Monte Dolada (1939m) towers over the north end of Lago di Santa Croce and the northwest corner of Alpago valley. At 1495m, Rifugio Dolomieu lies near the top of the forested section- above that lies the mountain's exposed dolomite peak. The views from the rifugio are spectacular- it really feels like you're flying, looking down at the earth.
I started driving at 0715 under heavy overcast sky and rain showers. But a few kilometers west it started clearing and by the time I reached the parking spot north of Vittorio Veneto it was sunny and mostly clear (146m). It was quite cool and very windy in the gorge, as usual.
After the easy climb up to Sella di Fadalto (487m), I cruised along the west shore of Lago di Santa Croce until the right turnoff for Paludi. Soon the road turns upward, with a series of easy tornanti carrying you up to Tignes (560m). Continuing upward to Pieve d'Alpago (690m), the climb begins to steepen. I tried remaining seated for the most part to save energy for the bigger climb ahead.
Reaching Plois (850m), the real climb begins. Coming out of town is a half kilometer stretch averaging 15%, with bits of +18%. This "eases" to 12% average for the next half kilometer. Now comes a nice flattish spot at La Carota ristorante, where you can catch your breath and stretch while riding. The road from San Martino di Chies d'Alpago arrives from the right, then immediately you hit the hardest section- 2.25 kilometers averaging 13.5%. In this section there are 2 or 3 very long straight stretches, with no chance to catch your breath. I rode this standing At least the pavement isn't bad, and the drainage channels have been asphalted so they only have a slight dip. But today this section was covered in tiny flowers from the surrounding trees. The flowers and dampness caused some traction problems when standing. After this challenging bit, the average grade eases to slightly above 10% for the final kilometer and a half.
The end of the road at 1495m is covered in beautiful fir trees, with the rocky promontory of Monte Dolada visible overhead. Through gaps in the trees there are inspiring views of the conch of Alpago, the Lago, surrounding mountains. But today low flying clouds were heading in, in one case completely obscuring the view of the lake within seconds while I fiddled with my camera.
I headed down carefully, but tried to make time on the straight stretches. It was a challenge to slow down at the ends while jumping drainage channels, and braking hard on a damp road covered with little flowers. At one switchback I encountered a mountain biker ascending- the only human I saw above Plois (I did see a deer on the ascent). Shortly after, I was flying down a straight stretch and apparently hit a rock, blowing my front tire tube. I changed it by the road and continued the plummet.
After Plois the road is much better and you can descend rapidly. When I reached the lakeshore, the wind had reversed direction from this morning, and was in my face again. Cruel fate.
This is a great climb and I'll try to tackle it again this summer.
|Alpago forest and meadows|
|Epiphtye (or moss?) growing on tree at 1495m|
|Lamosano and Torres far below|
|Map of the climb|
|Detail of Plois to Rifigio Dolomieu|
|Detail Tignes to Plois|
|The long, steep section above La Carota- 2.27km averaging 13.5%|
|The gradient from Pieve d'Alpago to La Carota;|
note the 18.5% climb out of Plois
|From La Carota to Rifugio Dolomieu (1495m)|