Friday, August 17, 2012

Passo di Prato Piazza - Lago di Braies

Around 0630 I started at Villabassa (1121m) near Dobbiaco in Val Pusteria, Trentino Alto Adige.  I warmed up briefly on the pista ciclabile toward Brunico, then turned left onto the road for Prato Piazza. It was chilly and overcast- I worried the summit might be socked in.  At first the ascent is very gentle, with wide, sweeping switchbacks leveling the grade.  Then after Ponticello (1491m) the average gradient increases to around 7%.  Around 1800 meters you exit the dense forest and begin a steep section of around 13%.  This eases as you enter Prato Piazza (1970m) and the asphalt ends, changing to hard-packed strada sterrata.  

By now I 'd climbed through the layer of overcast and into crystal blue sky.  This place has about the biggest spread of bright green meadows I've ever seen.  These are surrounded by lovely peaks, foremost among them La Croda Rossa (3146m).  It has very striking veins of blood red stone on its cliff faces.  I first noticed it last year from Tre Cime di Lavaredo, and then again a few weeks ago on the road from Dobbiaco to Cortina.  

The strada sterrata climbs slightly to the pass at 1992m, with fantastic views of Le Tofane (3244m) high above  a sea of clouds overlaying Cortina.

Now I descended (cautiously because of the ascending traffic) to the left hand turn (at 1180m) for Lago di Braies.  This starts even more gently upward through rolling pastureland until around 1350m, where a long gradient carries you to the lakeshore at 1480m.  Already very crowded here in the morning, but I tried following a trail counterclockwise along the shore, till it became all wooden stairs and catwalks along cliff faces where I turned back.

I would highly recommend visiting Prato Piazza, whether you bike, drive or take the bus from the village below.  It's really spectacular.    

La Croda Rossa above the Prato

Close up La Croda Rossa

Close up La Croda Rossa

Veins of blood red stone

The long ridge above the east side of the Prato 
Ridge flanking west side of Valle Landro
Close up of icy Austrian peaks to the north 
Le Tofane above cloud-shrouded Cortina

Note mountain bike road descending toward
Lago Misurina and Cortina from Prato Piazza

Beautiful meadows the Lago di Braeis road traverses 

Croda del Becco (2810m) reflecting on Lago di Braies
The promontory on the lake's west side

Not part of bike ride: waterfall on Torrente Padola
(along climb to Passo Monte Croce di Comelico)

Another view of the cascate

The bike ride

Climb to Prato Piazza

Climb to Lago di Braies

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