Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monte Croce Carnico - Nassfeldpass

Passo di Monte Croce Carnico and Nassfeldpass are two Austrian border crossings north of here.  I thought I'd connect the two of them with a brief ride in Austria and make a loop of the two climbs.

I drove to Tolmezzo, arriving about 7 AM.  From here you follow the main road along Torrente But through Arta Terma and Paluzza.  Now the gradient steepens a bit as you follow the gorge to Timau.  See pictures of this area I previously took at Pian delle Streghe.  Timau is a pretty town, though a bit frightening because of the huge rock faces towering over the houses.  It's been here for centuries though so maybe I'm being silly.

After more gentle climbing you reach a very well-engineered scala of 12 switchbacks up the cliffs to the pass, with great views of the valley below and surrounding mountains.  The pass itself was windy and cold, shaded by a tall peak on either side- Creta delle Collinetta (2238m) on the left and Pal Piccolo (1866m) on the right.  

Now you enter a steep downhill tunnel with poor pavement- luckily there wasn't much traffic.  You exit into a lovely hanging meadow with a little lake and nice views of the mountains above.  The road continues steeply downward, with buckled asphalt and sharp curves.  There are a few flat and gently ascending stretches to keep you from getting too frozen.

At the bottom you arrive in Mauthen, and turn onto a country road through Würmlach.  Lovely country houses here, with impossible quantities of flowers tumbling from their window boxes.  After crossing the Gail River you reach Dellach and join the main road which is rather busy.  I saw some bike paths on the other side of the Gail which might actually save you time by avoiding the ride to the main road, but I had no map and didn't want to get lost. 

This stretch in Austria seemed longer than I expected, but was very gently rolling and not difficult.  At Tröpolach you turn toward Nassfeldpass.  I started out spinning up the beautiful twisty road through dense fir forest, by waterfalls and the tumbling white water of Tröglbach.  Soon the gradient steepens- above 13-14% I stood in the pedals, panting like a freight train.  This steepness doesn't abate- continuing for kilometers.  Overall it averages 8.6% over 11km, including the easy first kilometer and the easy last 2 km. 

For some pictures of the lovely pass, please see my previous climb from the Italian side- Passo di Pramollo.  Now for the descent- I was happy to see fresh asphalt as I started, then realized it was a short stretch and for the next 2-3 km the road was either stripped of its old pavement in preparation for paving, or so freshly paved that asphalt was sticking to the tires, frame etc.  This is bad because the sticky tar catches bits of glass, sharp stones etc which can cause a flat.  Fortunately I escaped that fate, the road work ended, and it was smooth sailing down to Pontebbe.  Can't wait to try this again once the paving's finished- it will be a wonderful plummet. 

Now began the longest stretch of the ride- slightly downhill (with occasional steep descents) for an hour or two along Torrente Fella then Torrente Tagliamento.  It's a wonderful road, wide and smooth with most of the traffic opting for the adjacent autostrada.  Toward the end it flattens and even has slight uphill grades from Carnia up to Tolmezzo.  I was so tired driving home it seemed the car was on autopilot- luckily it knew exactly where to go.

San Pietro di Carnia above Zuglio,
 Torrente But

Creta di Timau (2217m) cliffs above Timau

Close up of Gamspitz (1847m) above Timau

Monte Coglians (2780m) highest peak in Friuli

Looking down the scala climbing
Passo di Monte Croce Carnico

Monte Terzo (2034m) south of the pass

Monte Pezzacul (2178) with Monte Crotis peeking over the ridge

Monte Floriz (2184m)

From Austria, Creta di Collinetta (2238m)

Close up of Creta di Collinetta

Gamskofel (2526m)

From Gailtal bridge, the range between Austria and Italy

From Gailtal bridge, Schaatzbühl (2090m)

Dellach below Reisskofel (2369m)

GPS track running clockwise

Easy climb up Passo di Monte Croce Carnico

Hard climb up Nassfeldpass

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