Saturday, May 7, 2011

Monte Crostis da Comeglians

Monte Crostis from Comeglians is a very special climb.  For one thing, it includes 13.5 km of essentially uninterrupted climbing, up 1412 meters at an 10.4% average gradient.  That's more than any single climb I've done.  The environment is also very special- dense fir forest from 530m up to around 1300m, then some grassy slopes and sparser trees, and finally a grassy bald alpine zone.  Other than one or two little villages near the beginning, it's remote and wild.  

I started from Comeglians (530m) and rode around a bit to warm up- down to the bridge across Torrente Degano, across Torrente Peserina, and through some small frazioni of Ovaro.  Then back to Comeglians, and I began the grade toward Mieli (654m).  The morning air was cool in the shade of tall, red spruce trees covering the slopes, above rushing whitewater.   Up further to Tualis at 890m: a picturesque village that looks right out of Austria- with characteristic church steeple.  Above Tualis I reached a construction barrier- they're trying to fix the roads up for the Giro d'Italia's first-ever climb of Monte Crostis on May 21, 2011.  I continued on and on, round tornanti, always steadily climbing.  

As I mentioned, the environment changes above 1300m- there are fir trees along the sides of the road with sunny, open grassy slopes.  Still nice and cool at 1030 AM in May, but this would get hot in summer.  The surprisingly constant gradient turns steeper above 1700 meters, averaging 14% for half a kilometer, and reaching pitches of 17%.  After 1800 meters the slope lessens somewhat, until you reach the top at 1982m.  I took some pictures and enjoyed the view, then was surprised when a guy on a road bike arrived.  The climb had been deserted until now.  After a bit I said ciao and started the second phase of this ride- Panoramica delle Vette.

This is a dirt road which travels mostly level along the slopes of Monte Crostis for 5 km.  It is a treeless alpine zone, with sheep, marmots, birds, tall grass, red rock outcroppings, and this time of year, streams and waterfalls full of snowmelt.  When I rode this in the opposite direction last year, it was very rough- covered with red rock chips from the local cliffs, lots of ruts and single track with little boulders, etc.  In preparation for the Giro, they've rebuilt it with a layer of grayish chipped rock and dust, trucked in from below I guess.  Very smooth for a dirt road.

All the construction doesn't seem to have disturbed the marmot population, which were darting across the road, digging holes (tunnels?), and shrieking.  One very fat marmot ran across the road and dove into a drainage hole in a rock retaining wall.  I was surprised he was able to fit, but he squirmed in somehow.

At the end of Panoramica delle Vette the third phase begins- the paved descent to Ravascletto (958m).  This was a crumbly mountain lane last year when I climbed it, but they are working hard to get it paved before the Giro arrives.  Several brand new smooth asphalt sections were fun to descend, but further down there was much scraped-off pavement with 3-4 inch vertical transitions.  I slowed enough for most of these or jumped them, but one I hit square on at speed- thought I blew the tube for sure but no, it held up.

Edited to add: Just noticed a news report that Alberto Contador mentions possibly changing wheels (or bikes) for the descent of Monte Crostis because of the rough road.  Ok, it's not just me- I feel a little better now.  

Finally joined the main road at Ravascletto and rocketed down the steep curves to Comeglians.  That was fun.

This is a great climb I've always aspired to, so I was very happy to complete it.  Additionally, Panoramica delle Vette is a must ride if you love alpine grassland environment.  Not to mention the views of surrounding peaks and valleys.  Quite a spectacular day.

Looking north up Val Degano,
Monte Crostis (2251m) upper right 

Facing southwest, Mieli in foregound

Across Val Degano to a row of peaks
in Dolomiti Bellunesi 

Hazy shot of Monte Zoncolan across Sella Valcalda  

Panoramica delle Vetta road hugging the slopes of Monte Crostis

Westward view of the Dolomiti

Snowmelt cascading along Panoramic delle Vette

Alpine flowers near waterfall

Another snowy waterfall, with light green
lichen-covered boulders

Looking east toward Monte Paularo (2043m)

Start of climb up to Tualis (890m)

From Tualis to 1300m

From 1300m to 1700m

The top (1982m), upper left, and the start of Panoramica delle Vette

Panoramica delle Vette continues through grasslands

Descent on twisty paved road begins 

Descent continues to Ravascletto

Fast twisty main road descending from Ravascletto

The final curves coming into Comeglians

Climbing 1412 meters in 13.5 km: 10.4% average gradient

The steepest bit, above 1700 meters: 17.2% 


  1. Hello, thanks for all the fascinating descriptions, I only know a handful of these climbs.
    Is the top bit of Monte Crostis being asphalted? Some German motorcyclists claimed it was.
    And have you been up Monte Zoncolan or Arvenis yet?
    Greetings from Switzerland!

  2. The flattish road along the top of Monte Crostis (Panoramica delle Vette) is still dirt, but they've smoothed it considerably since last year- easily rideable with bici di corsa.

    Have not done Zoncolan yet, but intend to try the easier side (from Sutrio) this summer. Arvenis is only accessable by MTB as far as I know.

  3. Still need to go back there and nice to know it is better surface than earlier! Monte Arvenis up to at least 1281m from Ovaro should be possible (but steep, surprise ... ;-)).

  4. Thanks! I'll have to check out Arvenis from Ovaro. The closest I got was Fusea-Val di Lauco (above Tolmezzo-Villa Santina), where I saw some MTB and hiking trailheads marked Mt Arvenis.

  5. sorry, i don't speak english but congratulation for your blog and your report...
    by bastianella 31...