Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Malga Mezzomiglio - Strada del Taffarel

The climb to Malga Mezzomiglio is very humbling.  If you feel like you're getting fit, stronger, more skillful, etc come ride up this hill.  It starts out innocently enough,  ascending from the east shore of Lago di Santa Croce (400m) with a series of switchbacks through vacation homes, then continues to the village of Pianture.  Here the road suddenly tilts to 16% average gradient for a hundred meters or so, with 18% stretches.  That scorched my lungs pretty good, but I felt like I was recovering a little on the following stretches of 12%, or even "flattish" 10% through the spruce forest.  Around 970 meters I rounded a switchback and faced an 800m long straight stretch of 14% average gradient.  It goes on and on, you think a shadow or a little bump of asphalt you see ahead must be the end, but no, soon as you cross it the tilt gets steeper still.  There is no way to pose like a good climber here, or to fake the strength required to keep rolling forward- you're exposed.

I survived and continued up past 1100m and reached the turnoff for Strada del Taffarel.  This less-steep dirt road turns away from the foggy alpine meadows of Malga Mezzomiglio into the spruce woods and soon reaches a junction- left or straight?  I picked "straight" and the rocky road quickly became too steep for me.  So I hopped off and pushed. Eventually it leveled off and entered a lovely meadow, with clean, happy-looking cows ringing their bells as they walked.  The road petered out and I followed a path up to the right alongside the herd.  This was blind luck, because the man tending the cows was very helpful.  He had a handmade wool cloth hat, shaped exactly like those roundish-cone hats you see people wearing in medieval paintings.  Very cool.  I asked how to get to Strada del Taffarel and he pointed toward a trail through the forest below.  I asked what if I continued on my present path and he said it went to Monte Pizzoc but I couldn't ride on that (pointing at my bici di corsa), stating that a mountain bike was needed, and even then one must carry it on their shoulder much of the way.  So I thanked him and headed toward the trail through the forest below.

This was no longer a bikeable path (though much of it could be ridden on a MTB).  It was narrow, muddy from the constant mist and cloud up here, with much bare rock, fallen trees, etc.  So I carried the bike some and pushed it the rest of the way.  My cleat cover kept getting sucked off by the deep mud, but I managed to recover it.  The path crossed the ridge at 1366m and soon I sighted Strada del Taffarel below.  Unlike last week, the road was now quite muddy and kept clogging up my narrow road brakes.  I just cleaned them out each time and kept going.  This side of the ridge was sunny and cool, perfect riding weather.

After reaching pavement below Monte Pizzoc I descended fast, with no traffic to hinder me.  Then after La Crosetta I took the road toward Vittorio Veneto, and continued quickly sweeping down through the curves.

This was a fun ride of exploration, but I'll have to return soon and ride the missing link from Campon to Malga Mezzomiglio.  Then I'll coast down that 10% grade to the lake, laughing all the way.

Turn-off for Strada del Taffarel

The little valley where I encountered the helpful man with cows 

Helpful man pointed out this path 

Path soon grows rougher with tree-falls, etc 

Ridge line, with red spruce trees on the west slope,
beech trees on the east slope

Hallelujah! Strada del Taffarel

Looking back up the trail

The inevitable cowbell video

Rode clockwise

Ascent toward Malga Mezzomiglio

Close up of the mulattiera (mule track) through the forest

7.5km of 10% average gradient

The worst: 800 unending meters of 14% average gradient

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