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Bike & Hike Gran Paradiso

Cracking a four-thousander, that has always been my big dream. For a pro ski mountaineer that should be quite doable. Still, when I was asked a few years ago what my big dream was, as a part of Dynafit’s Mountopia campaign, I wasn’t really so experienced in the mountains. In recent years, however, I have been able to experience a few mountain adventures. Thus, now cracking the 4,000-meter mark seemed more than realistic. So I searched out on the Internet for what was supposed to be an easy four-thousander. Nevertheless, this still had to be a real challenge! So I decided to “bike & hike” from my hometown in Schladming (Austria) to Aosta (Italy) and then continue up to the summit of Gran Paradiso. My dad was immediately quite excited about my project. It didn’t take a lot of mulling for him to be in on the idea. So, together, we soon headed out.

TOUR | 31.07.2017 | Johanna Erhart

At the end of July 2017, we started out from Schladming toward Aosta. The coming days were to bring super weather, amazing passes, incredible landscapes and, in particularly, a lot of fun as a duo.

Chock full of cockiness

On the first stage from Schladming to Gerlos I was of course highly motivated. Carefree, I pedaled along on my bike that was showing its age by now. I also had forgotten about my panniers that hung to the left and right of my rear tire. The first long climb up the Gerlos Pass already did me in from the unaccustomed weight on the bike -- so much so that a few times I had to stand up on the pedals and stomp. Of course, I had not counted on the fact that I’d feel this in this way. On the way to the first stage destination, I thus didn’t really know how I was to get all the way to Aosta. Just like the good old days, my dad gave me a push the last few meters up to the top of the pass. I felt like I was 12 again. Completely freezing from the first stage of 160K with its 2,000 meters of climbing, we sought some lodging in Gerlos for the first night.

Crowning stage

The next day we headed downward into the Ziller Valley and along mostly flat roads to Innsbruck to our next day’s destination in Landeck. This day served as recovery and it was quite important for me. Because, on the following day, the next pass was awaiting us. The third stage led us through Scuol, the incredibly beautiful Flüela Pass to Davos and then onward to Tiefencastel. Finally, on the third day, I began to feel quite comfortable on my bike. Plus, I didn’t sense the panniers much anymore. We made good progress and I knew that we’d arrive one day too early in Aosta. So, after arriving at the Oberalp Pass, we decided to spend an additional day in Andermatt. Once in Andermatt, behind us were 580 kilometers and 6,800 meters of climbing. From there we rode another lap on the next day. Crossing the Susten, Grimsel and Furka passes meant we had now experienced three real classics in the Swiss Alps. This was without a doubt the most beautiful stages and, at the same time, our crowning glory with 120K and 3,300 meters of climbing.

 
From Andermatt the next day, we headed over Gotthard and Nufen Pass to Visp. Our last stage also took us through Martigny and over the Great St. Bernhard Pass to Aosta. Totally exhausted but very happy, we arrived in Aosta after seven days. The weather forecast was good and so we now knew that nothing should stand in the way of a summit success on the Gran Paradiso. I felt really fit and prepared for my first four-thousander. I was already wondering how I do with the altitude.

At a good clip to the summit

On summit day, I started out at 4 a.m. with our mountain guide Philipp Schädler toward the Chabod Hut, a small refuge hut at 2,800 meters above sea level. I was of course very motivated and was as excited as a small child. My dad had already headed up to the hut the day before and waited for us there. After a small breakfast there, we continued onward at about 6 a.m. toward the summit. In front of us we already saw a few lights that disappeared slowly as the sun rose higher. We made good progress and had to strap on crampons quite soon. With our three-person rope team, everything went like a breeze, and I just couldn’t stop marveling at it all. Although our pace to me felt slow, it was still significantly faster than the other teams.

We moved higher and higher and the summit got closer and closer. On the ridge at the top it was relatively windy, so it was still pretty cool despite the bright sunshine. After a short via ferrata section, we reached the summit, and it felt soooooo good! I managed the altitude wonderfully and knew at this very moment that I wanted to stand atop another high mountain again soon. And with that I successfully completed my Mountopia. Descending over a few crevasses proceeded without any problems. Once at the hut, we spend a pleasant afternoon together.


In summary: By bike, we covered approximately 1,000K and about 15,000 meters of climbing. Up to the summit on skis and on foot we ticked off another 2,300 meters of vert. I must really say: “That was a really cool and challenging experience. Indeed, not only achieving my Mountopia made it so wonderful, but also sharing the time with my dear dad.”

 
Stages:

  1. Schladming – Gerlos
  2. Gerlos – Landeck
  3. Landeck – Scuol – Flüelapass – Davos – Tiefencastle
  4. Tiefencastle – Andermatt
  5. Andermatt – Sustenpass – Grimselpass – Furkapass – Andermatt
  6. Andermatt – Gotthard – Nufenenpass – Visp
  7. Visp – Martigny – Großer Sankt Bernhard – Aosta

Bike & Hike Gran Paradiso