Beta Alp 4.0

A collection of information as it arises. There's not a lot out there!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Stella Alpina Day 5 - The event

I got an early start at around 08:30 as I'd not had too much Italian hospitality and I'd heard that the hill got busy later. Certainly on the initial ascent from Bardonecchai to Rochmolles there were motorbikes coming towards me. I assume they were going into town for breakfast as they didn't have enough gear on board to be breaking camp.

I took the first half very easy as the surface was clay like and damp and every hair-pin seemed to have an adverse camber. (Later in the day these would be ploughed up.) I imagined that the surface here could be quite treacherous in the wet, even at the relative base of the climb.

The campsite in the valley wsn't quite as extensive as I'd anticipated, but I suppose more than you'd find in the average alpine valley. A few tents were also pitched in other flat spots in the valley.

Gradually the track became more stoney, in places rock falls had spilled onto the track. Nonetheless, with care a rock-free path could be negotiated with only moderate care. As the track levelled towards the valley I took a little break. Some riders on road bikes were contemplating the sanity of continuing.

Beyond this point the track could be just discerned zig-zagging across a scree slope towards the col.

As the weather was warm and sunny there was no snow nor ice on the track but apparently as little as 2 weeks earlier the route was impassable beyond this point. With a quiet track and a small bike I quickly reached the col which was flat and very barren. The refuge that was to have been the start of a hotel complex has been demolished and all that remains is a ski-lift pylon and an information board.

A couple of KTM riders had gone off-piste and were tackling the sides of an arete, leaving an orange trail in the gravel, occasionally attaining the crest, mostly tumbling off.

Adjacent to the col was a small hillock on which a German flag had been planted by an Africa Twin rider. As I watched someone on an LC8 tackled the ascent. After a few drops and help with lifts and some bravura he got there. I decided to walk up. The first section comprosed substantial stones, with no serious gradient, the second section was loose gravel with a longish steepish ascent. Not easy, especially on a big bike.

From the top however it was possible to see another route from the back of the hillock - apparently that was the way the German had made his ascent.

I reckoned that I could manage either route but didn't want to break either the bike or myself. After walking back down to the col I watched a few attempts on the hillock, some successful, some not, some on BMW GSs, some on 2 stroke MX machines. After what seemed like ages I decided to have a go. Try the rocky bit and see how that went - others had turned back at that point, I could too. Not many of the GS crowd had the guts (or muscle or money) to risk it.
The rocky bit was dispatched readily with plentiful paddling - I wasn't going for elegance but knock-free results. Then across the mud and snow bit and the track to the back. Easy! Now for the final ascent; from th rear of the hillock it was shorter and importantly less ploughed. Most folks had taken the obvious route. There was a good flat run up area too; plenty of throttle, weight forwards, shut off at the top and job done. Why had I thought it would be tough? A few Italians on trial bikes pootled up a verical face of the hillock and some other Brits arrived on DRZs and KTMs. I still claim the first British ascent of the day.

LC8 man stalled on the descent and skilfully skied the scree on the long face. I didn't fancy that and dithered down the shost face. The engine kept stalling but i eventually did what needed to be done and gave it a bit of gas and rolled down into the run-off area. Then it was simpel to cross the mud/snow area, the stones and regain the col.
I headed for Bardonecchia once again. The track was now pretty busy and this was the biggest hazard. At each bend there was a cluster of big bikes with riders contemplating the next leg, and blocking the best lines. I nearly dropped the Alp on one such corner where I was forced onto the steep inner corner but with a firm foothold and a substantial heave the weight was caught. Couldn't have done that with a bigger, taller machine. The local bike club had set up a stall at the valley head, close to where I'd rested earlier and were selling badges, T-shirts and snacks.

This was the decision point for those on road bikes. This was a fair achievement but others reached the col, amongst them a Honda Silverwing, Ducati Monster and various UJMs. Well done.
I got caught in a convoy on the descent and got terribly dusty; reached the hotel at 12:30. This wasn't a 4 hour journey - I'd just spent lost of time absorbing the atmosphere. I topped up with petrol and air - of course I'd let the tyres down - once to 20psi for the track and then the rear to 10psi for the hillock.
During the afternoon lots of riders were leaving town and I did wonder if I should have planned to do 100 km or so before the day was out. This year it would have been easy, but if it had been cold or wet it would have been less of a good idea.
Later I met a group of riders on various classic machines, Matchless, R51 BMW, Honda XL. Inbetween discussions on politics, the 'green revolution' in farming and whether trail bikes should be allowed in MCC events we discussed there are stories about the Stella Alpina on the internet (like this one and mine!) but very little information. When I've finished this I may try to provide some info.


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