Cobbled hairpins on the Tremelo off the Gotthard Pass
Both Mike and I struggled to sleep, even though the beds were comfortable, due to worrying about the ride ahead of us. I reflected in the early hours on how my Mum overcame the challenge in her early 60s of hiking down and camping overnight in the Grand Canyon. She must have also had worries about that hike and it being outside her comfort zone but was also exhilarated afterwards by succeeding in the challenge. At the time in my 20s I did not appreciate enough how doubts can set in – now in my 50s I wonder who invited ‘Mr Doubt’ into my life! Anyway he was banished and I did get to sleep.
We had reserved bike tickets on the bus up to Gletsch which in 10 minutes whisked us up the first 400m! Very tempting to sit on the bus for another couple of stops, but it was hot and both of us had got our heads round the climb by this stage. We were well bundled up as we thought it would be cold, however, the sun was on the road and we stripped off to our summer layers.
The climb out of Gletsch was beautiful, nice and cool in the shade, initial switchbacks not too steep, lovely views up the valley and across to the Grimsel Pass. We offered to take a photo of a Spanish guy (Frank) at one of the first photo shot points and ended up chatting to him in parts on the way up when we stopped for a breather. He was kind enough to take some photos of us also. After the initial switchbacks we had a steady climb of about 5% along the side of the Rhone valley leading into the Muttbach, which we crossed at about 2,000m happy to have done the first stage. Now for the switchbacks up to Belvedere, where I had hoped to stop for a coffee. Mike said there was something else further on and as it was busy we continued, and then there was the summit! Not so bad after all.
Lots of cyclists were out given the perfect conditions, and there were also a fair number of sports cars / motorbikes. However everyone generally kept good distance and respected wobbly cyclists inching their way uphill as well as cautiously (in my case) taking the hairpin bends downhill.
To keep our weight down we hadn’t carried much food and also had another pass to conquer so just had a quick rest at the summit, put on some warm clothes and were on our way. Really enjoyed the ride down to Realp but would not be so keen on riding up it as it is brutal, also the road is much narrower in places. Made our way to Hospental by which time I was overheating in my long bottoms and pretty desperate for a decent stop and to top up with water. Had a bit of a paddy when I though everything was closed, however Mike spied out Sust Lodge through the noisy roadworks and we had an excellent chocolate brownie w. ice cream and coffee in the garden. Had already changed out of my long pants and in the process got stones in my shorts so was very happy to find a loo to sort myself out!
Next was the St Gotthard Pass. Both found it hard work as by now it was hot, there were lots of cars on the road and it seemed more of a slog than the earlier climb. Had a rest and one of our 2 sarnies at a layby about half way up. The heat had obviously got to Mike as in the rush to catch a gap in the traffic he left his helmet and one glove behind and didn’t realise until we had ascended another 100M! Neither of us felt strong enough to go back down and re-do the climb we had just done! So Mike decided to take his chances (very gingerly on the cobbles).
We got to another set of roadworks which we decided to push through as didn’t fancy navigating the traffic. Fortunately, where the road works ended the main road went right along with most of the traffic and we went left along the cobbles. Much nicer. Had a break near an old bridge and ate our last sarnie. That powered us up to the summit, where I managed to get stones in my pants again! Not realising that there was a cafe just over the summit where I could have changed in comfort (and privacy).
The Tremelo is the name given to the cobbled road down from the Gotthard Pass. Must admit that it totally blew me away. I had read up on the pass in advance and knew that there were lots of switchbacks which paraded down the slope. However seeing them laid out below us in the late afternoon sunlight was outstanding. It was fun seeing the cyclists making their way up the switchbacks far below us. An experience of a lifetime and something that both of us were really happy we had achieved. Also we were very happy that given all the effort we put into getting up the pass that we were rewarded with fantastic weather and light on the way down
Had booked into Hotel des Alpes by the railway station in Airolo. Favourite haunt of cyclists from the look of it with a big BMC cycle group staying as well as some smaller groups. After showers, washing out our kit and hanging it out the window to dry we headed downstairs to the terrace for a well earned a beer before heading down to a pizza bar next door. Cream crackered and slept well.
What an outstanding day, one to cherish for a long time. Click play to see the slide show and also the video of our ride below
Link to detailed route page and map click on route title