Daniel Patitucci, photographer and writer, writes about a less known pass in the Dolomites: Passo delle Erbe. Daniel's stories about road and mountain biking, hiking, trail running, skiing in the Dolomites appear at his site: www.dolomitesport.com. His portfolio of photographs can be found at www.patitucciphoto.com. Very enjoyable reading and viewing.
"For me, one pass stands out as my clear favorite, it is the Passo delle Erbe. It is not one of the core group in the heart of the range, for it is off on its own, just northwest of the primary area around Corvara. Yet it is done from the same starting point and makes for the perfect 110km day.
Beginning in Corvara, the Gardena Pass must be climbed, a long but not steep (9% max) climb directly beneath the Sella Group. Once on top a 45 minute (you read that correctly) descent awaits to the west and the town of Chiusa. Once at the bottom you will turn almost immediately right into another valley that rises into the Villnösstal. Here begins the climb up a narrow canyon alongside a small river to the village of San Pietro, a hard left takes you through the village, always following signs for the Passo delle Erbe. Once above the short, steep section leaving San Pietro, the reason this is a favorite begins to become apparent. To the south, is the Geislergruppe, a jagged, towering ridge line that you cannot keep your eyes off of. Luckily you will have quite some time to stare.
The road on the Erbe is impossibly narrow, more like a bike path than a road for cars, which you will rarely see. You climb through a dense, lush forest, then a bit of rolling terrain before the sky finally opens as you approach treeline. The Pass is appropriately named for its vast, herb and flower covered hillsides. While the pass is long, it is not steep, and your arrival may feel premature because it provides a feeling of wanting to ride upward through the terrain forever. Immediately right as you arrive is the Peitlerkofel, a towering buttress of Dolomite, ahead is the Santa Croce group above Badia, and off to the left, in the distance, the Plan de Corones.
The east side of the pass is much steeper than the west, and the descent is fast and technical to the Val Badia far below."
Photo: by PatitucciPhoto