Val Mora, Switzerland

Winter has finally arrived in cow country. The south eastern part still lacks the regular snow thickness, but the temperatures are right. Here’s a trip report of me trying to cover some ground on my fat bike in the mountains.

I wasn’t prepared for this… the post bus left without me and my loaded fat bike at the station in Zernez. A long climb up to the Ofenpass awaits me. How I hate riding on the road. I call my girlfriend to moan and shortly after leave the valley in a state of slight anger mixed with stubbornness. Thankfully the road soon is covered with snow and the expensive tires stop rubbing away on that stupid tarmac.

Practically no traffic makes things easier. Those driving over the pass are sneaking along, not much faster than I am, so that’s good.

I sneak though the Swiss National Park (no bother, it’s aloud to ride in there – on the road)

After some 20 km mostly gradually climbing I follow some snow shoe tracks into a forest to find a spot (outside the National Park) to sleep.

Only as I put on some dry clothing and don the damp stuff over the dry, I realise how cold it really is. It takes only a few seconds for my damp clothing to get stiff.

This time I’ve got my winter bag with me. 100 quid in Kathmandu, 1000 g of down (Nepali Super Down he said :wink: ) in a modded 1500 g package. My first bike pack with this warm baby.

The temperature in the morning, right next to me, in my small bivy is -19 °C. I feel the temperature difference to the outside of my bivy, but the display of my Suunto goes. Usually it holds up to -24 °C.

Time for porridge…

After breakfast and packing I head back in my tracks and can ride with what I struggled on the way up. The conditions are fantastic!

Hhhmmm… some solid wind higher up.

Riding up to an alp I can’t stop grinning. Conditions are truly perfect. Just the right amount and type of snow for fat bike fun.

I know this area really well and am looking forward to getting higher up.

Overtaking ski tourers on a fat bike – a rather strange thing, but nearly all had a good laugh and were interested. I had some short but good chats.

Higher up the wind grew stronger and wearing only four thin layers I had to keep moving. My toes got numb.

The snow was very inhomogeneous, often heavily crusted (wind packed) and floatable then suddenly, with out a warning soft pockets. On and off the bike – I wasn’t too bothered – the place is just too magic.

From the north east a flow bringing more wind and as it looks also some snow is closing in. Soon everything will be in milk.

Finally I get to the highest point of the Jufplaun. At the beginning, during planning I had the idea to drop down into the Val Mora, but being out and seeing the amount of snow I knew it’d be stupid to do it. It’s like a trap as you have to descend into the valley, but then climb out of it again on the other side…

Well, at least I should have a look into the valley…

I assess the avalanche risk, here on the descent into the valley, but also higher up, on the gullies that hang above the valley.
I look back, into the wind, from where I came. I peer into the valley stretching out in front of me, luring… hmmm… It’s still early and I promised a phone call at eight in the evening. I know I can do it, but will it be rideable, or a plain struggle?

Bugger that, let’s go and find out.

Super fun descent.

I get thrown off a couple of times enjoying a super soft landing in snow. Very classic over the bars action.

The trail evens out a bit, the snow turns more homogeneous and I pick up some good speed. This is great – I’ll be flying through the valley.

Flying through a stunning valley.

After the “Alp Mora” I come to an abrupt stop. No more flying…

The climb out of the valley starts. It’s only a wee 200 m on 7 or 8 km distance, but the snow has changed completely into very loose grainy structure. Snow will remodel into this rubbish when it lies in shady cold places with higher humididy (stream, lake etc.). I should have foreseen it, but didn’t. And then ontop of that, there’s also more snow than I anticipated.

It’s a solid 1 3/4 h of hike a bike. Not too long yet probably the toughest HAB I ever did. My mind comes up with ideas how to pack the bar bag onto my back and I already think of a 100 g backpack of Chikara Nylon. This keeps my mind busy as I push the damn bike and my bloody self out of the valley. Visibility drops, wind picks up, snow falls. Enter type two fun :roll:

It just won’t stop.

And yet… finally I can point my damn-turned-into-great bike downhill.

The conditions are just about rideable and keep me on my toes. My toes… all that pushing brought back sensation. But now – with the wind it’s my fingers that are getting numb.

There’s a fantastic hiking path on the right hand side of the double track, but knowing what can happen to it after late autumn (a stream always overflows on the path when icing up) I stick to the road.

Super fun, lots of space to lay it down and give it a solid drifting. It’s so funny with those tires.

The warmest temperature I measured today was -12 °C.

Further down tracks make riding faster and drifting easier.

Between the left icefall in the front and the right hand icefalls in the back runs one of the best descents I know. From 3033 m down to 1250 m. All on stupid fun single tracks. Usually I can’t hold myself back when I see or know of a single track; I immediately leave the wider track for the narrower one. This time it’s very easy to stick to the smalll road. Leasurely I roll along as the snow layer gets thinner and thinner.

Finally, Valchava in the Val Müstair.

Once again I feel tired and knackered, or as my uncle and I used to say, pleasantly exhausted and yet really glad about this perticular amount of nosiness and cheekiness to go over such ground with a bike.
This was such a highlight, I don’t feel like doing more. I just want to go home and relax. Of course there’s a post bus that could take me back over the Ofenpass to Zernez, but like I wrote at the beginning, they don’t always transport circus cycles…

The following days see me with some serious muscle ache around my chest from all that HAB ploughing. I guess that’s nothing but a decent souvenir.

Author: Gian Leisch

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