Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fuessa - Val di Lauco

This is 2 climbs grafted together, with lots of ups and downs, and beautiful scenery along the way.  I drove to Tolmezzo and began pedaling toward Caneva.  I was a bit concerned that the steep climbing would start too soon into the ride without a  good warm up.  Not to worry- the turnoff for Caneva was marked "Austria, Sappada, Villa Santina" so I missed it and cruised around Tolmezzo for 15 minutes- short warm up but better than none.

After crossing the bridge over Torrente But (320m), I turned right on SP21, through the tunnel and shortly after turned left onto the road for Fusea.  It heads steeply upward almost immediately, with a series of tornanti that had me standing pretty much the whole time (except for the bends at the ends).  After a long time I reached the rolling meadows at Fusea (700m)- still steep but the lovely scenery made it worthwhile.  Then, after a stretch of climbing through forest I entered another big meadowy area, Curiedi (920m).

Now you turn left toward Buttea.  It's a steep descent along the sides of a seemingly bottomless gorge.  A man emerged onto the road having climbed up the side of this gorge with 2 black teruvians and a herd of goats.  And I thought I was working hard.  You eventually intersect Torrente Chiantone at 800m, and immediately head steeply up the opposite side of the gorge to Buttea (900m).  From here, a bit more climbing and you reach Fuessa (1012m), though the only sign I remember seeing in the place read Plugna.

Now you can either turn around the way you came, or you can head to Villa Santina via Vinaio.  I opted for the latter, which entails a descent to another mountain stream, Torrente Picone (775m), and then the little climb up to Vinaio (820m), with lovely Austrian-style wooden balconeys/flowers.  Here it's decision time again- ride down to Villa Santina, or climb the 350m elevation gain of average 10% grade to Val di Lauco first.  I was still feeling pretty good, so tried the climb.

Very steep but fantastic scenery- large-diameter old beech trees, fir trees, a deep valley on the left completely covered in forest, and silence, except for birds enjoying the woodland.  The pavement is very rough and crumbly and washed-away in places. No problem though, just concentrated on my breathing, used my arms to help when standing, and eased up the torque on the loose stuff.  After 3.5km the grade lessens and before long you emerge from the forest into the alpine meadows of Val di Lauco (1180m).  Surrounded by hills here, the only one I could identify being Monte Arvenis (1968m).  There are MTB trailheads here to Monte Zoncolan, which is the next ridge over.

I stopped to put on my windjacket for the descent, when the sweetest little brown and white spaniel quietly walked up to see who I was.  I petted her for a minute or two- she seemed so happy.  I said ciao and headed back down the hill.  Descended clutching the brakes because of the bad surface until Vinaio, then took the wide well-paved road toward Villa Santina.  It climbs briefly to Allegnidis (872m), then descends gently to Lauco, followed by a series of fast tornanti to Villa Santina.

My easy coast to Tolmezzo was not to be- a strong headwind had me tucked in and straining to pedal, even though it's a slight downgrade.  I turned off the main road at Caneva, rode along Torrente But and crossed the bridge to the car.  Fun ride with lots of possible variations- maybe I'll ride it the other way round next time.

BTW the 2003 Giro climbed Fuessa in stage 12 on the way to Monte Zoncolan from Sutrio, the "easy" side.  See http://www.gazzetta.it/speciali/giro2003/tappe/index_tappe.jhtml?Classif=tappa12



Meadows of Fusea (700m)

Torrente Chiantone,
 near vertical walls, hundreds of feet deep

Plugna foreground, with Vinaio in the distance

Torrente Picone,
with solid rock stream bed

Val di Lauco, 1180 meters


Climb from Caneva to Fusea and Curiedi


From Curiedi down to T. Chiantone, up to Buttea and Fuessa,
then down to T. Picone and up to Vinaio


From Vinaio to Val di Lauco


Descent from Vinaio to Villa Santina 

Elevation
The gradient

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