Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tre Cime di Lavaredo

I've dreamed of climbing Tre Cime di Lavaredo ever since I heard of it.  For weeks I've been checking the weather daily, looking for a rain-free day at Misurina.  Today was the first one, so I jumped at the chance.  

I drove past Auronzo to Palus San Marco, a tiny settlement in the beautiful Somadida spruce forest.  From here I rode the bike up a 536 meter climb to the turn off for Misurina (if you go straight the climb continues to Passo di Tre Croci (1805m)).  This warm up was bit more difficult than I planned, with quite a few stretches of 10-12% gradient, but it definitely succeeded in warming me up.  After the turn-off, the Misurina road continues upward for another 100m to Misurina at 1752m.   A nice flattish stretch here, through pastures with bell-wearing cows and small light-brown horses with blond manes.  Tourists lured these horses to the fence and petted them, fed them apples, etc.  The flatness continued along the pretty lake (which I tried to focus on rather than the tourist places on the other side of the road.  

Leaving town you turn right toward Rifugio Auronzo,  at the base of Cime di Lavaredo.  After some easy riding, you hit the first climb, a 500m ramp averaging 12.4%.  That put me in the red zone and I was gasping etc.  I concentrated on standing on everything above 12%, using my back and glute muscles to push my legs downward,  pulling up on the bars on each downstroke, and  getting as much air in my lungs as possible with each inhalation (belly breathing, pulling ribcage upward).   Not sure I'm coordinated enough to do all of this at once, but maybe with practice it will all become part of my muscle memory. 

Toward the top of this ramp I arrived at the end of a long traffic jam.  There were no cars coming from the opposite direction so I passed the stationary line of cars.  Several drivers decided not to wait and tried turning around, blocking the road from edge to edge.  So I hopped off and walked along the road edge around the chaos for about 50 meters.  I reached a spot where I could restart laterally and then head back up the steep road, continuing past the line of waiting cars.  The jam stretched over the top of the hill, round the bend for a km to the toll plaza.  Cars and motorcycles must pay to use this road, but luckily bikes are free.

Shortly the steepness recommences as you grind up the slopes between tornanti ends.  At 1844m you cross a little bridge, and the road steepens a bit more.  For the next 4 km the average gradient is 11.7%, with some stretches above 16%.   I saw only one other bike ascending, a mountain biker whom I passed, but a few cyclists rode past descending.   One shouted "Hai fatta!" in encouragement.  Eventually you reach a large parking area for Rifugio Auronzo.  There is a short ramp to the rifugio, which is quite crowded with tourists.  If you continue straight up the parking lot you reach another ramp to an overlook area directly beneath Cima Ovest (2973m).  Awesome panoramas from here, and the air was so clear it seemed you could reach out and touch the surrounding peaks.  A hiking path circles the Tre Cime, so next time I'll try to bring some shoes and a bike lock.

Despite the bright sun, I soon got chilly with temps in the teens and gusty winds.  It's a wonderful descent with wide, smooth pavement, but a bit crowded in August, so you must anticipate cars cutting across the switchback ends, coming over the centerline in curves, etc.  I must have gotten an early start, because now a horde of cyclists were grinding up the hill.   The coda at the toll plaza was as long as ever and now almost completely stationary, because once the rifugio parking lot capacity is reached, they only admit one car when another car leaves.  After Misurina the glide down to Palus San Marco was very peaceful. 

I highly recommend this climb-  beautiful scenery, a great road, and challenging ascent.

Monte Cristallo (3221m) from the climb above Palus San Marco
Lago di Misurina, with my target in the distance
Cima Ovest (2973m) and Cima Grande (3000m)
Croda Rossa (3146m)- love the red rock
The panorama to southwest
Close up of Monte Cristallo
Lago di Misurina
Lago di Auronzo
Close up of Croda Rossa
Dolomite spires to southeast
Rifugio Auronzo below Cime Ovest and Grande
Close up of vertical rock walls Cima Grande
Campanule (bluebells) and cardo (thistle)
Map of the ride
Close up from Col San Angelo to Rifugio Auronzo
Altimetria from

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