Monday, July 30, 2012

Lago di Val Galina

Got a late start this morning because I had an early morning fasting blood test, so by the time I had breakfast etc it was around 10AM.  I started my ride from Cimolais, up the Val Cellina from our town.  I did a bit of warmup on the easy gradient down to Pineda, then headed up over Passo Sant' Osvaldo (827m), past Erto and Lago Vajont and down to Longarone on the Piave River.  From here I tried a new route along the east bank of the Piave to Provagna and Severzene.  Here you make sharp left turn onto the road for Diga Val Galina.

This road was a pleasant surprise.  The road is well-engineered, nicely paved and kept clean of rockfalls.  It starts in gently rising grassy meadows and soon enters a landscape of rocky cliffs and sparse trees.  The switchbacks are very well designed, with flattish curves at each end to catch your breath, and even-gradients in between.  The road builders must have blasted through many tons of rock during construction to produce such a consistent gradient.  Soon the road enters denser forest with occasional glimpses of surrounding peaks.  In a false flat at 700 meters the diga (dam) road turns left, and the trailhead road begins climbing more steeply.  I was standing in the pedals and breathing very hard on this section, managing to hang on until the road finally leveled off before ending at Monte Dolada trailhead (881m).  

After resting I descended gingerly because of the numerous drainage channels and curves, until 700m where I turned and descended to the dam (679m).  I was happy to see the dam could be crossed on my bike- so I gave it a try.  The roadway is about 3 meters wide, with guardrails on both sides.  I stayed on the lake side of the road, because the precipitous drop on the downstream side made me dizzy.  Really wonderful views from here of the surrounding high peaks.  I then climbed back up to 700m and descended the lovely road back to Severzene.

This is a wonderful little climb, and almost completely deserted, even in high season July-August.  The whole time I saw one hiker and later one little car.  Peaceful, relaxing ride.    

Spiz Galina (1545m) from Soverzene

Close up of Spiz Galina from the climb 

Sentiero Naturalistico Monte Dolada sign above
Lago di Val Galina  (881m)

Spiz Galina and Monte Toc (1921m)  

Monte Toc, left, and Cima Sora il Ciot (2318m) right

Col Mat (1981m), center, and Monte Dolada (1938m), right

Col Nudo (2471m) crowned by clouds

Lovely switchback cut through notch in rocky cliffs

The ride from Cimolais to Longarone and Soverzene

Close up of climb to Lago di Val Galina

3.5 km of 7.5% up to lake turn-off

1.5 km of 9.1% up to the Monte Dolada trailhead

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Most na Soči - Lokovec - Čepovan

Bike rides like this are why I love Slovenia so much.  A well-paved mountain road, winding through isolated forests and meadows, not knowing exactly where I'm going but always discovering new surprises.

I started at Kobarid and warmed up on the road along River Soča. After Tolmin I continued on to Most na Soči (175m), where the Soča and Idrijca Rivers join, found the obscure turn-off marked Lom, and headed uphill.  The first road turned out to be a deadend, so I retraced my steps and tried the other road- immediately it tilted to 20%.  I stood in the pedals and ground away until it lessened to a mere 12%.  From there it continues climbing unabated between 9%-15% through the forest for the next 4km.   Excellent workout! Afterwards you reach Tolminski Lom (595m), a meadowy area with a few farm houses.

You soon cross into another meadowy area at Kanalski Lom (570m), with a lovely little church.  There are many small farm roads in all directions but only a couple are vaguely marked.  I just looked around and chose the one that looked best.  Another very steep ramp of 16% carries you up out of the clearings, and then a series of sun-exposed tornanti.  Thankfully around 750 meters some trees crop up and soon you're climbing through a beautiful shady beech tree forest.  Still mostly around 10% but it seems easier in the shade.  I came to another intersection at 885m, and on a whim chose the only road that continued to climb.  At 910 meters it crossed the crest and started to head down, but I couldn't see where it was going for the trees and decided to turn around.  Back at the intersection I headed for Lokovec, which descended briefly then resumed climbing to 950 meters.

From here I began descending down long switchbacks toward Čepovan, a gorgeous valley around 600 meters elevation.  I only rode through the north end of the valley, but it extends for miles between tall ridges.  I then descended down the long curvy road to the Idrijca valley, and then on to Most na Soči.  I rode pretty quickly on the 20 km back to Kobarid, and arrived in only 50 minutes.  Must have been a powerful tailwind.

This ride leaves me wanting to return for more- I'd love to try Solkan to Cepovan or Kanal to Lokovec soon.

Most an Soči lake

Meadows at Tolminski Lom

Toward the church at Kanalski Lom

Kanalski Lom meadows from the steep tornanti

Lush meadows above Kanaski Lom

Looking down at gorgeous Čepovan valley

Map of the circuit

The climb and descent

Close up of the upper section

Initial 4km at 10%

The steep gradients

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I started from Bovec (450m) in Slovenia around 0745.  It was heavily overcast and looked like it could start pouring any minute.  In fact after a few minutes it did begin drizzling lightly for a couple of hours, almost throughout the entire climb. The road climbs easily up the Koritnica River valley, past Kluže Fortress and onward to Log Pod Mangartom (645m), a picturesque village with wide meadows along the river, surrounded by mountains.   Here the gradient begins to steepen for next 4 km, averaging 8.6% through Strmec (975m).  A bit further up, after a tall bridge at 1100 meters you reach the turnoff for Mangart (or you can continue straight for another 2 km to Predil Fortress at 1156m).

The first segment of Mangart climb is through a rocky area along a stream, normally exposed to full sun.  But today it was cloudy with a cooling mist, so no problems.  A bit further on the environment changes to fir trees, then big shady beech trees.  Very nice through here.  Then you're exposed on bare rock again, with scattered trees and a few tunnels to cool off in.  The first tunnel had been commandeered by a maraudering herd of goats, who were laying about in the road without concern for passers-through.  Luckily I was able to weave a path between them without being impaled on any horns.  

The final section is alpine, bare rock with some small grassy areas here and there covered with wildflowers.  Quite cold here as the wind was blasting.  At the high point (2055m) I parked my bike and hiked up to the edge of the north facing cliffs.  Here are wonderful views of Laghi Fusine near Tarvisio, valleys, and more mountains.

The windy descent was quite cold, despite my windjacket.  Once I got down a bit lower it warmed up some.  Still I rode fairly slowly because of the damp pavement.  

Mangart's an excellent climb, 10km averaging 9%, with awesome scenery.  The road's not as busy as some others because of its remoteness, it's a dead-end, and has a toll on cars and motorcycles.   I'd climb it early in the morning or on a cloudy day because it's mostly exposed to full southern sun.

Jof di Montasio (2753m)

Kanin range (2587m)

Laghi Fusine with Austria in background

Skala (2133m)

Mangart (2677m)

Close up Laghi Fusine

Looking over the sheer cliff-edge, with wildflowers

Koritnica River gorge
Downstream the gorge narrows to only a few feet across

The climb from Log Pod Mangartom to Mangart

Monday, July 23, 2012


I arrived at Bruck (near Zell am See) after 4.5 hour drive and started riding at 0800.  It was quite nippy at Bruck so I tried to warm up as quickly as possible up the gorgeous green valley of roiling Fuscher River.  This valley has more waterfalls than anywhere I've been, mind-boggling quantities of waterfalls.  Just past the small town of Fusch the Hochalpenstrasse starts, and immediately the road begins climbing.  A bit later it levels out briefly at a toll plaza and kid's nature park.  Luckily bicycles are now exempt from the toll (though they were originally included).  After the toll plaza the gradient steepens again, and mostly stays that way.  The low and middle portions of this climb have very few switchbacks, so there is not much chance to catch your breath.  The middle 13.5 kilometers have an average gradient of 9.5%, which is quite strenuous.  Higher up, more-frequent switchbacks give you a little chance to breathe at the bends.  Luckily the cool temps kept my radiator from boiling over, and the spectacular views made it difficult to dwell on the suffering.

At the top I was confused about which of the 2 summits to climb, so I continued up the main road to Hochter, a viewing area at 2504m.  Then I rode back downhill slightly, and began the hard climb up to Edelweisspitze (also signed Bikers' Point).  This is a 12%-average-gradient stack of switchbacks, paved in porphyry-block, ending at 2571m.  Panoramas here are unbelievable.

I put on arm and leg warmers for the descent (it was slightly above freezing up there, though sunny). The switchbacks were fun, as well as a few of the long straight plummets where there wasn't too much traffic.  But for the most part it was too congested to descend at full speed.  Not only cars, buses and motorcycles but quite a horde of bicycles, mostly mountain bikes and hybrids, a few fully-loaded tourers and some road bikes.

I want to return and do the climb up the south side, from Heiligenblut to the glacier at Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Hohe, then roll back down to the main road and continue to Edilwesspitze.  Definitely recommend the Hochalpenstrasse- you've got to see it to believe it.

Grosse Wiesbachhorn (3564m) with fresh blanket of snow 

Snowy Hohe Dock (3348m)

Grossglockner (3798m)

Hochter with Hochalpenstrasse looping around it prior to descending the other side

Some of the upper switchbacks, with natural history museum lower right

Glacier below Grosse Wiesbachhorn

One of many glorious waterfalls

The valley below Hohe Dock

Pretty wildflower

Looking back up the valley from below

Another noisy waterfall

The warm-up

The upper climb

13km of 9.5%
Garmin reading about 95 meters low