On the steps of general Suvarov
In 1799, during the Napoleon's wars, Switzerland was the 'Helvetic Republic',
occupied by French troups. Austria and Russia were fighting the French armies.
At the end of September, however, the troups of general Masséna defeated
Korsakov's army near Zurich. This made general Suvarov, who first wanted to
help Korsakov, to retreat accross the Alps. He chose to go over Glarus to the
Rhine valley in the Grisons. On his way, there was the
Panixer Pass, which proved very diffucult to cross
due to early snowfall. Many of Suvarov's men never reached the other side of the
Nearly 201 years later, i tried to follow the steps of this Russian army, but if possible with not so many casualties. At least, i did not have to haul heavy arms along, and i could wait for good weather (which happened to be in August). A further advantage for me was to take the train for the less interesting part of the journey. I arrived at Ziegelbrücke in the early afternoon.
All the way from Ziegelbrücke to Schwanden, i followed the 'official' bike route. It's a nice and easy itinerary, away from big roads (but don't try it with a race bike: same parts are on gravel, not the best for thin tires). At Schwanden, i had to leave the bike route. As i was looking around for the way to Elm, a postman stopped his car to ask me where i wanted to go. He told me that there was a 'Suvarov way', consisting in forest roads and paths leading to Elm. He advised me to take it instead of the main road and even led me accross town till i could find this way. Thank you, Mr. Postman, this was really a good hint!
I arrived at Elm around 3 o'clock, rode past the sport's shop of the famous ski champion Vreni Schneider and stopped at a small shop to buy a drink and a fruit. From Elm, i took the main road up to its dead end at Wichlen. There were soldiers with many tanks based there. I had to step down and go around the place with a guard, then with another one till i was out of this military zone again. I took advantage to ask the guards if they knew the way up to the Panix. They did not, but told me that they had seen bikers coming that way down. This let me hope that it would not be too difficult.
My hope did not last long, just about one kilometer. Then there was only a steep path and i had to walk most of the time. Well, i knew about the slope from studying the map, and i also knew that there were also less steep parts ahead. Unfortunately, where the slope would have been easier there were rocks, ditches, wet areas or (further up) even snow. Summing up, i pushed or carried my bike much more than i could ride. On the snow fields, i saw the descending tracks of two other mountain bikes, but i was the only crazy guy going that way up, pushing a quite useless bike!
I finally reached the pass before 6 o'clock, had a look at the small memorial for Suvarov and had a thought for his poor guys. Then i was able to ride again. Even in the descent, however, i had to step down many times: too steep, in mud, on unstable stones, in narrow paths where the pedals touch the ground on the side, on very steep slopes where any fall could be the last one... As i reached Alp Ranasca, the path became a way. A very bad one, however. It was shaking me badly and my back and shoulders started to hurt. This bad treatment ended as i reached Pigniu. From there down to Rueun, i had a modern road, not just like at Suvarov's time.