Reaching the roads less travelled and exploring the most remote places of the Dolomites, one of Europe's rawest but most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is what XPDTN Dolomiti was all about. With the coronavirus impacting my life as adventurer so much this year, I wanted this bikepacking trip to be as unconventional as the cycling year itself has been so far.
Changing the concept of the trip from a bikepacking adventure into a biking expedition was definitely a defining decision. Because it changed the purpose of this adventure into a direction that made me feel content. It wasn't only about riding my bike in a brutal but beautiful setting but reaching 'no man's land' with its unforgettable views, its tranquility and true remoteness, that's what became the expedition's purpose.
In the end, I think it's my way to search for the ultimate feeling of freedom. And that feeling is hidden deeply somewhere in the mountains of the Dolomites. In places hardly anyone is able or willing to reach, at least by bike.
In five days and over 400 kilometers the expedition - which started in Badia - crossed multiple rocky peaks, made us take on technical singletrail tracks, conquer the steepest climbs, ride through dark forests, pass numerous wild horses and endure numerous hike-a-bike sections.
The legs hurt, but the mind is still overwhelmed by the purest adventure I've ever done.
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Keep exploring folks! 💚
Day 1 starts from the picturesque St. Martin de Tor with the ascent of the Passo di Falzarego. Rest assured, this is certainly not the most difficult climb of the trip, but definitely a beautiful one over a winding gravel path. Just before the top, an amazing panoramic view of this part of the Dolomites awaits you.After your first encounter with the Dolomites, you will leave civilization on your way to one of the most spectacular gravel paths of the trip; with a breathtaking view of Monte Cristallo on the right and if you look to the left the meters deep Rio Fanes (the Italian Gran Canyon).Halfway through you will pass Rifugio Ospitale, the place where you can get one of the best espressos and cappuccinos during this trip. And you can use that coffee, because the gravel climb Prato Piazzo and the final climb to Lago di Braies are clear.Completely satisfied at an altitude of 1,500 meters you arrive at Lago di Braies. Spending the night in a tent on this lake is amazing. When you unzip your tent in the morning, you look out over the dew-covered lake and gigantic rocky mountains.Tip: There are eateries around the lake, but they close at the end of the afternoon. For an evening event you go to Frazione Braies di Dentro, about 5 kilometers from the lake.
On day 2 you will wake up at one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the region, Lago di Braies. Enjoy the descent that follows. It is the calm before the storm, because this day is brutal.After your descent to Frazione Braies di Dentro (where you can score breakfast at the local Spar) you dive into the forest on your way to the border with Austria. It is a beautiful climb that turns into a gravel path halfway.The unpaved path to the top of the Passo Tre Croci is visibly little used. And you will soon find out why; with short pieces of> 20% you will be challenged every now and then.You will find the real remote roads and places in the last part of this day. Because to get to the difficult to reach mountain hut 'Rifugio Sennes' you take one of the most challenging trails of this trip. A new concept is introduced: Hike-a-bike! The path to Rifugio Sennes is steep (> 20%), unpaved and winds its way up through the gigantic mountain peaks.You probably make the last kilometers in the setting of the setting sun. And that gives a beautiful picture, because in clear weather the rocky mountains around you turn yellow, orange and fire red. Crazy!
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On day 3 you will leave Rifugio Sennes and await a day with two hike-a-bike descents in Parco Naturale di Fanes-Sennes-Braies. The biggest challenge of this day is the descent to Armentarola. This is a hiking trail and is quite a challenge for the seasoned hiker. Long live hike-a-bike!Surprisingly, the route of this day ends with an asphalt climb, the Passo Pordoi. After a beautiful descent you will return to the civilized world of Canazei.
Day 4 starts from the start with an unpaved climb towards the Passo Duron, a remote peak deep in the mountains of the Dolomites. What follows is a rare long stretch on flat and sloping roads. The paths wind through forests and meadows and do not look up if you occasionally cycle to meet curious wild horses or cows.After reaching the top of the Passo Nigra you descend to Vigo di Fassa, where you can choose from several campsites, B & Bs and hotels to spend the night.
Day 5 is the last but certainly not the least day. Little by little you leave the tough gravel roads. You get two climbs with an amazing view in return.The Passo Sella is a long climb, but once you reach the top you have an amazing panoramic view of the area. Then you descend and prepare for the last climb of this trip; the Passo Gardena. At the top of this climb, treat yourself to a very tasty apple strudel with hot chocolate at Rifugio Frara.From here you descend to San Martino de Tor, the finish point of this trip.