Mountain weather beats route planning. Always.

If you’re planning on riding to the Alps and start your trip in the west of Germany, be well-prepared.

It’s an arduous ride that should be planned with a glance at the weather app, even in high summer. An over-motivated departure – so I learned – will certainly be toned down by the unwritten law of the high mountains: Mountain weather beats route planning, always. No doubt about that. Still, it was a pleasure … 

We start at Berchtesgaden. This small village makes the hearts of mountaineers – and Instagram influencers - beat faster. Some visit the plance to climb and pass the Watzmann, a mountain whose striking summit towers a whopping 2713 metres into the Bavarian sky . Others pose at and around the Königsee to polish their online fame, much to the chagrin of locals and national park rangers plagued by overtourism. 

Well, and then there's me and the BMW. Psyched and full of hope for a few nice, fun-filled days in the high mountains. Thrilled, I was. But, bou, did it turn out differently than I had planned.   

Even on yesterday's stage from Rosenheim on the smallest of roads towards the southeast, it became clear that the weather situation for high-mountain escapades might be a bit tricky. During an afternoon break on the shore of the beautifully situated Chiemsee I noticed how dark clouds already darkened the sky. Behind every bend and after every crest of the wavy foothill landscape, the spectacular alpine scenery came a little closer. At the same time it became darker and darker. Contrary to my expectations there was no rain. In the evening I steered the BMW dry-footed to a campsite near Ramsau. They say hope dies last, so I curled up in my sleeping bag in anticipation of a sunny morning. Only a few hours later, I was woken up by a downpour hammering the tent. Shortly afterwards, I noticed that my tent was not waterproof at all. The water came pouring in, leaving me sleepless, wet and cold for the rest of the night. What misery, what cold!

With soggy fingers and goose bumps under my damp motorbike clothes I pressed the start button the next morning and brought the two-cylinder to life. Everything was wet, except for the camera equipment. 

During a short break – it was raining, again - on the shore of the Königsee I let my fingers wander over the map, while pressing my knees against the warm engine. The clouds hung low and swallowed the mountains. I did not really feel like it, but I buried the plan to steer the GS through the high mountains. Instead I roughly followed the German Alpine Road westwards, hoping for dry roads and a great mountain panorama.

All grey, all wet.

I put the spurs to the GS, trying to ignore the fact that the road conditions were not too good. Where was the grip? Speaking of which, how good is it to have heated grips on days like this? #warmshowermode

At noon I steered the machine over a single-lane asphalt ribbon, winding through a lush green pre-Alpine landscape. Shortly befor, I crossed the border with Austria and left the alpine road-route. In the background were a few red-roofed country houses with colourful, flower-covered balconies. Behind them: rugged mountains – it felt like travelling through the setting of  a model-building Märklin railway. I rose my visor to let the wind in. Farmyard manure and damp meadows. But the best thing was that clouds broke, revealing blue skies. The sun did not only warm the landscape, but also my rainy motorcyclist soul.

The Inn Valley acts as a natural country border and Austria already disappears in the rearviewmirror. Happiness lies ahead of me. The Tatzelwurmstraße – named after an alpine mythical creature, a mix between a dragon and a snake - winds its way through the sunny landscape in twists and turns. I adjust the chassis, set the throttle to pull through and disappear into lean angle nirvana. It's so beautiful that I turn around and ride the track again. The landscape blurs. The only think that counts is the road, the next braking zone and the magic point at the apex where the revs start to rise again. 

Shortly before Schliersee a large plate of dumplings with mushroom sauce awaits me. Typical Bavaria! The only thing I must do without is the beer, traditionally served in extra-large mugs, because I still have a few kilometres to go. During the meal, all my equipment dries on the neighbouring pasture fence. As I strap the luggage onto the BMW again I am reconciled with the world in general and the weather in particular.

Lake Tegernsee sparkles in the sun. On the other shore of the lake a regatta is taking place and the inflated sails contrast with the towering mountains of the Mangfall Mountains. There is quite a lot going on here and so I quickly move on.

I ride south on the well-built B307 and reach the Sylvenstein reservoir. In the 1950s, a 44-metre high dam was built here to regulate the floods in the Isar valley. A village called Fall fell victim to the floods and was resettled during the construction. Characteristic of the reservoir, apart from the beautiful colour of the water, is the bridge that leads almost centrally over the body of water. From here, the road leads into the Isar Valley, which is also often referred to as Little Canada in the section between Vorderiß and Wallgau.

After a short detour into Hinterrißtal – a scenic cul-de-sac – I stop the two-cylinder at the ticket booth, where I am greeted in a broad Bavarian slang. The short single-lane road north of the Isar is subject to tolls and worth every penny at 5 euros for a day ticket. On the following kilometres, although it's not my first time here, I can hardly stop marvelling. The riverbed of the Isar is completely natural and the mountain river meanders between light-coloured gravel banks with the Karwendel mountains in the background. I take my time here, riding leisurely and at low speed. I could easily spend several days here, alone with my camera. Since the riverbank is a sensitive natural area, access is only possible in some places – but a break is recommended even for non-photographers. In the evening, I set up my tent on the shore of Walchensee and finally, leaning against the front wheel of the BMW, enjoy the local beer.

Fortunately, I am spared from another night of rain in a broken tent. I'm up bright and early to take a few bends in the direction of Garmisch-Partenkirchen before the next rain front, followed by a long motorway stage north in the afternoon. With coffee, pretzels, and a view of the lake, I come to the ultimate conclusion of every tour: it's always good to get going!

Words & Pics: Alan Klee






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