it's back down again into the sunshine.

Ulrichen camping
We collect our gear from the hotel and ride the few hundred metres to Camping Nufenen, where we had intended to pitch camp last night until the weather intervened.

Now it is sunny and inviting. We check in and set up the tents. It's still only mid afternoon. There being no shops in Ulrichen I set off on the greatest shopping trip in the world.

It is just 43 kilometres to the bustling town of Andermatt, ski centre in the winter and trekking and cycling Mecca in the summer months.

However those 43k include a ride over the Furka Pass so it's an hour or so each way. Generally I don't like shopping but I can make an exception here. Clive has turned up again and he and Mick decide to stay on in Ulrichen so it's a solo effort to get the supplies in.

 

Shopping trip to Andermatt

Erik hates shopping
On the way back I see the steam engine again, chugging back down the valley.
 
And back to base camp

Tomorrow we leave this wonderful place and head back north and west to the Stelvio National Park and the more sensible prices of Italy (and I never thought I would say that!)


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