Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monte Cuarnan

Gemona is a small city northwest of Udine on the Tagliamento River.  It was built on the lower slopes of Monte Cuarnan (1372m) with Monte Chiampon (1709m) looming even higher above it.  I've driven there many times before, particularly a few years ago when my neighbor had several appointments at the university hospital there, but never biked there.  Today the weather was perfect so I gave it a try.

I left home before 6 AM and took it easy all the way to Gemona, 60 km away.  I was disappointed I didn't see any grifoni at the wildlife refuge at Cornino.  Maybe it was too early and the updrafts weren't strong enough to carry them up the cliffs yet.  Near Avesinis I turned right and rode through Trasaghis and then crossed the Tagliamento.  I headed up the steeply-tilted streets toward the centro, and reached the highest spot near the Duomo.  I then traversed the slope near the top of town heading north.  After quite a ways the pretty houses thinned out and I saw a road called Strada di Foredor, which begins switchbacking up the grassy slope.

After a bit the narrow lane entered a tree-shaded zone, which continued all the way up to 967 meters.  The pavement is mostly good, with a few rare craters, patches of loose stone, etc.  The gradient is very mellow and constant- mostly in the 5-8% range.  In the last km or so the road is crossed every 20 or 30 meters by deep, wide metal drainage gutters, so be careful when descending. 

At 967m  I entered a gravel parking area at end of pavement.  There is a very rough steep dirt road which leads one kilometer to Malga Cuarnan and Sella Foredor.  I saw a hiking trail marked 10 minutes to the malga.  So I put on my cleat covers and tried hiking up, alternately carrying/pushing the bike.  Finally the trail enters a meadow at 1037m with wonderful views of Monte Chiampon.  A dairy farmer had set up ropes around an area for his cows to feed, unfortunately smack in the middle of the trail.  I decided the bike might spook the cows, so I took some pictures here and turned around.  

The descent was nice, though you can't go very fast because of the drainage channels (which I bunny hopped) and the blind tornanti, with a few (not many) cars coming up.  I decided to take a different route through the upper part of town (Via Baldo instead of Strada di Foredor).  I would definitely avoid climbing Via Baldo to approach the climb- has a long 16-18% stretch, which you can easily avoid by taking Strada di Foredor instead.    

Took it easy on the ride home and just kept moving.  Got home shortly after 1PM, very hungry and tired.  This is an easy climb, very shady so the sun won't beat you down, with great views of the Tagliamento River and Monte Chiampon.  And as a bonus, it has 40 tornanti, more than any other climb in Friuli.       

Monte Chiampon attracting clouds

Close up of Monte Chiampon

The trail-blocking milk cows with Malga Cuarnan in background

Hazy Monte San Simeone rising from the Tagliamento River

Trasaghis at the bridge across Tagliamento River

Profile of the ride

Strada di Foredor approach and the first series of tornanti

The upper half of the climb

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monte Candaglia

Monte Candaglia is one of the small mountains rising from the eastern edge of altopiano  del Cansiglio.  It's a nature reserve, with tall red spruce and beech trees towering over its steep slopes.  Maybe 15 years ago Marilyn and I hiked there with our little terrier Rocky.  Since then we haven't returned, but I've always remembered how beautiful it was.  Today's stupendous weather was a perfect excuse to revisit the place.   

I left home on my bike at 6 AM and arrived at Caneva around 7.  I took the back road through vineyards to Villa di Villa and began the climb.  This is my favorite route to Il Cansiglio, very wild and solitary.  Today I saw only one car on the whole ascent- no one else, though I did interrupt two deer's breakfast along the lane.  The gradient is a fairly constant 7-8% for 10 kms- good workout.  The bottom half is sometimes exposed to full sun, and at others cloaked by small trees.  I don't know how much shade these would provide on summer afternoons.   Around 700 meters you enter a very shady beech tree forest (mixed with spruce as well), which you climb to around 980 meters.  Here you join the main road from Caneva which continues to La Crosetta.

The altopiano was absolutely gorgeous this morning- cool and green with deep blue sky.  I continued to Piancansiglio and turned right.  There is a golf course here, in winter used for crosscountry skiing.  I'd never noticed the artesian wells before, with water gushing upward from a wide standpipe.  Pavement ends at the forest edge and I rode carefully to a barrier, where I had to get off and walk.  I was unsure where pavement resumed because it was so long ago- turned out to be about a km. 

The pavement resumes and is very narrow, with lots of loose pebbles.  I rode slowly due to the steepness, which became even steeper later.  Only lost traction once- not too bad for near 20%.  Watch for metal drainage gutters crossing the road, especially on the descent (I stayed on the brakes all the way down).  The trees here are very large and tall, and the understory is full of contorted karst formations covered in moss.  It is dead silent except for birdsong.  Switchbacks wind upward back and forth, finally arriving at Casa Forestale della Candaglia, a forest ranger outpost.  Along the way you pass dirt roads for La Crosetta and Pian Rosada near Campon.  They looked rideable with a road bike- I'll have to try them another time.

On the ride home I descended via the main road to Sarone- very fun carving the turns today.  I actually got tired toward the end and just wanted to go straight.  It was quite hot down on the plain, but I bore down and made it home by noon.  

Leafy canopy over the road above Villa di Villa

Shady zone above Villa di Villa, near the parco di carbonaio
(charcoal makers)

On Monte Candaglia, the mossy understory 

Switchback below Casa Forestale 1247m  

Tall beech trees blocking the bright sun

Monte Candaglia across the meadows, from the main road climbing to La Crosetta 

Map of ride

View of Piancansiglio and the turn off for Candaglia

Close up of climb to casa forestale della Candaglia

Steep gradient to Monte Candaglia

The climb from Piancansiglio to Candaglia is
about 3 km and gains 250m.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Montefosca - Canebola

Cool sunny morning- perfect for exploring a little-known bike ride.  I've seen the sign for Slovenia and Montefosca at La Bocchetta di Sant'Antonio, but is the road only rideable with a mountain bike?  I'll find out.

After Cividale I parked at Ponte di San Quirino and warmed up on the strada statale toward Slovenia.  After San Pietro al Natisone, I turned left at Pulfero, crossed Torrente Natisone and immediately started climbing.  This is another of those ascents I love so much- uncrowded switchbacks grappling up a steep hillside, immersed in dense forest, silent except for birdsong and falling water.  From 200m to 775 meters there are few breaks in the constant gradient (averaging 8.5%).  The cliffside villages of Erbezzo,  Zapatocco, and Calla are about the only reduced gradient points. The grind finally lets up at a chiesetta above Calla at 780m, where a wonderful 5km flat-to-slightly-downhill section begins.  Great views of Montefosca and the surrounding mountains from here.

Montefosca seems like the end of the road, but there's a sign pointing to Slovenia and Canebola.  I thought maybe I'd missed a turn, as the paved path meandered through a narrow alley past peoples' front steps and gardens, but some road bikers surprisingly arrived from the opposite direction and confirmed this was the way to Slovenia.  Soon as you leave Montefosca the road gets quite steep- several ramps of 16-18% in the next kilometer, till the high point at 853m.  There's a brief flat stretch here on the flank of Monte Vogu, then a steep descent for the next 3km or so, including some -16 to -18% slopes.  The road is quite rough (pebbles stuck in asphalt, with many of the pebbles having come loose), though it was no problem to descend cautiously.  Climbing 18% on a loose-pebble road could cause problems.  When I ride this route in the opposite direction someday, I'll be ready to jump off and walk if loss of traction is too bad.

The descent ends in a lovely meadow area at 646m.  There is a rustic agriturismo here, with nice pastures with horses, cows, goats and deer.  Also an area with much moss-covered eroded karst stone, like Pradis di Sotto or Il Cansiglio.  I've read this rounded erosion was caused by underground rivers carving the karst when it was deep underground.  The shapes do look like cave formations.  

I followed the tiny paved lane to the Slovenia border which has no river or bridge, only a disused border control station and a sign.  The nearest village in Slovenia is Robidišce.    The Italian town of Prossenicco is visible in the distance and can be reached by hiking trail.  

After returning to the meadowy area, I continued on the narrow lane up the gradual ascent to La Bocchetta di Sant'Antonio (788m).  From there, I descended the smoothly-paved switchbacks through Canebola to Faedis.  This will be a nice climb to try someday.

On the main road from Faedis I cruised down to Cividale, then east to Ponte di San Quirino.   Another fun ride in this beautiful area- can't wait to return.

BTW stopped by Vogrig paneficio at Cividale on the way home and bought some Plum Cake and a whole grain foccacia.  Those will be delicious! 

Montefosca from road at 770m

Slovenian border

Slovenian peaks from La Bocchetta di Sant'Antonio

Close up of Slovenian peaks

Map of ride

Close up of climb to Montefosca

Close up of ascent to 853m, descent to Slovenian border 

Descent from La Bocchetta di Sant'Antonio to Faedis

The 3 high points: la chiesetta above Calla, Monte Vogu,
La Bocchetta di Sant'Antonio 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Porzus - Madonnina del Domm

Finally a break in the rainy weather, so I headed back to the central Julian Prealps north of Cividale.  I decided to park at Faedis so I could warm up for the steep climb to Porzus. But it turns out the road from Faedis to Attimis  is itself quite hilly- starting out with a 10% knoll followed by a set of rolling hills.  So I arrived in Attimis as ready as I'd ever be.

After Attimis the narrow lane for Porzus branches right from the road to Subit.  Almost immediately, the lane enters a lovely dense forest and tilts to 10%- it maintains this 10% average grade up a series of switchbacks for the next 4 km.  Now you reach the edge of the village of Porzus, with some lovely hay meadows.  The road for Malghe di Porzus turns away from the town and heads up the wooded hill toward a group of TV and microwave repeaters.  This section is even steeper, with much 14% grade.  I stayed seated except to stretch.

Finally at 910 meters you reach a T-intersection.  Left takes you to Plan del Jof, right goes to Malghe di Porzus and Canebola.   I turned right and enjoyed a kilometer of -3% descent, an opportunity to catch my breath and rest my back.  Now a sign on the left indicates the turn off for Malghe di Porzus.   And now you face a wall of 18-20% concrete road.  It has transverse grooves to improve traction, and despite all the rain, I only spun the rear wheel once.  The bike stopped in its tracks until I got on top of the other crank arm and firmly (but not too hard) pressed it down.   The wall ends, there's a flattish stretch through spruce forest, now another wall, repeat again, and you're at the end of pavement (968m).  Lovely views here of the surrounding valleys and mountains, though today the valleys were full of cloud and the mountains appeared to be floating on top.

I rolled back down this wall and turned left on the road for Canebola.  Nice descent down forested slopes.  Now you arrive at Bocchetta Sant'Antonio, a solitary church in gorgeous meadows full of wildflowers. There's a junction here: one road leads to Montefosca and Slovenia,  another descends to Canebola and Faedis, and a third climbs to Madonnina del Domm.  I chose the latter, which climbs through more glorious wildflowery meadows and  spruce forest to Madonnina del Domm (960m).

On the left I saw a packed gravel road for Monte Joanaz, which was pretty rideable though squishy from the rain.  After a half km it turned into a jumble of gullies so I stopped and walked through the wildflowers covering the embankment till I reached the ridgeline.  Fantastic views of the mountains to the east, valleys etc.  Really nice place.

I originally planned to descend to Faedis, but the sunny weather and views of Torreano valley made me want to try that way.  It was was quite rough until Masarolis, then improved- lots of fun tornanti.  Eventually it empties into a slightly downhill valley mouth, and then you turn north toward Faedis.  I misread a sign along here and did an extra 200 meter climb to Colloredo, but it was a smooth road with nice switchbacks so I can't grumble too much ;-)

Love this area and will be returning soon.    

Steep switchbacks from Attimis to Porzus

Lovely hay meadows by Porzus village

From Malghe di Porzus the sea of clouds 

Bocchetta di Sant'Antonio

Looking up the meadows toward Monte Joanaz

Near Madonnina del Domm looking down at
Bocchetta di Sant'Antonio and Canebola

From Monte Joanaz looking east into Slovenia

Map of ride

Close up Attemis to Malghe di Porzus

Close up from Bocchetta di Sant'Antonio to Madonnina del Domm
and down toward Torreano

The two highest points

The steepness above Porzus and up toward Malghe di Porzus

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Montemaggiore - Plan del Jof

To celebrate the first day of summer I decided to try a climb in a different area of Prealpi Giulie.  This one's a bit north of Cividale, Matajur and Kolovrat.   It starts at Nimis north of Udine, and quickly transports you to an undeveloped and solitary zone along the Slovenian border.

I left very early and arrived at Nimis at 7AM.  The road signed for Taipana starts very gently, following Torrente Cornappo up its narrow, densely-wooded gorge.  After a few km you turn right, as the main road continues to Monteaperta.  The road to the right follows Rio Gorgons briefly, then crosses it and heads slightly less-gently upward (8%).  At the junction above Taipana (a valley town), you go left toward Montemaggiore.  This next stretch starts out steep (11%), but after a km or so, returns to gentle climbing, even flatness.  Eventually you end up in a little town, Montemaggiore at the end of the road (800m).  A little dog chased me and his owner called him "Cicchi! Lazzarone! (rascal)."  

I retraced my path and passed a turn-off marked Campo di Bonis but was afraid it might be a dead end, so I continued back to the junction for Platischis.  This was a fun descent and ended up at- Campo di Bonis. Then up over another  pass, Sella San Antonio Na Privale (790m).  The narrow but well-paved road descended down a gorge, then through Platischis, a town with a surprising number of houses considering its remoteness.  I don't know how many are inhabited though- possibly many are abandoned. 

Now the road continues descending to the low point, 379m, where a bridge branches across Rio Namlen (head water of Fiume Natisone) to Slovenia.  A sign indicted the road leads to Kobarid, which is good because it could be used to loop back into Italy after other climbs into Slovenia.  From here, the road is one of the gentlest, most constant grades I've ever ridden, almost imperceptibly rising up through the village of Prossenicco (550m) and onward to Plan del Jof at 781m.  Not sure how they did it but it's magical.  This entire stretch of road from Platischis to Plan del Jof is devoid of buildings, even farmhouses, except for the one small borgo di Prossenicco.  It is dense forest, without the sound of tractors or chainsaws- utterly silent except for birdsong and white water.  Really a unique area.

Plan del Jof is a junction in the woods for Canebola-Porzus, Attimis, and Prossenicco.  I was running short of time: needed to drive home (1.5 hrs), do dishes, vac/mop floors, shower, and show the guy from the door company around our house.  So I took the shortest route- to Attimis.  Wonderful switchback descent on smooth pavement.  The multi-colored wildflowers zooming by when sweeping through the tornanti were breathtaking.  After Attimis a little climb over a small pass to Nimis, then to the car and back home. 

If you are in the area definitely try this climb.  You will not regret it.  This blog has some great pics/info on rides in the area:

Monteaperta across the gorge

Gran Monte above Montemaggiore

Campo di Bonis from road to Montemaggiore

Attimis from near Plan del Jof

The 3 high points

Overall map of ride

Close up Taipana to Montemaggiore,
to Campo di Bonis to Platischis

To Rio Namlen on Slovenian border,
gentle climb to Prossenicco to Plan del Jof

Wonderful descent through Subit to Attimis,
then brief climb to Nimis