Passo San Boldo (706 m), Forcella Franche (990 m), Passo Duran (1601 m), Forcella Staulanza (1773 m)
First day in the Dolomites and four mountains to contend with. First up was the Passo San Boldo, which at 706 m wasn’t particularly high, but was certainly one of the most interesting and picturesque. Our route up included 18 hairpins, 6 of which were hidden inside narrow one-way tunnels controlled by traffic lights. The red lights providing a welcome excuse to stop, have a rest and take photographs. We met a couple of Italian cyclists at the top who took a team photo for us.
Next up, the Forcella Franche took us higher to 990 meters with a couple of steep 12% sections nearer the summit before we tackled what, for me, was one of the hardest climbs of the trip, the Passo Duran. At 1601 meters, the Duran is by no means our highest pass, but it’s certainly one of the steepest, featuring several sections with a 12% average gradient which tops out at 14%. We stopped for quite a while in one of the cafés on the summit. It was stupidly hot too and a few of us were suffering cramps.
Last up, and the highest of today’s passes, was the Forcella Staulanza which took us up to 1773 meters. This one is 12.6 km long with a vertical gain of 843 meters. I enjoyed this climb the most, the average gradient was a much more manageable 6.7 % with a max of around 11%. For the third time today we quenched our newly discovered thirst for Lemon Soda in the café at the top before descending towards Selva di Cadore to search for a hotel.
We checked in to Hotel Giglio Rosso in the Val Fiorentina. The whole valley is a UNESCO World Nature Heritage area and the scenery is simply stunning. The hotel was excellent and we enjoyed a great evening meal followed by a few glasses of the proprietor’s homemade grappa(s). Grappa is the local name for a variety of tipples that often smell and taste like the stuff you clean dirty paint brushes with. This evening’s versions were better than most, having been infused with herbs and honey to make them sweet.