Thursday, June 28, 2012

Val Raccolana - Altopiano Montasio

Val Raccolana is one of the prettiest places I've ever visited.  More waterfalls than I've ever seen in one place, spruce-covered mountain slopes, topped by a grassy altopiano with mountain-peak panoramas in all directions.  It's in the northeast corner of Italy, stretching from the Slovenian border to Torrente Fella, the main north-south water course from the Austrian border.  

From Chiusaforte the road starts off with a couple of kilometers of tough gradients (9-11%) but they are mostly short lived.  If you prefer a flat warm-up, you could start in Resiutta, or just drive the first 2 km from Chiusaforte and begin the ride on easier gradient.

As you follow Torrente Raccolana up the valley, numerous high waterfalls spill down the surrounding cliffs.  I lost count but I guess there are 20.  To capture them you would need a telephoto lens, but I snapped a few pictures of the closer ones.

After 11 km of this scenic easy riding the road suddenly heads upward steeply through the spruces, eventually climbing a series of 6 switchbacks, with U-shaped tunnels at the west ends.  Definitely bring red tail light and reflective garment, because it's dark in there and cars can't see you.  Finally after 17km you arrive at Selle Nevea (1162m) a ski area mostly deserted in summer.  Somewhere along this climb my left knee had a sudden sharp pain and I couldn't put any weight on it.  I pedaled with my right leg and let the left knee rest awhile.  I was having my doubts about the tough upper section to the altopiano.  

After the last ski lodge there's a small turn-off to the left for Altopiano Montasio.  This is a narrow mountain lane starting off with 400m of 14% average gradient and multiple 18% ramps.  I stood and panted like a train and made it to the first crest, but immediately the steepness recommenced, over and over until I reached 1400 meters.  Here the gradient lessens to 10% or so, and you enter the treeless altopiano.  A final steep standing slog until 1540m, where pavement ends and you continue on dirt roads.  My left knee never troubled me once on the killer Altopiana Montasio section- it was a miracle healing, so I'll credit Madonna del Ghisallo, the patron saint of cyclists.

Descent was fast and fun.  What a wonderful ride- this will be an annual pilgrimage.     

Monte Canin (2587m) on Slovenian border

Further eastward along Monte Canin

Jof di Montasio (2753m) above altopiano

Alpine meadows with rifugio, looking west

Wildflowers in the meadows

Another rifugio below Jof di Montasio

Looking west down Val Raccolana

Cascata del Rio Repepeit

Cascata del Rio Repepeit

Fontanone Goriuda

Looking northwest from Fontanone Goriuda cave

Fontanone Goriuda pool

Side view of Fontanone Goriuda

Tall view of lower Fontanone Goriuda

Upper cascate Fontanone Goriuda

Overall view

Close-up upper climb to Altopiano Montasio,
tornanti up to Sella Nevea

Steep gradients up to Altopiano Montasio


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