On one of those rainy days, when the bike is lazying around in garage I remember one of the best and one of the muddiest weekends this summer – the Saalbach-Hinterglemm ride!
I am Lithuanian. That said I mean I am not that kind of guy who plans something in advance. Usually I expect that in the middle of summer the best and the cheapest hotel with the view to the sea will still have a room just for me. Well this summer I decided to make an exception and ordered a weekend bike ride in Saalbach quite in advance. One could think – finally someone got cleverer. Nope! A day before the trip when the deadline for payment had come I checked the weather forecast: Thursday to Saturday rain showers, just Sunday (the last day for biking) – cloudy. As a Lithuanian I would’ve just dropped the idea and spent a weekend doing something else at home where the weather, as Murphy’s Law suggests, had to be perfect all the weekend. But! There was one BUTT! It was Hermann’s butt that I agreed to take in my car with me that weekend. Damn – that completely ruined my plans of retreating and after Hermann called me a pussy (pretty good translation for “Hosenscheißer”) the thing was decided – we’re going.
Thursday: Since I was going to visit Mother Nature I have changed my tires from street ones to the middle class terrain ones the day before (Continental Gravity if somebody is interested). In the morning I looked at weather forecast and changed my mind – something in my head was whispering that I will not regret if I will put the fattest tires that I have “just in case”. And boy was that voice right ;)
After Hermann and I packed everything in the car and left I was already regretting that I drove with jeans instead of shorts, because it was sunny and hot. The further we went the worse weather got – rain started, instead of conditioning I thought that a blanket would be nice. One of those times when I have wished that those “so called” scientists who tell the weather would be wrong – they were absolutely correct – we were about to spend a weekend in the part of Austria where the weather was predictably rainy :) After we have reached the “Naturfreunde” Hotel we met other 17 mountain biking enthusiasts (I am not sure about the correctness of this number – our biking guide seemed to have a problem with numbers bigger than the count of the fingers on both of his hands). We got to know each other at the dinner table and with hopes for a good weather tomorrow went to sleep. The “good night” started at 10 PM. I knew I had problems sleeping in new places, but I didn’t expect I will be up till midnight. After midnight Hermann turned his “snore” mode on – from that moment on I gave up hope to sleep at all. Speaking with him, “hmmmm”ing didn’t help.. At 2 AM I decided to sleep on the floor – thought to blame the softness of the bed for my sleepless night and somehow I managed to sleep till 4 AM. The snoring woke me up. At 5:30 AM I gave the priority 1 for sleep (instead of pride) and moved my stuff to the bathroom.
The floor was small somehow (maybe it was not intended for sleeping?), but I made it! I fell asleep and dreamt something – without joking I dreamt that Hermann needed to go to the toilet and could not get in, because my legs were blocking the door.. woke up.. was about 7 AM.. Rise and shine – neither me, nor the sun wanted to rise or shine that day. The muddy Friday had just begun…
Friday: Hotel breakfast 7:45. Will not tell what I eat – who cares, just to mention – wherever I go I eat the same, so God forbid – if there would be no fresh cooked eggs my day would be ruined :D
At 9 AM we moved towards the “zwölfer” cable car, went up till the middle station, drove down to the middle of nowhere and started pedaling uphill. And it’s not that I don’t like climbing, but from that point on till the end of the weekend one question spun in my head – since we had a JokerCard (free use of every cable car in the region for all the weekend) then why shouldn’t we use it all the time in order to try as many trails as possible? Well it remained a mystery – we only used it twice.. I guess guides wanted to get back in shape and use their muscles :)
Anyway – after some uphill we reached the famous “Hacklbergtrail” where Hermann crashed earlier this year. Oh that was something that I was dreaming of. It was something completely different than the trails in Sarenthein – no hikers (it’s forbidden to hike on this trail), full speed, incredible flow, sharp curves, many possibilities for little and bigger jumps, etc. Even though I am a “Hosenscheißer” when it comes to going down the hill, there still where some people that I had to overtake – after this trail I understood that it is the best to jump in the trail first :)
That was not the end – after the “Hacklbergtrail” there was a “Hacklbergtrail” PART2. No joke :) Not all of us decided to try this one, it was much more technical and the terrain was completely wet. That’s where my tires paid off and then for the first time I said – I would kiss them if they would be clean :) The track was difficult for my abilities – lots of drifty corners, wooden berms, etc. For a person who has never driven on this kind of trail that all together was a fascination. I was wondering how fast one can get when he is good on it, how close does biking gets to dancing with your bike.. Yeah I really enjoyed the two thirds of the track – the mud was on its limits, I still could feel the grip on my Nobby Nic and Fat Albert. The last third was already too much – a lot of people could not control their bikes anymore – the wheels where simply sliding in any direction. Totally dirty, but happy we finished the trail. It felt like our trip lasted all day, but it was only 3 PM. We washed our bikes, took a shower and went for a drink to the city.
Saalbach surprised us – even though weather forecast promised rain, it didn’t happen. Until the moment we sat at the café under the roof and heaters over our heads… We were relaxing when all the water broke loose – downhillers were passing by getting a free shower they really needed :)
At the dinner table we all discussed day’s experiences – dirt, crashes, scratches.. The new topic was started – what measures should I take in order to sleep TONIGHT. Some proposed to sleep in the corridor, some proposed to put Hermann in the toilet, some suggested ear plugs, a pillow to cover Hermann’s mouth and finally to drink a lot beer in order to fall asleep easier. The downside of this plan was that in case of too big quantity of beer I could fall asleep sitting on the toilet, which would worsen the condition in comparison of the night before :) Took the risk – went for a beer. Slept like a baby, most probably not because of the beer, but because Hermann didn’t snore. He sacrificed himself and slept on the belly. Woke up on 4:30 and heard….NOTHING! Alarm rang at 7:30 AM – rainy day has started.
Saturday: …it didn’t look good. We all were sitting at the breakfast table and counting the temperature slowly climbing 4,2°…4,3°… The decision was made – we depart at 11 AM if the weather gets better. Those who had experience with the main guide knew that he was „no rain guide“ and yeah – they were right – at 11 Wolfgang said we should wait till 12, because at the time some raindrops were still falling. Four of us decided to take action. We departed and, well, what do you think – no risk – no fun – rain stopped after 5 minutes and we had great time together. When we came back we learned that more people went biking, the guide of course did not :D
After the biking I went to the sauna where I found Hermann (also “no rain biker” ;) enjoying the heat. Still for me the day felt somehow not totally used. I decided to make another trip. Two enthusiasts and me made some 5 kilometers before it started pouring. We came totally wet and cold, but damn it was fun :)
Evening came and everybody shared their experiences, some told about their luck picking mushrooms instead of biking, others about going to the spa, sitting in sauna, visiting relatives (duh?!), etc. We had some beer, some more beer, some schnaps, some wine (in that order if I remember correctly). That was it for me :) but others seemed to have another plan for the night…oooohh, they regretted that plan the next morning…
Sunday: Goooood morning Hinterglemm!!! First day when we could finally use the sun creams that our wives put for us :)
Everybody was motivated and ready to „push the tempo” in this weather. We all moved towards Saalbach to take the cable car to the Kohlmais. Of course as on Friday also today we were not lazy asses – we took the cable car only till the middle station, after which the decision was made to use the „human-powered transport“ to reach the top. Couldn’t say the climb was exhausting, what actually took the breath were the views – the sun revealed the beauty of green valleys, old styled houses, magnificent mountains, which for me looked like wonderful desktop wallpaper – so unreal.
After we reached the top – the descent waited for us. Will not explain curve after curve, but I really liked it – single trail with ups and downs, not too muddy, not too dry. The only one who seemed to like this trail as well was Hermann – others thought it was too exhausting. Afterwards we made some more uphills, I almost crashed into a sheep which decided to cross the road exactly at the moment when I was going down full speed. There were plenty of moments were I repeated to myself that I love my tires. After the last pause at Schönleitenhütte we started our last descent.
It’s just my opinion, but the trail’s choice after Schönleitenhütte was the guide’s fiasco. For me it was ok – I had grip – but others had a hard time passing that wicked forest. It was a maze of wet and slippery roots, covered with dirt. The ground was partially washed away and to get a good grip in order to move forward was really not an easy task. I was pushing the pedals, only with speed I could move safely, in my thoughts I was with those left behind, with those who had asphalt tires and wished they’d had “Muddy Marry”.. When the big majority of the group finished this difficult trail, we decided to wait for the ones which were left behind. Nobody came. We knew they were alright because the second guide was with them, so we moved forward towards the “Milka Line”. After fun freeride trail we saw the other part of the group coming down the mountain. The group was whole again. Some decided to stay for lunch, some to go to the hotel on the easy way and some (including me) decided that we will DEFINITELY do the “Milka Line”! “Milka Line” is beginner-friendly 2,9 km long freeride trail. Good that they wrote “beginner-friendly”, because I don’t even want to know how the “expert-friendly” trail looks like! There were no violet cows or milk rivers on the trail – by the color, the look and the “consistency” it should’ve been called “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” :D Cutting the bullshit – no matter how you call it – it is a joy! I will not spoil it with my vocabulary and inadequate explanations – you have to trust my word and try it!
The weekend was over.. We shook hands with our companions – the “Naturfreunde” who became also our friends even if only for a weekend.. On the way home I was enjoying the views.. Austria’s beauty mesmerized me..