Cycling in Austria: Kitzbüheler Horn

Region: Tirol, Austria
Departure: Höglern
Length: 9.7kms
Altitude: 1996 metres
Height Gain: 1250 metres
Average Gradient: 12.9%
Maximum gradient: 22.5%


There aren’t too many road climbs around double figures that exceed more than 10%. Italy’s Passo del Mortirolo, Monte Zoncolan – from each of its three routes – and Spain’s Alto del Angliru, immediately come to mind but perhaps surprising to many cycling enthusiasts, none of them are as steep as Austria’s Kitzbüheler Horn

Kitzbüheler Horn was one of the three toughest climbs I did back in the European summer of 2012. The other two high Alpine roads were Rettenbachferner and Grossglockner. Close to the summit, Das Alpenhaus, a so-called Alpine house and meeting place for skiers and snowboarders during winter, has provided the finish of the King or Queen Stage of the Tour of Austria over many years, including last year, (2017).

Beginning from Höglern, the road up onto Kitzbüheler Horn is incredibly steep and winding. The first 800 metres of the climb’s 9.7 kilometres is by far the easiest, should you regard 8.9% a comfortable gradient. Arthurs Seat, near where I live, has always been a formidable task for me, but one I’ve grown used to. Three kilometers with an 8.1% average gradient is tough enough but it is nothing compared to the Austrian climb's 9 kilometres ahead, even with a 34x30 gear ratio. 

Alternating between 12 and 15%, the road zigzagged back and forth, and like just about all of the fabled climbs, it became ever harder the higher I climbed. I didn’t know at the time, but the final 2 kilometres was along privately-owned road, a very thin road, little more than a metre wide. Averaging 17.5% and maxing out above 22%, the final 700 metres of ‘footpath’ towards Kitzbüheler Horn’s 1996 metre summit, was a hell of a way to finish. Incredibly steep, I dreaded the thought of coming to a sudden halt, for fear of not being able to get back on my bike. If you’ve climbed the final 3 kilometres of Monte Zoncolan, from Sutrio or Priola, you’ll know exactly what I mean: tough!   
But one thing is for sure, the sprawling views of the valley below and the mountains beyond are well worth the sweat and heavy breathing of the last hour. Like all great climbs, it's well worth the effort!
 Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”

                                  English author Iris Murdoch

1 comment:

  1. 17%? That's intense Mark! Not a cyclist but I know enough of grades from running. Good stuff!