Berchtesgaden – AD6 training camp
The first altitude training this year would be in Berchtesgaden, a trip booked back in October 2011, long before I crashed and disrupted my schedule towards Alpe d’HuZes.
But training routine has been resumed and in the Berchtesgadener Land the Kehlsteinstrasse awaited, so off to Berchtesgaden we went!
Upon arrival, I choked on my first deception: my plan to conquer that “Zoncolan of South Germany” would have to wait until some other time.
The Kehlsteinstrasse was in fact still closed, as there remains a lot of (snow) clearing and road repair work to do.
In short, the road cannot be cycled until the end of May…
Yes, call me stupid – I did ask the landlord if we could expect snow, because I was going to be cycling. And, probably in all honesty, the reply was that there would not be any “in Berchtesgaden”.
Which turned out to be true, because there was not a speck of snow in the town, the valley, or the entire lower BGL area.
However, starting somewhere between 800 and 1.000 meters, there was – I guess they did not think there would be some crazy Dutch guy who would be stupid enough to cycle up that high anyway…
Too bad that for example the Rossfeld Panorama Strasse, which also reaches up to 1,600 meters, is kept free of snow.
On the other hand, that would at least be an alternative to some extent, although less steep than the insanely steep Kehlstein.
Or so I thought – little did I know…
Sunday afternoon was used to explore the area and not surprisingly, I discovered that the Salzbergstrasse was also closed after approximately 2 kilometers.
This “entry” to the Kehlsteinstrasse also has staggering inclines of 20% and more, but I would not be able to enjoy much of that either.
Before running off in despair, I discovered another supply route, running via the Scharitzkehlstrasse, at least leading up to the actual starting point of the Kehlstein.
And that road was not closed, so it would be the first to climb Monday.
I did not know that the Dürreckstrasse to the Vorderbrand was the ascent to that stretch – I did see it on the map, but since the map did not show altimeter lines, I had no idea…
The Garmin showed grades up to 24% and I was not nearly warmed up (let alone that I was expecting those percentages).
Besides, although the weather was not that bad, I was dressed for the temperature (10 C) and that didn’t allow for efforts like that.
After quickly getting rid of the excessive clothing, I continued my fairly exhausting struggle with gravity, interrupted by three short breaks to ease the pain and catch my breath.
But I eventually made it up there, only to find out that the Scharitzkehlstrasse was connecting to the Kehlsteinstrasse alright, but it was just as closed from there…
Yes, preparation is half the fun – my fixation for the Kehlstein and the need to improvise, clashed violently with each other.
I’m not really a whizkid ‘reading’ topographic maps anyway, so I mostly just rely on the profiles you find on the web.
Which means I regularly arrive exhausted at the foot of a climb, because just getting there is already a mountain stage in itself – “friendly rolling” country roads my ass…
Oh well, I was here now and I was going to make the best of it. So, I rode on over the Obersalzberg- and Auerstrasse, to circle back to Berchtesgaden.
Detail (Garmin recording)
In the afternoon I went back to Unterau for a trip over the Rossfeld (Höhenring or Panorama Strasse). It looks a lot less mean, but is also quite longer.
And here too, “less mean” means that you can expect grades above 20% – the first stretch from Unterau is quite tough.
The cyclist may struggle his way up for free, for a vehicle you pay €4.60 (plus €1.90 per additional passenger) to get to the spectacular view at the top.
As I got higher, the snow banks were getting more impressive, but the temperature was not unpleasant.
The descent on the other hand, was a freezing experience despite the change of clothing.
Tuesday’s weather forecast was not good, but as it was dry in the morning, I got on the bike for a spin around the Schwarzecker Strasse (Hochschwarzeck).
This is on the other side of Berchtesgaden, starting in Ramsau.
From the profile card you can tell that you’ll climb above 1,000 meters once more and that the grades will surpass 12%.
The most beautiful part of this climb is in the second half, where there’s a series of hairpins about 2.5 km from where you leave the Alpenstrasse.
And indeed, the afternoon brought us rain, so we went on a shopping spree in the village…
Wednesday brought us the promised good weather, although it soon became clear that it would be “slightly better” than predicted (it never really is just right, is it?).
I decided to have my revenge on the Vorderbrand…
As I did know what to expect this time, I drove some 10 kilometers through Schönau and Königsee as a warm up.
And lo and behold, the Vorderbrand Strasse was conquered without significant opposition – it remains a tough challenge, but if you know what’s waiting for you, it’s a lot easier to do.
(Note : the Zoncolan is on the top of my revenge list, because I took on that murderous sob during a suicide mission, in the blistering 37 degree noon of a tiresome day, while I’d only seen it on paper.)
After this I went along the same route as Monday back to Berchtesgaden, but I did take on the first couple of kilometers – up to the Rennweg – from the Salzbergstrasse.
Again, with my nose on the front wheel occasionally, because otherwise I risked toppling backwards…
In the afternoon we went to Salzburg “for a pinch of culture”, but since I’ve been in Salzburg many times I just went along for the Sacher Torte at Café Sacher there.
There, and also on the mistakenly taken Puntzenweg during the first passage, you really have to watch out that you do not topple over.
On the Puntzenweg (turned out to be a dead end), the Garmin showed percentages over 30, although the sign read 24%, so it may have overestimated the steepness.
At any rate, the return from down was more hazardous than the ascend because of that…
Here too, an additional loop was added; after the first steep climb out of Unterau, I went left at the fork (Rossfeld – Obersalzberg) towards Hallein via the Scheffauerstrasse and the Zillstrasse .
That this loop was mainly downhill, came as a surprise again.
So, as a stupidity reward, I got to climb back up via Bad Dürrnberg to Oberau – and it was a nasty climb too, I might add.
In the meantime, the temperature had increased to values above 30 degrees, although during the paid stretch of the Rossfeld, it was less and actually pleasant.
The rewarding view at the top (1.600 meters) was even better than the 1st time…
Friday leisure day? I do not think so! I decided to go for a longer ride, instead of returning to Berchtesgaden for lunch, but with less altimeters.
So I plotted a route, which virtually circled all of the Berchtesgadener Land, except the in general less accessible National Park in the south.
Of course I got lost a couple of times, but overall it went quite well. My only regret was that I missed the turn to the Gaisberg near Salzburg.
I got on the ascend and followed it the first couple of kilometers from Glasenbach, but I missed the turn near Oberwinkl and ended up in Heiligenstein near the Wiestalstausee.
All in all, it was a nice, but challenging and especially very hot trip.
During the second half the temperatures were well above 30 degrees again, which began to take its toll.
At some stage the diluted (sports) drinks will come out through your nose and on water alone you cannot make it.
I guess that’s why I got dehydrated and the climb out of Hallein got the better of me this time…
Luckily, from Oberau it mainly went downhill and after 115 kilometers, I put the bike back into the apartment in Berchtesgaden.
Saturday morning I circled around Berchtesgaden once more, but I soon had to admit that my battery was dying.
The heat of the last few days – with also today temperatures above 30 degrees – and of course the efforts already undertaken, were draining it faster than I could handle.
So, I decided to cancel the more or less planned – and final – round over the Rossfeld Strasse…
After the demanding climb from Unterau, I went straight downhill towards Hallein, where I took the opposite route from Thursday (ride 6) over the Zillstrasse.
This threw a surprise 20% at me again, which I hadn’t noticed when coming down from the opposite direction. Steep yes, but not that steep.
Out of breath and power, I followed the Scheffauerstrasse back towards Unterau.
I really didn’t have the energy left for an extra challenge (eg. the Salzbergstrasse) and while mumbling “maybe this afternoon”, I chugged back home.
After lunch, I lied flat out on the couch for an hour and a half, after which I made probably my smartest move of the week: we went downtown for a drink on one of the terraces…
On Wednesday I sighed that if the Alpe d’HuZes would have been that day, I would not have made it…
Of course, it wasn’t – it isn’t – yet, plus if it would have been AD6 day, I probably would have pulled extra forces from another reservoir.
But still, I’m not my old self – physically speaking, the idiocy remains unchallenged.
And even before my crash, I wasn’t sure he would be able to bring the challenge to a successful conclusion…
I’ve been battered up pretty badly and it is inevitable that I’m falling behind in my (planned) training.
On the other hand, in the beautiful surroundings of the Berchtesgadener Land, I cycled slopes considerably steeper than the Alpe d’Huez.
Despite the increasing pain – and fatigue – the pain becoming beyond “intense” during most of the climbs, I still got six days straight of biking in, mounting to a serious altitude training…
Beautiful but hard
And once again I had to experience the hard way that the Bavarian Alps are actually and primarily a hiking and mountain biking paradise.
The surroundings are breathtaking, but on the race bike, even with a “mountain cassette”, the average climbs are just too steep.
Nevertheless, it is a beautiful area and you may find “comfort” in thinking that the Alpe should be easier.
Perhaps so, but even if it is, 6x that thing is really a very different level – I have some experience in the (high) mountains, so I think I know what I am talking about.
Having a triple, I had a smallest gear of 30×25 for this trip, but I think for the AD6 I might get a 28 or larger for my cog…
I normally would not mount that for one ride up such a climb, but when you’re looking at 79 uphill kilometers and 6,400 altimeters, it’s a different story…
Totals of the trips: 410 kilometers and between 9,000 (Garmin) and 12,000 (Strava) meters of elevation gain.
As I have seen that Strava is generally (much) more generous in calculating elevation, I’m sticking to Garmin.
I roughly calculated that most (serious) elevation gain was made in some 110 kilometers of climbing, this would mean an average of 8%.
Strava gives me over 10% and although it often felt that way and most of it actually was, this seems – is – over the top…
In little over two weeks a new training stage: a mid-week in Les Ménuires, near Val Thorens!
If the passes (especially the Madeleine) are open, I will actually get to climb the Alpe d’Huez.
After that week, I will know more and it will be only two weeks until D-Day by then.