The Dolomites are one of those places you may never have been, and you know them anyway. They are like Stelvio, like Gassy, like Bucovina's Wall, like Calpe. You've already seen a hundred million photos *, two hundred thousand videos, and read 17 stories on various blogs. They all described how great it is, what paradise it is and how much you have to come there. After this text on Facebook, you will see 16 sponsored entries about an organized cycling trip. Taking advantage of the fact that most of the interesting destinations are currently closed, we decided to go there for some time. Maybe a week, maybe two ... maybe you don't know. The last time we went like this to Kłodzko Valley, we stayed there for 3 months.
* how do you follow on Instagram @makitkathat's three hundred.
The Dolomites are far away.
The Dolomites are far away. The last time we went on a stationary vacation by car was some years ago. Google say that it is less than 14 hours from Warsaw, but we know well that there will be a bell on S8, there will be a traffic jam near Munich, and on the Brenner Pass it will either snow or there will be a line to the gates. Anyway, the journey from the Narodowy in Warsaw to the Dolomites takes about as long as the journey from the Narodowy to Los Angeles. I do not plan to repeat it by car, because I don't want to waste 30 hours of life.
- If you are driving through Germany, it is worth sleeping in the Czech Republic, to which the reflection is less than 20 km in the middle of the route. Accommodation is cheaper with the 50%.
- If you are buying a civilized accommodation somewhere in Trento, you should get a code for the application on the phone, which entitles you to travel the whole region for free and also provides some discounts (important). If you are bored you can go by bus and train to Garda and back.
- Internet is hard, so if you want to work, you either have to rely on your phone (usually LTE, especially in mountain shelters) or find tourist information and set up a base with it. Hotspot list here: https://www.trentinowifi.it/ although the places are marked "in Italian" (ie: somewhere in the vicinity).
- Italians have a hundred million types of electrical outlets and most of them will not work with your round plug from a computer power supply - you must have a rectangular one. It can be forced in if you are reconciled with damage to either the socket or the plug. Legal sockets are usually located in the vicinity of washing machines and microwaves.
- Parking lots on most of the passes are paid (around 1-2 euros per hour), but a bit further you can always find gravel by the road where you can stand.
- In stores (Coopy and Despary) it is so expensive that it pays to smoke an hour by car to Lidl (Bolzano for example). Then it is cheap like ours, and the products are better.
- The lifts, chairs and gondolas are rather expensive, all counted in several eurosso it adds up to a serious amount. There is almost always a road under the ski lift that you can go to the poor man. Sometimes (e.g. in the case of Marmolada) it will take 2 days and require a waiting ax, but it is possible.
- In the Dolomites, everything is close, but it is a long drive everywhere. I would not be prepared to travel by car with an average of over 40 km / h. Even if, like half of the tourists, you have a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, Porsche or Mercedes SRL. Arriving in a non-metallic Skoda, we feel like an avant-garde. Like Steve Jobs golfing and surrounded by people in suits.
- Bitumen is rather good, but not as good as they say on the internet. There are often cracks, crevices and folds where it is easy to lose teeth ... and we don't want that.
- Accommodation is relatively cheap. We sleep in Residence Villa Flora, where we pay less than PLN 300 per night, but it can be much cheaper. We just needed a whole apartment with a kitchen, a place to work, etc. There is supposedly some "SPA" and other goodies, but who needs it? There is no problem with bikes anywhere, because somewhere in winter you have to keep your skis and boots.
- The weather is such that when the lamp announces it, it will be a lamp, and when it is announced it may rain, it may or may not rain, and it may rain only on one side of the hill. With clouds, the Dolomites are nicer, less obvious. Although also without exaggeration:
… Of course we don't do that, I heard from my friend. We are not onions.
The Dolomites are easy to pain.
If you've been there before, you'll appreciate this word joke.
Rarely do you find a place where your legs hurt so much. Classic road loops have an average of about 3,000 meters of rise per 100km, and you can feel it.
On the other hand, you rarely find a place where everything is so simple. Free buses everywhere, lifts everywhere, accommodation everywhere. Even if you plan to get lost in the mountains, with good visibility you can almost always see a shelter… or three. Even road mapping is primitive, because wherever you go, there will be famous and epic mountain passes. If you are a completely handicapped tourist, you will get a map in any building, which will plan your entire stay for you.
From the Canazei we live in, you can easily include such passes as: Pordoi, Sella, Fedaia, Gardena, Campolongo, Giau, Falzarego, Valparola, Tre Croci and so on ... To better illustrate this, the Fedaia where we live has since lawful pages about 13km with an average under 8%. Such Passo Sella (driven from the end of the world) is 34km with an average above 5%. All this in stunning views and perfect serpentine, a dream right?
Detailed data on the uphill stretches in the Dolomites and their ranking can be found on the altimeter.
Well, perfect. Dolomites a cyclist's paradise.
On day one we do a piece of Sella Ronda - probably the most iconic round around. A bit, because the weather is not very good. At that time, we did not know yet that it is impossible to die because of a storm, because there are ski lifts, buses and tourists who can drop us off everywhere. The round consists of 4 passes and is about 1700 meters by 50km. We only do the climb from Canazei to the top of Selli and then Gardena (which is close when you are already on Sella). We have 48 km and 1,500 vertically. Is VERY STRONG VIEW. Really, we're shocked by the vertical walls that fall straight onto the road and everything in the area. On this day, I find that the Dolomites are great road. Then it only gets worse, but more on that in a moment.
What is so special about the Dolomites that cannot be found in other mountains? Let me use a few photos taken on the first day. I would like to remind you that we only drove up the hill near the house (maybe two) and returned the same way:
I explain a dangerous thesis
I think road cycling is the worst sport you can do in the Dolomites ... and certainly the least enjoyableme, Maciek
Driving on gravel must be great. You can probably use it for gravel gravelabut to tell you the truth, MTB will probably be better considering the number of routes marked out here. I don't know myself, so MTB also includes large shock absorbers. One thing is certain: you either use lifts, or you should have a bike with a motor, because I can't imagine it otherwise. Because gravel and gravel roads look like this:
And then there are a few other sports: downhill skiing, ski touring, walking, via ferratas ... but probably also worse, like crouching in the retinue of 7 Ferrari on German plates behind the Italian in Octavia, which brakes to zero in front of each serpentine.
When it comes to such walking, it is a beginner's paradise and a climber's paradise. For good morning you get maps, which show that you can cover all-day routes on both beaten gravel, vertically walking on the rocks or simply by driving the 86% route by car and get off only for photos (here the Val di Fassa region reigns, just from Canazei) .
Allow me to present the day when I realized that road cycling was handicapped in the Dolomites. You make the most beautiful loop in the world - Sella Ronda. It consists of 4 ramps and a flat zero.
It is Passo SellaI mentioned above, but I will post the photo again, because PASSO SELLA IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PASSO IN THE AREA. Dot.
Then there is Passo Gardena (assuming you're taking off from around Canazei and going clockwise, which is best for me). The most beautiful part of it is the road from Sella, then down to Corvara, it's not particularly great ... unless you are a serpentine psychophane, but then this whole entry does not matter, because you will be delighted everywhere in the Dolomites.
Passo Campolongo: short, lowest, pleasant, quite empty.
And then it's just pordoj.
You cower for an hour like that Passo Pordoi. Most cyclists hear this name (or many other places within 50km) get goosebumps. You drive on these serpentines, with pretty good views, you are overtaken by expensive cars, slow cars, buses
and trams, slight clutch odor mixed with tire compound, irritating nose slightly. Unfortunately, very expensive cars have exhaust fumes for my nose just as pleasant as regular cars.
You come to the top like a winner. Well, great, well done you. Name plate sticker with the name of the mountain pass as soon as you stand yours in line for this sign.
Most of the time you drive with car traffic in sight, every now and then you pass a village, a cafe, cyclists, slopes, ski lifts, (under) public transport. On the one hand, great, on the other hand somehow not so much, at least for me. You feel like the mainstream 110% and exactly like all the guests in the photos you saw here. You drove in with everyone, you passed, there will be a lot to tell.
You stand there on top of the peaks, you look into the distance and see a house between the clouds. You realize that you are standing in a car park, from which everyone starts their adventure without a bike (unless they are hardcore and have a lot of time, then they just agree to refuel in a cafe). It awakens some interest in you. What if ... if you do something forbidden and enter the parks like everyone else and go there with a shoe or a train ...
Then you drive in because you like to spend tens of euros. You look down and there is the same Pordoi, which was a parking lot a moment ago, but now it looks different, better. Something like this wow. You think about all those who cycled into this parking lot and then left. They probably have different priorities, or they just haven't been told. And what if in all the places we have cycled in the last 100,000 km it was also like that? Life has reopened.
But this is not the end, because you do not enter the shelter to take a photo and ride down.
A bit further, a simple walk, there is another shelter (with a recommended polenta with stew - you can, but you don't have to, and Apfelstrudel - so so compared to others). There is a road down from this shelter to that parking lot. It was allowed to enter. Dear, I do not recommend people who do not like stones. I do not recommend the entire Dolomites to such people. She's cool and twisted like my 7th isotonic gut.
What if you just bypassed it and left it for later, and instead went further down the trail? It turns out that you would climb one of the easiest three-thousanders in the wider area - Piz Boè (3.152 m). A few ladders, a few ropes, but nothing that would cause great discomfort to a person afraid of heights. Views? A bit like movies about alien planets, in which someone would stick mountains in the background.
And cool, the only question is what if you went down that descent to the parking lot and further along the trails. Ignoring, of course, the existence of a free bus that will take you almost to the house from the parking lot, and a network of lifts that will do the same, but much more expensive.
There are two things waiting for you there, depending on the weather. A cloud show or views of the neighboring glacier - Marmolada. We will come back to him again.
It turns out that you can go on and on. Just as it is possible to descend from the top shelter to all Sella Ronda passes, following our footsteps you can descend to the Passo Fedaia pass. The view of the lake surprises us a bit, and we are even more surprised by the fact that at the end of the trail (i.e. our end, because the trail probably never ends), a large bus is waiting for us, which will take us to the house. We are the only ones in it.
You could end the story here, but it's not that easy. Since we are already at Lake Fedaia, it should be mentioned that a network of 3 ski lifts starts here, which go up to Marmolada - 3,265 m. We cannot resist the need to spend another several dozen euros to reach the top. It's hard to find a sensible walk without an ice ax, but it's still worth it. The views are so strong that only the deer from the rut are missing. I can't cope with photos - whatever I do with colors, they look unreal.
And this is how life goes on, the bike in the area will never be the same again.
One more chance.
Of course, it's not like we ran one loop, we gave the area a bit more chances. He deliberately does not give ready routes, because it does not matter - you just draw loops on the asphalt. For example, we drove up Passo Giau, somewhere near Caprille, because how else would we. From the south, the driveway is a bit boring most of the time, only at the end it starts, otherwise it is from the north, so if I had to go it again (and I don't know if I would like to) I would start from Cortina.
After that, we wanted to pass the famous driveway to Tre Cime, in this way we would probably rank the most famous place in the Dolomites. As our trip was already 3000m by 100km, I did not see the possibility for us to survive an additional several hundred meters of a very difficult climb. So we returned by some gravel, and then through Passo Falzary. From Cortina, the driveway is 16km and we drive it for 7 days and 7 nights.
Skipping the driveway to Tre Cime was the best way around in life
Of course, we returned to the famous Three Peaks. It's the local Three Crowns - you are in the area, must see. We got back there by car (entrance fee 20eur, bicycle for free). This is one of those places where you know there will be a billion Italians, there will be crowds on the trail, the parking lot is collapsed and all wrong, but you go anyway, because it falls out. One of those places that always fails because Instagram doesn't feel like real life. And in fact, a crowd of cars and people attacks the lake a moment earlier (there is also Spar with cheap, warm food). But all this does not really matter, after a dozen or so minutes on the trail, the crowd fades somewhere and does not bother you at all, and you know - the further, the better.
If I rode my bike under Tre Cime, took a photo (a bit further, you have to ride on the gravel behind the parking lot to see them) and came back, it would be bad. Somehow, we walked the hills quite spontaneously, doing 15km without any prior analysis. Because yes, maybe the driveway is super heavy and quite scenic:
But what happens next is a different league. It's scary to think how many such trails extend somewhere else.
On the next day, we try to ride a bike, but it does not give any pleasure. It's a bit like commuting to a place where it gets nice and turns back. So we decide to check a random, different route, from a randomly different mountain pass. We have the closest to Sella, so we go there by car, get into the funniest one
telephone booth queues in the area and we go up. Forcella del Sassolungo, that is her name. You climb into a speeding booth and get out the same way. There are two people inside and not much else. Of course, the door is closed by the service and they also open it - there is no handle on the inside. If you are a fan of strange things - you have to.
As always, it turns out later that it is better to go down the cable car than to ride up, so we start looking for something that can be approached. So we go from the Langkofelhütte hut to the Plattkofelhütte (I recommend the Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce!) And attack some peak where the signs lead us, without much thought what it is. And it was a Plattkofel, 2,969 meters high. It is not particularly easy, because stones, high and a bit of marking the route on them on #yolo, but:
Well yes, I can say that. I didn't like cycling in the Dolomites (road). Maybe it's a matter of the fact that we haven't had a stationary vacation with road loop patting for a long time. Maybe this bikepacking it triggers in man some desire for adventure. Or maybe it is just more important for us now to look at nice views and walk calmly instead of bending among cars and motorbikes on the roads. Maybe this is the whole year 2020, which is tiring like no other ...
One thing is for sure: the Dolomites are stunning with views, and organisationally it is a paradise. The thought of the fact that next time I go there I don't have to pack my bike and 15 kg of various gear is very fond of me. And even more the fact that one day you will be able to fly there again with a cheap plane and drive up with a rented car, instead of sitting in your own for 30 hours.