Passo Giau — Magnificent!

I had forgotten just how beautiful Passo Giau is.  Or perhaps I never knew.  The first time I climbed Passo Giau was in 1995, from the south side, but it was in a driving rain storm so I probably didn’t see much.  I climbed Passo Giau from the north in 2007, but I was with a group that was more interested in ripping each other’s legs off than seeing the scenery.

Here’s a view from the top of Passo Giau.  Passo Giau is right next door to Passo Falzarego.  Falzarego is better know, carries a bit more traffic, and while unquestionably beautiful is a bit of Dolomites Disneyland.  Passo Giau by contrast is a real mountain.  It is rugged, a little more difficult, and far more scenic.

Today we chose to ride a three-pass loop consisting of Passo Cibiana (1530m), Forcella Staulanza (1773m), and the magnificent Passo Giau (2233m).  We headed down valley from Cortina to Venas di Cadore where we turned off onto the little road that took us up Passo Cibiana.  As if we could not tell how steep it was, there were two road signs reminding us of the grade.  Here’s the first one.

We hooked up with a couple of local Italian riders.  At first, we tested each other.  Then he got a phone call from his wife and proceeded to chat with her as I gasped for breath.

Soon we reached the summit.  At the summit was a store that sold artwork made from wood as well as an adventure park, where people could enjoy an obstacle course hung from the trees.  Here is Ajax and me at the summit.

We enjoyed a beautiful and fun descent down to Forno di Zoldo.  Again the road signs pointed out the grade.

From Forno di Zoldo, we headed up Forcella Staulanza, our second pass of the day.  Paying for my efforts to ride with the locals, I soon cracked and totally ran out of gas.  Fortunately, Rudy saved me with a Hammer Gel.

The climb was scenic with several switchbacks.  Here’s Rudy climbing one of them.

and a vew looking down at a set of switchbacks…

and a photo of Ajax and me at the top.  You can see in my face that I’m a little shattered, but I made it.

Between the Forcella Staulanza and Passo Giau, there is a beautiful valley.  From Selva di Cadore, you can see Monte Cernera to the east.

Heading up the big one, Passo Giau delivers immediately with grades just over 10%.  Ouch!

Turns out, there are 29 switchbacks.  (L’Alpe d’Huez has only 21!)

Just after we start the switchbacks, we are passed by a car.  A woman is hanging out the window yelling “Alto Velo!  Go Alto Velo!”  … HUH?  Then she says “We are reading your blog!” … WHAT?????  OMG!

Soon the car stops and they introduce themselves.  Liz Chapman is here with her husband Harlan and friend Tom Greene.  They have been riding the Dolomites.  Today they rode nearby Passo Duran and are heading back to Cortina.  What a small world!

After this, we head up the pass.  There is no shortage of switchbacks, oh yeah, 29 of them.  Here we see a switchback and two small tunnels built to protect the road from rock and snowfall.

There is one long tunnel on the pass.  This is Rudy riding through the tunnel.

Soon we can see the peak at the top.  Here is Rudy climbing a switchback with the view behind him.

Finally we near the top.  Here is Ajax smiling as he completes switchback #20.  There are only 9 more to go.

And finally me at the top, having survived three passes in one day!

I hope these photos have done the pass justice.  Passo Giau is rugged and beautiful.  While Falzarego is famous and carries more traffic, Passo Giau is more challenging, more beautiful, and the spectacular landscape makes it feel like much more of an accomplishment.

A description of this pass really should include the fabulous descent.  Wow, what fun!  Ajax videotaped the descent and will be posting it in a few days or so.  I really recommend you see it.

I highly recommend Passo Giau.  For a real Dolomites mountain experience, it is a winner.

Ride Statistics:

  • miles: 61.4
  • climbing: 8722′
  • 3 passes: Passo Cibiana (1530m), Forcella Staulanza (1773m), Passo Giau (2233m)
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About bikealps

avid cyclist and photographer
This entry was posted in bicycle touring, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Passo Giau — Magnificent!

  1. Terry Sheehan says:

    Congratulations on an incredible ride! I am riding the Maratona dles Dolomites this year and still not sure about what cassette and gear ratio is appropriate. would welcome your perspective on what you needed when climbing passo Giau. I am currently using a compact crank (34 small ring) and the cassette is 12-25. Thank you and congrats again.

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