By Björn & Steffen
Every year, in late September, when the nights are already getting chilly up in the mountains, the genial Murnau resident Ralph Nöth issues his invitation to the Karwendel-Wetterstein-Brevet – a wonderfully scenic gravel trail in the Bavarian and Tyrolean Alps, a bracing 3500 m high and 200 km long.
The course leads from Murnau, through the Murnauer Moos nature reserve, past Garmisch, around the Zugspitze massif and through the Wetterstein mountains, then onward by way of Mittenwald through the Karwendeltal valley and the Kleiner Ahornboden nature park, and back to Murnau.
Since the course was described as being rugged in parts and having coarse gravel, we decided against the PARALANE and instead opted for light MTB hardtails with correspondingly broader tyres, in order to guarantee the best possible puncture protection in the high Alpine regions.
Our RAVEN cross-country racing machine ought to be the perfect bike for the job. As we wanted to ride the course in two stages, for enjoyment and with an overnight stay, we packed our bikepacking bags and loaded them up before setting off for the Alps on the Autobahn.
We arrived in the evening in glorious mountain weather, built up our anticipation with some pasta and Weissbier, and retired to our guesthouse nice and early, as we were to be up with the lark the next morning.
At 6:30, in temperatures approaching freezing, we arrive at the starting line at the ‘VeloWelt’ in Murnau, where we are greeted with hot coffee and a light breakfast. At 7:30, it’s finally time to begin, and we ride off briskly in the morning sun as one big group.
After the first long climb between Garmisch and Ehrwald and a short rest at the Hochthörle Hütte cabin, at KM 70 we are faced with the long, steep ascent to the Ehrwalder Alm resort. The sun is blazing and sweat is dripping on the upper tubes, even though we have long since stripped down to shorts and jerseys.
After a long but swift descent on gravel through the Gaistal valley, we finally roll into Mittenwald's tranquil town centre, where we wash down the day’s dust with a cold beer in the warm afternoon sun.
The second day begins with an overcast ascent of the longest climb on the tour: 1000 m over nearly 20 km, partially on coarse gravel, up through the Karwendeltal valley to the Hochalmsattel pass.
We quickly settle into our rhythm and press onwards, and always upwards. Conversation dies off for the next 90 minutes – we need the ever-thinning air for other purposes.
At 1800 m, the bike’s computer tells us we are only 3 degrees above freezing, and we flee to the warmth of the lodge’s restaurant in our sweat-soaked jerseys.
After some hot soup in the Karwendelhaus lodge, we all have to pull on the warmer clothes we’ve brought along before setting out on the nearly endless descent down to the Kleiner Ahornboden. The rugged path demands concentration and riding skill, but repays our efforts when it comes to the descent, plastering a broad smile on every face.
In late afternoon, we all finally pull up in the VeloWelt’s inner courtyard, exhausted but happy.
The fastest participants had already reached the finishing line on the evening of the first day, having ridden the whole route without an overnight stop. The poor things – we enjoyed every second of our tour, and wouldn't have minded it lasting a lot longer.