Photo Story: Dream Ridge Project

Oct 22, 2023 at 7:25
by Andy Cole  
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Word: Andy Cole

The Dream Ridge Project… At around 155km long, and following the Austro-Italian border, lies a trail known as the Karnischen Hohwenweg. This trail between Sillian and Thörl-Maglern runs along the ridge of the Karnischen Alps. Encapsulating some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, this natural wonder winds through an amazing array of geological and natural landscapes. During the First World War, the front between Italy and Austria ran along the crest of the Carnic Alps. The traces of this mountain war are visible along the long-distance trail.

This ride encapsulates all things Grizzly Munro Diaries. Exposure, hard to reach single-track, epic mountain ranges, backdrops that will take your breath away, hike’a’bike, a world class photographer, and a challenge that allows us to push the envelope on where bikes can be taken and ridden.

With that in mind, we were all set for another trip of a lifetime. The truck was packed, the Ferry was booked, all that was required now was around 25 hours of driving, to get us from the East coast of Scotland, to Sillian, on the Austro-Italian border.

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The journey was relatively plain sailing. Working our way across the flat landscapes of Europe, allowed our interests to peak as we began to meander through the idyllic roads of Austria, gazing wide-eyed towards the grandeur of the Dolomites in neighboring Italy. Finally we arrived at our hotel, in time to catch the local restaurant for some pizza and a couple of beers.

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After two days on the road, we slept well. There were no long lies to be had though with 6am breakfasts due for the next 8 days. We would be taking on this route in a hut-to-hut style, meaning our times were pre-determined. If we missed breakfast, or didn’t make it to the next hut in time for dinner, then we wouldn’t be eating.

With our packs filled to the brim, and bar rolls mounted, we cranked through the first pedal strokes. We were aware of the gondola that could shorten the length of our first day and help us reach the desired altitude. Having spotted it on our recce the night before, we headed straight for it with no hesitation, not even bothering to turn on the GPS at this point. Once at the top station we pedaled on towards the ridge, not a care in the world. A little over two hours later and dumbfounded by the terrain and views not being quite what we expected, we finally decided to turn on the GPS. It obviously wasn’t working, as it said our desired start point was 23km away. Could it be that in our giddy, boisterous nature we overlooked the fact that we were in the Alps and there are many, many Gondolas? I cannot believe this was how we started the project… on the wrong ridge.

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The race was on. It was around 13.45. We had to descend 1800m to the valley floor, ride another 10km up the valley to the Gondola that went up the opposing ridge. The last lift was at 16.00. We had an even bigger problem than that though, we needed to reach our first nights accommodation for 17.00, in order to get dinner, furthermore, it was another 10km from where we would get off the lift. Already, things seemed to be falling apart. One problem at a time.

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We raced to that gondola like our life depended on it. Now at least on the correct mountain, we could begin working through the remainder of issues. A lack of phone signal meant we had to hope that the first hut received my panicked email and would allow us to arrive extremely late. All we could think about for the next 4 hours was reaching that hut. The endless hike’a’bike, the thunderstorms, the snow, it was all just chipping away at our morale. We were tired and hungry, and the sun was setting. The realization that we might be spending our first night out on the open mountain was starting to set in. I had also started to notice some leaking from my front brake lever. We pushed on, nearing exhaustion and adorning our headtorches, the lights of the Obstansersee Hutte finally greeted us from over the brow. One final descent.

42km and 12 hours later, we had reached our destination. Luckily it was one of the residents birthdays, so they were still celebrating when we arrived at 22.00. After many apologies, we even managed a hot meal and a beer.

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With the calamity of day one over, we arose with a fresh mindset and ready to tackle day two head on. After breakfast, it was straight into a 500m climb which saw us summit Pfannspitze at 2678m. Being up here, incredible, exposed single-track laid out ahead of us, it was a stark reminder of why I wanted to attempt this challenge in the first place. It was surreal. The day was littered with incredible riding, on every terrain imaginable. Our riding and scrambling abilities were pushed to the test around every corner. Our map reading skills were also stretched as the many variable routes across this region complicated matters. With a couple of wrong turns under our belt, we were left with one last climb over a high-pass, before an awesome descent to Porzehutte. The day was challenging though. Again we hadn’t had anything substantial to eat except the snacks we could carry, and even without any mulling around, I had still only made the next hut in time for our dinner reservation. The brake issue was becoming a little more prominent. I was losing a lot of fluid. My initial thought that it was just excess fluid from bleeding them the week before was wrong. We may just have another problem.

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A broken sleep in what was undoubtedly the warmest room in the world, had us waking with a banging headache. I felt as though I'd had a really heavy night on the beers. I could feel my brain rattling around inside my skull. I was suffering with some severe dehydration. At dinner the night before, the hosts had informed all patrons of the impending thunderstorm, and advised all groups to drop down into Italy on a lower trail around 500m below the ridge itself. This route was slightly longer and ended with a horrific 600m climb back up to the high pass. Each step was a battle. The sun was blazing on our backs, no wind to be felt. Water supplies were also running low. Once over the high pass, it was like entering another world. The wind that we were sheltered from was upon us. We were enthroned in heavy fog. The temperature had dropped significantly. In that moment, all I wanted was to be home. We picked our way down between the crags and cliffs and at one point, I was truly humbled with a near miss which could have been fatal. This terrain, exhaustion and now zero front brake, are not a combination I want to deal with. It was time to push down for a bit.

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We reached Hochweisteinhaus in time for a dinner order but we really needed to make a plan of action. We couldn’t continue like this. We were pushing so hard just to make the huts within the time frame, that we were barely able to enjoy the surroundings. The trip was a marketing trip, but we were pushing so hard we couldn’t stop to set up the photos. Now we had these problems to face but I only had one brake. If we continued like this, there was a real possibility that one of us wouldn’t be making it home.

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The next morning we felt a weight lifted off our chests. We figured we would have to skip a day of the route and continue once my bike had been fixed. We made the most of our surroundings and battled on down to the valley floor, pumping my front brake the whole time. Once down we had a bit of a logistical nightmare in trying to get back to Sillian with the bikes. After a bus ride to the truck, and then a drive back to Andy for the bikes, we could make our way to a bike shop. This seemed a little more difficult than we anticipated. Each shop was either closed or unaware what HOPE brakes were? We finally managed to get a decent bike shop and the work done, but it was too late to regain the ridge. That night we spent hours going over the logistics of making the rest of the project happen. Months of planning was going down the toilet in an instant. I had to make the call. I pulled the plug on the Dream Ridge Project.

With so much time, effort and money having gone into this trip, we pulled together with a list of places that we had hoped to ride and photograph. Lets make the most of our surrounding and this opportunity. I strongly believe this had panned out this way for a reason. For the next week we hit the road, country hopping to some of the most mind blowing locations I have ever had the pleasure of riding a bike.

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Author Info:
alcphotosleeds avatar

Member since Dec 9, 2015
9 articles

69 Comments
  • 56 2
 Dude looks like he fell asleep at a pretty wild party
  • 2 2
 I've done this. And have a back tattoo to prove it (currently 3/4 removed.....)
  • 17 0
 I saw one face tattoo photo and skipped straight to the comments. Was not disappointed
  • 4 0
 A 7 year old's birthday party?
  • 53 2
 Sorry but this kinda feels a bit like a narcissistic photo essay.
  • 12 1
 not just "a bit"
  • 11 0
 Lemme fix this reply for you:

"[T]his ... [is] a narcissistic photo essay."
  • 1 0
 I was there last year during a bike trip, for sure landscapes would have deserved more picture.
  • 1 0
 JUst imagine a though process of a person who decides to put a permanent ink in their face... I am pretty sure he really like the sound of his own voice. Regardless - a pretty cool place to ride. Also what kind of adventure is that if everything goes smooth? Big Grin
  • 56 15
 gotta ask yourself, what was the idea behind that face tatt.
  • 12 0
 Bro cant grow sidburns
  • 26 0
 what face tatt?
  • 29 7
 Because with those face tats you HAVE to make it as an MTB pro/influencer. You have no other choice most regular jobs won't hire you
  • 4 4
 Maybe I need my eyes testing but it just looks like he has a beard and nice head of hair to me.
  • 2 0
 David Clinger redux
  • 1 1
 he is Mike Tyson of MTB!
  • 19 1
 The answer... I just wanted it.
  • 27 13
 Jesus pinkbike, its a story about a bike trip and you focus on his looks. Guess what? People have different preferences to you, and sometimes those preferences extend to how they decorate their bodies
  • 36 1
 @mattg95: Come on, there are more face shots than trail shots in the article
  • 4 3
 @Mugen: I count 47 photos in this article, at most 10 are ‘face shots’. Really don’t understand the hate with the tat’s, it’s a cool project as is his munro bagging. True spirit of Mtb for me! Any of you lot ever seen the all black rugby team?
  • 3 2
 @mattg95: I've been riding my bike in the dolomites and Austrian mountains for 3 weeks of this year. Spent two weeks in Austria last year. Plus Slovakia, Slovenia etc. To some of us the face tats are the only unique thing about the article.
  • 4 1
 @PB-J: how many ABs have Dave Tatts? Answer : 0
  • 1 1
 @PB-J: ahh phones. Face*
  • 3 0
 My brother is a tattoo artist and worked at a laser removal place prior to that. He said face tattoo removals were a common occurrence as time went on.
  • 1 2
 @mattg95: cant i comment anything about this decorations? you know you are taking my right to speak whatever the f i want right? I meant no offense. And my brother probably spent 10,000 on that ink work he appreciates that we noticed
Bye karen
  • 3 1
 flag krhaack (14 hours ago)
Maybe it's just the face tats but this guy looks slow.


Legend
  • 17 1
 No regerts.
  • 5 0
 @mattg95: You don't get tats like that without wanting attention.
  • 1 1
 @dkendy1: My bad, was thinking Māori (think that’s how you spell it) Point still stands, focusing on someone’s looks is odd.
  • 24 0
 Amazing scenery and trail(s).
  • 21 2
 I actually dont the tatoo, do whatever you want with your body. But all the self centered phots leave little space for sympathy of your badly planned and hence failed trip. I do hope you make it back next year and complete it! Then send us a bunch of nature photos and one with both you and the photographer and the comments will be of softer kind. Cheers
  • 21 4
 Why you guys getting so upset? It's only skin ‍♂️
  • 2 0
 Thanks for sharing! Any idea on the formal access for bikes on this route? My own experiences in Austria have been quite… mixed.
  • 1 0
 Everybody is jealous you won that bet.
  • 10 0
 @aerik: I contacted the tourist board beforehand to check if it was possible. They were cool with it. We were just courteous and gave right of way to walkers.
  • 3 0
 @grizzlymunrodiaries: Thanks, good info. Will look into this one for next summer, then. We end up in Austria with the family most summers but most of those locations ‘prefer’ you keep to the gravel roads and bikepark.
  • 1 0
 @aerik: I did it last year on my Via Alpina bike trip, not any issue on Karnischen Hohwenweg in August. Very ridable singles and beautiful landscapes.
  • 1 0
 @gambas90: thanks!
  • 16 2
 If the photographer was truly world class as claimed they had focused on the world class scenery, the history (remnants of the war), and the trail. Alas, they were being paid to take close-up pictures of the rider.
  • 8 0
 Lol everyone is being so mean to this guy. But it is weird that if 2 people are on the trip why do we only see 1? Also, aren't bikes supposed to be fun? Sounds like they are having a totally unnecessary nightmare
  • 4 0
 @Dogl0rd: type 2 fun.
  • 14 2
 Looks like you had a great adventure. And you won’t be the first person to misjudge timings and distances.
Good luck on your return trip. Looks like you managed to have a fun trip despite the setbacks.

And ignore the naysayers and trolls.
  • 9 0
 I didn't sound like you had fun at all. It all sounds like a 'super heavy adventure' where everything kinda went wrong. To find yourself on the wrong ridge is next to plain stupidity, as this is 'a super carefully planned trip'?

Was the leaking brake was just to spice up the story? Who the heck goes riding a leaky brake in the Alps? Why wouldn't you be able to fix this?

Congrats on the promo pics.
  • 6 0
 Perhaps the trip could be completed as planned if an extra rest day at each hut could be at least optional. The relaxation of not being in a hurry seems more attractive, anyway. I'll bet there are even more pictures of the amazing scenery.
  • 11 1
 "The trip was a marketing trip" ... for a tattoo studio?
  • 7 0
 Looks like a rad adventure!
  • 8 1
 www.karnischer-hoehenweg.com

One of the best hikes I ever did.
  • 1 0
 Me too, with the best kaiserschmarrns!
  • 7 0
 How can someone even ride those trails without a Liteville?
  • 3 0
 Sounds like a great adventure but putting time constraints on such a long trip where mishaps are likely and not being diligent to be sure every move is calculated is just irresponsible and a setup for disaster. Glad they made it back okay and this story didn't end in real tragedy.
  • 5 0
 They got some great catalog photos for all those windbreakers and helmets…
  • 3 0
 Man that was just too many photos, couldn't be bothered with reading any of it because the overwhelming amount of photos tbh. But yeah nice adventure I'm sure and thanks for sharing it.
  • 5 0
 Even though you didn’t finish it this time, what you did looks epic
  • 5 1
 Great photos!
  • 7 8
 Of wat face tats
  • 2 0
 I met some austrian MTB riders recently who told me MTB was banned in Austria with a law of 1975. Anyone can confirm?
  • 2 0
 Pulled this off the IMBA site: "In 40 years, laws have never been renewed and therefore, the legal framework is outdated and doesn’t do any justice to reality."

I think is no different to laws in many European countries. Especially when land ownership is mostly private, it becomes a sh!tshow because you have outdated laws which a happily put to use by landowners to keep non-hikers out, and hikers to keep their 'rights' exclusive. The large majority of lobbying groups have interests in keeping the outdated laws in place. Another example: here opening land to the public excludes you from a huge amount of tax, but the only requirement is to give hikers right of way. So you actually see trail access slowly erode, especially since the COVID pandemic.
  • 1 0
 True!
  • 3 0
 Austria sucks so bad when it comes to mtb
  • 2 1
 That is one ugly Helmet.
  • 5 1
 I count two helmets
  • 9 8
 Maybe it's just the face tats but this guy looks slow.
  • 3 0
 It’s the shapes in the photos, isn’t it? The shapes are all a bit, um, 2008. You can’t descend fast hanging that far off the back, especially on steep stuff, you wanna get over the front wheel down else you’re not making the turn.
  • 3 2
 汽车后部的山地车架不错。
  • 1 0
 cool
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