Thursday, June 21, 2012

Monte San Simeone

One of my all-time favorite climbs, Monte San Simeone rises like an island between the Tagliamento River and Lago Cavazzo.  It is completely wild, with a fantastic wild flower "garden" covering the meadows near end of pavement.  The road itself was built by the Italian army before World War I, and has a mostly steady (though steep) gradient for its 13km. 

I left home around 0600 and felt kind of sluggish- just need to synchronize my Circadian rhythm with my "ride before it gets hot" program.  After Pinzano I passed by the Grifone Rifugio at Lago Cornino, but no one was flying.  The sun hadn't yet heated the cliffs to create updrafts so the giant birds couldn't launch from their nests.

I climbed above Lago Cavazzo up past Interneppo with its beautiful murals to the little pass at 315m.  Here you turn off onto the climb proper.  It's shady and moderately steep at first, then past the turn off for Monte Festa (another WW I fortress), followed by gradually increasing sun exposure and steepness.  At 500m begins a neat series of tornanti, with U-shaped tunnels at the northeast ends.  After this series, you start longer, steeper meandering switchbacks.  There are some shady sections but mostly sun-exposed, so I felt quite clever climbing before 10 AM.   

Eventually you leave the climb up the sheer slopes on the mountainside and begin to climb across and up alpine meadows.  Lots of wildflowers.  Some great views of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys here, though it was hazy today.  I rode up to the turn-off for the quaint stone church San Simeone (built in 1330).  But the paved road didn't end here at 1180m like last year- they've laid concrete roadway over the next ridge and down to the edge of Pian dai Purcei, a flattish area of grassy meadows and woods.  Behind and above this is the summit at 1505m, which can be reached on foot. 

I descended fairly quickly, though never wide-open: there are no guard rails, so the slightest error and you will be base jumping without a parachute.  I had a pinch flat and changed it: mis-timed my bunny hop on one of the abrupt transitions.

Ride home was hot but not unbearable.  I was very tired when I finished,  not to mention hungry and thirsty.  Next stop Sella Ronda!

Pieve di Santo Stefano on ridge, Lago Cavazzo below
Close up Santo Stefano

Pian dai Purcei at end of new concrete road;
summit Monte San Simeone in background

Wild roses in alpine meadow

Close-up wild rose

Tagliamento River near Bordano

Some of the steeper spikes

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