16-Sep-2013 -- This confluence visit is the last out of 3 visits that I made during a tough cycling week-end in Austria’s and Italy’s Alpine mountains. The story starts from 47°N 13°E.
What a day!
Without having eaten breakfast, I started cycling at 5 AM from my hotel in St. Lorenzen near Bruneck. The reason for the early start was to make it to the confluence and also to be at work in Zurich the next morning. Since it was still dark I didn’t find the bicycle path so I took the road – until I found myself between fast passing trucks on a far too narrow road with several tunnels. In order to not risk my life I used the first opportunity to leave road. Luckily I found the bicycle path. Soon the first daylight helped me to follow the path which runs through dark spruce forests. 6 km before reaching Brixen, the path began to follow northwards to the Brenner instead of turning southwards towards Brixen. I started rushing because I had planned to take the 7:55 AM train from Brixen to Trento and this train was merely the last chance to make it to the confluence point in time. After all, I just made it in time to the train station, but having breakfast remained a dream. I got on the train, but there was no time to fill my stomach.
In Trento, I raided a bakery and satisfied my stomach. The confluence point was now 12 km as the crow flies and it was just 9 AM so based on this information, there should not have been any reason for haste. But in-between, there is the 1600 m high Bondone mountain (Trento is at 200 m altitude). I started riding several switchbacks upwards on a tiny single-tracked road. At one point, there was a deviation sign – not only for cars, but there was an additional notice for bicycles to take the deviation. I looked at the map and found out that the deviation meant an additional 250 m gain in height. I could not believe that even bicycles wouldn’t come through. So I ignored the sign and went on. When I finally reached the construction site, I realized that there was no way through. The road runs through a narrow valley which was totally blocked. But now, having invested already so much energy in a dead end, I attempted circumventing the construction by pushing my bicycle through the pathless forest. Although I had to carry my bike for a while, I made it through and continued riding.
On the other side of the mountain I coasted down to Padergnone and slightly upwards to Lasino. The next village called Stravino was only 1.3 km from the confluence point, but 500 m difference in height. OpenStreetMap showed a forest track leading upwards north of the confluence with its smallest distance being 400 m. I took this steep rocky track upwards and abandoned my bicycle at the nearest bend to the confluence. Since my height was now the same as the confluence point, I thought I would be back to my bike within 5 minutes. At this point I didn’t know that I would be back 3 hours later!
On the first 200 m I proceeded quickly through the steep but otherwise walkable forest. But exactly half way, I suddenly stood in front of a vertical rockface, overlooking a 200 m deep valley. This valley had not been captured by OpenStreetMap. But having invested already so much effort, I didn’t want to call it quits and started walking along the edge. After half an hour, I found a possibility to hike down into the canyon, fighting there with a lot of undergrowth. At the valley bottom, the distance to the confluence was still 115 m. But on the other side, another vertical rock face prevented access to my goal. So I hiked further down, until I found a possibility to hike upwards again. Finally, I found the confluence point on an extremely steep incline in a mixed pine and deciduous forest.
The actual adventure however began after the confluence visit! In order to safely reach my bicycle, I followed a golden rule: hiking back exactly the same way that I had come. Although this hike meant to first hike all the way down and up again, I reached my bicycle after one hour. Back to the bike, I continued riding upwards the switchbacks until the track suddenly ended! Now I was already at an altitude of 1200 m with another 400 m to the top. Time was surely an issue if I wanted to be at work the next day. In order to not go back all the way, I thought I could short-cut through the forest again (as I did successfully in the morning at a construction site). OpenStreetMap showed another forest track 200 m further. And now I did probably the biggest mistake of the day: I tried to walk my bike cross-country through the forest. First, it was OK, but soon the terrain gradually got steeper. It got so steep that I had to heave my bicycle stepwise down, from one tree to another. Even without bicycle this would have been a difficult descent. Finally, I had reached the theoretical position of the track (according to the map). The problem thereby: there was no track in reality. Going back upwards with the bicycle seemed impossible to me. I had descended already more than 100 m in height on incredible steep grades. So there was only one direction: further down. So I continued pushing the bicycle through the undergrowth. The bike was suffering a lot; different parts such as the offenders broke away. Suddenly, there were sheer rock walls in front of me. I considered abandoning my bicycle and hiking further without it. But what should I do with the two panniers? So I put all my force together and lifted the bike a bit upwards, and then circumvented the vertical rock face. Then I went further down– it seemed endless to me. Finally, at 6:30 PM, I reached a road!
Now I was totally on the wrong side of the mountain. Another 1000 m ascend was ahead of me. With only one hour of daylight left and seeing the last opportunity to get back to work in time disappearing, I considered hitchhiking. There was absolutely no traffic – only one little Fiat with a pregnant woman and her baby daughter. She stopped! I must have looked like a wild man coming directly out of the jungle – which was actually true. We squeezed the bike in the car and I got a ride to her destination on the top of the mountain called Palon. From there, I was able to quickly coast down 1500 m in height and reach the last train to Innsbruck. In Innsbruck it was midnight, cold and rainy. The train to Zurich was at 3:40 AM - a long time for waiting, but a short time for taking a hotel. Luckily, another cyclist had booked a cheap guesthouse and offered me to crack on the sofa. Actually, we had so much fun, that there was not much time to sleep at the end. I got on the night train to Zurich (even so it is officially a must to book it in advance) and got into Zurich at 7:20 AM. After a quick shower, I was timely at work at 8 AM.
Note that if you approach the confluence from the south (i.e. from Vigo) (see Paul’s visit), then the walk is very gentle.
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to an asphalt road: 1200 m
- Distance to a track: 400 m
- Distance of bicycle parking: 360 m
- Time to reach CP from bicycle parking: 2 hours
- Time at CP: 3:37 PM
- Measured height: 923 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 0 m
- Position accuracy: 6 m
- Topography: extremely steep slope.
- Vegetation: deciduous and pine forest, some moss on the ground
- Weather: overcast (changing from sunny to rain), 23° C (felt temperature)
- Given Name: The Degrading Bicycle Confluence
The story finishes here.