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Season Finale…?

Four Day Alpine Adventure

Words by Martin Kaiser-Kaplaner. Photos by Martin Kaiser-Kaplaner and Horst Gamsjäger.
December 4th, 2013

Many of us were inspired by Brent Hillier’s story Seeking Altitude earlier this week: it made you consider what adventure opportunities lie at your own doorstep. In the wake of those thoughts it bears mention that the Europeans have been making a point of bagging peaks by bike for over a decade. Join Martin Kaiser-Kaplaner and Horst Gamsjäger as they get the most out of a sunny late season weekend out of Graz, Austria…


The weather forecast promised very pleasant conditions with highs up to 15°C at 2000m on the last weekend of October – wow! After heavy snowfalls in the west and south west on the weekend before, chances were good to be able to get up to 2000m again, or even higher now. Nevertheless it remained risky since there was still some snow visible on the webcams. However, that chance just had to be seized for a four-day bike trip together with Horst.

Day 1 – Steep, Gnarly, Beautiful

Our trip started on a very warm and sunny Friday morning in Graz. It was hard to get into the car for a four hour drive instead of just getting on our bikes – so we decided to take a break at the Austrian-Slovenian border for a ~3 hour “quickie”. I had never been on this mountain before, but I knew that it would be steep, challenging and hard – but fun! I will definitely do this one again, since there are still two very harsh sections to be conquered still (congratulations Horst!).

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Our bikes enjoying the view…

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Me, enjoying the steep terrain.

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Horst… he did it!

Day 2 – Yay! What a Day!

When we arrived in the evening on day 1, we were a little bit disappointed by how much snow was still left on the shadowy north faces of the Dolomites (starting at about 1500m). I feared that the conditions on the sunny sides of the mountains wouldn’t be much better. My worries immediately vanished the next morning, after a nice and comprehensive breakfast and a look out of the window. The weather was beautiful and there was much less snow than we thought! :D So we decided to go for the big one and carry our bikes up to 2600m that day – a very good decision!

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Hardly any snow on the sunny sides of the Dolomites, glowing colors, blue sky….oh yes!

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Business as usual. Me carrying my bike.

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Above the timberline. Let’s take a break and enjoy the view!

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Horst watching his step. Just another 100 vertical meters to go.

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On top of the summit!

Our standard procedure on top:

1. high-five and smile! :)
2. be overwhelmed
3. sit down and smile
4. get cold
5. change sweaty clothes
6. smile
7. eat
8. smile
9. take some photos
10. remember the last time you were here, joke around…
11. get ready for the descent
12. do it!

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Me in one of the steeper upper sections.

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Horst, surfing down the ridge.

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Horst riding down some exposed steps.

Day two was just amazing! This was one of the days I will always remember. I just love the warm and friendly light in October.

Day 3 and 4 – Is This the End of the Season?

Day 3 was kind of special. It was a combination of a known trail and a new peak we looked at the day before. The terrain up there is steep and exposed and we were sure that we would not be able to get to the top, but we wanted to know how far we could go. It was definitely worth it! We found some nice steep and technically challenging sections. Sometimes a little exposed, but always safe to ride and we could also try some alternative lines.

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Me, just a few meters below the highest point we could reach that day.

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Horst riding down a steep slickrock section.

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Different angle, same spot. I added a dotted line to highlight the line I rode.

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Nice view, don’t you think?

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“Dancing” the “Quick Step”.

On our fourth day, we decided to take a drive approximately 60 minutes to the south. The webcam images of this area looked really promising with lots of sun and clear views. Since this place is known for its scenic view, we were really excited to see it in reality.

Well… the reality was different that day. Instead of blue sky and great scenery, there was fog, ice, snow, even more snow, thicker fog, moist air, mud… all that stuff we didn’t expect to see to that extent. Nevertheless it was a fun ride and a foretaste of the winter season! More importantly, the sun didn’t hesitate to show its pretty face as soon as we came back to the car…

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This is how it started. Nice giant rocks. On a clear day, it must be amazing!

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That’s how it continued… Strong winds must have covered the trail under a…

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…~20cm thick layer of compact (and now slowly melting and wet ) snow. Exhausting but also fun!

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And this is how it ended. Lots of flow but incredibly slippery.

Was this the end of the season? We will see….!


Keep up with Martin at trickytrails.com for more tales of European peak bagging by bike. We’ve got to figure out how to do more of this here in BC…