I woke everyone up around 6:00am, and we rode off to the Zurich HQ to drop off lugguage we didn't need, and then to the train station to buy train tickets for Sarnen (27 CHF + bike fare). The train ride was pleasant and typically fast, with a switch in Luzern. From Sarnen train station we quickly found the side road towards Flueli-Ranft, and immediately started climbing under the cool shade of roadside trees. The road went up at a pretty good grade, but we were enthusiastic at being on our bikes and quickly rode to Ranft, where we couldn't find the path to Melchtal but a local cyclist pointed the sign (which had been obscured by several tourist buses and a gaggle of tourists) out to us.
The day had quickly warmed up (or perhaps it was the grade), and we filled up our waterbottles at a public restroom and proceeded along the sign. The narrow road quickly became a path with a gentle grade and beautiful trees providing shade from the sun. The sound of rushing water was nearby, and gaps in the woods provided us with glimpses of the valley below. The path went over a covered bridge and joined the main road for a short section to Stockalp, where car traffic was required to obey timed traffic rules, one hour uphill and one hour downhill. We arrived just as the road switched from downhill to uphill, and after waiting for the auto traffic queued up to move out of the way, proceeded up the steep climb. Here we broke up into groups, with my brother leading the charge, with me and Mike behind.
The road was barely narrow enough for a car to pass a cycle side by side, but fortunately swiss drivers were quite competent and gave us as much room as possible. As the road gained altitude, the mountains appeared nearer and nearer. After some time, I started seeing downhill traffic, indicating that we had been climbing for more than an hour, and shortly after that arrived at the town of Frutt. At Frutt, we organized ourselves and bought a grocery store lunch, bread, cheese, meat, and potato chips, all of which tasted very good. The sun was warm but whenever the wind blew up the hill we were chilled, so I put on arm and leg warmers and a jackets.
After lunch, we rode on up to the Melchsee, pictures of which had been sent back from a prior scouting trip by Stefan Burkhardt, our friend in Zurich. It was those pictures which led to us choosing this route, and the pictures did not do the beauty of the area justice. With a gentle tailwind and the uphill, we quickly warmed again, and took off the layers we had just put on.
At Tannalp, there was a sign to Englestalp in agreement with a photocopy of a topo map Stefan had given me, but we got quickly turned around on the trail and went the wrong way. We had not gone more than a kilometer or so before some hikers told us we were on the wrong trail, however, and the hiking and bike pushing began in earnest once we'd found the right trail.
The surrounds was beautiful, and I can see why Jobst chose to start his tour in this fashion every year. The hiking trail was barely manageable (and too hard for me to consider riding, though I might change my mind if I had a mountain bike). We traversed several interesting obstacles, including an electrical cattle fence, a turnstile, and I am glad we did so in this direction since pushing the bike downhill was enough of a chore, and going up with a loaded bike would have been a pain.
Near Englestalp, the trail became ridable again and I finished the last km or so with style. Once in Englestalp, we regrouped and descended the Gental with few incidents (other than a calf wandering onto the road) and met up with the Susten highway. A misleading bike sign pointed us towards a mountain bike path to Inertkirchen, but after asking a local man we turned around and descended along the road. From Innertkirchen, we rode up the three hairpins of the Kirchet, and stopped at the Lammi Restaurant for ice-cream.
Thus recharged, we immediately went up the steep road towards Rosenlaui. It being a Sunday there was no question that we would stay there instead of Zwirgi. In the late afternoon sun, it was a little warm but once we got into shade the going was easier, and my brother once again pushed the pace, arriving at Zwirgi long enough to wait for everyone else to show up.
The was an annoying amount of downhill traffic as hikers and weekend visitors dropped down from the mountain in platoons of cars sometimes as many as a half dozen each. By the time we arrived at Rosenlaui valley, however, most of the worst traffic was behind us and we could contemplate the beautiful valley and the glacier, stopping to take pictures. Arriving at Hotel Rosenlaui (1330m), we took 2 rooms at 105 CHF a person, including dinner and breakfast. When Roberto arrived he looked at the distance and climbing we had done for the day, and said, "I hate to say this, but I wish we had the Piaw ratio back." Our training rides had been mostly at 100 feet per mile, and we were well beyond that.
We settled into what would become our classic tour pattern: showers, washing clothes, hanging them up to try, dinner, and rapidly to sleep.