Thankfully nice weather again today and the roads had just dried up as I set out in the morning from Ugovizza. It was a bit downhill to Pontebba and thus a little chilly in the morning down there, but at Pontebba (561m) it was nice and warm and I stopped at the centre to take a coffee before going on up the first pass for the day. An old man muttered something about Austrians (maybe thinking I was an Austrian cyclist). Living in this corner of Italy may make people find it hard to tell which country they are in as surely many people come by here all the time from especially Austria. But also more likely is it that the differences between the people may not be as big (for good or bad). It does not seem like the population is very mixed up and apparently people mostly stay in their country of birth even if the border is close.
There are two exciting passes that could be reached from Pontebba: Passo del Cason di Lanza (1557m) and Naßfeld-paß/Passo di Pramollo (1531m), both of which I visited on my first cycling tour in mountains in year 2000. Maybe time to revisit them and the eastern side of the Lanza pass should be asphalted these days. However, there is a third pass, which is often described as boring, but which I found quite nice – Sella di Cereschiàtis (1072m). Despite the rather moderate height, this is still a very proper climb with a clear Alps pass feeling and the north side is likely the best side to climb. I stopped for a few photos in the direction of the pass, in the direction of the Pramollo pass and the Lanza pass, seen here. The pass itself is in a short wooded section with no views.
On the descent on the other side I met today’s first cyclists on their up here from the south. The weather started to get a little cloudy on my way down to Moggio Udinese. This Aupa valley is quite nice and also with some interesting side roads (the one over to Val Alba from Pradis is one that I had hoped to visit myself, but decided I needed to get going). Before I know it I was down in Moggio Udinese. I went in a little in the wrong direction on a road to a bridge to get another photo back up where I came from, then returned back. The road traffic was led a bit on the way to a small road going on the north side of the river bed down the main valley and I decided to try this road as it should be closer in getting to Amaro, but I was not sure it would be all asphalted and had no clear indication beforehand about the state of this road.
This small road was quite nice as an alternative and it goes through some tunnels. At first I thought I was lucky and that it would all have been asphalted to make it a good alternative for cyclists, but eventually it became a gravels road. At first it was still decent, but later it got worse and there was a section that is really too bad for cyclists with a road bike and I was lucky to not get a flat here (I think I even walked maybe 50-100 metres). Had I known the state of the road I would not have taken this road, but if they decide to make it just a bit better, I am sure that many road cyclists would like to use it. It took clearly a longer time than going around as it was now.
The weather was getting worrying. I fooled around in Tolmezzo trying to find a nice café, but only found a less nice one outside the centre, where I had an ice cream and coffee as it was not very warm outside. I still had planned to climb over the (in)famous Monte Zoncolan (Sella di (Monte) Zoncolan (1739m)), but from the recently all asphalted side from Priola, which is the 2nd hardest of the three possible approaches and the side with the steepest stretches at ca. 25%. After leaving the café, it was just about starting to rain and as I eventually found the right road up to Priola on the west side of the valley it started to rain and the rain was in the direction of Monte Zoncolan, so after much deliberating, I decided to skip Monte Zoncolan and take the easy road around to Ovaro and hope the weather might get better to allow me to try the Panoramica delle Vette, that I would love to climb in good weather as I had horrible weather when getting up there some years ago and had a literal ordeal in trying to get back down again safely.
I managed to escape rain and had dry roads up to Comeglians (535m), but the weather was just looking too gloomy so that I felt no desire to take a chance on getting up this hard climb to the Panoramic road which also is gravel in the flat top section. It felt sad having to skip both of these nice and hard climbs this day, but I better get going and time was anyway running away for me. I continued up to Passo Sappada (1289m), but stopped for lunch at a slightly odd restaurant at the big bend above Forni Avoltri, where I had something nice, but simple to eat (I do not quite remember the details, but the place was kind of rustic).
Then there was the last climb up to the pass, by the old ski village. On the way there I went through a newly built tunnel (that was not there last time I was here), but the tunnel was very wide and well lit. Still while cycling up in the tunnel, suddenly a black SUV (city jeep) car comes up honking repeatedly at me apparently for not putting on my lights. Still this SUV was the only car that went by me in the tunnel not having his own lights on. People driving SUV cars in Italy (and maybe elsewhere too) are really too stupid to be let outside their homes! They got a self-esteem problem and such people are dangerous whether old or young. A few days later I told a friend in Milano the story, and he told me that only a day later or so a SUV driver had killed 2 or 3 old people sitting overlooking the nice Lago di Misurina (not so far away) on a park bench. But the solution by the establishment seems to be to get rid of anything that can be in the way of SUV drivers. Personally I think it is questionable for bicyclists to use a bicycle path if there is a road alternative nearby! And, at least home in Sweden, it is less safe using bicycle lanes than the road next by.
Well, up at Passo Sappada (1289m) there are restaurants and hotels. I went into the first café on the right hand side and had a coffee and a chocolate bar. It was a little rain in the air, but it was not clear if and where it would rain, so I decided to wait for the rain to stop. I was not going to skip the next climb on my list for sure. I was on my way up here to Passo di Col di Caneva (1842m) and this might be counted as an asphalted pass above 1600m in the Alps even if I had read that the last 200m should not be asphalted, but I wanted to find out the current situation and it also had looked like a nice climb.
Eventually, it stopped raining and I went off a bit unsure along the small road that start out rather flat up among houses here. I decided to go up the Valle di Sesis and not stop unless the weather would force me to return, and thus I continued ahead in a steady tempo. The bleak weather may have had the good effect of making the road little used by tourists even though it was a Saturday. A Sunday in nice weather here in the Summer might not be the perfect time to visit this place. As usual, I had not remembered the profile of this climb and got a bit surprised, I must say. The road is somewhat flat on the whole, but it has two sections with hideous serpentines that are very steep and narrow. I was just delighted by this, but was also a bit wondering if this would be a nice climb as all I could see was wood everywhere for quite some time.
But, when the end was in sight the views opened up in a fantastic way and up on the plateau (Pian dei Pastori) under the high mountains ahead, it was one of the nicest places I have been too. There is a path going up among the mountains ahead to a pass on the border to Austria, but that is strictly walking only and it soon seems to get quite steep. I went over to the rifugio by the Passo di Col di Caneva and there seemed to be plenty of people there, but I was not interested in getting in there. I continued to the pass on a dirt road and if it had not been raining recently I might have been able to bicycle the whole stretch to the pass, but there was one place with water where I had to lift the bicycle over. This stretch was a bit too bothersome for most road bicyclists to consider and it is also uninteresting in being nearly flat, so I guess this pass will fall outside my list of asphalted passes above 1600m, just like Col de Tende/Colle di Tenda (1871m) and a few others with very short stretches from the asphalt to the pass (but I just decided to include Pas/Col du Lin/Lein (1658m) as the gravel stretch to the pass is hardly noticed by road bicyclists as it is so good and the asphalt stops so near the pass).
This climb is very well worth a visit by road bicyclists whether or not they visit the actual pass here. (There is also another nearby dirt road pass, but this was enough for me.) I took several photos, but they do not really give justice to the place. There is also a pass in the other east direction here as one reaches the end of the woods and I had been very curious about this one, so decided to visit that also as it should be a short walk. It is the Passo Avanza (1734m) which actually is (partly) “surfaced”, albeit with very old and big cobblestones that are not helpful in any way to make it easier to bicycle here. I had to walk all but the first 50m, but the pass is only like 300m away from the main road and gives a nice view east too.
Then down again and I took another little road down to the village of Sappada (I think one were supposed to do so). Sappada was a much more busy place than I had remembered from my previous visit here and had a lot of shops and everything. It looked a bit too busy to my taste and it was also somewhat cold up here, so I decided to go a bit further as it was not dark yet. I went down the valley with some cars making the descent less relaxing. Down at Campolongo I looked for a place to stay for the night, but it looked a bit too bad down there and I saw no obvious place, so decided to follow the sign for San Pietro as I could see a church and lots of houses above and it looked better. After a short slightly steep climb, I was up at San Pietro and there was only one place to stay here, the hotel by the little square. I went in and got a room and dinner. They were quite nice at the place in all ways and I got a great view from the place by my dinner table where I took the last photo for the day. Quite good food here too, even though I do not remember the details now. I took a little walk, but there was no other bar or so open, so went back and had a beer at the hotel together with one more or so. I asked about my thoughts for getting up to Forcella Zovo (1609m) in the morning. I was planning on taking a road up there that I have found no description for on the Internet and it looks like the hardest road up there. They confirmed it was harder, but possible, so I took that one in the morning.