20 May – Heiligenblut / Approach to Grossglockner

20 May – Heiligenblut / Approach to Grossglockner

I am sitting here checking out the Internet, with a good wifi connection, a view of the Alps out the window and my Austrian Herbal Liqueur beside me (Rossbacher – Die Osterreichische Krauterspezialitat) – this is the life!

We just rode up the valley – only 21km – from Stampfen to Heiligenblut and then onto the Grossglockner toll gates.

Jungfernsprung waterfall

Heiligenblut is a stunningly beautiful little town with an iconic tall church spire that stands before the mountain peaks. There were lots of shops and businesses catering for ski-ers – all quiet now – apparently buzzing in the season.

Heiligenblut with church spire

Heiligenblut – further along the road

The last 4km of our route, out of Heiligenblut, were already on the Grosglockner high alpine road and a steep climb. Our gasthaus is just before the toll gates to get onto the alpine nature reserve and crossing.

Official start of the road

This sign promises a 12% climb

View of Heiligenblut from the start of the climb

It is expensive for cars and motorbikes to go through – but bicycles can go through for free.

Our room is beautiful and large and comfortable, paneled in wood. It is also centrally heated, as it has begun to get quite cold outside – we are already quite high up. Heiligenblut is at 1,305m and the Gasthof is at 1,690m.

Gasthaus just before toll gates

Hubert, our friend from the pub from the night before phoned and came out to see us with his wife. They took us for a preview ride on the high alpine road to see the glacier – in the car. We won’t be riding past the glacier on our route over the pass – so this is an unexpected bonus for us. Because they live locally they can go onto the road for free, and they sweet talked the toll gate lady into letting us through too.

It became colder and colder the higher we got and it began to snow. The temperature at the glacier was around 0.5 degrees, and snowing. We got out of the car to have a look around from the viewing platform. Hundreds of people visit here in summer – it is the second most visited attraction in Austria.

Looking down at glacier meltwater

Looking up valley towards glacier through falling snow

We saw on placards and heard from our hosts how the glacier is receding – it used to come right up to the viewing platform.

Frozen waterfall

Further down – Historic Larch tree – estimated to be 500 years old, was growing at 1,600m when it was felled in 1997

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