Sunday, July 3, 2011

Passo di Giau da Forno di Zoldo

Il Giau is one of the "must ride" climbs of Dolomiti Bellunesi.  Stupendous scenery, a challenging ascent, well-paved switchbacks on the descent- it's got it all. Today the weather forecast looked good so I thought I'd give it a try.  

I left early and drove up Val Cellina (beautiful fog bank covered Lago Vajont valley below Erto).  After Longarone I continued up Val Mae to Forno di Zoldo (827m).  Here I began biking toward Dont at a frosty 12℃.  The climbing quickly defrosted me and I reached Forcella Staulanza (1773m), with Monte Pelmo looming above at 3168 meters.  Now you begin an easy descent to Selva di Cadore, and the turn off for Il Giau at 1332m.  

I love the climb up Passo di Giau from Selva di Cadore: 29 tornanti through grassy meadows along a tumbling mountain stream, surrounded by spectacular peaks.  The gradient is a fairly constant 9.1%, so I stayed seated, except to stretch my back a couple of times.  Higher up the wind gusts picked up, which occasionally created the illusion of coming to a standstill (or rolling backwards) at this low speed.  But eventually I crested the summit (2236m).  Quite crowded up here on a July Sunday morning, with motorbikes, cars, tour buses and even a few cyclists mulling about.  The wildflowers were quite pretty but I'm afraid I was beginning to freeze up here and didn't stay long enough to photograph them.

The descent was fun, fast and curvy.  Reaching the bottom, I began the longish ascent back up Forcella Staulanza, which felt good because it thawed me out.  Cold again on the descent from the forcella to Forno di Zoldo.  I think I got a touch of hypothermia toward the end- I was suddenly convinced I had missed the towns of Dont and Forno di Zoldo where the car was parked and was headed for Longarone.  Luckily I soon spotted my car and came back down to earth.     

If you come to the Dolomiti on holiday try to include Passo di Giau in your itinerary- it's a  really special place.

Looking south from Fusine

Monte Pelmo 3168m from Palafavera

Monte Civetta 3220m from Palafavera

Horses snacking with Monte Civetta in background

View down valley from Santa Fosca 1424 meters

From the switchbacks of Passo di Giau- looking south
Looking up toward Il Giau
Wider view

Mountains to southwest from Passo di Giau

Peak atop Il Giau

Mountains to north

Panorama north-northeast

Panorama to east 

From the pass looking west

Looking west from the pass

Close up of peak atop Il Giau

Close up of  Monte Marmolada 3205m

Monte Pelmo from Forcella Staulanza


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