Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Wicked Day Trip Up to the Snow on the Bike...

I woke up Saturday to a stunning day in Torbole. The sun was shining with very little wind. So I packed my Camelbak with some maps, some food snaffled from the breakfast room and my gorillapod for self-photography and set out on a little adventure. The vague plan was to head up Tremalzo (a 1900m peak) as far as I could before the snow stopped me going any further. I was kinda hoping I could ride to the top, but that depended largely on the conditions, and whilst the sun was out, it was still quite a cold day... Not very conducive to melting snow. As I headed out of the hotel, I felt a little awkward that I was about to file some "intent to ride" info with the front desk in case something happened... At least someone would know where I had planned to go... But before I even opened my mouth, they were asking me where I was planning on going and when I thought I would be back... They knew I was here riding by myself and it was nice to know they were looking out for me. What a fantastic bunch of people! As I rode from the hotel, all the mountain peaks in the area were clearly visible against the blue sky and it was evident that there had been fresh snow dumped overnight. It looked like it had come down further than previously... My guess was about 1200m.

I headed up Ponale trail an then instead of turning off towards Ledro, continued to head up through Pregasina, continuing to climb up a fairly moderate incline towards Bocca Larici. I had been told there was a lookout here with stunning views and I wasn't disappointed. The gorillapod was put to good use here. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen with vistas to the north of the lake towards Riva and Torbole, and also down to the south where the lake touches the horizon. Lake Garda is one of the deepest lakes in the world and I had been told that on a clear, calm day, you could see the bottom of the lake, 300m below the surface (and, in fact, 200m below sea level!) and being the lovely day that it was, the deep turquoise-coloured lake was as clear as glass all the way to the bottom. I spent quite a bit of time here, soaking up the views and having something to eat.

Another few metres of climbing and I arrived at track 422... This was the track that joined up with the climb up to Tremalzo and it wasn't 100% ridable as a climb, but I was looking forward to descending it's rooty, rocky terrain on my way back down. I think that as I was climbing this trail was when I decided I would return the same way. It looked like such good fun, and I knew that at the bottom, it linked with another piece of singletrack that would deliver me the full way to Pregasina with no gravel roads (wicked!).

I found navigating my way through the mountains surprisingly easy. All the main points were marked on the map and all the trails were numbered on the map, which corresponded to numbered markers along the way. Fantastic! The first signs of snow on the trail were at about 1200m elevation and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself traversing more singletrack along a cliffside with more views of the lake (DEFINITELY coming back this way!!!)

As I climbed, more snow started appearing on the sides of the track. A lot of the climbing was on 4WD track, but really rough and loose... It was gonna be a blast to descend at speed! I climbed upwards through switchbacks and tunnels and when I looked back down the valley, I could see the trails I had just ridden winding their way down the mountain below me... Very cool!

The first signs of deep snow came about 1400m and it from there it got thicker and thicker on the side of the track as I climbed. There was some very gratuitous use of the gorillapod and self timer function on the camera to catch some snow biking action... It was starting to get really cold, especially because the side of the mountain I was on was still in the shade. I remember at one point it dropped to 5 degrees (probably a bit colder with the wind chill) and my fingers and toes started going numb.

By the time I reached 1600m, the road was completely snowed over. There was another 300m to climb to the summit of Tremalzo and the snow made it unridable (it was about half a metre deep where I was). I wasn't really interested in walking my bike another couple of kilometres through thick, freshly fallen snow. The depth of the snow also meant that it would be unridable to descend, too, especially with the cliffs dropping off to the edge of the road. I had also been warned by locals of the avalanche risk in the area because of how steep the cliffs were above the road. So I chose this as my turnaround point. First of all, though, it was important that I made a snow angel...

... And that I play snowball fights with the Ninja...

Just as I was about to start descending, I bumped into a group of guys who I had been leapfrogging the whole day and had the same plans as me, to hit the snowline and come back down. I think they were planning on going up a bit further to try and find some trails. It would be interesting to know how they got on, but I reckon all the trails would have been snowed over. The descent was absolutely thrilling... The snow and the loose rocks had me drifting and hooning the whole way down to Passo Notte, and the occasional water bar across the track sent me flying through the air before my tires would crunch against the snow and rocks again. I felt so alive! Riding through the snow was such an exhilarating experience, and the sun had just started creeping over my side of the mountain, so the temperature was comfortable. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face... I had such a blast!

There were some short climbs on the way back down, which were pretty hard work with cold legs from descending through the snow, but pretty much, it was just a 1600m descent straight down... I was right about the 422 trail... It was such a great track to descend. It was rocky and rooty and loose and I felt really comfortable just letting the bike float under me and do its thing. Towards the end of the trail, there were some very steep, technical sections with big drop offs that I had to dismount for, and the tight switchbacks on loose terrain were a bit problematic for me, but before I knew it, I was back in Pregasina with a huge smile on my dial and heading back towards the Ponale track, passing the church in town just as the bells started ringing for 4pm.

My descent of the Ponale track felt really smooth, too. I bounded from side to side, railing berms and pumping over jumps to take air. The whole day was just absolutely wicked. By the time I got back, it was 5pm so I headed straight out for dinner... I find it funny here in Italy that they seem to eat dinner so late, so if you head out at 5.30-6 o'clock, you are lucky if you can find somewhere open to serve you a meal. I got lucky with one place and after a good serving of salad and pasta, then a gelato for desert, I was all set to turn in for the night.

Not sure if I mentioned that I really love it here in Torbole???

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