Photo: by the Kesch-hütte.
Crossing two passes in a lonely part of the Alps.
For the views and experience this tour is stunning, but it is also bloody tough. Whoever designed the MTB routes in Graubünden is a sadistic maniac. The total climb over a relatively short distance is often insane, whilst this was ‘only’ 1500m the gradient and rocky surface mean that anyone who isn’t a professional with an ebike is going to pushing/carrying for more than the 40 minutes suggested by the website.
I did this as a daytrip from a holiday in Samedan, taking the train both ways.
Route: MTB Route 90, stage 6. Davos (train) – Scaletta pass (2605m) – Alp Fantauna – Kesch-hütte (2630m) – Bergün (train)
Length: 39km, +1580m, -1742m.
Season: Summer – Autumn
Arrival/Departure: Train to Davos and train from Bergün. The The RB trains in Graubünden are wonderful for this, being about the only Swiss trains with loads of space for bikes.
Supplies: Shops/restaurants in Davos and Bergün. From the guest house Dürbodden at the start of the first pass to the SAC Kesch-hütte at the top of the 2nd pass there is no source of food or drink other than side streams.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: From Alp Funtauna in the valley between the two passes you can simply roll down the Val Susauna to the train station at Cinuous-chel-Brail.
Exposure/Hazards: There is pretty much zero shade on the route other than the last few km into Bergün when you enter forest. Be prepared to deal with the sun.
Technical demands: Neither of the descents were very technical (which is good as I was worried I might end up pushing up and down). At worst the path was a bit steep with loose rocks, but mostly one or the other and not both at once (and no danger of falling off steep cliffs). I had to dismount a few times, in some cases because I didn’t trust the surface, but mainly just because I picked a bad line. The Switzerland Mobility page lists them as technically tough, and ride.ch has them as red challenging, compared to the very hard descent down the Maighels pass this was a walk in the park. Going in the opposite direction would be much more challenging; especially the descent down from the Scaletta pass.
There were a few hikers and the odd other MTBer, but being remote valleys on a Monday there were not many people about.
Notes along the route
Davos itself isn’t all that attractive really, but as soon as you turn out of Davos into the Dischma valley it changes to rustic and rural.
The 11km up the valley to Dürbodden is a gentle 450m climb on a quiet paved road through increasingly rugged landscape. Enjoy this gentle warm up, the next climbs will be much harder.
From the guesthouse at Dürbodden to the Scalettapass the path turns to single trail and climbs 600m in 4km at a fairly steady rate of about 15%. That in itself is tough but would just about doable (I have dedicated myself to climbing steeper this year), but when you are constantly moving around or climbing onto big rocks and dealing with an uneven/loose surface it is downright impossible to get far without utterly exhausting yourself. Maybe I was having a bad day physically or mentally, but I very quickly gave up and decided to push/carry and curse the person who decided this was a reasonable route.
Coming down from the pass there is one nasty drop right at the start, and a few sections where water has washed out the earth leaving only a steep pile of loose rocks.
Alp Funtauna is a wonderfully lonely spot with just a hut and a few animals around. From here you could just turn down the valley to the trainline in the Engadin for an easier way to end the ride.
Going up the Val Funtauna and up the pass to the Keschhütte is much easier than the first pass (though having spent a fair bit of energy already it wasn’t that easy). The gradient is a much gentler average of ‘only’ 10% and the path is far smoother. Still I pushed as much as I rode.
I had expected a standard high alpine valley, but I hadn’t expected to turn the corner and find a fantastic view of a glacier (the Vadret da Porchabella) which only got better as I climbed to the pass. The last stretch to the Kesch-hütte almost broke me, but the view at the top was more than worth it – and at 2630m it was in every sense the high point of the tour (and my highest point on a bike to date).
I stopped for a bit of food and drink at the Kesch-hütte to admire the glacier for a while longer.
The descent down is initially lots of very loose stone, but isn’t steep (it would be a nightmare to try and ride up though). As it reaches the treeline the path gets steep at times, but less rocky in those places. Just before Chants the path joins a road, and from there it is an easy and fun ride down to Bergün.
I had a 40 minute wait at the station in Bergün – with a bike it would be easy to explore the village in that time but I know it well and just wanted a rest. I presume from the small children running around making nose that the train museum next to the station sells toy conductor’s whistles – an idea which is both genius and evil at the same time.