UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch, Thun, Interlaken and Brünigpass

Once a year, all board members of the Java User Group Switzerland meet for an all-day retreat. Each year at a different location in Switzerland. I like to use this opportunity for a nice bicycle tour. This year we met at Lake Thun. From Lucerne, this is a very nice route through the UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch and with just over 100 km (60 mi) an ideal length for a full day tour. That sounds like a plan!

Day 1: Friday

On Friday morning, I did something urgent in the office and around half past ten I started off. It was overcast and the rain was announced for the afternoon, but I was hoping for the best. The route through the Entlebuch to Thun I have already ridden twice before, so this time I varied it a bit and followed the signposted cycle routes. For the first big part, I followed the cycle route 24 from Lucerne a bit to the north via Emmen out of the city and then via Littau, Malters and Schachen to Wolhusen to the west. The cycle path follows the little river “Kleine Emme” (Little Emme) in a barely noticeable ascent upstream, unfortunately always close by or directly on the busy cantonal road. In Wolhusen, the cycle route 24 makes a bend to the south and follows the Kleine Emme further on, here with considerably less traffic. But then it’s very quickly over with fun: A challenging ascent follows with an average of 10 % up to Doppelschwand, unfortunately without a cycle path on the road. Fortunately, there was very little traffic, because I had to stop several times to catch my breath again. At the top, there is a nice place with a great view for the first bigger break after the village crossing shortly before the end of another ascent. That was bitterly necessary after the effort!

After the well-deserved break and a sandwich, I follow the cycle route 24. In Schüpfheim I come back to the busy cantonal road, which I now have to follow for almost 20 km (12 mi). Fortunately with my own bike path. A constant companion, always close to the road, is the BLS route in this valley. I was surprised how many passenger trains run here and connect the towns and villages in this region to the metropolises of Bern, Thun, and Lucerne. At noon I arrived in Escholzmatt with 873 m (2’864 ft) altitude at the highest point of today’s stage. Hunger is spreading. I continue a few more kilometers to the Wiggermühle, where the cycle path meets the Ilfis (a small river which later flows into the Emme, then into the Aare and finally into the Rhine) and it has a small lawn with benches, which is perfect for my second longer break.

After I had finished my second sandwich, I could choose: From here I either follow the cycle route 4 to Thun, which is the shorter version but with more elevation meters, or I take a detour and continue following the cycle route 24 towards Burgdorf and Bern. I decide for the detour because the ascent to Doppelschwand is still in my legs and this variant looks much flatter at least on the map. Until Trubschachen I continue along the cantonal road to the north-west instead of the south-west. The cycle path leads me directly past the Kambly factory, with factory outlet and café. This time I do not stop there, because I have a break just behind me. If you don’t know Kambly in Trubschachen yet, I recommend making a stop in any case! You can not only eat and drink in the café, but you can also try as many different delicious biscuits as you like in the factory outlet! Shortly before leaving the town, cycle route 24 leaves the cantonal road and you can finally go off the road again on small paths through meadows and fields. After passing through Langnau, the Ilfis flows into the Emme. Here I say goodbye after exactly 66.6 km (41.4 mi) to the cycle route 24, which leads to the north and follow now for some kilometers the cycle route 94. On beautiful ways, it goes first off the road to the south, then over Zäziwil still another bit to the west. After only 15 km (9 mi) I leave the cycle route 94 in Niederhünigen and now cycle on the cycle route 84 almost directly south to Heimberg and then on the cycle route 8 further to Thun.

What a joy, when I drove into Thun! Almost done - now it’s not far to the hotel. So shortly before the finish, the first drops fall, the announced rain begins. I follow the cycle route 99 out of the city, which I leave shortly before the hotel and only a few minutes later I arrive at Delta Park. I was lucky, I only got a few drops up to here and the rain quickly disappeared again. I have to mention, a nice hotel that my colleagues chose there, with a great wellness landscape, ideal for relaxing after such a trip!

Day 2: Saturday

On Saturday we had our annual exam for members of the board of the Java User Group Switzerland. It lasted until 16 o’clock. After that it would have been definitely too much for me to drive back over 100 km (60 mi) to Lucerne. Especially since I thought about driving over the Brünigpass, which is 1’056 m (3’465 ft), for the return trip. So on Saturday, I didn’t drive all the way back, but “into a good starting position” for the return trip. This means that I only drove a short distance to Wilderswil near Interlaken. From there it’s not far to the Brünigpass.

From the Delta Park near Thun, I drove after the exam along the Thunersee, always at the main road. At Spiez, I came across the cycle routes 8 and 9, which also run along the lake from here. It is quite overcast and hazy, but the view to the lake and the mountains has its special charm. It doesn’t bother me that it starts to rain now. I briefly think about putting on the rainwear, but then decide against it and hope that the rain does not increase. Instead, I put on a bit more to get to my hotel faster and not too wet. The plan works out, after a little less than an hour and about 25 km (16 mi) I reached the Hotel Jungfrau in Wilderswil. Basic, cheap rooms with a very good view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau (at least the rooms with windows to the south) and very good, delicious food in the restaurant. There I enjoyed the evening accordingly.

Day 3: Sunday

I’m a little scared already. Today I have to cross the Brünigpass and Lucerne is 90 km (56 mi) away. Overnight it snowed quite well, the winter said hello again and outside there is a closed snow cover. The temperature is around freezing. That won’t be easy today!

After breakfast, I started shortly after 9 o’clock. Until the ascent to the Brünigpass begins, there are still more than 30 km (19 mi) to cover, mostly along the shores of Lake Brienz. At relatively short notice I decide on a different route. Already twice last year I drove on the south side of the lake towards Brünig, where there are already some steep sections at the lake. To save energy, I will drive around the lake on the north side today. This variant is a bit longer, but with less steep gradients. I accept that I have to drive permanently along the main road. Today is Sunday and it is still quite early, so accordingly little traffic. So I pack up warm and drive off.

Despite the not so good weather – of course, it was cloudy again – I made many short photo stops. The atmosphere was special and fascinated me. On the north side of the lake, I could enjoy great views despite the weather and made very good progress. After about one hour and about 20 km (12 mi), I reached Brienz and finished the northern loop around the lake. Here I met the cycle routes 8 and 9 again and followed them deeper and deeper into the ever narrower valley, which further back even becomes a gorge (the Aareschlucht). But I won’t follow the valley that far today. The cycle path goes directly past a military airfield (Swiss 11 Fighter Squadron). If someone is interested, there is also an airfield restaurant with a view of the runway.

In the mountains on the north side of the valley, you can see the pass road very well – a view that makes you afraid. Steep and long. Very steep and very long. The cycle route leads up off the pass road. Even steeper. Better not to think about it. In the mountains on the south side of the valley one waterfall after the other, fed by melting snow. I enjoy the very flat path and make good progress despite the headwind. After a little more than 30 km (19 mi), I arrive in Meiringen. Here, at the end of the village, the steep ascent to the Brünigpass begins. Shortly, before I start, I take a first longer break at the church. There are fresh water and some benches. Occasionally a snowflake comes flying. I check the satellite pictures at MeteoSwiss and am reassured, my route leads between two precipitation areas. So take a deep breath and gather strength for the ascent.

Here we go. I follow the cycle route 9 and the ascent begins. On the next kilometers permanently between 11% and 16%! I need about one and a half hours to make my way up there. Sometimes I only manage 100 m (330 ft) between two stops. Again and again I have to be careful not to pedal too hard, otherwise, my front wheel lifts off, it is so steep and the luggage on the carrier also pushes “backward”. The way is sandy and stony with many potholes. In addition, I only have eleven gears on my bike and no small mountain gears. This way of riding is really exhausting. But I didn’t want it any other way and chose the much more strenuous southern ascent myself. I could have driven this tour completely the other way around. But no, that’s the way it has to be!

With a lot of moaning and groaning, I come out sometime after about 17 km (11 mi) of fighting with myself at 1’056 m (3’465 ft) at the highest point at Hohfluh. Made it! Finally up! From here it goes now completely relaxed in the easy downhill drive down (yes, down) to the Brünigpass at 1’008 m (3’307 ft). Time for a photo shoot in the snow, which is almost 10 cm (4 in) high here. I don’t waste much time, because with -2.2 ºC (28 ºF) it is quite cool and then prepares myself quickly for descent. I put a ski mask under my helmet and add the lined gloves. Then it starts. Then I let it roll. Roll, roll, roll. Between 3% and 10% downhill. There you have to keep an eye on the temperature of the brakes so that they don’t overheat. But I enjoy it. On the pass road, it’s only a few hundred meters, then the cycle route goes off the road through a very beautiful, dreamy mountain landscape. I can’t help but stop again and again to take pictures. The first place to go through is Lungern. The route leads directly past the railway station, where I take a second longer break and treat myself to something sweet from the vending machine as a reward for crossing the pass.

But also this break has an end sometime and I set off again, still along the cycle route 9. Lungern is normally located at the Lungerersee, but not today. In preparation to absorb the water masses of the upcoming snowmelt in the mountains, the water level of the lake was very much lowered. At Lungern itself the lake is now dry, only at the deeper places further north it still carries water. It looks funny when the waterslide of the seaside resort stops several meters above the ground. I take a photo and drive on amused. After a long flat section, I descend steeply to Giswil at the Sarnersee. From here it is relatively flat up to Lucerne and has no appreciable ascents or descents. Unfortunately, the valley is relatively narrow and a clearly noticeable and exhausting wind blows towards me. The next 25 km (16 mi) I have to fight against it, this time following the cycle route 4. At this point, it is largely identical to cycle route 9, but makes fewer turns and is more direct. It goes past Lake Alpnach to Stansstad and then along Lake Lucerne via Hergiswil and Horw to Lucerne. In Horw it gets even more complicated this time. I have to cross the railway tracks and one crossing after the other is closed due to maintenance work on the track. So I had to add some additional kilometers and finally, I arrived home exhausted but happy!

It was a very nice tour, from which I created small videos with Relive. The recording of the GPX data is available, as always, on Komoot, including some photos.

Yours
Marcus

Written on April 14, 2019