Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cima Sappada - Val Sesis

I rode this climb a couple of years ago and finally got around to revisiting today.  It's up in the corner of Venteo, Friuli and Austria, a sparsely developed area with wild, stark landscape.

I started from Comeglians (532m) about 0600 and warmed up on the moderate grades along Val Degano, in the shadow of Monte Crostis.  At Forni Avoltri (888m) the forest opens into steep grassy mountain slopes which the road traverses at a manageable gradient.  This changes after a crosscountry ski area at 1040 meters, with a sudden half kilometer of 15.8% through the forest.  Afterwards the grade eases a bit but still often exceeds 10%.  As you enter Cima Sappada (1290m) the road flattens out and you can catch your breath.  Don't get comfy though- you're just getting started.

Take the right turn marked variously Val Sesis or Sorgenti del Piave.  After winding through the village you climb easily through the forest and follow whitewater streams upward.  You hit the first surprise after about 2km- a serpentine section writhing up very steep mountainside.  I stood and pedaled my heart out for almost a kilometer.  Now it eases to a more human gradient for a couple of km.  Beautiful waterfalls, rapids, tall red spruce and stony peaks above.  Another killer serpentine stretch hits and feels like it will never ease up, but it finally does after close to 2 km.  More easy riding for a few minutes, then yet again a twisty steep stretch for another kilometer and a half.

You've entered the alpine grassy zone now- glorious scenery in all directions.  The road finally levels out some and you ride past a busy hiker parking area, then reach end of pavement at Rifugio Sorgenti del Piave (1830m).  There's a 2-hour long trail (CAI 136) from the hiker parking area traversing to Val Visdende, a paved road ascending from San Pietro.  The trail is too rough for a road bike, but one could hike it and carry/push the bike, or better still come up on a mountain bike.  I'll instead try to simply climb up from San Pietro and return back down- maybe in September?

The ride down is tricky this time of year due to traffic- the road is often too narrow for 2 cars to go by one another, particularly in the corkscrew-like serpentine sections, so they stop and figure out who's going where.  Italian cars/SUVs have been getting bigger- not up to US magnitude yet, but much larger than little subcompacts of 20-30 years ago,  while the roads are the same size as ever.  After you survive the descent to Cima Sappada it's a fast downhill ride to Comeglians, again slowed by traffic, but maybe it's better I wasn't going full-speed downhill into those curves.  Might have had a little too much fun.    

Monte Siera (2443m) towering above Cima Sappada

Waterfall to your left as you ascend

Another view of the falls

Monte Chiadenis (2459m)

Monte Chiadenis from a different angle 

Monte Peralba (2694m)

Monte Lastroni (2449m)
Dolomiti Bellunesi to the south

Waterfall on your right as you ascend
Contadina made of hay

Il suo marito

Hay sposi riding in their wedding sled

See all the over-10% gradient above that line

The ride

The climb up Val Sesis

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