Saturday, April 26, 2014


An unexpected gift this morning: speedsters Paul, Joe, Naz and I headed down near Conegliano and rode around the prosecco hills.  The air was clear and cool- perfect riding weather.  After a while Joe and Naz had to head home, then Paul (the ultimate prosecco tour guide) rode up, down, around more hills than I can remember.  After Colle Umberto we went up and over a couple of ridges with spectacular views of rolling vineyards and hilltop churches.  South to Bagnolo, west to San Pietro di Feletto, Refrontolo, Tarzo (stopping for a caffè) then on to Cozzuolo and home.  Very fun ride with good company.  Hope to go again soon.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Via Guitcillo da Montanara MTB

This is another farm road climbing from the foothills high up to the Cansiglio.  Like the others it's crazily steep, remote and beautiful.  Via Guitcillo da Montanara starts in Montaner, a short, steep climb from the plain near Sarmede itself.  The concrete roadway steepens immediately and stays that way more or less continuously for 4 or 5 km.  At first I stopped at most of the switchback ends to pant and moan, but after a while I started going longer between stops, which felt like an accomplishment even in 24-36 gear.  The gradient finally slackens above 800 meters and then pavement ends.  In a few minutes you reach a farmhouse and the surface turns to grass.  This was very pleasant, like the grassy rides through English woods.  Unfortunately the various paths I had read about all ended in dense thickets of thorny underbrush and turned me back.  I even tried going back to the farmhouse and heading up the grassy ride west of there,  but it turned into steep karst single track.  So I decided to roll back down the hill and try this from the top next time.  The top end of the trail apparently departs from the Vittorio Veneto- Cansiglio road  around 900 meters.  Maybe in a few weeks.

Looking down at Montaner's church

Steep steep steep

The hillside trees are flowering and sprouting leaves 

This is the farmhouse at 830m where the road faded out

Orchard and pens (for goats?) at farmhouse

The woods and mountains to the west

Col Visentin  to left of spruce, Monte Pizzoc to the right

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cortina Via Lunga delle Dolomiti

Left the house on my bike at 6AM and headed up Valcellina, over Passo San Osvaldo to Longarone, and up the Piave River to Perarolo.  Here I climbed the Cavallera Road to Pieve di Cadore and joined Via Lunga delle Dolomiti toward Cortina.  This is a wonderful bikeway constructed on the abandoned railway to Cortina.  No big trucks or buses, no speeding cars to dodge.  And the scenery is natural- forest and meadows, whitewater and mountains.  Really a great bike route.  Just after Dogana Vecchia, the old border with Austria, the road turned to dirt and was snowed over.  I thought about continuing on the busy main road but no,  I'll ride that stub when I go from Cortina to Dobbiaco, the upper stretch of the Via Lunga.  Awesome ride.

Caralta, where I mistakenly turned on last month's attempt

Beautiful wide pavement, easy gradient of Cavallera Road,
part of 2013 Giro d'Italia stage from Tolmezzo  to Vajont dam

535 meter long steel span of Ponte di Cadore

Much work and money spent to improve the bikeway;
here a wooden-deck steel bridge crosses a torrente

Monte Pelmo



Snow covered Via Lunga near Dogana Vecchia

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pushing the limits of serviceability

I commute to school in Pordenone a couple of times per week on the aging Merckx.  The other day school let out and I was getting on my bike when my friend Paul from Ghana said "Your back tire is shot." I looked and he was right, threads were showing, its days were numbered.  I rode home and promptly forgot about it.  I had a new tire sitting in the cupboard, but it slipped my mind.  Fast forward to yesterday.  I was happily pedaling to school and heard a pfft pfft pfft sound.  I pulled over and pumped it up.  After another couple km it flatted again.  I was late so I rode it flat to school, standing and weighting the front wheel.  This riding standing was surprisingly tiring, or maybe it was the 1000 strokes on the mini-pump that wore me out.  

I changed the tire at mid-morning break, pinching my palm with the mini-pump and squirting blood everywhere.  That and all the grease (the Merckx has a broken derailleur hanger and the fiddly temporary one falls off when you remove the wheel).  After cleaning up with no soap (school is short of supplies) I returned to class.

After school I headed home.  I felt great, nice tailwind.  Then at San Martino I heard the pffting again and used my second spare.  No injuries pumping this time but I foreswore the mini-pump from now on.  Gonna start hauling the heavier Road Morph.

This morning I replaced the tire and bought 2 new spare tubes.  Henceforth at the first sign of wear or nickage I'm changing the tire.  I will start writing notes to myself to remember.

See the green tablecloth through the hole?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Val de Croda

Another favorite local climb- down past Castello d'Aviano to the railroad tracks at 70 meters, then climb up through Budoia and Dardago, past Il Rifugio and Chalet restaurants, chiesa San Tome, the croda (cliffs) to end of pavement at 537 meters.  Excellent workout.  This summer I'll try descending from Piancavallo via the gravel road that ends at the 537 meter point- that should be fun.  Also checked out a trailhead at 520 meters that leads to the hiking trail above Mezzomonte's cemetery, to Valle Friz (1500 meters) and Pian Canaie in Cansiglio.  More explorations to pursue.

Followers of Socrates leaving cryptic messages along our trails;
this was also printed in German, French and Cyrillic 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Monte Ciaurlec MTB

Between Meduno and Clauzetto a massif rises near-vertically almost 1000 meters from the plain below.   It is mostly undeveloped, with one paved road climbing from Meduno to Monte Valinis to transport parapendisti (hang-gliders) to their launch site.  It's one of my favorite local climbs.  The highest point on the massif is Monte Ciaurlec (1148 m), but there is no road to it, only a hiking trail.  I read several accounts of mountain bikers riding the trail so thought I'd try.

After biking up Monte Valinis I spotted the gate at CAI 819 trailhead.  In a grassy meadow nearby is Casera Valinis, an old farmhouse where fresh cheese was made.  I tried riding the trail but it was beyond my skill level.  Twisty, hilly, lots of protruding boulders, trees and roots: after falling once I knew it was pointless.  I parked the bike by a large karst boulder and hiked from then on.

The area is completely silent except for an occasional bird.  Trees and large karst rock formations alternate with alpine grassland, with large pillow-shaped grasses.  Still early Spring, so the trees are getting their first leaves, wildflowers cover the forest floor, but the grass is still wheaten-colored and hasn't turned green yet.  At 1135 meters my turn-around time was already passed so I skipped the walk across the rolling grassy hill to the highpoint.  Luckily I found my bike again and descended quickly to Meduno, then home.  There is another trail to Ciaurlec from the Italian Army shooting range above Travesio which I rode to last year- may try that.  Better still I might drive to Piani di Clauzetto (between Campone and Pradis di Sotto) and hike up to Ciaurlec with the pups.  They would love this place.     

The gate to CAI 819

View of Meduno from the gate

Parapendio zooming over

Casera Valinis

One of many karst formations

Near the summit

Grassy ground cover near the summit

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cascate d'Arzino Hike

I tried to visit this cascade last year after crossing Monte Rest and ascending Sella Chiampon, but I turned too soon and  instead reached the spring where Torrente Arzino originates.  Today I decided to drive up from Anduins, park at the Val Preone junction (Sella Chiampon road) and hike to the cascade turnoff.  The dogs were much happier with this plan- they got a wilderness hike!

After a hundred meters or so this plan was dashed- a huge avalanche had wiped out the road.  I doubt it will be reopened anytime soon.  So I went with Plan C, driving down to the settlement of Pozzis, fording the river on foot and hiking along the Arzino to the falls.  The river was moving swiftly, filled with snowmelt and the flat rocks of the ford were very slippery, so I went upstream a few meters to cross on rounder cobbles.   I was carrying a dog under each arm and only had one sharp-edged rock that gave me cause for concern.  Afterward, I put my shoes back on and headed along the river bank.  This would be a decent gravel path for a mountain bike.  There is also a gravel road higher up the south bank, extending all the way down to the Pordenone province line, where a bridge crosses the Arzino: may try that someday.

Soon you reach the beautiful cascades which are quite full of water in Spring.  The river roars over 4 or 5 consecutive falls, separated by short stretches of flatter water.  The forestry corps has built nice bridges and wooden guardrails on the trails along the falls so it's safe for families.

The pups set a blistering pace back to the ford, where they enjoyed being carried as I hobbled over slick pointy stones.   Good hike!

Huge avalanche on Val Preone road

The lighter material in the avalanche is dirty ice
Some pretty wildflowers along the riverbank
This is Torrente Arzino above the falls
Two plunges in close succession
Close up of upper falls
Two of the middle falls
From the bridge on the middle falls;
strong low-pitched rumble here
Lower falls
Pool and rapids below lower falls
Honey and Teddi enjoying the cascate
Teddi is fascinated by white water
This is the ford; I crossed the wider rocky area on the right
to avoid the slippery surface of the flat ford stone

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Monte Fara Hike

Drove with the pups past Bosplans near the road closed barrier (landslides).  We hiked up the beautiful ridge trail from Forcella la Croce to Vetta Monte Fara at 1342 meters.  The pups had a great time trying to pick the correct trail route by sniffing.  Honey seemed to be the champion sniffer on the ascent, then Teddi took over.  From the vetta we briefly followed the trail toward Molassa, but soon turned right onto the disused trail to Malga Fara.  The red and white trailblazes are fewer and are faded, covered by snow in many sections.  Luckily Teddi came through and found the way with no problems.  The old trail eventually joins a logging road from which you can see the malga maybe 100 meters below.  My back was hurting ( I tweaked it somewhere along the way) so I decided to try the dirt road to avoid this steep slope.  After maybe 10 minutes of hiking away from the malga I decided the dirt road wasn't going to double back so I headed down through a steep meadow blanketed in crocuses.  I went slowly and my back survived.  Then down the paved road from the  malga to our car.  Great hike- may try the climb from Molassa or from near Ravedis dam next time.

Morning mist rising from Andreis

Monte Raut early morning sun

Monte Jouf cliffs; you can hike the gap between
Monte Fara and Jouf via Ravedis trail

Honey alerting on a possible threat (a middle-aged couple on a hike)

Teddi surveys the panorama from the summit she conquered

Across Valcellina gorge, with Giais in left background

The bridge across Lago di Ravedis on road to Barcis

Montereale and Torrente Cellina 

The marker for turnoff to old trail to Malga Fara

Fading fast but this signs the trail to Malga Fara

Monte Raut and Monte Castello in midday sun

Monte Castello and Valcellina east range above Andreis 

Malga Fara with Monte Raut as backdrop