Classic Dolomites Climbs

Day 3 – Classic Climbs: Falzarego, Valrarola, Campolongo, Falzarego

I woke up sore again.  My legs hurt, my trapezoids ache, and my lower back is tweaked.  Two days of 7000’ climbing is taking its toll.  Fortunately, it’s sunny out and I feel a little better than yesterday.

Ajax suggested we take in a few of the classic climbs of the Dolomites today.  His route heads west up the Falzarego (2105m), north over Valparola (2192m), through the ski town of Corvara, over Campolongo (1875m), and finally back to Cortina over the Falzarego.  Great idea!

So we head west out of town, up the Campolongo.  Soon we can see this panoramic view of Cortina.

And a little higher we are treated to an up-close view of the Dolomites.  The characteristic of the Dolomites, as compared to the Alps, is these massive rock outcroppings that stick up above treeline.  Apparently these rocks are a world-class playground for rock climbers.  They love the Dolomites for the challenge (plenty of straight vertical and upside down climbs) and the safety of the rock.

Soon we are on the top of Passo Falzarego (2105m, pronounced “fal-TSAR-eh-GO”) and take the obligatory summit photo.  That’s Ajax, me, our Italian friend Stefano, and Rudy in the picture.

From the top of the pass, you can take a cable car (Funivia, pronounced “fun-eh-VEE-uh”) to the top of Lagazoui.  It’s a stunning view but we didn’t have time today.  Cycling must come first.  You can also see the Marmolada glacier to the south.

We head north from here, quickly over Passo Valparola (2192m), down into the ski town of Corvara where we get a pizza lunch.

Climbing south from Corvara, we head up the Passo Campolongo.  Looking north to town, we get a great view of a set of massive peaks towering over town.

Passo Campolongo (1875m) is one of four passes that circle the Gruppo Sella and comprise the Sella Rondo.  Of the four, it is the easiest, particularly climbing this north side.  Pretty soon, we are at the top and take another obligatory summit photo.

The descent into Arabba is beautiful and has numerous switchbacks, one after the other.

From Arabba, we head west back towards the Falzarego.  Passo Falzarego, likewise, has several switchbacks and passes by a beautiful castle, Castello di Andraz.  Sorry, no photo of the castle, but here’s the first switchback on the climb.

The top of the climb is very dramatic.  First, we climb up a steep set of switchbacks which includes one switchback that goes through a tunnel.

Next, we ride through 2 gallerias, which protect the road from rockfall above.  Here is a view of the gallerias from above.

After the gallerias, there are a few more switchbacks to get to the summit.

From the top of the Falzaergo (2105m), it’s a quick descent back to Cortina.  Near the bottom, I stop to enjoy the view out of the tunnel just above town.

Once in town, we go visit “Gigi” (real name Luigi) who owns Cicli Cortina, which is probably the best bike shop in the Dolomites.  The rain on the Isensberg Pass (day 1, when we did the Grossglockner) has infiltrated my front hub.  My wheel barely turns and makes a horrible screeching sound.  Also, my rear tire is wearing thin and Rudy has been admiring my Cortina jersey and wants to buy one for himself.  Gigi makes quick work of fixing my bike and we enjoy shopping for bike stuff and clothing.

It’s a joy for me to see Gigi again.  I climbed Tre Cime di Lavaredo with him in 2007, dined on Canederli (dumplings, a regional specialty) and afterwards ate cake and drank Prosecco to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Today’s ride was great fun.  My body was sore, but even after four passes, I don’t feel as hammered as I did yesterday.  It seems like my body has turned the corner on this riding thing and I’ll be able to enjoy tough rides the rest of the trip.

Ride statistics:

  • Distance: 54 miles
  • 7288’ climbing
  • 4 passes: Passo Falzareggo (2105m), Passo Valparola (2192m), Passo Campolongo (1875m), Passo Falzareggo (2105m)

About bikealps

avid cyclist and photographer
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