Tag Archives: europe2022

Andorra and Coma Pedrosa

Back in normal shoes

At last the big day had arrived. After a month cycling around in an orthopedic shoe, and a few days trying out a normal trail runner, it was time to hike to an actual peak, and a country highpoint at that. I have done very few of those, having been denied access to Chimborazo, failed on Huascaran, and never been interested in Denali or Logan. However Coma Pedrosa, the highpoint of Andorra, is a straightforward hike of about nine miles with 4300 feet of elevation gain. With higher neighbors clearly visible to the north and west, it is not particularly impressive or prominent, but then neither is Andorra.

Into Andorra

Taking off from La Seu d’Urgell fairly early, I had a cool ride into the country from the south along the Riu Valira. The country more or less consists of the headwaters of this river, whose valley provides its only year-round access to the outside world. Entering this way during the morning commute felt like riding along a highway through an outlet mall, with big-box stores, lots of traffic, and few places to urinate in private.

Dirt road approach

The Principality’s main city is Andorra la Vella, located in a wide junction of the Valira del Nord and Valira d’Orient. It looks like a mini-banking metropolis, some towers, luxury shops, and public artwork, but retains its European character with a maze of narrow, one-way streets. I was glad not to be in a car, but even being on a bike, and therefore able to use sidewalks and flout traffic laws, it was a challenge to reach the highway up the country’s left branch to Arinsal. The road up the valley climbs consistently, and steeply in places, and the metropolis gives way to a ritzy resort, full of hikers and mountain bikers this time of year.

As is often the case in Europe, it is unclear how far one is allowed to ride a bike, but I stopped at the main trailhead to lock my bike to a tree, then hide behind another to change into my neglected hiking clothes. I tied my shoes, then began tentatively walking up the trail, trying not to limp or bash my toe. The route I chose starts with a narrow, root-y, sometimes muddy trail next to a steep stream, then joins a steep gravel road coming from somewhere to the right. I felt slow, weak, and sometimes unsteady on rough ground, but better than expected given my time off.

Meadow with sheep pen

The route leaves the road at a sign, returning to a steep, rough trail. Despite being the path not only to the country highpoint, but to a nice hut and much of Andorra’s hikeable terrain, the trail is only slightly developed and admirably steep. There is some haphazard signage, but I found the map on my phone helpful in navigating the minor trail maze. I split off right shortly before the hut, descending to cross a meadow with an abandoned stone hut and sheep pen, then climbed up along a heavily mineralized stream, following a smattering of fellow hikers along the braided path.


Just before the one significant lake along the way, Estany Negre, I turned right along one of the two alternate paths to the summit. This one picks its way through a talus field, then follows the peak’s southwest ridge. I met a few people along the way, and found a bit of easy and optional scrambling by staying closer to the ridge. I was leery of the talus lest I bash my toe or shin, and pathetically slow, but managed not to get passed. The summit had a big, flat map, and a crowd of people talking loudly in Catalán. Not feeling sociable, I stood off to one side and the other to take in the view. I could see the whole country to the south and east, including the Port d’Envalira, my exit route. To the north and west were higher peaks in France and Spain. In the distance I could even see some glaciers on what I believe are the high peaks around Aneto, the range highpoint.

View into Andorra

For variety I took the other trail on the way down, meeting more people either because they are essentially Spaniards and keep Spanish hours, or because it is slightly easier. A trail-running kid bombed past me before stopping to relax at Estany Negre, inspiring me to jog a few of the smoother sections. My legs were feeling the unaccustomed activity by the time I reached the steeper sections below the hut, so I had no trouble patiently walking back to my bike. I changed behind the tree again, then carefully descended back into town, with a stop for food along the way.

The fun part

From Andorra la Vella at the junction of the country’s “Y” it is a 4500-foot climb to the Port d’Envalira, but there is a two-mile tunnel connecting the two branches about 300 feet higher, and I was determined to take it. Fortunately it is not only downhill in this direction, but features a dedicated bike lane. This was probably my favorite part of cycling through Andorra, flying down a well-lit highway tunnel in top gear.

Upper Port d’Envalira

Soon enough, though, it was time to grind out the climb. There was a fair amount of traffic, but thankfully far less than on the road in from La Seu d’Urgell. The road winds well above treeline to the location of the speed-skiing world championships, where it splits to a toll tunnel and the old, free road. This road has a number of sharp switchbacks, but is wide and well-paved, feeling somewhat Swiss. It was windy and cold on the top, so I huddled in the lee of a gas station with another cyclist to put on my warm clothes before descending to Pas de la Casa, a cluster of big-box stores just inside France.

It was forecast to be a cold night, and the northeast-facing valley would be even colder, so I needed to lose quite a bit of elevation before I camped. I passed the intersection with the Col de Puymorens, another interesting route leading in the wrong direction, then scouted an old service road before settling on a grassy road to an abandoned hut farther down. The hike had gone well, so before I went to sleep I spent some time looking at the map, planning my route back to pass by some other easy summits.

Collegats to La Seu d’Urgell

Collegats access road

The previous day I had wondered about climbing activity on the limestone cliffs of this Spanish backwater. Soon after starting, I had my answer: the Collegats gorge is a well-developed and moderately popular sport climbing area, with spectacular scenery and routes on both sides of the river, the ones on the far side approached by an intimidating Tyrolean traverse. While the current road goes through a long tunnel, the old road remains as a bypass open to pedestrians and cyclists, with signs along the way explaining the area’s geology and demonology. My first clue that this was a climbing area was the larger-than-usual number of camper vans, including one American-style hashtag-vanlife Sprinter. I saw one pair of active climbers as I passed through, but the area was mostly quiet.

Somehow demons are involved

Beyond the gorge, the road continues climbing slowly along the river to Sort, a decent-sized and very crowded tourist town. I stopped there for water and supplies, then began a long and winding climb of nearly 3000 feet to the Port del Cantó. This section is popular with cyclists, and since I was somewhat tired and loaded for touring, got to see several as they passed. One blew by me like I was standing still, impressing me until I realized he was doing hill intervals and almost caught him again during his recovery. Another was a young guy in the middle of a long day, who was riding at about my speed and spoke English well. He turned out to be doing his longest ride ever, something over 100 miles between his family’s and his girlfriend’s house. We chatted for the rest of the climb, then stopped to eat at a scenic picnic table at the pass.

Port del Canto

He quickly left me on the other side of the pass, as I had to be cautious before the turns with my less-than-excellent brakes. I eventually made it to El Segre, the river leading southwest out of Andorra. This is the main road, and in winter the only road, in and out of the postage stamp-sized country, so it is broad, crowded, and unpleasant to ride. Though it was warm down in the valley, the night was forecast to be cold and rainy in Andorra, which is mostly much higher. I waited out some squalls in La Seul d’Urgell, first at the Spanish version of a Costco, where everyone from Andorra apparently shops, then outside the tourist office.

I was hoping to make some use of the rest of the day, but it became increasingly clear that camping in Andorra would be cold, wet, and hard to do. Hotels there were also predictably overpriced, so I found a cheap place in La Seul d’Urgell, spread out all my things to dry in the room, then returned to the mega-market to buy supplies for a long and long-anticipated day. For my first hike in over a month, I hoped to tag Andorra’s highpoint, Coma Pedrosa. On either side of that, I had to first ride into the country and up to the trailhead, then back out into France via the Port d’Envalira, the Pyrenees’ highest pass.

Aínsa to Collegats

Slot canyon

As a highway, I expected the N-260 to be relatively boring and crowded, and so far it had lived down to that expectation. That began to change as I continued east. The road is also called the Eje Pirenaico (Pyrenaean Axis), and while it stays mostly below treeline, it comes closer to the mountains and becomes narrower and more interesting as it approaches Andorra. Leaving Aínsa, it remains a high-speed highway as it makes a long, steady climb through open fields past a bizarre monument consisting of a bunch of giant iron spears and an iron placard saying something about the history of Foradada del Toscar.

Spear monument

Beyond this climb, the road drops to the Río Ésera near the town of Campo, then follows the narrow river valley north. Here I may have been able to follow a series of local roads directly east, but a combination of uncertainty and my need for food and water led me to continue on the N-260. This was a fortunate accident, as it turned out to be one of the road’s better parts. Following the river, the road climbs through a narrow limestone canyon with many tunnels and Italian levels of determined engineering. There was ongoing construction (this is sadly being turned into an autovia), and a good deal of traffic, but the scenery was enough of a distraction to make the ride pleasant.

I stopped in Castejón de Sos for lunch, eating my low-quality grocery store food next to a local market. The town seems to be the base of a skiing region, and is the departure point for the dead-end road to Beñasque and the trailhead for Aneto, the Pyrenaean highpoint. That means I must have driven this way in 2018, but it all seemed new to me on a bike. From town, the road makes a winding climb to the Coll de Fadas, then a long and often twisty descent to the Isábena and Baliera Rivers, losing all of the day’s hard-won elevation. Though officially a highway, this section felt more like a country road, narrow and without much traffic.

Cliffs near Pont de Suert

The road became busier where it joined the N-230, heading south for the sizable town of of el Pont de Suert, at the head of a large reservoir. The town is surrounded by orange-and-gray limestone cliffs, making me wonder about the local climbing possibilities (more on that later). It was hot down low, so after buying dinner and breakfast in town, I continued east a short distance, rested in the shade, then continued on looking for a place to camp. I eventually chose an abandoned road to a collapsed stone cottage, where I found a cool, shady spot next to the Riuet del Convent, where I rinsed my feet and face and relaxed on my air mattress. The area had the abandoned feeling common to rural Spain, and camping in the trail of humanity’s retreat felt natural. I thought I was sufficiently out of the way, but I was embarrassed to have a couple of walkers pass on the faint trail next to the river. I was of course camping illegally, but they did not report or chastise me.

Ansó to Aínsa

Rio Ara

With no hiking to do, I had a lot of time in the evenings to stare at the map on my phone, trying to find the most interesting route east. I had limited time remaining in Europe, but no real objectives, and substantial uncertainty about whether I would be able to hike and run before flying home. Beyond Aínsa it appears impossible to stay in the mountains since, as in Austria, the main roads sensibly avoid them, connecting to the hamlets via dead-end side-roads. I could make good time down in the plains, but that would subject me to heat, boredom, and highway traffic. I eventually decided on a compromise, following backroads to pick up highway N-260 at Jaca, which would allow me to reach Andorra. There I could hike the easy country highpoint, Coma Pedrosa, or at least ride the Pyrenees’ highest pass, the Port d’Envalira.

I started with a quick descent past Hecho, then turned onto a promising side-road leading through the foothills. This was paved but not well-traveled to Jasa (not to be confused with Jaca), a tiny town with a market that seems to be a tourist spot on one of the GR trails. Beyond, the road turned into rough single-lane pavement, then dirt as it crossed an unnamed pass, where it became paved again. I met a few motorcycle tourists, but otherwise this road sees almost no use. I descended to another tourist town, Aísa, then continued on a windy, rolling road to the N-330 highway. I found the names of and encouragement for pro cyclists painted on this stretch, leading me to believe that the Vuelta a España or some other race had passed through.

Jaca ruins

The road down to Jaca was more heavily trafficked, but at least fast, and I reached the city in time to visit the pharmacy and grocery store before the siesta. I ate in the city park near the ruins of an old fortification, then set off east on the least pleasant riding of my visit to Spain, a straight, hot highway to Sabiñánigo. I rested in the shade there for awhile, then continued grinding up a long, gradual climb to some east-west divide. I had not been paying close enough attention to the map, and was surprised to find a mile-long tunnel at the top with no bypass. Biking through highway tunnels is generally neither safe nor approved of, but it was too late to do much about it, and fortunately downhill, so I claimed my lane, put my head down, and cranked through at close to 30 MPH. The descent to Fiscal afterward was even faster.

Rio Ara crags

The road north from Fiscal leads to some of the Pyrenees’ highest peaks, but it is a dead-end, and I was on a mission, so I continued over another climb, then descended an interesting stretch along the Rio Ara to Boltaña. The river and road cut through uplift layers of limestone which are eroded and partly forested. I was ready to camp there, and did not want to hunt for a hiding-spot, so I rolled up to one of the campgrounds ready to pay. The girl working at the reception desk was embarrassed when she told me the Swiss-level price, shockingly expensive for Spain, and was not surprised or put out when I declined. I instead continued a few miles to Aínsa (not to be confused with Aísa or Ansó), where I found a cheaper campground outside town to the northeast.

Pau to Ansó

Pierre Saint Martin

[This is catching up on the tail end of summer. Also note the new map of my “Alps bike tour”. — ed.]

I was tired of cycling, tired of rain, and just plain tired, too much so to enjoy riding more in the Alps. After a final climb to Alpe d’Huez, I rode down to Grenoble and recovered for a few days, then took a series of trains to Pau, at the base of the Pyrenees. Unlike my train-warp across northern Italy, which had been cheap and easy, this one was unpleasant and expensive. Europe’s high-speed trains, like France’s TGV, do not have bike compartments, so you must partially disassemble your bike and transport it as luggage. The accepted method is a specialized bike bag, which I of course did not have. I instead took off the front wheel and bars, then wrapped my bike in bubble-wrap, which was against the rules but got me to my destination, at the expense of several miserable transfers. Once finally in Pau, I bought some food and rode south until I could find a stealthy spot to camp.

Lush climb to Pierre Saint Martin

Weather comes from the north in the Pyrenees, and their northern side is remarkably humid and mossy even when it is not raining, so I wanted to get to the south side as soon as possible. Plus, Spain is much cheaper than France. There are a couple of passes over the mountains near Pau, and I chose the Col de la Pierre Saint Martin at random. This turned out to be one of the better passes I rode in the Pyrenees, with a long climb through lush woods and old towns culminating in a narrow, winding road through limestone channels. Since it does not lead to a major Spanish city, and there is an easier highway pass to its east, it does not see much traffic outside the ski season.

Erronkari fountain

On the Spanish side, the road plunges impressively through more limestone crags into the Ezka valley, with a rare curlicue along the way. This is Basque country, so the towns all have both Spanish and Basque names, with the former sometimes crossed out in spray-paint. Basque is a linguistic orphan unrelated to its neighboring Romance languages. While it is impossible to puzzle out the meaning of its words, one can often see the correspondence between them and their Spanish equivalent place-names. Beyond that, though, they’re a salad of x’s and k’s, often starting with an “a” or “e” and ending in an “i.” They seem more pronounceable than Polish or Welsh to someone who speaks neither, but what I heard in my head was probably completely wrong.


Unlike the Alps, which are a complex blob, the Pyrenees are a fairly simple range with an east-west spine. By chance, I had started near the western end of the highest part, with the range quickly falling off into the Basque Country to the west, and also getting much wetter as they approach Spain’s northern coast. Wanting to stay dry, I decided to follow the foothills east, then cross back over to France when I ran out of time. I therefore descended the Ezka valley to Roncal/Erronkari, then turned east along a provincial road. My friend Mike had made me aware of the miles of quiet, paved roads in the Spanish countryside, and this one did not disappoint. The pavement was rough in places, but I found a pleasant, rolling ride through the foothills. I stopped for supplies in Ansó, an ancient town closed to most cars, then rode on to camp off a forest road with a view of the foothills tapering off into the plains to the south.

Izoard and Galibier

I like the term “motards”

Unlike the Col Agnel, the Izoard and Galibier are frequently on the Tour, and therefore much more popular with cyclists. I had enjoyed merely driving over the Galibier on my first trip to the Alps, seeing in person something I had only seen in television Tour coverage as a kid, so I definitely wanted to ride it this time. The Izoard was merely the natural way to get from my “campsite” below the Col Agnel to Briançon. As it turned out, both were swarming with cyclists on a weekend, including several boys (no girls) on small bikes that cheered me up and reminded me of myself at that age.

Chateau Queyras

From camp, I descended to the Guil River, then followed it past Chateau Queyras, an impressive fortress that recently sold for a mere $660,000. Past the fortress, I turned up a side-valley toward the Izoard, and began ticking off the kilometers and elevation on the cyclist-friendly signs. Each one had a tidbit of Tour history, usually about someone who had won a stage over the pass. There is also supposedly a Tour museum at the top, though the whole area seemed to be a construction zone when I was there.

Izoard sign

The Izoard starts climbing gently up a valley, eventually reaching open fields and a ski area at La Chalp. (I was back in the part of Alps where small towns are named “The Mystery-French-Word.” I don’t know what a “Chalp,” “Draye,” or “Praz” is, or what “Houches” are.) The road steepens through town, then climbs in a series of switchbacks through the woods and eventually above treeline. The final section is narrower, and features a descent across a chossy slope before the final climb to the summit. I hung out for awhile, then carefully descended the other side with my worn brakes.

Lautaret is boring

It was Sunday, but Briançon is large enough to have a few stores open until 1:30, so I was able to find lunch and enjoy it in a shady park before continuing. For the first part of the afternoon I climbed the Col du Lautaret, a useful but boring pass connecting the exit valleys leading to Gap and Grenoble. Most of the pass is a gentle climb up a valley on a too-crowded road, with only the final bit having any character.

Galibier from Lautaret

The Galibier connects the Gap-Grenoble divide with the Arc River valley and Chamonix, and is the fifth-highest pass in the Alps. It is much more fun and interesting, with more switchbacks and even a silly tunnel just below the summit, and not particularly large on the south side. (edit: Wikipedia informs me that the tunnel was actually the original pass, with the switchbacks over the saddle added later while the tunnel was under repair.) I was once again racing the weather, so I pushed as much as I could on the climb. I stopped in the crowd at the top to take photos and put on my hoodie before I got chilled. It looked like the storms were worse on the other side, so I chose to return the way I had come. I was thinking of heading out when a man asked if I wanted my photo taken. I politely declined, but he insisted: “You’ve just climbed the Col du Galibier!” He unfortunately took a short video by mistake, but the camaraderie cheered me up for the chilly descent.

La Grave

I returned to the Lautaret, then dropped down to La Grave (“The Serious?”), a tourist town where I found a shop open Sundays with sufficient food for dinner and breakfast, then continued down-valley, admiring the steep walls to either side and looking for a campsite. I eventually found an abandoned-looking dirt road with some pallets stacked at the end, which suited me fine. I had a quiet night, and had just finished breakfast when I was again interrupted, this time by some people harvesting herbs. I felt less embarrassed this time, since I was out of the way and not obviously on anyone’s property, and they did not mind my presence. I was still far enough up in the mountains to find free places to camp, but felt that was coming to an end.

Col Agnel

Agnel slabs

My train-warp to Turin saved me from either 2-3 days of flat riding in the heat, or another trip through Switzerland, landing me back near the French-Italian Alps from whence I came. However, it also left me a reasonable distance away, and not far above sea level, so I had some flat rolling to do, then over 8,000 feet to climb to cross the Col Agnel back into France. After the Stelvio and Iseran, the Agnel is the third highest paved pass in the Alps, and one of only three over 9,000 feet. Despite being near Briançon and on the French border, the Agnel has only been used in two Tours de France, in 2008 and 2011, and two Tours of Italy, in 2007 and 2016.

From downtown Turin, I navigated my way out of the city with occasional stops to make sure I was on the right road, and constant uncertainty about where I should ride. The major city streets have a central, multi-lane part with fast traffic, one-lane “frontage roads” on either side to park and access businesses, and multiple sidewalks or bike paths. I tried to follow the occasional local, but would lose him and/or get confused at the roundabouts, which threw the division of traffic into confusion.


The city finally trailed off, and I was riding through farmland and small villages in the increasing heat. I headed generally southwest then south, with a deviation around a palace at Stupinigi, and sections of well-paved separate bike path around Vigone. I stopped at the base of the mountains in Saluzzo to refill water and eat lunch, then began the gentle climb up the Varaita River valley toward the pass. The climb followed the gentle grade of the river to Casteldelfino as the mountains rose above it to either side, then somewhat more steeply up a side-stream to the lake and the tourist town of Pontechianale.

Steep when loaded

Slightly above town the climbing begins in earnest, with switchback and grades up to 10%. The road climbs above treeline into a broad valley full of rocky uplifts, then meanders its way up the right side before traversing back to a saddle. The forecast called for evening rain on the Italian side, so I was highly motivated to get to France. Riding into the evening, I saw several other cyclists headed in both directions. I finally reached the pass, pausing just long enough to take a few photos and put on some warmer clothes. It was not quite raining, but I had to descend at least 3000 feet before I was low enough to sleep comfortably with my meager gear.

Totally quiet campsite…

The descent was a bit sketchy with my worn-out brakes, but the French road was more sane than the Italian one, and I managed not to crash into anything. Finally, shortly above a small village, I found a rough and unused-looking side-road ending at some beehives, and pulled a polite distance off the highway to camp. I found out in the morning that the road was in fact used, but the guy who bounced his van down to the beehives did not seem annoyed or angry, pausing while I quickly moved my things out of the road before continuing by. Liberté, egalité, fraternité!

To Turin


West of the Etsch/Adige, the next two major river-trenches leading south out of the Alps are the Adda and Mera, which join at Lake Como, one of the three giant lakes of the Piedmont (along with Garda and Maggiore). From the Passo Tonale, I followed the road down the Oglio, then climbed over the low Paso Aprica before making a long, at times steep descent to the Adda, which runs west through Sondrio to the head of Lake Como at Colico. The riding was wretchedly hot and humid in the valley, but fortunately there was a nice bike path with some shade. Being out of the mountains, there were no longer small towns with their well-tended springs, but the Italians had thankfully installed regular water stations offering cold, neutral, and even sparkling water. I will miss this easy and ubiquitous access to water back in the States.

Water dispenser

As I rode, I considered my various options for how to continue. I could head up-valley from the lake to intersect my eastward route at Chiavenna, but that would put me on old ground and probably back in Switzerland. Alternatively, I could take the ferry down or across Lake Como and continue somehow toward Lake Maggiore, but that looked like it would require a lot of lowland riding. Finally, I could just take a train back to Turin on the western side of the country and skip the flat stuff. I chose the last option, which would save me time and, as it turned out, cost less than the food I would have eaten riding the distance.

Lake Como

I found a decent spot to camp in some woods a few miles east of town, then rolled into Colico first thing in the morning and found the train station. I bought a ticket from Colico to Turin with one transfer in Milan for 20-some euros, got permission from some official to take my bike on the train, and was soon cruising south. I got a few views of Lake Como, but this being Italy, the train spent almost as much time in tunnels as on the surface. After a long and slightly confusing wait in the hot Milan train station, I boarded a low-speed train for Turin. (Throughout Europe, high-speed trains are more expensive and much more restrictive when it comes to bringing a bike.) I was planning to chip away at the long ride back into the Alps after arriving in Turin, but it was already late afternoon when I arrived, and again miserably hot and humid, so I got a cheap hotel for some good rest and an early start the next day.

Through the Trento trench

Trento path

[Now that I’m back to typing with ten fingers, I’ll try to catch up on the rest of Europe.]

I had debated a few paths forward from the Dolomites. First, I could continue east to visit the former Yugoslavia and the Alps’ eastern tail, then return west by train. Second, I could head north and return through Austria, Luxembourg, and Germany. Third, I could return through Italy along the Alps’ southern side. Given my schedule, energy, and interests, I chose the last, heading back west while trying to stay both high enough to avoid the worst of the heat, and low enough not to get rained on.

Better fountain

The Alps are drained to the south by a number of rivers in deep valleys, carved down to less than 1000 feet. The first of these I encountered was the Etsch/Adige, which drains Sudtirol/Alto Adige. I had crossed it higher up in the north at Meran, where it is called the Etsch, before crossing the Timmelsjoch into Austria. This time I crossed it at Trento, where it is called the Adige, way down at 600 feet. Trento was hot and very city-like, so I got a room in a cheap Italian hotel for the night, enjoying the luxuries of a hot shower and air conditioning.


I got a reasonably early start to beat the heat the next morning, riding north up the Adige on a well-paved and popular bike path. The deep, flat-bottomed valley is flanked by impressive limestone cliffs, and climbs very little on the way north to San Michele all’Adige. I left the main valley there, continuing on a bike route (no longer exclusive path) through vineyards to Mezzolombardo, then climbing intermittently along a mix of path and secondary roads to the Lago di Santa Giustina.

Tonale monument

After a rolling ride along the lake, the road climbed more consistently to the Passo Tonale, on the old border between Austria and whatever this part of Italy was at the time (Lombardy and/or Sardinia). The pass itself, and the Adamello Group to the south, were the scene of more vicious fighting during World War I, and still held fortifications built long before. The top held a large tourist town, the usual ski area, and a monument and museum to the First World War. I sat outside the museum for awhile, then descended the steeper western side to Ponte de Legno. There I bought some food and debated crossing the high and famous Gavia Pass back to Bormio. This would have taken me back into some of the trip’s best cycling, but I lacked the time and energy, so I instead continued down-valley before finding a place to camp.

San Pellegrino, Valle, Rolle, Brocon

Climbing Valle

Completely by accident, my exit from the Dolomites took me past some peaks I climbed last time, Cimon della Palla and Cima della Vezzana. However, because I was traveling by car and navigating with my phone, I don’t remember how I reached the Passo Rolle at their base. This time, on a bike, I understand the layout much better, even if I can’t climb them.

From above Moena, I rode up the gentle Passo San Pellegrino, where I stopped at a park to get water and look at a map of the nearby WWI front. The other side of the pass is much steeper and twistier, but I descended only partway before turning to climb the Passo Valle. This was a beautiful and little-used route, steeper on my way up, with distant views of Dolomitic peaks. There is little reason for this pass to exist, but thankfully while Italy may be a basket case in most ways, its Roman impulse to create infrastructure remains strong. Build it once, build it to last, and even occasional use will make it worthwhile in time.

From there I descended to the more popular Passo Rolle road, which was a gentler climb with much more traffic. I did not realize until I was almost at the summit that I had spent a couple days climbing there, including failing to find a supposed 5.4 route on the Cimon della Palla. The other side was much bigger, dropping through the tourist town of Siror to the valley below. Rather than going all the way down to Lago di Corlo on the main road, I took the big but not especially high Passo Brocon.

There was a lot of recent logging along this road, but very little traffic, as it only serves a small ski area and connects some small towns. I stopped for groceries in one of these, then found a place with a picnic table to camp and, once again, get rained on.