The main event do today would be crossing the Sölk pass, a pass that would take us up to 1788m, if we made it. Yesterday’s pass had been quite difficult, but we mainly put that down to the heat. With clouds on the horizon there was hope yet that the difficulty of the upcoming pass wouldn’t be enhanced by the heat.
We had about 30km to ride before we arrived at the base of the pass and we covered that quickly, it was all on main road and quite flat – but still with great views of the surrounding mountains.
There were loads of bikers (motorbikes) at the base of the pass, having a coffee before the went over the mountain. I had a feeling their experience would be very different to ours. We were starting at 680, so we had 1100m vertical to do. The pass was 26 km long though, so it wasn’t going to be a steep climb the whole way.
After our gentle two hour journey up the valley, gradually and gently gaining altitude we crossed into the National Park area of the climb, where cows roamed around at will and the landscape felt a lot more wild, like the west of Ireland or Scotland, only up in the Alps.
Here the climbing got a bit harder and we really started to feel it. There was another kick that lasted about 1500m and we thought at the end of it we should be at the top. Pushing hard we got around the corner and…still 300m to climb of steep switchbacks.
It was lunchtime though so we cut the ascent in half and rolled into a hotel that happened to be right there that was serving hot lunch. As soon as we sat down there was a huge clap of thunder and big, heavy raindrops fell. We ate lunch (a great dish called Speknockrel) and started up again about an hour later, well rested and fed.
The rain was really coming down as we finished the last 300m but cleared up once we reached the top, and what a view. This was the biggest pass we would have to cross going over the Alps, it was really a relief to have it done now.
After getting to the top of the pass, the rest of the day felt rather uneventful. There was a great descent down the other side, but we couldn’t really enjoy it as the roads were all slick with rain and the switchbacks frequent and sharp.
We rode along for about an hour before reaching a town with an Aldi where we picked up food for dinner and the morning. From there we followed a river out of town along a cycle track until we spotted somewhere to camp, a nice clear field off the cycle path.
We stopped just in time as the thunder and lightening came in again, and with it the rain. This was the first rainstorm since we had bought the tarp we had been out in, so excitedly we set it up. And what a great purchase! Once it was up we had a huge area to sit under while the rain passed us over. We cooked dinner and then not long after, wrecked from the days ride, fell fast asleep.