2011-12-20

HPV summit attempt

We had the first week of real snow so Andrey and I set out for a snow shoe hike up the Fluebrig. To make it more interesting/challenging I decided to attempt an HPV (human powered vehicle) expedition. Thus we biked to the mountain and back. In my mind we'd have perfectly dry asphalt roads right up to the mountain where it would immediately turn into deep snow. Surprisingly that's not quite how it turned out. Starting at 5:30 in the morning we had about an inch of fresh snow already with more coming down. Since we were sticking to the back roads we were using them before the snow plows had a chance to come through. This proved quite challenging. We'd slip and slide, spend a lot of energy on otherwise easy ascents and fight with clogged and frozen gear shifts. Our water bottles turned to ice and we generally had a mighty good time ;-)

Arriving at the mountain we parked our bikes at the woodshed of a local who was feeding his rabbits and donned our snow shoes. This too, proved more exhausting than anticipated since the snow was very deep, very fluffy and we were the first to break a trail. Plowing our way through, sometimes up to our balls in the white stuff, we made it to the Fläschlihöchi at 1368m. It was at this point that we wisely decided to change our destination to a more modest peak. The original plan had us going up the Diethelm at 2092m. However, it was already too late in the day, we had expended too much energy and the required steep traverse looked too dangerous considering that the avalanche bulletin had issued a significant/severe warning level for the area. So we hiked a long and quite beautiful ridge to the Rosenhöchi at 1507m instead.

Back down and on our bikes we started to ride back. This proved to be by far the most dangerous part of the trip. There was some kind of rush hour going on from people driving home from skiing trips. Motorists don't seem to fully appreciate how fragile a bicycle (or car for that matter) handles on frozen roads when you only have very few square inches of contact with the ground. Even 20km/h on a downhill ride are breakneck speeds when every little ditch or crack in the road will throw you without so much as a split second warning. I could hardly see anything, my glasses and puny bicycle lamp being baked with snow, being alternately blinded by oncoming traffic followed by complete darkness. Brakes nearly useless because of wet rims and fingers frozen too stiff to use them effectively anyways. Yet cars would pass so close I could touch them by simply lifting my pinky from the handle bar. Reckless fuckers showered us in slush too.

Coming home I was completely exhausted. Sitting on the warm cozy nice and soft naked concrete floor of my basement, getting out of my gators and hiking boots, it required a conscious effort not to fall asleep right then and there. Instead I had a hot bath and dropped into bed. Slept from 9 to 9, only getting up briefly at 2 in the morning to have some food ;-) Andrey actually spent Monday at home for rejuvenation. I went to work and to the climbing gym afterwards.

In total we traveled from 5:30 to 19:45, cycling more than 90km covering 800m elevation up and down. Another 10km and 700m elevation gain in snow shoes served as dessert.

Great adventure, great fun! Props to Andrey for being a strong and cool companion.

All photos here.