Friday, July 15, 2016

Timmelsjoch

I drove to Merano near Bolzano and looked for a good starting point for this big climb.  Even at 0900 on a weekday the road was already quite crowded with cars and occasional tour buses so my plan to start in Merano fell through.  I headed upward in the car hoping once I passed some of the popular tourist villages things would quiet down.  I ended up miles above in St Leonhard, where it was calmer and eventually I found a spot where I could park.

Like the rest of Alto Adige this area is stunningly beautiful: steep mountainsides covered with fir trees, lush green pastures with bell-ringing cows, sheep, goats.  The residents are Austrian so everything is tidy and neat.  The weather was unusually cold for July, but felt good on the climb.  After an hour or so of climbing you leave the protection of the forest and head up a stack of exposed switchbacks.  Now the wind was too cold even with my exertion so I stopped and put on arm and leg warmers and wind vest.  That felt great and before long I reached the top, or rather the opening of the tunnel to Austria (2400 meters).  I decided not to ride through this 1 km tunnel (and back), as the wind was whipping up and even standing still in my descending gear I was freezing.

I rode back down carefully and was surprised by the number of riders I saw headed upward at midday- maybe 50?  I finally reached the car, frozen, shaking too hard to put the bike on the rack.  Eventually I thawed sufficiently and headed down, driving very slowly.  I think my brain freeze finally ended somewhere between Trento and the autostrada for Venice.   Must try this again, starting in Merano and riding into Austria.  Maybe autumn would be the best time?      

The forested mountains

Godforsaken windswept switchbacks

The top, with Austrian flag and tunnel


The climb


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