Alpine Rush: The Stoneman Glaciara

Undertaking a daunting 127-kilometer ride with a staggering 4,700-meter altitude gain is no small feat, but Gerhard Czerner and Caroline Nantke took on the challenge without a single regret.

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Gerhard Czerner
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After his mountain bike adventures across the diverse terrains of Italy, Oman, California, and Greece’s Mt. Olympus, Gerhard Czerner now takes on the notorious Stoneman Glaciara ride through the Swiss Alps. In this expedition, Gerhard, accompanied by his friend Caroline Nantke and photographer Martin Bissig, navigates all 127 km of the tour, passing both the mighty Aletsch Glacier and the iconic Matterhorn on their three-day journey. The seasoned riders tackle physically demanding and technically challenging ascents, revealing stunning panoramas with the singular goal of capturing a monumental breath of exhilaration above the clouds.



Sweat trickles down my forehead and into my ear as I try to keep my pedaling rhythm steady. The bumpy logging road to reach Fiescheralp has steepened noticeably. I glance at my cogs, relieved to find one gear still in reserve. Breathing hard, I'm unable to speak. My focus narrows to the essentials: gear down, breathe quickly, pedal slowly, and keep moving toward the next hairpin. Sneaking a glance over my shoulder, I see the valley stretched out far below, with Caroline right behind me. It's our first time in Valais, and though we've never been here before, enthusiastic stories and thorough research have painted a vivid picture of the magnificent view from the top of the gigantic Aletsch Glacier. Since breakfast, we've been repeatedly pondering: will it look as impressive in real life? Filled with anticipation, we keep pedaling.

"Gear down, breathe quickly, pedal slowly, and keep moving toward the next hairpin."


It would be impossible to tell the story of how we found ourselves pedaling toward the largest glacier in the Alps without mentioning the legendary Roland Stauder, founder of the five Stoneman Trails, including the Stoneman Glaciara. I first met Roland many years ago in the Dolomites, and since then, our paths have crossed countless times. Roland's tours have become synonymous with extraordinary experiences. When he introduced the Stoneman Glaciara in Switzerland, spanning 127 km with a 4,700-meter altitude gain, I knew I had to ride it.

Caroline, having experienced his incredible tour in the Dolomites, fully trusted Roland’s knack for crafting unforgettable adventures and needed very little persuading. A quick Internet search revealed the extensive planning resources available: GPS tracking upon registration, suggested route divisions, and crucial advice to tackle the tour counterclockwise for optimal experience. Starter packs complete with route maps and great signage are available at hotels partnered with the trail or at official issuing offices. All we needed were our bikes, and the energy and skill to get us through the 127 km of the tour.

We learned that the trail includes six checkpoints—Bellwald, Märjela, Mossfluh, Breithorn, Binn, Reckingen—where riders stamp their cards. The route's makeup is diverse, featuring 17% singletrack trails, 30% asphalt, and a mix of rooty, rocky, and unpaved stretches, demanding good physical shape and technical riding skills. With the season running from June to November, depending on weather conditions, we were filled with anticipation as we headed to the delightful, car-free village of Bellwald in the southern Swiss canton of Valais.

A few days of planning and a short trip to Switzerland later, and we're ready to pick up our starter pack for the Stoneman Glaciara. The most critical item in this surprise pack is undoubtedly the punch card, which needs to be stamped at six different checkpoints to earn the coveted Stoneman trophy. Preferring not to rush through the stunning sceneries and savor every experience, we opt to complete the tour over three days, which qualifies us for the bronze trophy. Those completing it in two days earn a silver trophy, while the gold trophy is reserved for the fittest riders who can manage the entire trail in just one day.



We kick off the first day with a leisurely pedal along the bicycle trail, clearly marked with the Stoneman logo, toward Fiesch, where the long ascent to Fiescheralp begins. Facing an elevation gain of 1,200 meters, we gradually make our way upwards. As we ascend, the logging road twists, unveiling more stunning vistas. Now drenched in sweat, we pass by the bustling Fiescheralp mountain station. Just a few vertical meters further, a cold, damp breeze greets us as we enter the tunnel that cuts through the mountain to the Gletscherstube, an alpine hut nestled on the shores of the Märjelensee reservoir.

We take a refreshing break on the patio of the rustic hut, nestled in a stunning glacier-formed landscape. Unable to resist a Swiss culinary treat, we indulge in Nuss-Stängeli, traditional hazelnut cookies that pair perfectly with a dunk in espresso. To quench our thirst, we sip on Rivella, a Swiss herbal soft drink. Nearby, a short trail leads to a viewing platform overlooking the Aletsch Glacier. Though it diverts from our path, the allure is too strong to ignore, especially after our delicious snack. After all, this is precisely why we're here!

Standing on the platform, the glacier sprawls below us—a vast, menacing ribbon of ice and snow, deeply furrowed and seemingly endless. Our view extends to Concordia Place at the Jungfraujoch, where several smaller ice flows meet, forming the longest ice highway in the Alps. The ice here is measured at an astounding thickness of 900 meters. With 22.7 kilometers in length, the Aletsch Glacier holds enough water to supply every person in Switzerland with a liter of drinking water daily for 4,057 years.

"It's even more impressive than in photos," I comment enthusiastically. Back on our bikes, we relish the trail, adorned with granite slabs that soon weave among massive boulders—a pure joy! The landscape reveals a deeply cut valley, sculpted over millennia by the Fiescher Glacier, making it a perfect spot for another photo break.

Afterward, we tackle a descent that demands our full concentration. Surprisingly challenging, the path loops back towards Fiescheralp. The trail is lined with vertically positioned rock slabs, strategically placed to divert water runoff and protect the path from erosion, necessitating extreme caution to avoid a flat tire. A few ultra-narrow hairpins, complete with steps, require meticulous navigation to stay mounted.

The trail offers a pure technical delight but proves very tiring and occasionally tricky. As we approach Bettmeralp, our stop for the night, we seize one more chance to revel in the breathtaking panorama. The high trail offers a vast view over the Rhône Valley, extending all the way to the iconic Matterhorn.

Before reaching the hotel, we encounter one final treasure: the Märjela lookout, offering a breathtaking view of the glacier. We've timed our visit for the evening to avoid the usual crowds, and after pushing our bikes a short distance, we arrive at the nearly deserted lookout. Bathed in the fading evening light, we stand awestruck before the massive glacier, catching the sun just as it begins to dip behind the steep mountain slopes.

Our extended photo session at this spot delays our descent down the thrilling trail to Bettmeralp. We initially tackle some bumpy, rocky sections but soon find ourselves gliding along one of the smoothest, flowiest meadow trails you can imagine. As the light wanes, we ease our pace, arriving in the late evening at our car-free destination, Bettmeralp, perched at an elevation of 1,948 meters with a serene lake view. After a quick shower, we head to the restaurant, eager to recount the day’s exploits over a satisfying meal.

The menu boasts a variety of Valais specialties, but one dish, in particular, catches my eye because of its intriguing name: Gommer Cholera. This dish doesn’t immediately conjure appetizing thoughts but as someone who’s always eager to try something new, I decided to give this dish a shot. It turns out Gommer Cholera is a savory pastry filled with a mix of pears, cheese, leeks, onions, and potatoes. Contrary to what its name might suggest, it tastes delightful and I was thoroughly pleased with my choice. Feeling fully satiated, we soon decide to call it a night. Reflecting on the first day, it’s hard to believe the countless beautiful views we encountered in a single day. No sooner had we shared our thoughts than we found ourselves drifting swiftly into sleep.



We kick off the next morning with an exhilarating descent of 1,200 meters. Beyond Riederalp, the trail winds past rustic alpine huts and verdant pastures, then plunges into a forest. There, we were greeted with a few unexpected technical challenges, including steep, rocky passages interspersed with a rooty forest floor that requires nimble maneuvering. Despite the surprises, the trail allowed us to maintain our momentum, easily navigating the winding junctions. "This is so gnarly," we shout joyously to each other as we reach the valley floor in Mörel.

Crossing the valley begins a lengthy ascent to the Breithornpass, the tour's highest point at 2,451 meters. By the time we passed the last town of Grengiols, the road had steepened significantly, prompting us to shed our jackets. The asphalt gave way to dirt, and everyone settled into a meditative rhythm for the long climb. We refilled our water bottles one last time at the next hairpin and continued our ascent. Passing the tree line at nearly 2,000 meters above sea level, the expansive views fueled our spirits to keep climbing.

The clouds swirled around the lush green peaks, enhancing the majestic scenery. The incline of the old army road here was more forgiving, and we found ourselves actually enjoying the final push to the pass. 

"That went better than expected," Caroline declared with relief and happiness, as we gave each other a celebratory high-five. In our exhilaration, we nearly forgot to punch our cards, a crucial step to marking this achievement.

"The trail winds past rustic alpine huts and verdant pastures, then plunges into a forest, presenting unexpected technical challenges, including steep, rocky passages interspersed with a rooty forest floor that requires nimble maneuvering."

We spent some time savoring the spectacular views over lunch before our descent. We were exhausted at this point but relieved to find the trail back down wasn’t as challenging. The narrow gravel roads allowed us to relish our surroundings and the rush of wind against our faces. The idyllic landscape, with its lively creeks and lush meadows, soothed our souls.

We arrive in the town of Binn by late afternoon. The first thing that catches our eyes is the arched stone bridge spanning the Binna River, built in 1564. Known for its rich deposits, the Binn Valley is a haven for crystal enthusiasts, with mineral collectors—often called rockhounds—discovering over 270 different types of minerals in this location. Once a lucrative side hustle, the search and trade of minerals is now a rare full-time job.

We bike into the village, making our way to the restaurant Zur Brücke as evening approaches and the area, typically bustling with visitors, grows quiet. Dinner brings another regional delight: raclette. We indulge in a generous portion of hot, steaming raclette cheese, served alongside vegetables and boiled potatoes. The melody of the nearby rushing stream provides a serene backdrop to our meal. Dining here, we can't imagine a more delicious way to cap off our day.



On our final day, we tackle the shortest stretch, so there's no rush in the morning. The first part descends to an asphalt street until we turn onto the old road connecting Binn and Ausserbinn, just before the tunnel. The Binn Valley remained isolated from the outside world in winter until the tunnel's construction in 1965. Avalanches and rockslides often tumbled down the Twingi Gorge, blocking the old road, which now serves as a prime route for bikers and hikers to enjoy the spectacular surroundings. Far below, at the bottom of the gorge, the Binna River winds down the mountain. We bike through many small tunnels, noting that the metal railing along the edge is damaged by rockfall.

Once past Ausserbinn, the gentle trail continues to Ernen. In the village center, the wooden houses typical of the region stand closely together. The village square is one of Switzerland's most beautiful historical sites, and we're thrilled that the historic buildings are so well-preserved. The trail then meanders upstream to Reckingen, the region’s oldest mountain village. A sign indicates the path to the other side of the valley, where the Stoneman Glaciara leads us through centuries-old mountain villages, seemingly frozen in time. 

It's still early in the day, so we decide to slow down, frequently stopping to admire the bucolic countryside and well-preserved buildings. Some of the wooden homes were on stilts and used to store grain. The thick wooden posts supporting the buildings were intersected by a round slab of slate, a simple yet ingenious way to prevent mice from reaching the stored grain. "It’s so simple," I marvel at the practical design. 

After capturing more unforgettable moments on camera, we proceeded toward Niederwald. This part of our journey signaled the beginning of our last ascent, as we made our way back to our initial starting point in Bellwald.

After three days of majestic landscapes, challenging trails, rich cultural experiences, and plenty of local specialties, we are delighted to accept our bronze stone trophies. "There’s no way I'd want to do that in one day," I tell Caroline, laughing as we receive our trophies. There’s one thing we agree on - in developing the Stoneman Glaciara, Roland has crafted an extremely spectacular and engaging mountain bike experience, worth every drop of sweat. 











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Author Bio

Gerhard Czerner

Gerhard Czerner is a passionate mountain biker, traveler, and author. With a love for nature and adventure, he guides and trains enthusiasts while sharing his experiences on his website and through his Instagram.

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