Austria Day 7, The Hundstein

28 08 2008

Thursday saw us rising early for a 9am start with Matus.  Our daily weather check (standing on the chalet balcony) showed that the Kitzsteinhorn was hidden behind low cloud and it was noticeably cooler than the previous few days.  Although the view was less impressive than earlier in the week, the cooler weather was welcome as we had a 1350 metre climb up the Hundstein, topping out at the obligatory restaurant at 2117m.  (Seeing as there is no gondola up the mountain I doubled checked with Matus that there was definately somewhere to eat at the top!)

We dragged the bikes out and hurriedly checked them over, having put them away after Tuesdays descent at Saalbach-Hinterglemm without so much as a hint of TLC…or doing any maintenance on our rest day as suggested by Andrea!  Luckily all was OK, Sallys front brake repair from the first day (zip ties and a brass washer securing a broken bar clamp) was still holding up, so all that was needed was a brake pad wear check and a splash of lube.  We shouted our goodbyes to Lisa (hanging from her bedroom window) who had sensibly opted to listen to her knee and not overdo the climbing, opting for a low level ride instead with Andrea.

We set off through Kaprun, reminding each other to ride on the right as usual, and then onto the cycle paths along the valley bottom until we reached the bottom of our ascent.  Todays route was a little different from the earlier climbs, with a variety of trails taking in smooth tarmac, compacted gravel, loose rock, hard packed dirt, wooded shady sections, then finally a rocky singletrack climb up to the final peak and all-important lunch stop.  On the way up the sun found its way through and the temperature increased quickly, as usual we were hunting out every bit of shade and Rick and I stopped at a couple of springs to cool down.  Later we found fantastic views of Zell-am-See and the lake where we hired the BBQ Donut the evening before, and noticed the top of the Kitzsteinhorn poking out from the clouds.  The gradient here levelled off for a short while which helped break up the climbing and allowed us into the middle ring for a short while.  But there was a sting in the tail…

This last singletrack section included a 50m technical section that Matus had told us was unrideable.  As I hadn’t walked any uphill section all week I kept quiet and concentrated on pacing myself up the singletrack and keep my heart rate low so I had enough in reserve for whatever was about to rear its ugly head.  Rick and I could also feel the effects the altitude was having on our breathing, which was heavier than normal.  The trail was quite steep and I quickly decided it was pointless (i.e. painful) to try and clean the climb, so we stopped regularly to catch our breath.  On one of these stops, Rick decided to cool down with water from a mountain spring…which was running from a pipe below a concrete hut, some way below the restaurant.  Rick started to consider if it was safe…coming to the conclusion that there was a chance it might NOT be effluent overflow.  Needless to say, I gave it a miss and started considering the trail ahead, which looked decidedly sketchy.

It was steep, the surface being lumpy bedrock with a liberal scattering of loose gravel, stones and rocks, with a significant drop to the valley on the left hand side.  Matus had dropped behind to help some other riders repair a puncture so I set off, managing to get about 1/3rd of the way up before losing my line and having to stop.  Setting off again took four or five attempts, trackstanding on the bike and trying not to slide backwards.  Once I got going I managed to keep going to the top of the section, very pleased but too knackered to go back and try to do it in one.  Obviously Rick had a go as well and got about a 3rd of the way up.  Matus then tried, having never succeeded before.  Needless to say, he cleaned it on the first attempt.  On a hardtail.  With 50PSI in his tyres.  Without breaking a sweat.  The only proof he was human was the grunt as he neared the top!

The summit was just another 5 minutes ride from here and when we arrived it was busy, we quickly bagged ourselves the only free table and set about deciphering the German menu.  The choice was limited, and we let Donna order first as she has a decent grasp of German.  The waitress then made a face and told her it wasn’t a good dish and to choose something else!  We reckon it was some sort of offal that she new us Brits wouldn’t like, either that or she doesn’t trust her chef!  The final order included some sort of burger with cheese in a clear soup, goulash soup and I went for the safe option, a cheese and ham platter that I’d seen on another table.  After we’d had our German pronounciation incorrectly (?!) corrected by the Chef, (he must have his own dialect) fended off and stroked the hungry dog and finished eating,  it got quieter and we moved round to Matus’s favourite table, with a near 360 degree view of the valleys and mountains around us.

Then the descent.  Donna opted for a fast fireroad descent, planning to meet us at the bottom, whilst the rest of us put our trust with Matus and followed him down the first section of exposed singletrack.  It started the way we’d come, down the technical section and then contouring around the valley with a particularly big drop to our right hand side.  Then through a gate that had an unfamiliar sign on it, a bicycle trapped inside a red circle.  Hmmmmm…we’re in for a good descent then 🙂  And it was, with fast, untamed and unpredictable singletrack, ruts, rocks, and part way down, a sketchy drop off with a horribly narrow and off camber run out that was only ridden by Rick and Matus.  On his 50PSI tyres.  Then we continued, myself having some sketchy moments when speed exceeded skill and I couldn’t keep to the trail.  My luck held even though I found some hidden lumps and bumps as I was forced to cut the sharper corners.  As we decended we dropped below the tree line and found ourselves on rooty wooded sections that seemed to go on for ever, here I found myself slowing to a stop on a technical section as I watched Sally ride into or bounce off every available rock and log, managing to clear the section and exiting by riding halfway up the bank on the left hand side!  The only interruptions were the enforced stops to give aching hands some relief from braking…even the walkers stood to one side for us and most of them smiled as we passed.

As always, we were at the bottom of the singletrack in no time at all, with muddy@rses from the last sodden section.   We passed a couple of dams that Rick and I suspected were rideable (not) and then had a high speed run down the valley on tarmac with tyres humming.  After a short break and meeting up with Donna, we resisted dropping in to the nearest cafe and instead rode back to Kaprun on the cycle paths to meet Lisa and Andrea, where we relented and stopped for drinks and ice cream.  Sally and I left the group here as we had no food for dinner and the supermarkets were about to shut, whilst the others rode a short way up the valley and descended on a technically challenging riverside trail.

Pics: http://sussexma.fpic.co.uk (note the days don’t match up with the blog as my day 1 was the first days guiding)

Ollie

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