I decided to embark upon an adventure on Monte Baldo while enjoying my coffe corretto con grappa after a few headache-inducing talks of a mathematical conference that I attended in Gargnano at Lago di Garda. The massive 40km long mountain range occupies the whole opposite shore of the lake so chosing it as a destination for a trip was no brainer really. However, since I had no enough time, the trip wasn’t meant for me then alas I knew I would come back soon and try Monte Baldo out. A possibility came during my family holidays spent in Riva del Garda.
I knew from my previous outings in the area that most of trails on Monte Baldo would not be rideable but I had done Monte Stivo already and I was mentally well prepared for a full on cylomountaineering experience. So I plotted my line without any regards to a type of roads I would be moving on. I only avoided via ferratas, assuming that this would be probably too much. I chosed to get myself and my bike atop of Cima Telegrafo, a 2200m peak on the south parts of the Monte Baldo range. I didn’t bother to plan the way to ride back, deciding that doing it on the go would be more effective.
I woke up early and cruised to Malcesine via a silent SR 249 road. I like riding early in the morning, especially during a holiday season. Most of the people are still in their beds which means that roads, even those main ones, are empty.
Somewhat after Malcesine I turned left and started a climb to Prada. Since I didn’t pay too much attention to planning my route before my ride I was genuinely surprised to learn that the climb I supposed to do is the infamous Punta Veleno. 8km with 12% average gradient, with something like 4km with gradient of 17%. What a nightmare it was. Steep and sustained, no views. One of the worst ever. Don’t go there unless you have something more special on your mind.
Fortunately, shortly after Prada, I hit some small roads and I forgot Punta Veleno. I rode a few kilometers up on tarmac and later on gravel. Forced to disembark from my bike when gravel became to loose, probably about 1200 meters above sea level, I did another few hundreds meters up in a push-a-bike style and another in a bike-over-a-shoulder one. The views were great and the presence of a rifugio above (Rifugio Chierego 1911 m.s.l.) motivated me to dig. When I reached it I was dead tired so I stopped for a coffe and beer there. Other diners were hikers and mountain runners so I felt definitely to be in a right place although I doubt the other guests felt the same about me. Probably they don’t see too many bikers there and Strava confirms that.
Sipping my espresso I wondered whether a sentiero via Cima Telegrafo down to Passo Cavallo would be doable with a bike over my shoulder. It seemed to be the most logical line back to Riva but I knew that the area was full of technical and difficult hiking trails (did I mention via ferratas?). Climbing and carrying a bike is difficult, downclimbing is super hard, especially if you’re going solo. I was in doubts, afraid of being caught in a sticky wicket, but I decided to give it a fair crack of the whip. I couldn’t resist those rocky trails and magnificient peaks around.
The stretch from Rifugio Chierego to Passo Cavallo was freakin’ awesome. It was difficult, hard, and even dangerous at times. Certainly demanding both physically and mentally. But I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the mountains. Going up and down, wearing just lycra and having no food or even extra clothes I felt quite vulnerable and unsecure. On the other hand, I had my mind completely cleared from unnecessary thoughts and I was focused perfectly on the present moment. I felt totally in control of all the things I could control. The sense of doing something special was palpable.
When I reached Passo Cavallo I was exhaused but fulfilled. I was also relieved a bit to be honest – from there I could ride all my way back to Riva comfortably on tarmac so I could stop worrying about my route. By the way, the roads there are fantastic and I enjoyed every inch of them. It took me 50km or so to get to Riva. I was mostly descending, chasing and passing a few cars on my way down.
Sitting at the beach later in the evening I felt good. I was fully satisfied and even though my holidays were almost over I wasn’t dissapointed at all with that.
The Monte Baldo trip helped me to shape a style for my further outings in the high country. Hard to believe that it all begun with a coffe and maths.