Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 6: New Favorite Climb - Passo Stelvio

The Stelvio did not dissapoint, folks. It is a superb climb. The weather was less than ideal with temps just above freezing and sporadic rain and sleet up top, but I still managed to capture a few good photos. I'll let the the photos tell the story. Many photos are posted in higher resolution than I usually post, so be sure to click on them and view in full scale to maximize viewing pleasure.

Prep at the hotel. Sunny skies were a surprise, as forecast called for
dreary, wet, cold day. It was just a teaser.

Rolling out of Prato allo Stelvio.
The object of our destination in the distance.

Year round skiing at Passo Stelvio on the glacier.

Little white sign says 48 with degree symbol. Switchbacks are numbered
here. Means there are 47 more to go to the summit.

Only 24 switchbacks to go, many of them visible on the headwall.
Shortly after taking this photo, it started pouring out with sleet
mixed in for good measure. I was in shorts and short sleeves with
just a light wind breaker.

The rain let up just enough to take this photo from switchback #4.

Also from switchback #4 to show steepness of box canyon wall.

From switchback #1 just below summit.

Shortly after reaching the summit at just over 9000ft,
we were socked in with clouds.

There were skiers walking about. Kind of sureal seeing spandex
clad cyclists and full winter geared alpine skiers intermingling.

Part way down the descent to Bormio. Intermitent rain kept this
descent "interesting."

View from Bormio hotel room. It poured buckets with thunder
shortly after getting back.

It was so cold up top some riders chose not to ride down to Bormio. Can't say I blame them. The smaller, slow twitch riders just can't make enough heat for a 5000+ foot descent in rain at temps just above freezing. I essentially wore full winter gear with plastic baggies inside my shoes and just barely stayed warm enough.

The wet descent was quite trecherous. There are numerous tunnels on the way down, and with heavy overcast, it was pitch black in some of the tunnels. They are little more than one lane wide, curvy as heck, with quite a number of cars and motorcycles coming through. There were some monstrous waterfalls coming down the canyon walls too. It was too wet and cold to stop and take pictures. I bet one dropped 2000ft, but not free fall.

The Stelvio has been on my bucket list for at least five years. I've stared at webcams, reviewed it in Google Earth and day dreamed of the day I could finally ride it. I was crushed last year when I broke my ankle and would have to wait at least another year.  The Stelvio is not the steepest, tallest, hardest or even pretiest climb I've done, but it has the most unique cycling appeal when you round switchback #25 and see that wall towering thousands more feet above you. Looking back down on those switchbacks from the top gives you great sense of accomplishment.  I love Alpine riding. That is one reason I travel to Colorado most summers.

Our most difficult day is on tap for Friday, the last day of our trip, when we hit the Mortirolo and Gavia climbs. Hopefully today was sort of a recovery day with only 48km and 6200ft of climbing. I may have to put another new stet of brake pads on my bike.


Mookie said...

I've heard many pros say that the Mortirolo is among the hardest in Europe. I can't wait to hear your take on that one.

Brian B said...

got a new screensaver...thx!

CB2 said...

Great shots Doug. Those switchbacks look amazing.
I love it; 6200" in 30 miles is a "recovery day"!

Mendelea said...

Absolutely amazing!!

Alby King said...


aspenmike said...

Love it, Congrats. That looks surreal, love the Alpine riding myself. I got snowed out last weekend in Rocky Mtn. National Park.

Anonymous said...

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