Ken Roberts - - Bicycling

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Sharon + Ken around Cortina + Dolomites, Italy


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We did some bicycling and climbing based around Cortina d'Ampezzo.

bike Cortina > Pieve di Cadore > Auronzo > Misurina > Carbonin loop

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Worthwhile ride which I would do again, though not as great as some other Dolomite loops. Lots of variety. Some great scenery and riding in some sections, some other long sections with OK or good but not outstanding surroundings.  Especially notable sights were the lake by Auronzo di Cadore, and of course much around Misurina and the descent thru Schluderbach / Carbonin (with optional side trip north to the Duerrensee / Lage di Landro for a great view south to Monte Cristallo).

The climb up to Misurina from the southeast side was tougher than we expected. Sharon said she found it a satisfying accomplishment. For me it was a warm day and I was just glad to have it over with. It started with a long gentle section thru forest, then suddenly got steeper -- seemed pretty sustained at around 8% or more. Best views on the climb are to the south, so we were glad to rest from the climbing to stop abd take time to look back.

Some long sections of the route had more vehicle traffic than I would have liked -- but we found it mostly straightforward to manage interaction with traffic (assuming take rail trail around Pieve di Cadore), a couple of spots where it was trickier and less comfortable.

We rode it on a Sunday in "shoulder" season -- which we hoped was a lower-traffic day. Seemed like more traffic on the road north-bound from Pieve to Auronzo, than south-bound from Cortina to Pieve -- which fits with a theory that much of the traffic on Sunday morning + mid-day outside high season is day-trip visits by residents of the valley cities to the south.

Seemed like doing the loop in the counter-clockwise direction was the better way to handle the higher-traffic sections. Because the main road from Cortina south to Pieve di Cadore is mostly along the east side of its valley, so generally better visibility with vehicles by riding south-bound. The main road from Pieve di Cadore to Auronzo at first runs along the west side of its valley (generally better visibility with vehicles by riding north-bound), but then crosses over to the east side.

These are places we rode thru:

Cortina > Pieve di Cadore > short section on paved rail trail off-road > Auronzo di Cadore > Misurina > Schluderbach / Carbonin junction > Cortina.

rail trail / bike path: The main road from Pieve di Cadore toward Auronzo immediately goes into a short tunnel and then a long tunnel which did not look very inviting for riding, so instead we make a new choice and found a rail trail. I'm not sure the best way to get on the rail trail when arriving into Pieve from Cortina. Next time I'd look for the rail trail a little northwest from the major road junction on south side of Pieve. Or perhaps further north earlier on the road I'm riding from Cortina, I might try the secondary road starting around Tai di Cadore. The rail trail took us north to a bus parking lot near the train station for Calalzo, then the signs for it got unclear, so after some searching we decided to just get on the  main road.

I think I remember some signs for a bike route: "Lunga Via delle Dolomiti / Langer Weg der Dolomiten" -- which we also saw on our next ride further south. My best guess in retrospect is that we could not follow that bike path further northeast because perhaps it ends there a the Calalzo train station.

Food + drink options at various villages along the main roads. More options in Auronzo. Several options at Misurina -- including a grocery store.

bike Mel > Sospirolo > Cesiomaggiore > Busche loop

Very pleasant ride on both sides if the Pieve river southwest of Belluno:  part thru farmland in the valley, part with "balcony" views out across the valley from hillside slopes on south side of the Belluno Dolomite mountains. Very few farm animals, lots of maize fields (American "corn"), various villages. The lack of animals and lack of more interesting variety of vegetables usually would have bored us -- but somehow the overall setting felt great, and we wish it could have ridden lots more miles around there.

These are the places we rode thru:

Mel > Farra > Trichiana > Pasa > Sedico > Mas > Mis > Sospirolo > Paderno > San Gregorio nelle Alpi > Cesiomaggiore > Pez > Busche > Lentiai > Nave > Mel

It was a mid-week day in September, and we were doing a long drive from a multi-day base near Cortina to a multi-day base near Como. The weather report in the morning had been threatening, but a couple of hours later it seemed OK, and we thought we had time for a short ride. So we sketched a route on 1:200000 map, find a place to park near Mel, and just started riding. Along the way did some exploring in a village off the main road with various narrow paved roads in and out of it.

traffic: The P1 road had high-speed traffic, but mostly wide enough. P203 wide enough, not high traffic at that time. P12 had mostly lower traffic, mostly good surface -- and lots of nice views out across the valley.

hills: mostly moderate, a couple of long steep-ish climbs going west on the P12 (esp climbing into San Gregorio from the east), and an (perhaps avoidable) steep-ish climb into Mel from W, riding east from Nave

long distance bike route? On the section we rode on the P12, we saw signs that said: "Lunga Via delle Dolomiti / Turismo in bicicletta / Itinerario / Langer Weg der Dolomiten / Rad Tourismus / Weg / “Dolomiti Live” : project financed by EU: Intereg II Italia - Austria"

Cesiomaggiore village had several streets with alternate names after cycling race champions e.g. Alfredo Binda 1902-1986, Constanta Gerardengo 1893-1978. Club Italia Musei del Ciclismo - Colezzione Sanvido - Commune di Cesimaggiore.

climb via ferrata Innerkoffler / Deluca on Paternkofel / Monte Paterno

see photos | where on map : see more current version

Nice excuse for pretty hiking from the Rifugio Auronzo around the east side of Tre Cimes di Lavaredo. Much of the climbing was in the dark up steep wooden stairs inside a tunnel. It was only short sections that I felt cable protection was needed for climbing outside on the rock. Some of the rock sections were good, but higher up some loose and dirty.

It was foggy and moist near the summit, so we did not do the short via ferrata up to the summit, and took the shorter way back toward Rifugio Lavaredo: descended the south gully, then climbed a little over Passportenscharte pass, then a ledge traverse on W side of Passportenkofel with some VF cable sections in some nice settings, finished with short cramped tunnel, and walk down to Paternsattel pass. Then it started raining (which confirmed our decision to keep it shorter), so we had lunch inside the Rifugio Lavaredo, then hiked back in the rain to parking by Rifugio Auronzo. 

climb via ferrata Marino Bianchi on Monte Cristallo

see photos | where on map : see more current version

Deserves its high reputation, we'd do it again. Lots of climbing on rock (very few ladders), interesting climbing, interesting route. We were in the clouds all day, so didn’t see many big views -- but the rock close by was interesting enough.

We parked at Rio Gere, took the lifts up to the top by Rifugio Lorenzi. The climb goes roughly east from there along the ridge up to Cima di Mezzo (3154m). Not many other parties, because it was mid-week in "shoulder" season. We let some other parties pass us.

Although the guidebook difficulty rating was 2, I thought there was one move sequence which was harder than 2. I did almost all the moves (except the ladders) purely on the rock, using the cable only for protection. I felt the American rock climbing difficulty for the rock moves would be mostly class 3, a little 4, and one move of low class 5.

Change since the guidebook: The top section now has a separate descent route -- which is easier than the climbing up route. (Ascending the descent route avoids the hardest climbing moves, but also some of the most interesting climbing.)

I also did the start of via ferrata Ivano Dibona as far as the summit of Cristallo d’Ampezzo (3008m). I felt it was not worthwhile to add after climbing Mariano Bianchi - (though perhaps the entire Ivano Dibona might still be worth doing as a separate climb). I felt the climbing up was straightforward, mostly class 3, perhaps one class 4 move near summit. But the separate descent route near the summit felt harder, solid class 4, perhaps lower 5 -- if I were bringing climbers without good experience, I'd want to have a rope to belay them going down.

climb via ferrata Piz da Lech in the Sella group

Ken climbed this one a few days after Sharon flew home. See photos
See more current version

Interesting rock climbing moves, overall harder than the moves on other via ferrata climbs I've done. Pretty sustained steep. Much more climbing than on vf Vallon which is nearby. I liked the summit views.

I felt it was not well protected -- in the sense that the cable anchors tended to be placed above the tricky rock moves -- so I didn't get to clip above the next cable-to-rock anchor until after I made the hard move -- and while I was actually making the move I was exposed to a substantial fall. My feeling was that it was at best PG-rated compared with my experience leading pure rock climbs in North America.

I noticed that several other parties were using a rope for the first climber to belay the other following climbers -- seemed like I was not the only one who was concerned about the consequences of falling on this climb. I'd be willing to climb it again, but I'd bring a rope to belay anyone else with me who was not a strong experienced climber who was ready to take on the risk of a substantial fall.

My style is to try to make all my climbing moves with my hands and feet only on the rock, not grabbing the cable -- so perhaps it was scarier for me than for people who climbed grabbing the cable.

One guidebook said the cables on this climb were thinner than normal for via ferrata in Italy, but to me the cable thickness looked about the same as on other climbs -- so perhaps the cables were replaced since that guidebook was last updated.

I thought the descent was mostly OK, not just pure steep scree.

climb via ferrata Brigata Tridentina in the Sella group

Ken climbed this one a few days after Sharon flew home.  See photos.
See more current version

Great climb. Lotsa variety. Very spectacular. Much more climbing than other vf routes I've done so far in the Dolomites (more the size of the Alpspitze which Sharon + I did in Germany, but the Alpspitze was not as hard in difficulty of moves).

Difficulty of pure rock climbing moves (using cable only for protection) mostly American class 3-4. Also some steeper moves with steel rungs and ladders near the top, and at some steep ladders lower points (one or two with overhanging start to get onto ladder). I felt the climbing moves were mostly pretty well protected compared with my experience leading pure rock climbs in North America.

The steeper more strenuous moves near the top could be avoided by leaving the climb earlier and taking a path up to the hut, but I missed seeing the path -- so if you think you need that option, be sure to look carefully.

Rifugio F Cavazza al Pisciadu hut at the top was nice, I would definitely plan on getting a snack there -- but I was also glad I brought some food and water for along the way before getting to hut.

main drawback is the long descent. I went down the Val Setus. At first cable-protected on rock, and I kinda enjoyed "batmanning" down,  hanging out on the cable. Then a long ways walking down on scree - (unless I'd recently had lots of practice of steep downhill walking, I would bring collapsable hiking poles to help absorb the impacts)

Note that I did it in late season, but this is mostly north-facing, so in late spring / early summer it might have lots of ice and snow -- so I'd consider bringing ice axe and crampons next time.

Sharon + Ken at lake Como, Italy


see photos | overview map

We were based near Como, and on a couple of days did fun interesting pretty rides.

Lago Como is about the prettiest lake for riding along that I've found do far. The problem with riding along lake Como on a nice-weather non-high-traffic day is that it raises the standard too high for all the other lakes you'll ride thereafter.

Como > lago > Madonna di Ghisallo short loop

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Very pretty, lots of variety, including a ferry boat ride and a big steep climb. We'd do it again any time there was decent weather.

Madonna di Ghisallo is famous among bicyclists for its museum of bicycling (which tends to focus on professional racing, especially the big multi-day Giro d'Italia event. There's also a pretty low-key-style chapel with some bicyclist sculptures outside.

We rode on a cloudy mid-week day in September, so I'd guess we had less traffic than might be driving along the like on a sunny weekend or high tourist season.

Actually we started riding in Grandate (south of Como city), so first we had to find our way north to Como -- which worked well, though we made it more complicated than necessary. Lotsa traffic getting thru Como city, but felt managable for us because one of the key high-traffic streets was downhill. We were riding up the west side of the southwest "leg" of Lago Como.  Once we got thru Cernobbio on the road close to the lake going to Laglio and traffic was pretty light. Later we rejoined the road and had a snack in Argegno then on to Tremezzo (traffic seemed managable and moderate. We had been intending to ride to the ferry at Menaggio, but then a tourist ferry stopped at Tremezzo, so we asked if we could bring our tandem bike on board with us, and they said Yes, so we bought tickets for a short pleasant boat ride across the southwest "leg" of the lake to Bellagio, a town between the two legs.

We found Bellagio a pretty town with steep narrow streets - (see if hope to explore it much, need to have a plan for what to do with your bike, and rolling it while walking will not be easy). We had a snack, then rode out of town and found the road south toward Erba. The climbing got serious, but we were able to handle it. Some nice views, road with varied curves and steepness. Some downhill going thru Civenna, than another climb with 8 curves, and we reached the top of the climb and we saw that we had arrived at Madonna di Ghisallo.

We toured the museum, had a snack nearby, and then made our descent south toward Asso and Erba. Started steep-ish, then soon got moderate. Pleasant for us on a tandem, but perhaps a little boring + slow for riders on single bike. I felt sorry for the cyclists I saw climbing up the other way, because it seemed so much less interesting than how we had climbed -- less worthy of the goal at the top.

Near Asso we turned left at sign for “Como” (instead of going straight for “Erba” + “Milano”). An older local Italian rider told us it was a good way toward Como or Grandate. Several moderate climbs + descents, went past Ponte Lambro. Then we turned South too early, trying to avoid the city of Como, and got way off track. Then after getting confused on lots of roads (with lots of traffic) we ended up in the city of Como anyway. And discovered it was fairly straightforward to get back to Grandate - (part of the trick was following the lead of a local cyclist and riding on the sidewalk for the long climb on one high-traffic section).

south lake Como triangle: Grandate > Lecco > Bellagio > Como loop

see photos | rough map

Good adventure with variety and very pretty riding along the lake, and hilly.

The overall idea is that on a cloudy mid-week day we rode first (1) from near Como city we rode west to east inland to Lecco city, then (2) north along the west side of the southeast "leg" of lake Como to Bellagio, then (3) south along the southwest "leg" of the lake back to Como city, finally (4) thru the city and south back to Grandate.

(1) Grandate (near Como city) to Lecco: Hilly with some navigational complexity. Not as wonderful as we might have hoped, and harder work than we might have hoped -- but interesting enough. (Next time I'd want to know some simpler route to get through this inland section quicker). Finished with a descent from Galbiate with a nice view. The main street of Lecco didn't have a lot of life when we arrived -- it was more lively and pretty down by the waterfront.

(2) Lecco to Bellagio: Started with two long tunnels, but the tunnels were well-lit, wide, and not high traffic, and there were other bicyclists riding it too. Then pleasant and pretty riding along the lake, gentle + moderate hilliness, then a long-ish climb to a high point overlooking Bellagio. We rode into Bellagio on the high road. Had snacks in a couple of shops on the main street. Kept going down and around to down by the lake and exited south on the lower main street.

(3) Bellagio to Como city: Lotsa pretty views across the lake, riding thru villages perched on the steep hillside. Up and down hills most of the way (but not real steep), finishing with a nice view down on the city of Como and the end of the lake, and descend to the pretty waterfront.

(4) Como to Grandate: Lotsa traffic getting thru Como city. On one high-traffic street going up a long hill, we rode on the sidewalk. We thought we knew our way through from our previous ride, but somehow we missed a turn and found ourselves in some other town we didn't know. With my very limited Italian I asked for directions, and fortunately they turned out to be helpful. (Next time I want to have a detailed street map for the city of Como).

rides for with son visiting French Alps -- paved goat paths?

08oct on rec.bicycling.rides newsgroup

in reponse to this question:

I'll be bringing my son with me to the Alps during the '09 TdF, staying in either Chambery or Albertville. We'll have a rental car, plus the train is an option for getting around as well. Any recommendations for something truly memorable and a bit unexpected? Sure, he wants to ride Alpe d'Huez, but it would be fun to get him out on a true paved goat path.

around Chambery and Albertville, in daytrip range with rental car:

* closest thing I know around there to a high "paved goat path" (but only partly paved):  drive from Chambery / Albertville to Bourg St Maurice, then partway up the Cormet de Roseland road, park near the junction for Val des Glaciers. Ride the single-lane road up the Val des Glaciers as far as you want to ride (starts paved, then turns to dirt, eventually single-track) - (I rode on my road bike at least as far as the Refuge des Mottets hut) -- and then hike (or ride) as far up to Col de la Seigne (mentioned by Jobst) as you want to hike. Great views of the snowy Aiguille des Glaciers peak, cows, sheep, etc., and views of Mont Blanc as get higher toward the col. Optionally go partway down northeast side into Italy to another hut.
 . photos --see lower half of this page:
 . photos of some other riding below:

* just ride around thru the farms and vineyards and villages south of Chambery. For finding the paved single-lane roads (? goat paths, or more likely former cow paths ?), best to have 1:25000 maps. I've got some favorite short routes I could point you to. But perhaps it would be more fun to get lost on your own, and I could just suggest which maps to buy at one of the local shops.

* Cormet de Roselend with side trips to Col du Pre and Val des Glaciers is one of the prettier road passes in France. Since you have a rental car, you could skip the boring sections lower down -- park as mentioned previously for Val des Glaciers + Col de la Seigne.

* the Versant du Soleil "balcon" route between Aime and Bourg St Maurice. Perhaps once was a "goat path" across the hillsides, but now on well-paved roads thru quiet villages with views across the valley to the north slopes (hopefully still with some snow) + some fun descents on the way to Bourg St Maurice. Then Sharon and I finished our loop on a fun single-lane paved path along the whitewater Isere river.

* drive your son partway up the north side of Col du Galibier (at least as far as Valloire -- skip the Col de Telegraphe climb -- possibly ? Plan Lachat at the bottom of the main steep section -- or higher up depending on how sore his legs are from the day before). Then you drive over Galibier and Lauteret and down to La Grave and you climb the south side of Galibier and descend the same way -- while he climbs over and descends to Lauteret, then thru La Grave to Bourg d'Oisans. You join him for part of the descent to Bourg d'Oisans, then climb back up to La Grave to get the car. While he (optionally) starts climbing up l'Alpe d'Huez.

So the idea is that he's doing the finish of the famous "la Marmotte" event, without riding the whole course. I think the descent from Lauteret to Bourg d'Oisans is very exciting and fun.

(another option could be the east side of Col de la Croix de Fer -- perhaps you could drive your son up to start just above the village of St Sorlin d'Arves (because the steepest section is climbing through the village). Or could start lower around the junction for Col Mollard.)

* drive the autoroute southeast from Albertville toward Modane, but instead of going to Italy, continue east up the Haute Maurienne valley to around Bessans, then ride to Bonneval sur Arc (oldest village in the French Alps?) as a warmup, and continue up the south side of Col de l'Iseran (highest paved true col in Europe). Optionally ride partway down the north side (depends on your aversion to ski lifts). Hopefully lots of snow still close by (or at least visible) in July. While you're in the Haute Maurienne area, could ride or drive up from Lanslebourg to Col du Mont Cenis, then ride back and forth above the lake (American riders seem to either love or hate that lake), optionally partway down the south side toward Susa, Italy.

outside of France

base around Interlaken - Meiringen - Innertkirchen, Switzerland:

* bike route 61 between Interlaken and Grindelwald and Grosse Scheidegg -- majority is single-lane paved, some single-lane dirt/gravel road, some short sections of single-track trail alongside a roaring river. (actually I climbed it all on my road bike no problem). Quiet mountain villages, cows, goats, amazing views of the Eiger and Wetterhorn mountains. Gets sustained steep near the top. So there's the alternative . . . Take the post-bus as high as a you need to based on leg soreness (bike racks on the back of the bus). You can't drive your son to the top because normal vehicle traffic is not permitted on the top section. optionally ride down the east side as far as you want, then climb back up and do the descent. (Jobst mentioned the very spectacular Grosse Scheidegg, but not the interesting and varied bike rt 61.)

Nearby also is the climb on the west side of Sustenpass (mentioned by Jobst) -- spectacular snowy mountains, several short tunnels, interesting varied curves -- way prettier and more interesting than Alpe d'Huez. (does your son really "need" to do l'Alpe d'Huez?) With rental car your son could start higher say around Gadmen. (I'd say the lakes on north side of Grimsel pass are also memorable on a blue-sky day, again could start climbing higher, and it might not be harmful to go further and descend south to Gletsch and even partway up the west side of Furka pass.

Also cable railway high up to the snowy Jungfraujoch (not for bikes), possible famous mountain climb(s) with professional guide (very memorable but rather expensive), various non-guided hikes around the mountains, often using aid of ski lifts and/or post-bus. Likely some other exciting + spectacular mountain bike trails.

Dolomites and/or Stelvio in Italy

* lots of truly memorable spectacular riding. Not many "paved goat paths" (except what Sergio mentioned earlier?) -- the former goat paths have now been turned into nicely-paved roads.

I haven't done it, but the Sottoguda gorge near Passo Fedaia is supposed to be an interesting narrow road (but short?), and I've heard it's now closed to cars.

* while you're there, do some of the great hikes in the Dolomites. (? unpaved goat paths ?)

* hire a guide if necessary and rent equipment and purchase guidebooks to do some of the amazingly great "via ferrata" rock climbs in the Dolomites. Exciting paths in spectacular very steep places way beyond what a goat could handle.

(There's also some via ferrata climbing routes in France (and Switzerland), but I haven't done any yet. But most people think northeast Italy has the best collection).

second post

Some further thoughts:

* your views will probably look better than my photos, because most of my photos are from riding in September, and you'll have more snow in July to enhance contrast. I'd guess your experience will be more like September was 40 years ago before the glaciers had receded as much.

* I'm guessing that the truly amazing "goat path" rides in the northern French Alps are some unpaved mountain bike trails. But I don't know those.

* something which experienced Euro riders mention as interesting further south is Col de Parpaillon, which is a high col (around 2600m) which at its summit goes thru a long-ish tunnel (often icy). Some people have done it on road bikes, but much is unpaved on both sides, and I've heard it's much better to do it on a mountain bike. Some say it's your last chance to experience what the high passes of France used to be. (but too far from Chambery / Albertville to make sense as a daytrip.)

* there's noteworthy road segments on the west side of the Vercors plateau (west of Grenoble): (1) a road literally cut into the side of a vertical cliff (now there's your "paved goat path") -- the problem I have with that is there's so many uninteresting kilometers before and after it. (2) If you like riding up + down gorges, there's several around there, and I think a search of r.b.r archives and some web pages will give several ideas - (since I guess I'm not sufficiently into gorges to have ridden them myself).

* special non-bike: Driving from Chambery or Albertville to Chamonix and taking the telepherique lift up to the Aiguille du Midi for the high mountain view -- it's beyond anything I've seen in the 48 states. Really specially memorable (but very expensive) would be to hire a professional guide and climb one of the peaks from the Aiguille du Midi lift. (Note that even just hiking around from the top of that lift has special deadly risk because of glaciers and ice).

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