After last weeks hill avoidance session, I decided that this weekend my climbing legs needed a bit of exercise. It was time to go into the Black Forest, which isn’t as adventurous as it sounds because it’s about three kilometres from my village.

Friday evening I got the map out. Three kilometres from my village it erupts in a mass of contours like geographical acne.

I decided not to be too adventurous & substitute climbing for distance, but a goal was needed. The Hochburg bei Emmendingen seemed a good starting point: a castle ruin in the shoulder of some hills, which would give me a good chance to collapse while pretending I was appreciating the culture.

This would be followed by a descent and climb up one of the valleys to a town called Freiamt. On the other side of Freiamt was a pass which led into another valley; the plan was to get there, turn around and come back via a more direct route, having proved my legs were up to climbing. Buoyed up by this success I could repeat the ride later this year and drop into the valley beyond; it was psychology versus geography.

To tip the balance in my favour I packed a bag of Skittles too.

The way to the castle was a bit steep, but I guess that’s rather the point: it’s a castle, not a guest house so they were not interested in encouraging visitors.

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Th castle has been made safe and generally restored for visitors but it’s free to get in. We don’t seem to have anything as ubiquitous as the National Trust and it’s looked after by a local organisation: It’s amazing the sort of charitable trusts which exist in every town in Germany.

It was also completely deserted so I could explore…

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I wandered around for about half an hour, found some interesting tunnels which I filmed for Beautiful Daughter, and eventually decided I should probably get moving as this was supposed to be a “quick” ride…

This is where the real climbing started, through deep gorges with pine forests on both sides. The road got narrow and twisted alongside the river.

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This is why I’d come early on a Sunday morning: I’d got enough “psychology” to deal on with the hill without lots of traffic to contend with as well. Every now and again I’d pass a single house, generally close to the road but sometimes impossibly high up the hillside in the trees. The discreetly ornate French style buildings had gone: rough stone and wood was much in evidence and heavy roofs to keep the snow off.

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Villages were squeezed into the valleys, clumped together where there was space, wedged between steep hills and the flood  prone valley floor.

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Also, I discovered steep sided wooded gorges don’t offer many opportunities for a discreet privvy break.

To my astonishment psychology (and bladder control) were winning: suddenly I saw the sky ahead, the trees fell away and I was in Freiamt: there were schools, and football fields, shops, and houses scattered across the rolling hills like they’d grown from seeds strewn across the landscape.

I found the “main” road to the pass I was looking for, and trundled along the ridge between the farms. This is a popular route for driving along, and I was passed on occasion by motorcyclists on massive bikes, the occasional classic car and on a couple of occasions quad bikers, riding in long convoys.

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Everyone else was still asleep though (or at least they had been until the quad bikes passed) so there wasn’t much traffic and I had plenty of time to faff about in the middle of the road taking photos.

At this point I started to see signs for the pass and a new valley closed in, with the difference that I was now near the top. The designers of the road had apparently seen one of those cartoon “cliff edge” roads that winds through hills with a drop on one side, and thought: “Yeah, that’s just the thing we need” To my surprise though, the road wasn’t climbing steeply: I’d expected uncompromising gradients to a sudden summit, but it pootled along followed the contours pretty closely and I could just trundle along until I noticed it I was now going gently downhill, and realised I’d better turn around or get trapped in the next valley, which would add about 50k to my ride.

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Next time…

Back along the cartoon road, I found a shop selling home-made ice cream. Well, I say a shop, it was more a freezer in a barn door next to a box with a slot in it. Unfortunately I didn’t have any change, so that will have to wait until next time too.

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The ridge road followed the contours closely, an attitude I fully approved of. It went back through the centre of Freiamt, past a few isolated farms and over a couple of small summits with views over to distant clusters of red roofed farms surrounding a church. The tourists were coming more frequently now; car horns were blaring as drivers got in each others way on unfamiliar roads, so it  was a relief to be heading back into the forest.

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The route back was more direct; the road followed the ridge again as far as it could, then dropped abruptly. Suddenly I was releasing all the potential energy I’d built up while climbing, and wonderfully, I had the road to myself and could indulge in wide sweeping curves around the hairpin bends.

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As on previous rides the sudden change from apparently remote villages to our county town as a bit of a shock, not least because of the long dog-leg up being translated into mere minutes on the way down. Suddenly I was back near my home village; the rugged stone buildings and forest was gone again, replaced by vineyards and plastered, neat farmhouses with big courtyards.

I’d covered 50k, with a respectable amount of up, and found a route I can follow for the future. Psychology had won the day…

backed up by large amounts of Skittles, but we’ll ignore that…