Hochsauerland 2016

HSK 2016 - Article Header

Medebach Hochsauerland

After our previous trip to the Hochsauerland area in 2014, I promised to come back one day for more cycling and last week we made good on that promise.

Like last time, we rented a cottage in Medebach, which is in ‘High Sauerland District’, the area where the highest ‘mountains’ are located.

And while these, or any other climb around here, will not make it onto my ‘been there, done that‘ list, they offer enough altimeter gains to help you finish a Strava climbing challenge in no time…

Being a little cautious after my experience in the Vosges / Black Forrest in June, I decided to plot rides no longer than 100 kilometers.

On average, each would have around 1,700 meters of elevation difference, which is not too much, provided those are spread evenly over the ride.

Most climbs around here are not that long, obviously because the summits – which you hardly ever really cross by the way – are not that high.

In general, you cycle between 350 and 850 meters above sea level and climbs are usually no longer than 6 or 7 kilometers, averaging between 4 and 6 percent, with some steeper bits touching higher grades.

Tougher climbs, i.e. averaging over 8% are usually not much longer than 2 kilometers, which will not be much of a challenge for any experienced climber, but those suit me just fine 🙂


HSK 2016 - Monday's PrologueSo, Monday afternoon, after our three hour drive to get there, I got on my bike near the district’s capital of Meschede for the ‘prologue’ of my tour.

I remembered that going in the opposite direction back in 2014 was an unexpected struggle.

As that route was generally speaking going down, getting over the hills in between was not that easy, so I was prepared for an even greater ‘battle’ this time.

And although I was not disappointed, the ride did not wear me out so much and I did not have to take the easy diversion around the horribly steep short climb out of Elkeringhausen (up to 18%) and I even set a PR there.

However, as it started to drizzle when we approached Winterberg, I decided not to descend into Medebach by bike after that last climb.

It’s quite fast for the first 2 kilometers or so and on a wet and most likely slippery road, you don’t see the cracks in the pavement (wearing glasses doesn’t help either), while at the same time cars are passing by at 100+ kph to add to the fun.

I was set on riding some more the rest of the week, not on ending in the hospital…



HSK 2016 - Tuesday's BergzeitfahrenFor Tuesday, I was looking at the ‘Hochsauerland Challenge’ for my ride. It’s a 52 kilometer loop – starting in Winterberg but passing Medebach – that can be completed twice.

It also features a ‘mountain time trial’ (Bergzeitfahren) including the ride up Kahler Asten, the second highest summit in the area.

In the end, I created my own loop to get to the start of that time trail, mostly riding west of Winterberg instead of east of it.

While it was still chilly, it was a little sunnier than yesterday and it didn’t rain at all. By the time I got to Westfeld, where the TT starts, I had covered just over 70 kilometers, but the final 10 of those were already ‘false flat’.

I was expecting a tougher TT, especially the final part up to the tower – sometimes these challenges feature impossibly steep stretches, but this one had none of that.

So, the moderate average of 4% over the total of 7.6 kilometers, did offer some 8, 9% stretches, but the finale was a bit disappointing (1.3 kilometers at 5%)…

Not having exhausted myself quite as much as I anticipated, I did still go (the longer way) around Elkeringhausen towards Küstelberg this time.

And since it was dry and not too windy, I did descend into Medebach, but not faster than before – I would have to try that again 🙂



HSK 2016 - WednesdayWednesday brought us even more sunshine, but as the temperature was still only averaging 14 degrees, the descends – and the lunch break – were rather chilly affairs.

I took parts of a ride I did back in 2014, but reversed the direction and added another loop with the help of Strava’s route builder.

That bit actually had the quietest roads I’ve seen all week in it, plus a nice little climb out of Braunshausen.

Still, as this ride had a lot of relatively ‘open’ stretches through the fields, the wind was quite annoying and as the final 10 kilometers or so were ‘false flat’ too, I was glad when I finally got back at the cottage…



HKS 2016 - Thursday's LeftoversAnother ‘revisited’ for Thursday: I plotted a modified loop to the Diemelsee, remembering it had some spectacular views.

With the average temperature rising another 2 degrees or so, the wind chill was slightly less annoying today.

The steep climb out of Bontkirchen – 2 kilometers, 9% average, maximum 14% – I remembered well,  but I was ‘caught by surprise’ on a climb between Wulmeringhausen and Assinghausen.

That one averaged 8% and featured 16% stretches, but luckily it was just over half a kilometer long, so similar to the one out of Elkeringhausen…

Also today, up to Küstelberg, the final 15 kilometer were ‘false flat, averaging 2% or so. And, I did set a PR on the descend into Medebach this time 🙂



HKS 2016 - Friday's EpilogueI’m famous for making the same mistake twice, but this time I actually avoided doing what I did back in 2014.

I plotted a route both shorter and with less altimeters 🙂

Other than the steep climb out of Medebach – well, the last two kilometers are steep – towards Küstelbergen and the one from Elkeringhausen to Winterberg – 3 kilometers, 6% average – it was downhill most of the way to Bestwig.

With just 42 kilometers and 700 altimeters, most of them – nearly 500 – in the first 15 kilometers, it was almost a recovery ride…


Wrap up

HSK 2016 - The VeloViewer activity wheel

And that was the end of another cycling midweek in Hochsauerland, totaling 380 kilometers and 7,200 altimeters. That’s 40 kilometers less than in 2014, but 200 altimeters more.

Overall average 25.7 kph versus 24.6 kph in 2014 – basically, this week was a copy of 2014.

I may, probably will, be coming back again here, as it’s a great area for “hill training / repeats”, preparing for Alpine expeditions.

The only thing against it, is traffic, although it’s not horrible, except on the main (B) roads.

Keeping in mind that in Germany the maximum speed outside urban areas is (usually) 100 kph, having to ride on one of those is not really fun.

Plus, I’m not familiar with the area and maps do not always tell what type of surface you’re going to be facing when leaving asphalted roads.

Let alone that I can determine whether or not Paula can follow me with the car if I do.

So, while I’ve plotted routes on secondary L and tertiary K roads, avoiding the menacing B roads as much as possible, I found – once again – that there’s traffic almost everywhere, even in between the smallest of villages.

Perhaps a mountain / off road bike would offer more possibilities, coordinating to meet Paula at certain points, or I could simply wander off all by myself.

But neither alternative is very attractive for her even if we do have a private sauna in our cottage, like we had this time 🙂

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