Ever since living in Germany in the late 90's, I'd always wanted to do a transalp and finally got the opportunity. I didn't know quite what to expect in terms of trail or difficulty, so I went into it without a lot of expectations. Having been introduced to a guide from BikeAlpin, I chose their company and picked out the Garmisch - Gardasee (East) 5-day guided tour. Doing a transalp has become sort of a right of passage for German mountain bikers. I don't think there's anything to compare it to in the states.
The appeal of a Transalp is to do some good, hard riding, while enjoying the great scenery the Alps are known for, and, if you pay for a tour, to have all of your accommodations taken care of and your gear to magically be at your destination at the end of each ride.
Regarding the wonderful Alpen scenery, our trip was pretty hazy and humid, making our pictures and video not nearly as dramatic as the catalog photos you see, but trust me, it was a beautiful trip in person. I plan on doing it again (I'd do it every summer if I could afford to!) and hope for more sun for greater visibility and better pics.
More information about doing a Transalp/Alpenüberquerung
Day 1, Wallgau - Imst
83 km - 52 miles / 1690 vertical meters - 5545 vertical feet
We started from our Pension in Wallgau and rode past the Barmsee and the Ski Jump that I think was from the 2011 World Cup into Garmisch-Partenkirchen and follow the mountain railway line to Grainau. Next, we ride high up to the Eibsee around the base of the Zugsptize (Germany's tallest mountain), then on to the Hochthörle hut where we had a great lunch. We followed a steep route down to Ehrwald over Bieberwier where and caught trails to Fernpass, down to Nassereith and on to Imst - the end of our first day.
Day 2, Imst - Nauders
82 km - 51 miles / 1480 vertical meters - 4855 vertical feet
We drop down to the river Inn and follow the Inn Valley to Schönweiss, where we took the Kreuzweg up to Kronburg then down to Landeck and the Inn Valley and on to Fließ and Prutz. We kept riding along the Inn, crossing it several times, to the three-country border point (Austria, Switzerland, and Italy). Here we crossed the only border control into Switzerland at Martina. But it's just a corner of Switzerland - we were back in Austria half way up the steep gravel trails up to Norberthöhe. We end our day descending into Nauders.
At some point, we passed Rheinhold Messner's main castle, where he actually lives. I believe it was on the morning of day two, somewhere along the Inn Valley, but I'm not sure. (It was the next morning - see the first comment below - thanks Hugo!)
Day 3, Nauders - Tscherms
99 km - 62 miles / 950 vertical meters - 3120 vertical feet
Just beyond Nauders, we rode up into the Bergkastel Alps and cross over the green border into Italy at an altitude over 2000 meters/6800 feet. From here, we had an imposing view of Lake Reschen below and the 3905 meter/12810 feet high glaciated Ortler - the highest mountain in South Tyrol. We rode a long descent down to, then along Lake Reschen and Lake Haider, and continue on to Glurns. The rain started right before Glurns. I'd hoped it would pass as we ate lunch, but it only increased and lasted for the rest of the day and part of the next! Once the rain increased and looked like it wasn't going to stop, we tightened up our group and hammered the rest of the way to Tscherms. It was fun in a sort of miserable way, and we felt great afterwards - we'd passed two other Transalp groups and at our destination, our guide commented that he'd never had a group ride that hard for that long and not drop anyone or have to slow down for anyone!
We crossed all of South Tyrol ( South Tyrol/Süd Tirol/Alto Adige ), a German speaking and German identified part of Northern Italy. (They are mostly bi-lingual, but German is their primary language) Only halfway through the fourth day did Italy become Italian speaking on our route.
Day 4, Tscherms - Cles
51 km - 32 miles / 1690 vertical meters - 5545 vertical feet
The prior day we started seeing apple orchards all along our path. The number of orchards increased until it seemed that the landscape was nothing but houses, orchards, and mountains! We rode through Apple Orchards for two days. In general, the apple trees weren't grown freestanding, but groomed very close together on poles, making them almost vine-like.
From Tscherms we passed Lana (an important apple growing center) on Völlaner Bad and high up to Unterplatzers and continue to Gampen pass (1518m) where we had lunch. After Unsere liebe Frau im Walde (how does a town end up with a crazy name like that?) we pass Rifugio Arnica (hut, but I never saw a hut...) [Senale] and down to Castelfondo (948m). We continued on a little farther to Lake St. Guistina and on to our destination: Cles.
Day 5, Cles - Gardasee
88 km - 55 miles / 1450 vertical meters - 4760 vertical feet
We followed the east side of the Brenta River and follow it to Lake Molveno (Lago di Molveno) (845m), then down to Lake Toblino and the Sarca Valley to Arco. After some debate on how to end the day, we ended on the beach at Torbole on Lago di Garda (66m). The scenery on day 5 was some of the best we'd had! But the last grind to the valley was a bit much as we were all tired and we weren't staying together as well as days prior.
That night we had dinner together and checked out beautiful Torbole and the lake. The next morning, a charter bus was waiting for us to take us back. The scenery was so incredible driving up and away from the lake that it kind of made me sad we wouldn't be staying longer and that the trip was over!
Rad, you were a great rider*) and member of the team. Plus you did an excellent job with camera and cut . Best shortcut I have seen catching "the spirit of a TransAlp"! My favorite video would be Day 2 ;-))))
Looking forward having you on bord again: Hugo
*) and you taught us what "sustainability" bike-wise could mean...
btw: Reinhold Messners castle "Juval" is visible on Day 3 in South Tirols Vinschgau near the small town of Naturns