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September 27, 2022

Kait & Kurt Pedal the Alps

Posted by in Adventures Ambassadors

If you haven’t been following along with the adventures of Kait Boyle and Kurt Refsnider you are missing out on some seriously incredible and inspiring journeys. Their latest trek took them way up into the Alps where they created 5 different rides exploring a few different regions of the Alps with the intent of linking as many high quality trails together as they could.

The Full Trip Stats:

~450 miles pedaled over the 4 trips and 3 weeks
Climbed 76,500′
Descended 129,000′ (!!!)
Gained 60,000 via lifts, gondolas, and trains

Check out the full trip itineraries below (as well as some seriously jaw dropping images!)

 

Alps trip summary

Eight years after riding a self-designed 800-mile point-to-point mostly singletrack route through the Alps from Nice to Zurich, we envisioned returning to the Alps and approaching bikepacking in more of an Alps-style. In 2014, we rode entirely self-supported, camped out 6 out of 7 days of the week for 4 weeks, cooked the vast majority of our own meals, and rode hardtails with 100mm forks and rigid seatposts. Despite the sheer challenge of the ride (30 passes and 200,000 feet of climbing!), the Alps remained in our minds as a destination for world-class big mountain riding with ample opportunity for multi-day routes facilitated by the massive network of trails and the fact that bikes are allowed on nearly all of them. 

Now, older, stronger, and wiser, we returned with the goal of riding as much incredible trail as we could handle, and our routes and travel style would be built to meet that goal. We identified four different locations to ride 3-5 day routes, and planned to use the robust public transit system to transfer between regions. Additionally, the culturally significant system of rifugios, or mountain huts, allow for riding with less camping gear and food. Lastly, the extensive infrastructure of trams, gondolas, and lifts that support the winter recreation economy offered opportunities for us to save a lot of time and energy otherwise spent on 4,000-6,000’ climbs. Oh, and we took Pivot Trail 429 full-sus trail rigs, the best-suited bike for this kind of a trip. 

So, the vision was to link high-quality trails together to explore a few different regions of the Alps, relying primarily on rifugios for shelter and meals and the cable-car infrastructure to bypass massive climbs, thus allowing us to ride farther and on more trail with more energy each day. And that’s precisely what we did, and it was amazing. =)

 

 

Ride 1: The Stelvio Route

We called it the Stelvio Route as it is mostly within Stelvio National Park, the oldest national park in Italy. 

  • Start: Livigno, Italy
  • End: Mustair, Switzerland
  • We rode primarily on the Italian side of the Italian/Swiss border. 
  • Highlights: Riding off Bormio 3000, down a 5,500’ trail descent. 
    • Rifugio Branca – a mountain hut at the base of a glacier. 
    • Piz Umbrail peak and descent – Via ferrata hike-a-bike was required but worth it. 
    • An unexpected meal at an unexpected hut. The meal was five-stars, somehow we stumbled upon a chef catering out of an alp (residence/barn where cows are taken in the summer to graze and be milked at high elevation). 
    • 45,000 feet elevation gained (27,000′ pedaled by our own power/18,000′ elevated by gondola/tram/shuttle)
    • 48,000 feet elevation lost, all by the power of our brakes.

 

Ride 2: The Davos Loop

  • Start & End: Zernez, Switzerland. 
  • From Zernez we rode trail to Davos then to Aosa, to Lenzerheide, and back to Davos then Zernez, in a bit of an “8” shape.
    • Highlights: Trail from Davos to Arosa. 
    • The more “sidecountry” trails off the back side of Lenzerheide Bike Kingdom. 
    • Surviving 2” of rain in one day. 
    • 90 miles
    • 19,300′ of gain pedaled
    • 10,000′ of gain via 2 trams and 1 funicular train
    • 29,000′ of descending 😁

 

Ride 3: The Engelberg Loop

We changed plans and rather go to Chamonix, we pivoted and met photographer Fred Marmsater in Engelberg, Switzerland. The massive UTMB trail running race week inspired the change, as everyone we spoke to recommended avoiding the Mont Blanc area during that week. Instead we met to ride a few days in the Urner Alps, from Engleberg. 

  • Start and end in Engelberg, Switzerland
  • Highlights:
    • Staying at an operating alp, sleeping literally above the cows. 
    • The descent off Surrenpass. Although the region had less riding than anywhere else we went, this was the best descent of the entire trip!
    • Staying at a Swiss Mountain Hut. It actually wasn’t great sleep, but was a fascinating cultural experience. 
    • The mountains around there are enormous. 
    • Climbed 12,500′
    • Descended 27,100′
    • Help w/ 14,000′ via gondolas and a train

 

Ride 4: The Aosta Ride

Riding in Aosta may have been the most anticipated for me and Kurt. We had heard it was amazing but had a hard time finding much of any beta, which only increased the allure. 

  • Start: Aosta, Italy
  • End: Cogne, Italy
  • Highlights:
    • A spontaneous lunch at Rifugio Chiligne, inspired to get out of the rain but proved to be the best meal of the trip. 
    • Rifugio Fallere was bizarre and fun. 
    • The ridge riding around Fallere. 
    • Bivying in a tiny bivacco shelter on the narrow Pila Ridge. 
    • Seeing an Ibex!
    • A really fun day ride on our last day. 
    • Climbed 18,000
    • Descended 24,500
    • Help w/ 9,000 via lifts and a shuttle

In the end, we rode a lot of trail. It’s hard to wrap our heads around it, but every day had at least one incredible descent, massive views, a hard climb, fun experiences with the people, and delicious food and drinks. We moved every day, and by the end of it our minds were as tired (or more) as our bodies from processing technical trail, navigating language and culture, route planning, and travel logistics and decision making. In just 3 weeks we rode a life-time of world-class alpine trails, and are so grateful for the experience to do so in a way that immersed us in the mountain culture of the Alps. 

 Want to know what Kait & Kurt packed for their trip and the rigs they brought? Check out the video below!