Monday, August 04, 2014

July 6th: Il Fourn to Santa Caterina


From Tour of the Alps 2014
The morning greeted us with sunshine, tempered by the altitude at 1800m. The forecast, however, indicated only passable weather the next day, and then rain on Tuesday. Since the Gavia doesn't have good weather even on the best of days, we needed to get over the Gavia by Monday. The others were also starting to ask for a rest day, which was best done at Bolzano. I'd always passed up Umbrail pass before in favor of the long approach from the East on the Stelvio, but the time savings would enable us to get over the Gavia on schedule with ease, and I would get to explore a new road, so I proposed doing Umbrail pass. Hina was a bit disappointed, but Arturo perked up when I mentioned that we might get to do the Stelvio again on the return.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
The climb up to Offen pass was as beautiful as I'd seen it, and a fairly easy grade from before. The descent down to Santa Maria with the intersection with Umbrail pass had a mild headwind, but nothing like what I'd experienced in the past, though I was glad not to lose further altitude as Umbrail was a high pass, at 2501m. It's only short in comparison with the Stelvio and Gavia, which are its immediate neighbors.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

At the intersection, we filled up our water bottles and headed up the past, which almost immediately started to weave along the mountain top, with hair pin after hair pin greeting us as we gained altitude rapidly.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Because of the hairpin turns, the grade was consistent, and the smooth surface made for easy riding. I'd never climbed Umbrail before, and I was delighted by it. It's every bit as pretty as the Stelvio, and near the summit, you get great views of the back side of the Stelvio summit. Furthermore, the bus schedule on the pass only has 2 visits by the post bus a day, which ensured that Arturo wouldn't meet his nemesis today. The climb was only interrupted by a hotel 4km up the pass, which also provides a very convenient place for a water stop with an external tap.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

From the climb, I descended at full speed into the Bormio/Livigno intersection, having full faith that Hina and Arturo, having never been down the pass before would stop to take photos.


From Tour of the Alps 2014
By the time everyone had regrouped, it was time for lunch in Bormio. Hina expressed that she was getting sick of supermarket lunches, so we at a sit down lunch at a mediocre restaurant at the intersection of various passes in Bormio, after which we found an ATM issuing Euros for Hina and then headed up towards Santa Caterina on the Gavia. The ride up on this side of the pass is easy, unlike the southern approach. We rolled through a series of towns with lots of water fountains after which the grade steepened a bit but never enough to make us feel like it was hard work, compared with Umbrail pass.
Arriving at the ski town of Santa Catarina at 5:00pm, I wondered if it was too early to stop, but Arturo said, "This is a nice town. Let's stop here." Indeed, the sun had come out and for a ski resort town, Santa Caterina looked gorgeous. I'd stayed at the Park Hotel 3 years prior, but with the benefit of TripAdvisor, Arturo found the best hotel in town was Hotel Nordik. A visit to the tourist information center revealed that they cost only 5 Euros more than the alternatives, so we booked it.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
This was a good choice, because the food at the Nordik wasn't just good, it was plentiful! I got double helpings of the pasta and soup, and even samplings of other dishes. The salad bar was a buffet, and the only thing not up to par was the dessert. I finally felt as though I'd gotten enough food for the first time during the tour.

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