Friday, 3 September 2010
From my bed I could see green hillside merging into grey cloud that concealed the summit of Monte Baldo. But as the senses awakened, sunshine on the Pregasina hillside indicated a fine day, with just a touch of cloud on the highest tops.
A full breakfast was followed by a trip to a nearby bike mechanic, where 30 minutes and €20 later the rear brake on the bike I will never ride again was as good as new.
After enjoying a coffee with Markus in the harbour area whilst on bike repair duty, he took to the pool and I strolled into Riva.
The day's exertions were restricted to the 150 metre ascent to the Bastione (pictured, along with the view down to Riva from its balcony) along a pleasant winding path, but sufficiently energetic to warrant a beer at the top. A via ferrata route starts near here, but I had no equipment.
That's my excuse!
Back at Torbole by late afternoon, Josef and Elisabeth had arrived. They had driven all the way from Dornbirn this morning to enjoy an afternoon beside Lago di Garda before transporting us and the bikes back to Dornbirn tomorrow.
We enjoyed a pleasant, albeit uneventful (unless something happened in Voralberg German that I didn't notice), evening with them.
Next Posting - Going Home
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So the index will be linked from here.
And there will be a link to a web page with only a brief daily summary, a kit list, and other useful information.
There will also be a slide show.
The image is one of many taken but not used in earlier postings, chosen as it typifies the scenery through which a Transalp crossing will pass.
Next Posting - Chilling out in Riva and Torbole
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Distance: 80-85 km (Total: 395-435 km)
Ascent: 1950 metres (Total: 13900 metres)
Descent: 3050 metres (Total: over 14000 metres)
Time: 9.5 hours (Total: 69 hours)
[Distances subject to checking when I get home, otherwise fairly accurate.]
A fitting last day. Markus's quote for the day: "If you haven't tackled the downhill from Tremalzo to Riva, you haven't lived."
In keeping with most other days the Esteemed Coordinator changed our planned route, this time to a more challenging day with a fine final descent.
After a brisk descent to Tione in the cool morning air we abandoned our detailed maps once again. "It should be an easy valley descent to Storo" remarked our leader, scrutinising my A4 sheet covering our entire route. My eyes told a different story, so the 350 metre ascent to a col were less of a surprise to me than to the rather miffed and optically challenged Coordinator.
The extra height gained did however result in quite a swift 20km, 400m descent to Storo, albeit on a rather unpleasant main road, aided for part of the way by the slipstream of three German Transalp cyclists.
The first 40km of the day had taken just two hours, and we were rewarded by coffee and croissants at a pleasant café in Storo, our breakfast at Albergo Brenta having been rather inadequate.
Now, the chosen route and our final significant climb, was the 1300 metre haul up to Tremalzo. Sue will recall this, as we drove up the road a few weeks ago, passing many cyclists on the way. It would be hard work, I knew that, so I bought some chocolate.
For the first 300 metres of ascent along the main road to Riva via Lago di Ledro, I kept falling behind Markus (as usual) but with a bit of grit between my teeth I always managed to haul him back, so we arrived together at the turn where a minor road leads up to Tremalzo.
Photos were taken. A stream of bike buses was dropping off cyclists here, or taking them all the way to the col, much to Markus's disgust. He is outraged by this behaviour, taking the view that they should cycle up from Riva. I think it seems like a nice afternoon out - starting from the top. After all, we don't plan to cycle back to Bludenz; or perhaps I am missing something.
"You go ahead" Markus surprised me. Perhaps he doesn't want his usual long wait at the top, I thought. "There will be a treat at 1000 metres and at 1500 metres" I promised, assuming Markus would be tailing me all the way.
I set off, going quite well for a change. In fact, rising at over 550 metres an hour compared with my previous best of 400 metres in an hour. 1000 metres came; no sign of Markus. I'll treat him by not making him wait, I thought, and continued up to the top, passing quite a few Transalpers on the way. None passed me. I am no longer the slowest Transalper. I was pleased. Markus was Not Impressed. Unbeknown to me he was suffering from a minor medical problem and had not requested the antidote that I carry. So he was sore, and had missed his treats, when he finally arrived at the top.
I bought him some lunch, and we were friends again. I think.
The lunch at Rif Garda was rather poor, so perhaps I owe him another treat.
Anyway, my superhuman effort to make it up at a reasonable pace meant that we had plenty of time to enjoy the long descent to Riva. This had been A Worry.
It's a stony uphill track to a short tunnel, then a superb (if stony - suspension is useful) undulating journey on a fairly busy track compared to most that we have been on, over Passo di Various along track 421 and then down path 422. We mistakenly took a steep footpath for part of the descent to Pregasina, rather than the accepted bike route, but it made for a bit extra excitement and we made it down intact.
The upper sections of this fine route are along sweeping stony tracks high on the vertiginous mountainside above Lago di Garda. Care is needed, as are frequent stops to admire the views to Monte Baldo and elsewhere - a little hazy today but not as bad as last time I was here.
Below Pregasina the bike track follows the course of the old road, gently descending along the edge of the abyss below which the green waters of Lago di Garda await the unwary. It's a superb descent to Riva, and a fitting conclusion to any Transalp trip.
Giant ice creams were our chosen celebratory fare, then we pootled along Lago di Garda's busy cycle tracks, narrowly avoiding several fatal incidents, to Torbole and the luxurious Hotel Villa Franca. Pizzas, beers, and tiramisu for Markus ("The Best Ever") concluded an excellent day and a fine trip through the Alps.
The image is the view towards Rocchetta Giochello that I have enjoyed from my bench in Riva whilst composing this entry.
Thanks to those who have commented, latterly to Louise and The Weekend Dude, and to Sue for the 'Pass Out' - it's a shame you weren't able to join us here in sunny Riva. I hope you've all enjoyed these entries from your armchairs. We've certainly had a great time in 'The Saddle'.
Next time: The Epilogue...
Next Posting - Epilogue
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Thursday, 2 September 2010
Riva is hidden to the left, but our destination, Torbole, where we are safely installed in a good hotel for a couple of nights, is in clear view at the head of Lago di Garda on a sunny afternoon.
We have a day of leisure tomorrow, during which I'll enjoy writing the posting for our final, most satisfying, day.
Now we are off to celebrate Markus's fourth and my first Transalp success.
Next Posting - Day 8
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Distance: 40-45 km
Ascent: 1700 metres
Descent: 1300 metres
Time: 8.5 hours
The 'Jolly' breakfast lived up to its reputation. More bits kept arriving. They are proud of their sumptuous continental breakfast fare.
Gloves and windshirts were deployed for the long forest track up to the posh town of Madonna. It was cool, even down at 800 metres. But sunny, if you were not in the shadow of the mountains. We were in that shadow, cast by the northern ramparts of the Brenta Dolomites, for well over two hours.
There weren't extensive views from the woods (mainly pine, with dashing black squirrels) through which the LRT (land rover track) styled cycle path passed. We just rose slowly (a bit more quickly in Markus's case) up the 950 metre slope, occasionally on foot on the steeper sections in my case. A few cyclists passed me, travelling much faster than I could contemplate.
I am the slowest Transalper, or should that be 'Transalpiniste'? Hundreds have passed me during the past week. I have yet to gain that satisfaction, and am not expecting it to come my way.
I'd pushed on as hard as possible to get to Madonna. We arrived after 3 hours, before 11.30, in plenty of time to get my brake attended to at the bike shop before it shut for lunch. A swarm of Swiss cyclists with another brake problem delivered the bad news. Despite the array of new bikes outside, the shop was shut. "Just take a new one" some wag suggested.
So, after pausing for cappucini in the Suisse Bar, we continued south along a pleasantly downhill and windy path, to Bar Ristorante Cascate - situated in a wonderful position adjacent to some extensive waterfalls and with a view to the glaciated plateau from which the Adamello peaks protrude. Very pleasant, and there was not enough wind today to blow our pasta bolognaise into the river.
Having refuelled, we BOTH flew down a few hundred metres of descent. We had swapped bikes. I found Markus's fine, and could keep up for a change. He declared my rear brake to be working if you apply enough pressure. I must try harder! I think part of the problem is my unfamiliarity with disc brakes, which I had always assumed would be sharper than my 'non-discs'. The opposite appears to be the case...
This is all a bit puzzling. I will now leave the subject and try hard to be braver with the braking tomorrow.
Anyway, we swapped back and headed up another LRT, blagging our way past a road closure by carrying the bikes above a precipice. After a pretty lake, Lago di Val d´Agola, with a wonderful Brenta Dolomites backdrop marred only by the presence of a large crane, we endured a steep 250 metre 'push' to the day's high point, Passo Bregn del Ors (1836 m). We lingered (pictured) in that beautiful spot, surrounded by Dolomitic peaks. High above us was Passo 12 Apostoli and its nearby rifugio, from where Alan Roberts brought a signpost home to Cheshire - collected during a memorable 'Via delle Bocchette' trip, if my memory serves me.
An enjoyable 600 metre descent down Val d'Algone on stony LRTs brought us neatly to tonight's resting place, Albergo Brenta, where Markus had booked us in long before I arrived. "I overtook three cars" he proudly claimed.
This was all nicely done by 6.30, whilst Markus enjoyed his afternoon nap, only to find that Orange (aka Tim) hasn't reached these parts just yet. Anyway, we've now had a lovely meal and need lots of rest in preparation for the final episode of this 'Two Men on a Bummel' escapade, which will be in progress when this posting finally transmits....
Now it's back to 'Rum Doodle' to study how this sort of trip should be 'properly' orchestrated!
Next Posting - Torbole, we've Arrived
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Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Distance: 60-65 km
Ascent: 1550 metres
Descent: 2650 metres
Time: 8.0 hours
The day dawned cold and clear. A dusting of fresh snow on the nearby mountains of the Stelvio National Park remained as evidence of the onset of Autumn.
Alessandro provided a good breakfast, then we kitted up. My 'leg warmers' went on for the first time, fitting neatly under my cycling shorts. They had been purchased in deference to Markus's kit list. They stayed on all day. Markus hadn't brought his. "I've not needed them on any of my previous three Transalp crossings" he explained, "but I've never been as cold on any crossing as I was today."
We started off, now with the benefit of a map, along a land rover track, heading up a further 600 metres to Passo dell´Alpe. I tried to cycle, but after 50 metres or so it was just too steep for me. Markus kept going for a bit longer, but was soon pushing, just a bit further up the hill.
So including yesterday's final 400 metres, I had now pushed The Tank up nearly 1000 continuous metres. Markus seemed surprised to hear that I hadn't enjoyed it. I realise that some pushing is necessary on this sort of trip. But 1000 metres? It would have been great in the other direction!
The short descent to the Gavia road would have been fun with fully functional brakes.
That concluded our off-roading for the day, as Markus subsequently deemed it too cold to venture over Bochetta di Montozzo.
No brakes were needed for the scenic 350 metre ascent to Passo Gavia (2618 m), where Rifugio Bonetta provided welcome cappuccinos, and a helpful lady who was guiding a couple of German mountain bikers explained the problem with my brake. I have accidentally got air into the system, and it needs a special machine to remove it. She kindly explained how best to ride to handle the problem.
Enticing paths to nearby summits; jagged peaks which on the map are riddled with red dashed lines; this area is one to visit with a pair of walking boots and a via ferrata kit. It looks great. Today's image, entitled 'Dressed to Kill', was taken at Lago Blanco, by Passo Gavia. Unlike my companion, the camera shy Austrian fashion guru, I was very warm thank you...
The 1300 metre descent to Ponte di Legno, mostly down a narrow road, was negotiated slowly, but safely. Near the bottom we sat outside a nice little restaurant and stuffed ourselves with spaghetti carbonara, wolfing it down as fast as we could to avoid it joining the Fanta can on a trip to the nearby river, borne by an icy blast from the gusty wind. Why didn't we eat inside? It was sunny...
We passed a little above the main part of Ponte di Legno. Down below a puff of smoke increased in intensity; it started to billow - a dark grey plume. At the source, in the middle of the road, flames leapt high into the sky. Fire engines rushed to the scene. A helicopter arrived. As we rose up the Tonale road our view became clearer, partly due to the emergence of my binoculars from the depths of my bag. Two thirds of a bus were sitting astride the blocked road, a grimy black smudge marking where the rest of the vehicle had once been. We hope everyone got out before the fire took hold.
The road up to Passo del Tonale, where an ugly ski resort reminded me of Andorra, was busy but wide enough not to be unpleasant, especially as it rose only 600 metres over a distance of 8km.
The 900 metre descent to Ossana, over more than twice that distance, was down a moderately gentle gradient, so quite enjoyable even with dodgy brakes. Then half an hour along the busy main road to Bolzano and Trento took us to the village of Dimaro, from where an off-road cycle route is on the agenda for tomorrow (I'm looking forward to that!).
I came across Markus, halted outside a B+B, chatting to a mountain biker. This chap, Robert, seemed to have connections with the B+B, and we were soon installed in two very nice double rooms, but not before Markus had discovered a hose pipe and assiduously cleaned his dusty bike. My bike is also a bit grimy, but I obstinately declined to show any enthusiasm for cleaning it, I just don't see the point in doing this before the end of the trip. I'm not sure whether Markus understands; perhaps I'm letting down the owner of The Tank by failing to wash it at every opportunity, though he can rest assured - it'll be returned fully cleansed!
The 'Jolly' B+B even got us a discount at the Dolomiti restaurant, purveyors of fine pizzas, Hacker-Pschoff beer and cappuccinos of the liquid and frozen varieties that concluded our Transalp proceedings for the day.
Thank you, SAHH (Stay At Home Hazel), for your comment; I hope you and the pixies have a nice day out tomorrow.
Next Posting - Day 7
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Distance: 40-45 km
Ascent: 1800 metres
Descent: 1800 metres
Time: 8.5 hours
First, thanks for the comments, and sorry about the delay in sending this. We are at one of those rare places in Italy with no 'phone signal. There is actually an internet connection, but so slow I've failed to log into blogger or identify 'BrextonT', who should be aware that I may be tagging along with Alastair for the Calderdale Marathon in much the same way as we tackled the Macc Half Marathon last year.
Last night's hotel occupied the eye of a hairpin. This morning both sides of our room revealed a wet road. A leisurely breakfast was in order, before we said goodbye to Hans and Danni, paid our bill (€74 each for half board plus drinks - fortunately not as much as advertised on the back of our door), and donned our waterproofs.
We seem to have developed a habit of starting at 8.30 and finishing at 5.00 (give or take), and today was no exception, though I fear it may have been had we taken the planned route over Passo della Forcola.
The rain hit as we descended briefly on a land rover track before turning up the scenic valley littered with information boards that leads eventually to Passo di Verva.
We were the only visitors today to the high valleys either side of the pass. Perhaps this was due to the sleety rain that was falling as snow above about 2200 metres.
Luckily the storm subsided as we reached the pass, where on 10 July 2010 a memorial to the Italian soldiers of WW1 had been erected. It was still very shiny!
I'd enjoyed the ascent, despite the cold rain, as I was tucked up nice and warm in various layers of gear, and the not so steep, but rather gravelly track seemed like home ground. Markus lagged behind, for a change. He says he was optically challenged.
There was a fair amount of bird life, with Pied Wagtails, Chaffinches, Wheatears and various larger 'brown jobs' in evidence, though yesterday's fly catching Martins and similar were, for obvious reasons, not around today.
The 500 metre descent to Eita was also fun, over equally rough ground, but the subsequent 1100 metre drop to Grosio was a bit of a nightmare for me. The most challenging hour of this trip. It should have been quick and fun, a rapid blast down damp tarmac. But my newly serviced rear brake didn't play ball. It has all but failed and needs attention from a tool that we don't possess.
Anyway, whilst Markus thinks I could have been braver with the front brake, that doesn't have an anti-lock system, so I took extreme care.
Arriving in one piece in Grosio, we headed straight to the friendly Albergo Sassella (a bikers hotel) to share a pasta for lunch.
Outside, one of a group of motorcyclists dropped his bike, much more of a tank than mine, onto a car. I was impressed that instead of riding off, the bikers tried to seek out the car owner, and left their details.
Having by-passed our planned route over Passo della Forcola due to the weather, which actually improved after Passo di Verva, we now set about tackling a 1200 metre ascent to La Baita (www.rezzalovacanze.com). A main road took us slowly up, as we battled with a head wind, to rejoin our planned route at Sondalo, then on to Le Prese, from where we took a minor road for 7km to Fumero. It was steep and zigzagy for 600 metres. Markus went ahead. He wanted to test his ability to cycle all the way to La Baita, as he had failed on a hot day in June last year. He succeeded, but I pushed the final 400 metres of ascent from Fumero, unaware of any 'challenge'. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, but cold, as was Markus after waiting for me for 30 minutes.
Alessandro was waiting outside for us on his sunny verandah sheltered from the cold wind. We are his only guests tonight in the waterwheel powered 20 bed rifugio.
A beer went down well. Markus was delighted to find a hose to wash his bike, and gleefully accepted Alessandro's offer to wash our clothes.
He assured us it will be clean and dry by morning, then fed us with a mixed salad, mushroom risotto, succulent chunks of pork ribs with courgettes, and Italian cake. Our best meal to date perhaps, and probably the cheapest.
It's very jolly here, albeit there are just the three of us. The rifugio is in a splendid setting at around 1900 metres. Today's images were taken this evening, from the front door, shortly after the sun had disappeared over our horizon.
Next Posting - Day 6
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Sunday, 29 August 2010
Distance: 35-40 km
Ascent: 1400 metres
Descent: 1450 metres
Time: 8.75 hours
These stats are estimates taken from 1:50000 maps where we have them, and from my watch when I remember to look at it. Times include breaks of around 1.5 to 2 hours each day.
Today was a lovely sunny one, as shown in the previous posting, but a cold northerly breeze led to our deploying wind shirts and gloves for much of the day. This didn't spoil our pleasure of stopping in high Alpine positions to admire the views and 'chill out' from time to time, as pictured - me on a bench this morning.
Today's mileage was modest, so we took our time. Our route passed through fine Alpine scenery and hardly touched any tarmac.
We ascended yesterday's descent route to Alp Champatsch, then took a high level traverse to Pass dal Fuorn, past a fine selection of late alpine flowers, including Alpine Eyebright with its miniature yellow petals, ubiquitous Field Gentians, a large (as in big-petaled) variety of 'Spring' Gentian, and numerous bellflowers, heathers and thistles, to name but a few.
The verges were frosty; the glaciated dome of the Ortler massif stood proud to the south east, and we met many walkers and a lone cyclist with panniers on this last Sunday of the main summer holiday season.
Pass dal Fuorn was busy with motorists and bikers of the engined variety, but we found a sunny table in Hotel Süsom Givè from which to enjoy views to the Ortler to accompany cappucini, nut cake and apfelstrudel.
Then a brisk descent and a short push before a glorious meandering track led to the Italian border. We stopped for a while to soak in the sun near a border stone and a proliferation of Edelweiss.
"One of the best MTB routes in the world", according to my esteemed Coordinator, then led us dramatically down a swooping zigzag path, to Lago Livigno. It was brilliant.
On the subsequent tracks to Lago di San Giacomo we met hordes of mountain bikers. We had entered the 'Transalp Biking Zone'. Apparently some 500,000 people enjoy Transalp trips every year, many of them guided.
Not many Brits, I suspect.
A shared bowl of pasta (we didn't want to spoil our appetites) at Rifugio San Giacomo fuelled us for the gruelling ascent to Trepalle and thence to Bochetta Trelina (I think).
"Where's the next map?" I enquired, when we dropped off the bottom of Wanderkarte 259T - 'Ofenpass'.
"At home" came the reply "but I know the way."
At least we have the Coordinator's overview and an A4 sheet covering our entire route, but tomorrow's mileage could be guesswork.
A fast dirt road along the edge of a precipice took us quickly to our unexpectedly expensive hotel in Arnoga, but the four course meal was excellent.
We were joined later by Hans, doing a 5-day Transalp route with a friend. They were having a good trip. Hello Hans, if you read this; I shall enjoy reading your own report.
One section towards the end of today involved a 400 metre ascent. First up a steep track that Markus managed to cycle whilst I walked. Then we both walked the final 150 metres up a cow track that should have been a footpath. Markus carried his bike over pools of slurry interspersed with bog, whilst I pushed mine. The bike is like a tank compared with my own old bike. Probably 15-20 kilos, so lifting it for any length of time is not on. I try to push it. I'm not complaining; it's a fine bike, but it may be like trying to ride a Ducati 500 after being used to a Honda 50, I suppose!
I understand there may be a bit more 'pushing' tomorrow. "Necessary for the best mountain views and to minimise tarmac sections" expounds Markus.
And I think I agree with him...
Next Posting - Day 5
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