Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sella Ciampigotti - Cima Sappada

I set my alarm for 0400 to escape the sweltering heat of the pianura today. I drove and arrived at Comeglians (540 meters) about 0800. Biked across the Torrente Degano, and headed up the beautiful Val Pesarina in the opposite direction from a couple weeks ago (see pics from the descent).

After a long cool climb in the shade, I arrived at the junction with the road from Sella di Razzo, over Forcella Laverdet to San Pietro di Cadore. Unfortunately the section to Forcella Laverdet and San Pietro di Cadore has been semi-permanently closed for a few years due to landslides. It's a shame because it's much shorter and looks like a wilder, less built-up area.

So I rode up toward Sella di Razzo (1739 meters). The road was closed briefly because of falling rocks while some men worked on the steep slope above the road. One guy was rappelling and fastening down some kind of heavy netting. Another guy in a precariously perched backhoe was moving earth, and creating mini-landslides. After awhile he paused, let the landslides play out, and shouted to the traffic stopper to let me pass. He grunted and waved his hand, so I weaved through the boulders in the road and carried on.

After Sella di Razzo I continued across the grassy meadows to a similar pass, Sella Ciampigotti (1790 meters). Why there are 2 passes about the same height so close together I have no idea. In any event, they're both absolutely gorgeous, covered with wildflowers, cool clear air, the sound of cowbells tinkling in the distance, and panoramas in every direction you look.

I then descended down the rough pavement, round switchbacks, etc toward Pelos di Cadore in Veneto. A large group of cyclists stretched out over a couple kilometers was climbing in the opposite direction. I think maybe they were Austrian or German- several blonde girls among them.

At the end of this descent you arrive in a fairly busy road, lots of tourists, tour buses, plus the usual trucks. For this and other reasons I'll mention, I wouldn't recommend riding this section (Pelos to Sappada) in the Summer. Probably much nicer on a Sunday in Spring or Fall.

Shortly you arrive in a 4.5 km tunnel. I don't mind tunnels, especially if they are well lit and maintained, but this one was neither. It had some dim fluorescent tubes every 50 meters or so- not enough to see the pavement without a headlight. Also a rough drop off at the edge of pavement into a sort of narrow gutter, and then a raised walkway (maybe 10 cm high). This is a bike accident waiting to happen. So if I go back (on a Sunday in Spring or Fall) I'll bring a bright headlight (I have an old Niterider from commuting days).

I made it through in one piece, rode through Santo Stefano di Cadore, a pretty meadowy town surrounded by mountains, and then headed up the Forra di Piave. This is a beautiful narrowing of the Piave River, with cool-looking rapids. Next town is San Pietro di Cadore, another nice town.

The next town, Sappada is not so nice in Summer- but I bet it's awesome in Spring or Fall. It's been made into a tourist strip, a several mile long shopping/snacking street mall. It's a shame really.

I rode through it as quickly as possible, then continued climbing along the edge of the Piave River canyon to Cima Sappada (1290 meters). Lovely views here.

I was delighted to return to the sanity of Carnia in Friuli- dense forest, quiet, fresh air. Exciting descent to Forni di Avoltri- lots of switchbacks, then a long straight stretch of 15%. Felt a little like free-fall. Forni is a beautiful town, followed by a short 1400 meter tunnel (well lit, good pavement). Now you are in the wild green Val Degano, threading the switchbacks down to Comeglians.

Great ride, with the caveats mentioned. I'll try the Forni di Avoltri - Cima Sappada climb soon, but I'll turn around at the top and come back down the way I came.

Waterfall above Torrente Pesarina

Monte Pieros (2314 meters)

Close up Monte Terza Grande (2586 meters)

Brave road workers preventing landslides

Sella di Razzo with mountains in background

Monte Terza Grande above Selle di Razzo

Close up mountains above Sella di Razzo

Sello di Razzo looking down Val Frisone

Monte Tudaio (2417 meters) above Sella Ciampigotti

Looking down Val Pesarina from Sella Ciampigotti

Farm above Sella Ciampigotti

Mountains of Marmarole

Forra di Piave

Downstream rapids in Piave river

Rapids upstream in Piave River

Looking from Acquatone down the Piave gorge

Rio Acquatone shooting out into space before plummeting down the Piave gorge


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