KALTERN - SAN MARTINO DI CASTROZZA
A day in the warmth and off again into the mountains, there is no time to adjust to a climate. Stage 5 takes you from the vineyards and apple orchards on the beach of Lake Kaltern deep into the rugged mountain world of the Dolomites, from the lush green of the vines to the bare stone grey of the high mountains. No other stage offers a greater difference in level. The Baita Segantini, the panoramic hut in front of the peaks of the Pale di San Martino, towers 2000 metres above the Etsch River, on whose banks the climb begins. That, too, is a special feature of this stage: disregarding the short intermediate descent into Val di Fiemme, this stage consists of one single, long ascent of almost 70 kilometres in length, during which these 2000 net metres in altitude are climbed. And that, including the intermediate descents, has to be corrected up to 2500 metres gross. The pleasant thing about it is that it is never really steep. Not when you take the old railway line from the Etschtal over into the Val di Fiemme and catch a last unobstructed view of the wide valley and South Tyrol's south. Not if you crank your way up through the Val di Fiemme from Molina to Predazzo where the Marcialonga runs, one of the most famous cross country ski races in the world. Nor when it goes up from Predazzo into the lush forests of Paneveggio with its special trees, the spruces, which provide the fine tonewood for violin making. The wood that Stradivari has used for some of the most coveted and expensive instruments in the world. But when you emerge from this forest, your ears no longer ring. Now, having arrived in the Val Venegia, your eyes sparkle as the great amphitheatre opens up and the northern flank of the Pale di San Martino rises above a valley basin where the path approaches the walls in serpentines more and more. Until you can almost reach out and touch them at the top, passing the Baita Segantini. Around Cima Vezzena, the north-west pillar of the mountain massif, the track now winds around to Passo Rolle, and after a short descent on the road, it turns off onto a classy trail that leads almost straight down to San Martino di Castrozza.