Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sveta Gora

 Across the border in Slovenia Sveta Gora rises steeply from the Soča River, with a beautiful sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna at the top. Pilgrims from around the world come to visit.  I decided to start my pilgrimage on the Italian border at Venco, south of Cividale.  This is a wonderful area of rolling hills covered in vineyards, with slightly taller hills topped by little towns and castles.  I rode through Neblo, Dobrovo, Šmartno, Hum and Podsabotin.  I haven't been riding as much as usual the past month, and I felt it on these little hills.  After Podsabotin you enter an odd area where the Yugoslav road crosses a bulge in the Italian border.  Seems strange now but in the Iron Curtain days this was heavily guarded to prevent escape to the West.  The road climbs part way up the flank of Monte Sabotin here, with some 12% stretches.  I considered aborting the climb up Sveta Gora- I felt very out-of-shape.   But the fast descent down to the Soča River revived me, so I decided to try.

After crossing the river at Solkan I headed up the road toward Sveta Gora.  Not too bad at first but after the turn off for Lokve at 320 meters the road gets very steep.  In the next 2.7 km you gain 362 meters, averaging 13.4% with a few hundreds meters at 18-20%.  I stood and panted till I couldn't continue,  then stopped to catch my breath a few times.  At the top the views were great, despite the cloudy day.   A nice Slovenian guy offered to take my picture.  The descent was fast of course, followed by all those rolling hills.  I was beat but very happy to get a ride despite our November rains and wind.  Must come back and explore Monte Sabotin, which was a WW I battlefield and has several bike trails. 

Fresco of the 3 Wise Men in a chapel along the climb

It's steep

View to northwest toward Triglav

Looking northeast (maybe toward Čepovan?) 

Sveta Gora's bell tower

A kind Slovenian guy took my picture

Monte Sabotin to southwest

The facade of the sanctuary

City of Solkan with the Adriatic Sea in the distance 

The bridge in foreground is the longest stone arch in Europe

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Frassaneit Hike

I usually pedal past Tramonti di Sopra without even noticing,  but I heard about this trail and wanted to hike it.  From the piazzetta in  Tramonti di Sopra I followed the signs to Frassaneit, and parked at the end of pavement.  The road turned to dirt and rock with no trail markings, so I chose instead to take the trail to the right marked Strada Da Lis Fornas CAI 394.  It climbed steeply up for a few hundred meters till I reached a house where a man was working in his garden.  He asked where I was going and then said I was on the wrong trail- I needed to go back down to the dirt road.  He mentioned during the war the Germans came down this road on their way to Claut, about 5 hours away.  When I told him I'm American he said he has relatives in Arlington, Texas.  

I walked back down the hill and turned onto the dirt road and began winding along the edge of the gorge above Torrente Meduna.  After a bit you descend to the bottom of the gorge, which is mostly carved giant boulders and rock walls, with the Meduna's whitewater taking up about a third of the gorge floor.  I missed a turn down here and continued along the gorge bottom instead of taking the trail upward.  It got rougher, soon I was using handholds and looking for footrests on the VW bus-sized boulders.  It reminded me of Yuba River upstream from the wooden covered bridge at Bridgeport, California.  When the water stretched across the width of the gorge bottom surrounded by rock walls I decide to climb out.  I scrambled upward holding onto saplings, rocks, etc until I reached the trail again.

I walked quickly along this well-made trail and eventually reached Frassaneit, an abandoned village in the middle of nowhere.  Next time I'll try to continue (on foot) to Lago Cà Zul, which I previously tried to reach through the unlit wet, unpaved 3 km tunnel from Lago Cà Selva, but chickened out after 500 meters.   

Go left here

Looking down into Torrente Meduna gorge

Waterfall viewed from ponte over Rio Fisar

Turn right and go up those rough rocky stairs

The ruins of families' homes at Frassaneit

More ruins

Bridge abutments but the bridge is long gone 

Salamander along the trail

Torrente Meduna gorge

Friday, November 1, 2013

Val Cimoliana MTB

Our rainy October has finally ended so I celebrated with a local ride.  Mountain biked up Valcellina highway to Cimolais, and then turned right on the road marked Val Cimoliana.  The valley is wide here, with pastures and small woods surrounded by tall craggy mountains.  The valley gradually narrows and soon there is no room for pastureland.  Around 850 meters you pass between two vertical walls with barely enough room for the river and the road.   The rumbling white water reverberates off surrounding rock walls.  Climbing out of this gorge you cross a bridge over the river and traverse out through the forest.    Soon you reach the parking area for Rifugio Pordenone (1200 meters) where the road ends.  Fantastic views of dolomite towers on the surrounding peaks and the gorge continuing to the north.  I will be coming back to hike here. 

Torrente Cimoliana from Ponte Scandoler

Cascade between rock walls, below Ponte Confoz

Crossing a wide gravel bed with great views to northwest

Spectacular dolomite towers above Val Montanaia

Campanile Gambet (2025m) to northeast 

Lovely view to west from Casera La Fontana parking area

Narrow gorge below Confoz

Looking north through Confoz gorge