CYCLE GUIDE - GROSSGLOCKNER HIGH ALPINE PASS
Like most things we do, we hadn't heard of the Grossglockner High Alpine Pass until we googled 'things to do' in the area a few days prior to arrival. Our lack of knowledge however is not representative of its fame, as it's regularly considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in Europe (and as we found out, rightly so).
We quickly came to realise we however would not be driving the Alpine Pass for a few important reasons. Firstly, it is a whopping € 36.50 for a single day pass along the 48 km of roads that make up the journey, and we like to do things on a shoestring. That being said, half an hours drive along a monotonous French or Croatian highway can cost you the same, so this wasn't an immediate deal breaker for us. The pass has 36 hairpin turns, which would mean that 36 times we would have to go throughout the van and fix up the 150 items that dislodged themselves and narrowly avoided impaling us... this was something to take into consideration. On top of that, on complex roads such as the Grossglockner, the driver (Jamal) is always more focused on keeping everyone alive rather than absorbing the spectacular views. Lastly, what goes up must come down, and if the overwhelming smell of burning breaks on cars more modern than ours was anything to go by, Frankie was going to find the descent rather painful...
Hence our decision to cycle the pass! Most of the information we found online was aimed at keen road cyclists, and suggested something called 'training' prior, which was foreign to us. Something to do with building stamina and preparing for altitude sickness... we vaguely skimmed the information (as we often do) and ended parking up the night before at the Mautstelle Ferleiten Toll Gate: one of two entries into the pass. This turned out to be a spectacular free camping location (double win!) which includes resident llamas, goats, sheep and alpacas (much to Noni's pleasure).
The whole pass is very cycle friendly - they promote and encourage it, and don't charge a cyclist a penny to travel the route. They offer complimentary hot showers at either end for the sweat soaked two-wheelers AND you get free stickers! The toll gate even has its own cute little cyclist boom gate where you enter a small holding pen nd press a button before being released into the wild alps. This also doubles up as an automatic timing system for cyclists on a mission.
We knew we weren't going to do the whole pass, as 48 km each way easily turns into a 100 km journey with detours and at an elevation of 2500m - plus our legs (and bike batteries) just wouldn't support this. We set our end goal as Fuscher Törl, a 15km uphill journey to 2,428m, considered the most beautiful view on the northern side of the pass. It took us about two hours to reach the summit, and even with eBikes, it was relatively challenging. There is a different and spectacular view point every few hundred metres so the journey was broken into many many small legs. We passed a few 'analog' cyclists, which never ceased to amaze us with their inhuman fitness and ability to produce so much sweat -even with our pedal assist our legs were burning. One man even wiped the sweat off his forehead and tossed a handful of his sweat at our feet (maybe a bit disgruntled by our cheat bikes). There are a few cafes along the way, and a nice little restaurant at Fuscher Törl with a spectacular view.
The journey down was exhilarating, and somewhat insane. A benefit (and curse) of our bikes is that they have a speedometer that accurately depicts the speed in which one is travelling.. We won't list the speeds we reached, as it would give our mothers heart attacks (and they are most avid readers), especially as we weren't wearing helmets (which are mandatory at home in Australia), but we that afternoon we reached the bottom in less than 20 minutes... The entire toll gate at this time of the day is rich with the scent of burning car brakes, and we even met a couple who had to take a 'break' as their wheels started ejected smoke at an alarming rate.
You can find out more detailed information about cycling the Grossglockner on the official website here.