Friday, 16 September 2011
The dictionary definition of adventure is as follows:
ad·ven·ture [ad-ven-cher] noun, verb, -tured, -tur·ing.
1.an exciting or very unusual experience.
2.participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.
3.a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
Adventure is a good word to use to describe the past week and its definitions are a handy way to break down this blog so here it goes:
1. An exciting or very unusual experience.
Its not very often that you get invited to the Italian Dolomites by one of the worlds best mountain biking photographers for a 2 day trail ride to feature in MBUK and take part in a photo shoot. How could I turn down such an opportunity! So last Friday I found myself stumbling around Gatwick airport trailing my bikebox and luggage waiting for a flight to Milan. I was heading to Italy to meet up with my house mate (read landlord!!) Rob Dean and mountain bike photo ace Dan Milner. The aim of the week was to try and ride the route of the Laverado Ultra trail running race, a 90km race through some of the most breath taking scenery in the world. I'd been lacking motivations since missing all my end of season races due to a bad cold so this was just the ticket to get some motivation back.
After a very early morning and a long day travelling across Italy with Dan we made it to Auronzo in the Dolomites where we met up with Rob. After building the bikes, soaking up some sunshine and remembering all the stuff I'd left at home we met the organisers of the race for a Pizza and some beer. They seemed to find it quite amusing that we planned to ride our mountain bikes around the race route. i was a bit confused.... how hard can 90km split over 2 days be!?!?!
2. Participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.
So on Sunday we set off at a leisurely pace loaded with enough food for a couple of 4hour days (obviously it wouldn't take more than 4h to ride 45km!) and some fresh kit for day 2. The ride out of town was nice and gentle for a few km's before we turned and started to head upwards. Eventually the tarmac road turned to jeep track and then to single track up though the fantastic forested valley. After around 45 minutes the trail steepened and he loose surface and wet roots forced us off the bikes so then the trudging began. As we broke out of the tree line there were a few short ride-able sections and an awesome little downhill but the trail bit back with vengeance and steepened up even more into a series of super steep switch backs. The blistering sun and heat was making life hard work, the view however made it all worth while.
So finally we reached the top of the mountain, some 4hours after we set off. It should have clicked at this point that we had bitten off more than we could chew.... but it was so much fun we carried on. The descent off the mountain was incredible. Fast single track led into steep rocky chutes, over massive root beds and through smile inducing turns. It was AWESOME!
So after the killer descent down the valley, we traversed for a while before getting to the base of the final climb at dusk some 10 hours after we set off....
3. A bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
So picture the scene... 3 tired, hungry blokes with bikes, already long over their expected ride time at the base of a 2500m mountain pass with an incredible sunset silhouetting the mountains and standing next to a sign post which says its 5hours to the refuge. What would you do? The same as us i expect... carry on! So exposure helmets lights were fitted and we set off up another mountain. We managed to ride at least the first 20meters... then we were carrying! This one was worse than the first, long steep switchbacks, rocky scrambles and steep scree slope. To top things off the clouds lowered towards the top and sense of humor levels reached a low.
Eventually we reached the top which was a relief, what comes up must come down. This was the part I particularly enjoyed! There is a certain buzz that riding down a mountain gives you. This particular night I discovered that when riding down a mountain with only an Exposure helmet light set to low, in the mist, on unknown steep trails covered in loose rock and gravel on the edge of control that this buzz is increased tenfold. The top of the descent was awesome, the bottom scary. Eventually we were forced to shoulder our bike once more. The trails was so steep and narrow and the drop below so long that it was stupid to ride any further. The fact that it was dark made it easier, if we could see the length of the drop below things would have been a whole lot scarier. Put it this way... one slip of a carbon soled cycling shoe on the loose gravel could have been fatal.
Eventually we made it to the refuge 14hours after setting out. Dinner had been served many hours before so we settled for a bowl of soup, some crisps and a glass of wine. Then we slept!
After a good night sleep we awoke to find ourselves in the oldest refuge in the dolomites. The scale of the descent began to sink in as we looked back up the mountain in the daylight, it was probably a bit silly in hindsight. The view from the refuge more than made up for the risks though!
The day began with some sweet single track traversing the valley before yet another hike-a-bike sections over yet another col. The top of this pass was spiced up with a bit of rock climbing up a cliff at the summit complete with the standard 1000meter drop below. The view from the top was once again amazing.
The descent off this col was once again incredible. Almost fully rideable with sweet loose gravely turns which could be carved like a skiier carves the snow. It was ace.
Once we hit the valley floor the climbing began once again. Well i say climbing, really i mean hiking. Here is a photo of Dan enjoying the climb (i think he was pretending!)
The last climb was incredibly humid. We were exhausted, the lack of sleep and food over the 2 days began to take its toll. But we plodded on and made the summit. After a traverse across the ridge we hit the last descent, the descent home. Darkness was once again creeping in as we entered the woods. The track down was a wet rocky rooty affair. Brakes were fading, tyres slipping and bottoms clenching! I had a slight tumble when it became apparent that I wouldn't be slowing down entering a steep greasy off camber rock. Luckily I had practiced my crashing technique when i had slipped on a wet root further up the ridge falling 10 ft down the mountain, the bike cart wheeling a further 20ft into a bog. it was only after that i realised the consequences if i had crashed like that when descending the pass at night the previous day. They could have been bad!
We made it though, 10hours on day 2 to add to the 14 on day 1. What an adventure, and not a bad view to finish either...
The following 2 days were relaxed in comparison. We spent them chilling out at 2300meters, shooting photos at dusk and dawn. I don't need to write anymore though, just look at the pictures they say it all...