Late last year, we booked a ‘mid week’ in a Center Parcs bungalow in Medebach, a town in the Hochsauerland district (or Kreis in German).
Thanks to grocery store Albert Heijn, we had a nice discount on the (usually steep) price, but with a catch: we had to book for a week no later than the last week of March.
The district covers the largest part of the Sauerland mountains, with elevations up to just over 800 meters, which is why I thought it to be a nice (first) training stage for the expedition to the French Alps later this year.
However, as the area is better known for the ski resort Winterberg, I expected temperatures well below comfortable this time of year – I was not disappointed…
We arrived just after 15:30 Monday afternoon and around 16:15 I got on my bike for a first ride – I knew it was going to be short, because the temperature was already low and would drop rapidly after 17:00.
However, on top of the first climb towards Küstelberg, it started to hail and I decided to go back the way I came.
Apparently, the bad weather was unable to get to the other side of the hill and I went on in the other direction, past the resort.
But just south of Medebach, the sky turned so dark, that I went back to the apartment very quickly and I clocked just 22.4 km with 384 altimeters for today…
When searching for info on the area, I had found an amazing site with all sorts of info on cycling and I picked the ‘Rothaarrunde’ for the Tuesday.
I loaded the GPX onto my tablet, so Paula could lead the way – the Garmin is a little sluggish sometimes when using the navigation and why not profit to the max from the luxury of your own team car?
The best thing about it though, is that you don’t have to stuff your pockets with food, or carry a back pack with extra clothing.
And clothing was problematic, because I would need between two and four layers of clothing (plus a wind breaker), depending on where I was going.
Uphill, downhill, facing a head wind – the wind chill was annoying – or going through icy rain or hail.
The scenery was great and the route itself – the condition of the road – was good most of the ride, but the weather was discomforting.
After 111.4 km and 1,876 altimeters, I was glad to get back home and sit in the (hot) whirlpool for half an hour…
For Wednesday, I combined the ‘Ederrunde’ and the ‘Medebacher Abendrunde’ into one ride of just over 100 kilometers.
The weather forecast ‘promised’ more sunshine, but I guess that means I just plotted my route to avoid that as much as possible.
The wet stretches left me with very cold feet and all in all this day was the least enjoyable, although also this route – the scenery – was fantastic.
When I got home after 101.1 km (1,677 altimeters), I even filled the bath tub with near boiling hot water and soaked in that for an hour – considering I never take a bath and only use the shower, that means something…
However, after that and a good meal, I plotted another 100 kilometer ride for Thursday…
Actually, the ‘Zum Diemelsee’ track is just over 90 kilometers, but I picked up the route in Küstelberg and adding that stretch – with the 10% climb to start with – back and forth from the resort, the total would be just over 100 again.
Although the weather looked slightly better today, the real feel was even lower than the days before. Towards the end of the ride, I was running out of power fast, particularly on the long stretch towards Winterberg, against the wind and going ‘false flat’ uphill for about 15 kilometers.
And knowing that the destructive final climb out of Elkeringhausen was just ahead of me, was not very comforting either.
That climb nearly broke me on Tuesday with it’s 18% stretches and I seriously considered taking the less steep alternative…
Surprisingly, after getting home and having a strong coffee, I decided to join Paula to do some shopping in Medebach instead of crawling into bed as I had ‘promised’ myself.
Today’s total was 102.9 kilometers, with 1,639 meters – more altimeters and slightly ‘faster’ – or less slow – than the day before…
Since we would be heading home today, I plotted a course myself that would generally go into that direction, so that we would save some time on the rest of the ride.
Well, I would save some time in the car – Paula was once again sentenced to see me batter myself up from within it.
Which actually doesn’t sound too bad, but – like the previous days – I could tell even more how cold it really was every time she got out of the car to assist me or take a picture…
Anyway, I figured that Arnsberg would be as far as I could get, using stretches from two different routes I took from the site.
It would be around 80 kilometers to get there and since Arnsberg is situated considerably lower than Medebach, I thought I would have an easier ride to finish the week with.
I didn’t quite look at the profile and this turned out to be a big miscalculation.
Because although Arnsberg is located 500 meters lower than Winterberg (the highest point after 4 km), the climbs along the route, from valley to valley, are almost nowhere below an average 8.5% and that was hurting me more and more.
Even though there was more sunshine and the temperature had risen to near comfortable by now, after the descent towards Arnsberg, I crashed into the parking of an Edeka with ‘bäckerei’ and called it a day.
We had a ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ and went home after that – just 80.9 kilometers today, but with 1,483 altimeters, this ride was relatively more difficult than the others.
I will be back in this area – it’s as close to bicycling heaven as you can get, outside of the Alps, the Dolomites or – also in Germany – Berchtesgaden of course.
While I have also been in the Eifel (twice) and the Belgium Ardennes are not too bad either, I think Hochsauerland has more to offer.
The roads are certainly much, much better than in most parts of Belgium, while traffic is sometimes anoying, but overall not too bad.
And if the temperatures are higher – or in general: if the weather is more fit for bicycling activities – it should be serious fun here.