It’s 1.45 am, pitch black and suitably cold. You’re rising in the dark, fumbling for your kit and furiously trying to warm up before you have to climb a 1,700 metre mountain on your bike. Can you imagine trying to do this purely to witness the sunrise? Not everyone’s cup of tea, you could say, but certainly the one that tastes best to us, and held a certain appeal to Camilla and teammate Jannik from PROPAIN Factory Racing Team who did just this.

Take two bike riders – in this case, me and my PROPAIN teammate Jannik – a photography crew and a pretty spontaneous idea of ‘hey, let’s ride up my local mountains in the Allgäu Alps to see the sunrise.’ With the subsequent planning running as equally as straight-forward, along the lines of ‘great, you’re all coming to mine, sleep in the caravan and then we’ll go do the shoot!’, and before we knew it the weekend was upon us.

With the banter of the pre-shoot evening behind us, we had two hours of sleep before the alarm rudely awoke us. We duly exhausted the ‘sleep’ mode until it dawned on us that we had in fact agreed to this. Seriously? Now? At 1.45 am? I thought this was a sunrise shoot, not a night ride? As the photography crew grumbled alongside us, it seemed as though the whole sleep-deprived team was anything but motivated. The caravan trundled along for a few kilometres, before we had little choice but to jump out, switch on the headtorches and get going.

Nächtliches Entladen unserer Bikes am Fuße des Grüntens.
Unloading the bikes by torchlight at the foot of the Grünten.

As is always the case, once you’re got going and found a rhythm, the world doesn’t half seem so bad. A gentle breeze encircled us as the full moon shone down through the sea of stars, and the valley was encased in a rare silence. Although, that was perhaps largely to do with our sleep-hungry brains. However, the world’s typical cruel nature quickly returned, as the gradient rapidly got steeper!

Die Lupine-Lampen angeknipst und auf in den Kampf!
The Lupine lights are switched on and off we head into the darkness!

After a while the end of the track came into our vision, bringing a little mountain cabin with it. Striking us as the ideal spot for a rest, it just took a few more splashes of fresh Alpine water in our faces until everyone was feeling wide-awake. Lights twinkled in the valley below, and we could see how far we’d climbed already. The summit, we mused, didn’t look as impossible as it had before…

Frisches, kühles Bergwasser macht müde Menschen munter – sogar uns!
Refreshing mountain water – a sure-fire way to wake anyone up!
So schlimm sieht der Weg bis zum Gipfel jetzt auch nicht mehr aus ...
The way up to the summit started to look less imposing from here …

We headed upwards again and after a while it began to get steeper and rockier, then steeper, and steeper, and then so steep that even the fittest among us were forced to get off and push their bikes up the gradient. But the conditions for pushing were minimal, until hauling the bikes over our shoulders became the only solution as the trails got more and more impassable. I’d done this exact same climb twice in the daylight, but this experience was so at odds to those that it didn’t help. Quite the opposite in fact…

Von wegen „nicht mehr schlimm“ ...
Yeah, right, ‘not so bad’ …
Es geht verdammt steil da hoch – bekanntlich steiler, als es auf Bildern aussieht!
This is far steeper in real life that the picture shows!
Tragen, tragen und noch mehr tragen.
Carrying, carrying… and still carrying.

But we were still having an amazing time – somehow! Once you know you’re almost there and that you’re about to summit a mountain at sunrise with your bike, the feeling is pretty much matchless. An insane sense of freedom.

Ein Blick über den Horizont: der pure Wahnsinn und unbezahlbar!
Ein Blick über den Horizont: der pure Wahnsinn und unbezahlbar!The view over the horizon! Pure insanity and not something you can put a price on!

Excitement rose as the sun laid out an inviting red strip over the horizon. We now headed less gingerly over the rocks towards the mountain peak, where there’s a famous monument to the mountain troopers. As the day was dawning, everything seemed easier and lighter and we were making much quicker progress.

Mit den Bikes mitten in den Allgäuer Alpen und das frühmorgens – einfach wunderschön.
Early morning in the Allgäu Alps and our bikes – unbeatable.
Und dennoch waren wir nicht allein auf dem Berg. Es hatten sogar Leute dort oben geschlafen, um den Sonnenaufgang zu sehen.
Surprisingly we weren’t even alone on the mountain – some had chosen to sleep up there to watch the sunrise.

Just a few more testing sections of carrying stood between us and the summit. Rounding two final corners as we finally crested and saw the monument, bikes resting heavy on our shoulders, a group of people who were already waiting for the sacred sunrise looked at us dumbfounded.
We’d actually made it! We’d climbed the Grünten on our bikes ready for the sunrise. Seriously cool! The views were indescribable, with mountain peaks stretching into the horizon and the sun slowly making itself known to the East. Once again, I was rendered speechless.

Oben angekommen – so ein saugutes Gefühl!
What an incredible feeling to have made it to the top!
Der Sonnenaufgang konnte sich auch sehen lassen.
The sunrise made itself visible.
Erleichterte Gesichter – war schon ziemlich cool, das geschafft zu haben!
Visible relief and satisfaction that we’d made it, pretty cool!

Standing there at that moment in time seemed unbelievable – a sensation that was only boosted by the fact of what lay ahead us: the descent! Over rocks, steps, roots and scree back down into the valley, nice!

Unsere Abfahrt vor Augen: vorbei am Sender und runter Richtung Sonthofen.
Gazing out over our descent, heading towards the TV tower and then down towards Sonthofen.
Auf geht’s und auf Wiedersehen Jägerdenkmal!
Goodbye monument, we’re off!
Vor uns lag jede Menge feinstes Geballer über unwegsames Gelände.
About to shred down one of the coolest, not-so-walkable descents .

The ride would never have been complete without passing by the Grüntenhaus mountain hut and enjoying a good old summit beer. And who would have thought that after two hours sleep and such a crazy ride that Jannik and I would have kipped down for half an hour on the terrace at the hut! It did us a world of good, and afterwards we felt so ready to go full out on the descent!

Auch die Kühe waren schon wieder aktiv …
Even the cows had woken up properly by now …
Nach einem Weizen schläft sich’s besonders gut.
Sleep is ever nicer after a Weissbier.
Ein kleines Nickerchen und schon ist Jannik wieder nicht mehr zu bremsen.
After a brief nap Jannik is unstoppable.

My thoughts?

I’d have to say that it wasn’t such a bad idea in the end! In fact, I’d rank it up there as one of the year’s top rides for sure. Would I go straight back out and do it all over again? Damn right I would. Don’t be afraid to stir from your slumber in the middle of the night, as it’s more than worth it for a real sunrise ride!

Über Wurzeln abziehen – Vorsicht, Suchtgefahr!
Launching over roots – careful, danger of addiction!
Am Ende der Tour gab’s für uns noch ein paar gebaute Sprünge.
A few jumps waited for us at the end of the ride.

Words: Camilla Kranzusch Photos: Michael Colella

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