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Between Dolomites and Alpi Carniche:
two days ride among great mountains

By Andrea M. Gingo Deganutti

Day 1

Before starting from San Candido in a cool morning of an October. Saturday, I and my friend Paolo (and so I recommend to all readers!) went to supply ourselves in a very good bar with top level confectionery (since we weren't so trained, we got a strong breakfast!).

From San Candido to Sesto (Sexten) the slope is mild and from here to Moso (Moos) the valley is open and almost flat; wonderful sight (right) on Fiscalina valley (Fischleintal) and its mountains (among the best in Dolomites) the Croda dei Toni (Zwolferspitz), Tre Scarperi (Dreishusterspitz), Cima 11 (Elferkofel) and Croda Rossa (Rotwand).

Soon after Moso the road becomes steep (here 12-13%, the max slope to the pass) and we began to think to have too much food in our stomach! We grit our teeth but the fir smell in the air helps us! The road ascends in a nice wood and not far from the pass my derailleur cable breaks, argh!

I have not spare cable and so I put a patch on it with a piece of iron wire I by chance had in the bag just to keep the derailleur in a position in which the chain can work (but I cannot change the gear d!)

Luckily we soon arrive to the pass and a wide and clear panorama on Alpi Carniche opens in front of us and this appeases my anger for the broken cable and moreover now we go downhill! The pass (1636 m high) is an open and wide saddle between the glorious many rocky towered Popera group (Hochbrunschneide) (over 3000 m high) and a much lower woody and grassy mount.

Then the road goes downhill in a dark wood, after 1 km or so the nice Rio Padola waterfalls (I saw them in a picture on the Trento Bikes Pages from Milosz Wisniewski).

After some villages and 10 or 11 Km we arrive in Santo Stefano di Cadore here our downhill ends and I find a bike shop where to buy a derailleur cable so I can replace my own broken.

Green meadows and scattered masi (wooden small houses for the storage of hay) is the characteristic landscape of Comelico valley; the road continues along the Piave river (mild climb) up to Salafossa mines (closed) and a tunnel puts us on the climb to Sappada. This reach of road is excavated on the rocky side of the valley which here is a very narrow gorge and there is the impressive sight of the Orrido Acquatona in which the river Piave flows on the bottom of the gorge (here very deep and narrow). Sappada valley is sunny, green and wide; we pedal slowly and after few Km we arrive in Cima Sappada 1300 m, second pass of the day and we stop for a quick lunch.

Then a very steep (18%) downhill crossing the Veneto-Friuli Venezia Giulia frontier down to Forni Avoltri, a small village with some appreciable old Carnia-style houses. We pass over to Comeglians (500 m asl) where we begin again to climb: argh! The third pass of the day is Ravascletto pass (Sella di Valcalda). it is not so high (959m asl) but the last km is steep enough, above all for our legs! Other downhill and we arrive at Paluzza (born village of Manuela di Centa, olympic cross country sky gold medal pluri winner!). When we arrived here our stomachs are terribly empty so we buy a lot of things to eat: from potato chips to Gubana (typical (and excellent) Eastern Fiuli V.G. cake), from apples to yoghurt etc. But we aren't already in the night place: we have to go!!

At 5 PM o' clock we start pedalling towards the Italy-Austrian frontier. Soon out of Paluzza a steep 10% climb to overtake the impressive Moscardo conoid (this small creek 1 or 2 times every year produces huge debris flows which are of great scientific interest: my research institute is still monitoring here these rare natural phenomena; one can see instrumentation going on the old road on right of the actual one).

The light is now going away as we arrive at Timau (I recommend "Da Otto" restaurant: very cheap and very good regional cuisine) village which seems dangerously placed under the high south wall of Creta di Timau. Go ahead! We must say to ourselves: to stop here would say not to start again out. The road from Timau to Passo Monte Croce Carnico is normally not very steep but we are at the end of our strength, the night is coming on (besides we have not lights) and so it is HARD to climb!! At last, a light! The pass!! The hut!! WoooooW!!!

It's Saturday night and so there is a lot of people eating in the small hotel and when we go inside all of them look to us with great curiosity (our aspect has to be terrible).

In my opinion it's one of the best pleasures of the life to rest and to eat and to take a bath and to sleep (also in a modest hotel as the ours) after a day of sport in the nature: we are very tired but much more happy! The dinner indeed is not very good but we accurately clean our dishes!

Day 2

Early in the morning after we have a poor italian breakfast and then we put on all our garments but, as the air is very cold, we are not covered enough during the long, steep downhill to Mauthen.

The landscape on the Austrian side of Alps is far more smooth and wide and low-slope valley side than the italian one, the change is impressive! It seems to be in another place of world!

Mauthen is a very nice town (also the architecture is very different and I think these differences make great to travel!) here we supply ourselves with some cakes (sacher & strudel!) and tea in a wonderful bar (italian currency accepted) and now we can go ahead without troubles.

In Mauthen we take for Lesachtal by a small but perfectly paved road; with a lot of ups and downs (even a little too many!) we cross a lot of small (but nice!) villages and stop in St. Lorenzen for another supply with an excellent "wiener schnitzel" and fried and beer and then our legs can pedal without problem along the upper part of the magnificent valley. We took a visit at the famous Maria Luggau sanctuary. Then the valley become steeper but we reach the Kartitsh sattel (1523 m asl) pass without big difficulties and here a deserved rest on the very green grass of this mild place.

An abrupt downhill comes after the pass and the very good road let you go fast up to more 70 Km/h.

At the end of this downhill we reach the Drau valley from where, by few Km, we arrive at the frontier between Austria and Italy and then other 7 or 8 Km more (the last and, as ever, the hardest in the trip!) up to San Candido. Weew! Great tour!!

In San Candido we make a stop in the same confectionery of yesterday and, again once, we eat very good things, on the other hand you know, the food is one of the (not secondary) satisfaction of travelling, motive of knowledge and of happiness above all for bikers!