Austria: Day Four – Wildkogel

24 08 2008

Another scorching day was on the cards but with forecasters also predicting thunderstorms late afternoon we had to see how the day panned out and get cracking.  Wildkogel (pron. Vildkogel) was about 45 mins drive away and with Andrea’s trailer being nicked  the other day it was very handy Ollie & Sally had their car and agreed to get us about (big thanks guys).

After discussions with Andrea about my knee I decided to take the cable car assisted option to get up the mountain, I didn’t want to slow everyone up and I didn’t want to ruin the technical decent on offer by making a silly mistake due to fatigue and split my knee open again.  So Andrea and I rushed to get the last cable car before it shut for lunch (just in the nick of time) and headed toward our 3 1/2 hr wait at the top.  At the obligatory restaurant and views to die for of course !

For the rest it was a killer climb but they had fresh legs and were keen.  Fireroad all the way with little shade in blazing sun, it was going to be tough.  1200mtrs over 12kms.  Spinning their way up, taking photos and having a laugh as they went.  Stopping halfway at a little waterfall saw Rick taking a refreshing head dunk.

As predicted, 3 1/2hrs later they were in view, rounding the corner and waving at me so I knew they had some strength left for the promised fun to come.   First though, food !  More Austrian novelty pans were presented with various energy-boosting foodstuffs.  All delicious.  The view from here was unbelievable with a panorama of snowpeaked mountains in uninterruped skies.  Would we get our thunderstorm ?  Didn’t look like it to me but apparently the weather round here can turn on a sixpence.

I’d now had 4 1/2 hrs to build up the highest level of nervousness I think I’ve ever had about a decent.  I was actually quite freaked out about what was to follow, it had been graded 4 out of 5.  I was worried about my knee / crashing and was feeling quite queer and shakey.  I’m at the back, no arguments.  Donna was feeling similar to me so we agreed to take our time and find our decending legs.   Everyone went.  Matus first, Rick about 6″ off his back wheel, Andrea shouting…”give space” but being ignored (naughty boy !), then it was our turn…

The trail looked beautiful, a sinewy thread disappearing into the distance with the backdrop of those snowpeaked mountains, no time to look at the view now though, there was riding to be done so.   The trail looked smooth from a distance but it was peppered with rocks and steps and a few rocky outcrop humps to get over, Donna and I achieved it all but both struggled up the first sharp climb.  Nerves getting in the way of correct gear changes and climbing technique.  We stopped, drew a sharp intake of breath and watched our hands tremble.  Bloody hell I was nervous.  I knew though that I needed to go, to get a clear view of what was ahead so we agreed to swop places, Andrea sweeping the rear and shouting encouragement.

The trail was lovely once I got going, loose, dusty, rocky, and steep with switchbacks a plenty.  I was shouting my recent skills day info out loud to get round the tight righthanders, so far so good.  I could feel the nerves leaving me, I was reading and riding the trail and it felt good.  As we started loosing height the trail make up started to change, as we hit the tree line the inevitable roots started appearing too.  Scattering everywhere you just had to let your bike go and find its own line, it’s a long way down if it didn’t.  All safe and sound we’d naturally stopped by a gate and I was whooping with joy.  Now shaking from the adrenaline of the trail and just so glad I could ride it.  I wanted more, and more there was to come.

Through the gate and down the rocky, rooty chute still steep but with the odd rocky outcrop thrown in to.  Sally was in front and before I knew it we were both taking the same line over the rocks, squeals of surprise coming from us both as the drop off the other side showed itself.  Bigger than anything I’ve ridden before, but we both made it laughing our heads we’d made it.  The decent just seemed to be going on forever, brakes sizzling, meandering underneath the cable car as we went.  More rocks, switchbacks, berms, roots what a ride.  We split into two groups and head onward down the hill, Andrea & Matus giving appropriate warnings or stopping at anything too dodgy.   Er, like 8″ pieces of metal wire sticking out the trail from the cable car strutts, tyre slicing.

We carried on, walkers getting out the way for us (this was a legal shared trail) as we plummeted downhill.  Next section we’d been told was very steep and very narrow and in a rutt.  OK, we’d take it easy.  It was a bum right off the back job and my Maverick Speedball was coming into its own, the hardest part of the trail was getting the front wheel over the deep water gullys that peppered the trail, it was so steep and just begging to spit you over the bars.  Next thing, CRASH, Sally’s taken a fall, over the bars.  Winded but OK she picked herself up, not quite sure what happened but in one piece.  Almost back as well but a lovely purple bruise was quickly forming as a badge of honour as we sat eating ice creams in the sunshine back in the valley.

What a ride, what a day, I wanted to go right back and give it another go.  It wasn’t to be though because of time, so we sat about in holiday mode buzzing from the run we’d just had and the thunderstorm that never was.  Singletrack magazine were out with ‘Over the Edge’ a few weeks ago and this is one of the the trails they took them on.  Can’t wait to see what they thought of it… tomorrow, Saalbach.  Lisa




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