Val Pusteria in Dolomites is one of my favourite places on earth so when my friend Andrea, who lives not too far from there, told me about the Stoneman trail I got very excited and decided to go and try it. What helped a lot was the fact that Val Pusteria is a perfect place for families so I took my wife and my newborn son with me and while I was sweating over the 4000+ meters of climbing, they could enjoy one of the many idyllic lakes in the area.
But what is the Stoneman? The Stoneman gets its name from the piles of stones, the so-called “Stonemans”, that, for centuries, guide mountaineers in the Alps. It is a trail in the Dolomites , Italy, 120 km long with more than 4000 meters of vertical climbing created by the mountain biker Ronald Stauder. It has all the characteristics of a great MTB marathon without the stress of the race. In fact, you can do it anytime you want. All you have to do is to get the “Starting Pack” in one of the 4 point of sales (The basic cost is 20 euros), wear the bracelet that comes with it for collecting the stamps that you find in the 5 checkpoints, and start cycling following the map that they also give you. Many signs also help you not to lose the way.
It is not a race, but if you want to make it more interesting and challenging for yourself you can try to complete it in 1 day and get the Stoneman golden trophy, in 2 days and get the silver or 3 days and get the bronze. Your name will be added to the Stoneman website in the hall of fame. To compete for the trophy you will have the starting time when you get your starter pack and to get the finishing time you need to go to the same starting point of sale where you began your adventure.
And what about us? We decided to do it in 2 days starting with the stage that includes the Dermut Transit which was apparently the most difficult and exciting according to what we read and what the guy at the Stoneman headquarters said- and it was indeed 🙂
As I am planning to include the Stoneman in one of my MTB holiday packages my friends and I decided to use 3 different bikes for the trail in order to have a better idea of what would be the option to recommend in case our future clients ask. We had an Enduro bike, an all-mountain and a hardtail.
The first part of our first stage was an incredibly steep uphill that in 3 km takes you from 1103 to 2447 meters. I had to work quite hard to bring up my Giant Reign while my friend on a carbon hardtail was laughing at me. The last section just before the refuge is rideable only by the strongest of riders. Most of the people we saw were pushing. Once on top we got rewarded by an excellent cake and coffee at the Sillianerhütte.
The panorama there is breathtaking. In front of you are several mountain peaks around 3000 meters. If you like mountains you cannot ask for more. From the refuge starts the famous Dermut section. It is basically a very rocky ridge that goes up and down for 10 km. Sometimes it is very exposed. It was finally my time to laugh, with my enduro bike, while my friend on the hard tail had to walk quite a lot of times.
We got good weather for our trip, but the wind was so strong and it made the ridge even more difficult. Almost the whole time I couldn’t follow the line I picked because the wind that would move me 40 cm to the right. We destroyed one tubeless tyre with a lateral cut and had another flat tyre as the result of this. I loved the section. Every cm of it. I like really technical stuff and I love to be in the elements. Though I guess for some people it could be quite difficult especially on the very exposed rocky passages. I recommend checking the weather properly before going.
Once we got to Passo Silvella, a very nice and long downhill, which is also a highlight of the trip, it took us down to the valley where we collected our third check point. To get the 4th checkpoint we had to do another climb to Prati di Croda Rossa. I found this section quite weak after riding the previous amazing part but I guess it helps the organizer to add mileage to the trail and we are still talking about nice nature.
We started the second day with a very steep climb, first on asphalt and then on a gravel military road with an amazing last section characterized by many turnpikes. This was also one of the highlights for us. While riding up and sweating and swearing we couldn’t help wowing because of the incredible panorama that once again the Dolomites had to offer. No wind today, 21 degrees and zero clouds. We could climb forever.
We found ourselves on top of Marchkinkele mountain, or Cornetto di Confine in Italian, and we exchanged a few high fives with the other bikers we met up there, mainly Germans. At that point the official map says to go down the same way which sounded weird to us due to may possibilities the mountain seemed to offer. We asked the other bikers what was their opinion. Luckily enough, one of them did the Stoneman already 3 times so he told us that the organizer couldn’t design a loop because a farmer wouldn’t let bikers go through his part of the forest hence the participants had to go back the same way. He pointed us toward a very gnarly single track next to the military road that was pointing straight down and looked very promising and said that it was a great alternative. It was great!
Very happy, we went back to the trail head, a beautiful old bus, to get our Silver trophy. What a great ride, thank you Ronald Stauder. We are now looking forward to trying the Stoneman Miriquidi in Germany.
About the bike. I really enjoyed riding the enduro bike and I would do it again even though you really need strong legs and endurance. The hard tail bike was great for climbing but you must be really technically good in order to enjoy the best rocky sections. So in the end, we recommend an All mountain MTB.
About the gear I recommend to be ready to any kind of weather. You might encounter wind, heat and rain in the same day. I had with me in my backpack, arm and leg warmers, a Gore-Tex jacket, a light windproof jacket, spare long gloves, an under helmet cap and I used them all even though we were quite lucky with the weather.
More info about the trail at www.stoneman.it
Filippo is the owner and founder of BIKO Adventures, a MTB and Road bike tour company based in Prague (www.bikoadventures.com), and a dear friend of WeLoveCycling.com.