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MTB – Over the Maighels Pass

    Maighels Pass July

    Photo: The last push up to the top of the pass.

    A tough but stunning ride up and over a lonely pass straddling Graubünden and Uri.

    Key Information

    Route: Tschamut – Maighelshütte – Maighels Pass – Andermatt. This was essentially the latter half of stage 9 of Alpine Bike (Route 1).

    Length: 24km, +1000m, -1260m.

    Date: 2021-July-11.

    Maighels pass MTB

    Practical Information

    Season: Late spring to Autumn. This was done during an especially cold and wet year so there were still some snow crossings going up to the pass in mid July.

    Arrival/Departure: Train to Tschamut / Train from Andermatt.

    Supplies: Food and drink at the Maighelshütte and Vermigelhütte, everything you could want in Andermatt.

    Alternate routes/shortcuts: The Oberalp pass is a much easier (but busier) alternative, and that can also be done by train.

    Exposure/Hazards: Moderate single trail on the way up, tricky to ride up at times but nothing dangerous. The initial descent down the west side is very challenging. From the lake at the pass down to the Vermigelhütte is steep, rocky, and loose/rough. This is onl a relatively short section and after that it is easy cruising down gravel road.

    Despite being a Sunday with good weather in July this was very quiet. There were lots of people hiking up to the Rhine source, and a long line of traffic by Andermatt heading down from the Gotthard or other passes, but this route was almost empty bar a few hikers and one other group of MTBers.

    Notes along the route

    We were staying in Disentis so we could have just done the whole of Stage 9 of the Alpine Bike route, but we had done much of the other half the previous day. So instead we took the train to Tschamut and started from there.

    Maighels Pass
    Starting out by Tschamut.
    Disentis Pass Maighels Pass July
    Following the train line very closely at first.

    From Tschamut the route follows the Rhine valley briefly, before dropping down a short section of the main Oberalp pass road, then turns off onto the quiet valley road. The initial climb into the valley on a gravel road was a bit tough, but once we reached the plateau after a few km it eased out and was (mostly) much easier going.

    I was surprised by some of the bikes people had got up to this area. One lady came down on a bike with very thin road tires, and another family had come up with a city bike (wicker basket and all). This was still a road (of sorts), but it had been a tough climb on a carbon fibre cross country mountain bike.

    We took a short but steep diversion up to the Maighelshütte for coffee and cake.

    Beyond the hut the route turned to single trail which varied from easy riding to having to push for short sections of steeper and rockier bits. There are a number of streams and boggy areas to cross, with all the rain in the last week it was wetter than normal. My friend was treated to the amusing sight of my front wheel suddenly vanishing almost to the axels in a hidden puddle (and me very nearly following it head first).

    Maighels pass MTB
    Refueling at the Maighelshütte.
    Maighels pass MTB
    Climbing up the single trail.

    Despite being mid-July there was still snow which had to be crossed on the way up, but none on the way down which faced the afternoon sun.

    The landscape around the Maighels Pass is more on the side of grim than the cliched Alpine beauty of the Oberland. Just rock and grass (and a few marmots running around).

    Maighels pass MTB
    View from the pass to the west.
    Maighels pass MTB
    Lunch at the lake.

    The description warns that the descent is hard, and it isn’t kidding. The initial descent into Unteralp was very technical. Not very steep for the most part, but lots and lots of rocks of various sizes, degrees of stability, and pointing every which way. Lots of drops and constantly having to watch about being bounced from side to side. I pushed as much or more as I actually rode.

    If you need to steady your nerves after the descent then the Vermigelhütte is a short diversion away.

    Once past the rocky-bone-breaky section it was a very fun, scenic, and carefree descent down the valley floor on a gravel road. Or it would be if we had not gotten caught in traffic jam of cows who then blocked the gate, forcing a careful climb over an electric fence.

    Maighels pass MTB
    After the steep descent comes an easy glide down a gravel road.
    Maighels pass MTB
    With a few cows to dodge.

    You can just stay on the road and reach Andermatt without any effort. The signed mountain bike routes follows a single trail which mostly much technically easier than the descent. Whilst it did come with some scenic views, I am not sure I would bother with it if I do that route again.

    Into Andermatt (which takes you past a fountain for water) at which point I parted way with my friends and jumped on the train back up towards the Oberalp pass and disentis.

    Maighels pass MTB
    Entering Andermatt.
    Maighels pass MTB
    Filling up the water in Andermatt.

    Part 2: Up to the Oberalppass and back down to Disentis.

    Route: Oberalppass (train) – Tiarms Pass – Cuolm Val – Dieni (train) along MTB route 205. 12km, +300, -900m.

    I still had plenty of time left in the day so I decided to ride part or all of the way back to Disentis from the Oberalp pass. I skipped the first part up to the pass by train. It is a beautiful route, but the pass itself isn’t so nice with the constant traffic going past (which is also why I didn’t fancy tackling the climb by bike).

    Followed Route 205 over the traffic-free Tiarms pass with the intention of getting as far back down the valley to Disentis as I could be bothered with along trails and gravel roads. Despite the popularity of the Oberalppass I didn’t see a single person in this area or the whole way down to the station at Dieni.

    A fairly easy climb up and then fun descent traversing around the valley (with one brief exception carefully climbing around some collapsed path). I got a bit confused here as the signage and the route listed on Swiss Mobility didn’t line up, so I ended fighting my way up a longer climb than I expected with increasingly low energy and my drive chain had started making a horrible creaking noise which had me worried that I had hit a stone too hard or broken my bottom bracket or something serious (after cleaning it later I think it was just grit rubbing).

    The climb up to Cuolm Val was worth it for the views in every direction at least. It was so much better than the Oberalp pass, and would have been a perfect high meadow with stunning were it not for the skiing infrastructure sitting dead on the hillside.

    From Cuolm Val it was a fun gravel/asphalt descent down to Dieni. I had planned to carry on to at least Sedrun but the creaking was worrying me so I jumped on the train there.

    Maighels pass MTB
    Around the Tiarms pass.
    Maighels pass MTB
    Descending from the Cuolm Val.

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