Hope 1000: A Bikepacking Journey Across Switzerland (Video)
Seeking a summer getaway, Alba Xandri and Ricard Calmet headed to the Alps for a two-week ride along the beautiful Hope 1000 route across Switzerland. They shot this 10-minute video as they rode to share their experience. Watch it here, plus photos and a written recap of their trip…
The Hope 1000, formerly called the Navad 1000, is a route designed by Willi Felix that crosses the entire country of Switzerland. Once a year, it’s home to a cross-country bikepacking race. The figures alone are a little scary: 1000 kilometers and 30,000 meters of elevation gain. Rather than racing, we knew we’d want to take it slow and discover its beauty if we had the chance to ride it.
Fast forward to July, and we found ourselves searching for somewhere here in Europe for a bikepacking trip. By then, the COVID-19 situation was mostly under control in Switzerland and there was no need for quarantine. So, the Hope 1000 became our perfect destination.
The route starts at Romanshorn, on the shores of Lake Constance. We left our van in Zurich, at a friend’s house, and went by train to kilometer zero. It was drizzling and cool, not exactly the perfect summer day, but we were so thankful to be there. Despite the grey sky, we were feeling happy and ready to go on a new adventure. The first day ran through majestic forests and the trails zigzagged deep into nature. In the afternoon, the rain faded and we took advantage of one of the few flat days of the Hope 1000 to cycle until darkness set in. Since I love maths: if we had to climb 30,000 meters in 1,000 kilometers and today was pretty flat… hmm, that meant more meters to accumulate in fewer kilometers. Lots of climbing ahead.
Wild camping is forbidden in Switzerland. A tent can only be pitched above the treeline. Since wanted to camp every night, we had to sharpen our senses. The first night we played our cards and camped by a river, where there was a wooden picnic table. We spent a quiet night there and at dawn the first walkers woke us up to start a new day.
Our second day was already a prelude to what was to come. Before zipping my sleeping bag, I wrote in my travel diary: “I will write little tonight because it has been a fantastic but tough day. I am destroyed! And it’s only day two!” The figures for that stage were 75 kilometers, almost 3,000 meters of climbing, and about eight hours of cycling, adding some muddy sections where the cows grazed and some technical trails. Still, my motivation didn’t wane. We had just started and the views around every corner were absolutely stunning. As we were preparing our tent and dinner, the sunset painted the sky in a range of reddish colors. However, our bodies were crying out for a hot and plentiful meal. Luckily, this time we could satisfy them. We were about to taste the first Swiss cow’s cheese we bought along the way.
We were making real progress on our way across Switzerland. Along the way, we could tell this route has been well thought out, not just crudely sketched out on a map. The route developer pedals it every year, alternating between starting in the north or the south each year. It is a masterpiece. So, among bucolic singletrack, crystal clear lakes, dream trails, beautiful tarmac roads, and without much rain, we reached the sixth day of our route with 16,000 positive meters on our legs.
It was time for the icing on the cake in the most mountainous area of the route, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. In good weather, we were so lucky to enjoy the north face of the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau, as well as the climb to the Grosse Scheidegg and Kleine Scheidegg passes.
Speaking of cake, while climbing the Grosse Scheidegg, we met a couple of curious and friendly Swiss people. David, who was riding a unique bike, was accompanied by Jürg, his neighbor, aged 72 and with impressive vitality and strength. They insisted on stopping halfway to invite us for the best Swiss cake baked in Rosenlaui. As it happens, we’re easy people to convince when it comes to cakes. I was in heaven for a while. Cake, coffee, and bikes… I can’t think of a better combination! It was a special gift.
The next day was spectacular for its mountain scenery, with 360-degree views of the typical Swiss landscape: high mountains and green hills with cows everywhere and dozens of fences that had to be opened and closed. There’s no such thing as silence in this part of Switzerland. Day and night, we heard the incessant ringing of cowbells.
Despite this magnificent dose of snowy, high-mountain scenery, my body was starting to get very tired. It had been a long, long time since my body had experienced this kind of tiredness. The motivation and desire to chase the sun were taking me to the limit. Ricard still seemed to feel just as energetic as on the first day. Was he eating more cake and cheese than me?
We crowned the Col de Jaman, the final mountain pass, and the route took us even higher, to finally descend into the hustle and bustle of Montreux, at the foot of Lake Geneva, right next to the statue of Freddie Mercury. We couldn’t appreciate that moment as much as we would have liked. The heat and the rivers of people made us take a quick photo and leave. We were off to Manuel’s house, a nice Swiss guy we met while cycling in Kyrgyzstan a few years ago.
In the evening, accompanied by Manuel and his friends, we enjoyed the moment, the present. A shower, dinner, and beer brought us back to life again. We felt grateful for what we have experienced over the last 13 days, and so happy about the opportunity to cross Switzerland along the beautiful Hope 1000 route.
About Alba Xandri and Ricard Calmet
Alba Xandri and Ricard Calmet cycled the world over three years, pedaling 55,000 kilometers through 41 countries. They wrote a book about their trip called La Magia des Pedals. They returned home to the Catalan Pyrenees in 2017, and these days they’re both addicted to bikepacking. Find them on Instagram at @alba_xandri and @erreka.
Want to see more from the Hope 1000? Check out our route guide and our coverage of Rue Kaladyte’s film “I’m Not Stopping,” which documents Lael Wilcox’s incredible attempt to set the fastest time on the route in 2018.
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