Mountain Higher, by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding

Photo credit: - Pete Goding

Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding team up once more to provide more words and pictures of another fifty of Europe's cycling climbs.

mountain higher by daniel friebe and pete godingTitle: Mountain Higher: Europe's Extreme Undiscovered and Unforgettable Cycle Climbs
Authors: Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding
Publisher: Quercus
Year: 2013
Pages: 223
Order: Quercus
What it is: Mountain High part II - another fifty classic climbs
Strengths: Gorgeous photography, lively text and a selection of climbs that is full of pleasant surprises.
Weaknesses: As always with these things, readers will quibble over some of the climbs included and some of the climbs left out

The Oude Kwaremont is made famous by and has in turn made famous Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the E3 Harelbeke and - not least - the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Madonna di San Luca has featured in the Giro d'Italia and is now a star of the Giro dell'Emilia. The Côte de Stockeu's fame is built upon Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Col d'Èze is a little corner of France that will forever Irish be, because of Paris-Nice. On and on I could go, with the Arrate, Monte Farinha, the Col de Marie-Blanque, the Xorret de Catí, the Grand Colombier and many more of the mountains that form part of the selection in Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding's Mountain Higher. These mountains and their races have gone hand in glove, each lending something of itself to the other to create theatre within the sport and temples for the sportive outside. They are cycling, for it is upon their slopes were crafted some of the greatest stories this sport has produced.

Waiting in the wings, for the time when the stars fade out, are climbs like Monte Crostis, which has become famous because it didn't feature in the Giro d'Italia, despite a scheduled appearance. Or there's the Rifugio Calvanico, which has been tipped and tipped again to make an appearance in the Italian Tour but is yet to receive its Equity card. Again, the fame of these mountains is tied to races.

But there's more to riding uphill than following in the tracks of others, more than merely taking your own pulse and counting in you someone else (to borrow from MacNeice). There is the challenge of the particular climb, or its beauty, or even the less significant role a particular climb may have played in cycling's history. In this, the second volume of Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding's selection of Europe's climbs, it is these mountains, more so that the ones closely associated with races and riders that were the core of Mountain High, that feature strongest.

Consider, if you will, the Prelaz Vršič climb in the north-west of Slovenia, up by the Italian and Austrian borders, in the Julian Alps. The Vršič has never been visited by the Tour de France or the Giro d'Italia, not even the Tour de Pologne has yet thought to detour to take in its slopes. But the Vršič gave the Tour - and, sometimes, the Dauphiné Libéré and other races - something important: the numbers on the bends of Alpe d'Huez. It was while on a holiday in Slovenia that Georges Rajon, the man most responsible for turning the Alpe into the Tour's most famous mountain shrine, stumbled upon the Vršič and its fifty - yes, fifty - numbered (and cobbled) hairpins, counting upwards from one at the base to the half century before the summit. Rajon went home to the Alpe, turned the Vršič's numbering system on its head and when the Tour made its second visit they became a part of cycling lore. The Vršič then is a shrine to a shrine (it is also a shrine to three hundred Russian prisoners of war who died in an avalanche on the mountain in the Spring on 1916).

mountain higher by daniel friebe and pete goding

One of the Prelaz Vršič's cobbled hairpins. (Photo: Pete Goding)

Or there's the Sventi Jura in Croatia, down on the Dalmatian coast. Most of the racing in Croatia happens up north, closer to Italy and the Sveti Jura has - so far - been somewhat ignored by the larger Croatian races. But (as Friebe notes here) Robert Kišerlovski wants to change that by reviving Croatia's national Tour, the Kroz Hvratsku, as a pre-Giro leg-loosener and making the Sventi the jewel in the crown of its Queen stage. Friebe likens the climb itself to a Ventoux on the Côte d'Azur: it is two hundred metres lower and eight kilometres longer but - here's the kicker - has its own wind, the Bora, that can leave the Ventoux's Mistral looking like a light breeze.

Or - if you want a real challenge - there's the Grüntenhütte in Germany. It's only five or six kilometres in length, but in that distance you gain a cruel six or seven hundred metres at an average gradient of twelve to fifteen per cent and - this is its real delight - a maximum gradient that tops forty. That's two-in-five in old money. Here's how Friebe describes climbing that slope: "No analogy really does the folly of the exercise justice - besides, perhaps, the image of a kittten trying to haul itself onto an elephant's back."

mountain higher by daniel friebe and pete goding

Sa Calobra, Western Majorca, Spain. (Photo: Pete Goding)

Such 'undiscovered' climbs are the revelations of Mountain Higher. An important point to remember here is that even before the great races started adding to the geography of certain climbs, many of them were already famous among cyclists. We all know about the Tour de France 'discovering' the Pyrénées and some even know the name of the man in l'Auto most responsible for that, Alphonse Steinès. But even before the Tour and Steinès, two-wheeled pioneers were tackling the mountains.

In this regard Friebe makes reference to Charles Freeston, "not a name commonly whispered among the great pioneers or fêted exponents of cycling in the mountains." A newspaper sub-editor (at the Observer and then the Sunday Times), Freeston explored the Alps and in 1900 published Cycling in the Alps: A Practical Guide, a guidebook to climbs in Switzerland and the adjoining Tyrol area. It would take another decade before the Tour 'discovered' the Alps, and that only happened partly as a response to the arrival of the Giro d'Italia on the scene.

Freeston was, sort of, an English Paul de Vivie (the Frenchman who, styling himself as Vélocio, was a pioneer of cyclo-tourism and climbed the Col de la République a long time before the Tour did) and it is useful to recall the role played by men such as he. Surrounded as we are by the myth that the Tour de France invented everything from stage-racing to riding in the mountains, it is refreshing to see reality allowed emerge.

While these 'undiscovered' climbs are the true stars of Mountain Higher one should not overlook the contribution of some of the sport's staples. Take the Cormet de Roselend, which Friebe tells us is a climb Stéphane Heulot tackles every year. What's so special about that? Well it was upon the slopes of the Roselend in the 1996 Tour that a yellow jerseyed twenty-five-year-old Heulot climbed off in tears and went home. Once you hear that story how can you not but think of Heulot in future whenever you hear of the Roselend, still climbing the mountain that ended his yellow jersey dreams?

Other stories come from within races: Jan Ullrich almost grinding to a halt on the Rettenbachferner; Louis Ocaña and the legend of the Col du Noyer; the failed mutiny on the Timmelsjoch (the Passo del Rombo) in the 1988 Giro, just two days after the epic snow-on-the-Gavia stage; Marco Pantani's training rides on the Monte Carpegna; and on and on and on. As with Mountain High there is no shortage of racing lore here.

mountain higher by daniel friebe and pete goding

Xorret de Catí, Alicante, Spain. (Photo: Pete Goding)

Between the two - the old and the new, the 'undiscovered' and the well ridden - Mountain Higher finds a nice balance in its choices. For sure, yes, it challenges the reader by opening up Europe beyond cycling's traditional heartland, venturing into Norway, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Slovenia. Having grown up believing that real mountains should be called the Col de This or the Monte That names like Prelaz Vršič, Grüntenhütte or Lysá Hora don't exactly trip off the tongue. But the stories Friebe tells of these mountains - and, of course, Pete Goding's photography - dares you to open your mind and accept there is a world beyond the old borders of the sport. In widening its - and our - horizons Mountain Higher might actually be that rare thing: a sequel that is better than the original.

* * * * *

The full list of mountains explored by Friebe and Goding for this volume (and their vital statistics) is:

Name Country

Height
(m)
Length
(km)
Altitude Gain
(m)
Average Gradient
(%)
Maximum Gradient
(%)
Oude Kwaremont Belgium 111 2.2 93 4.2 11.0
Madonna di San Luca Italy 274 2.1 204 9.7 16.0
Stalheimskleiva Norway 378 2.0 228 11.4 30.0
Côte de Stockeu Belgium 415 1.1 136 12.4 20.0
Col d'Èze France 507 19.0 490 4.9 10.0
Arrate Spain 583 7.2 449 6.2 13.0
Bealach na Bá Scotland 626 9.5 616 6.5 17.4
626 8.6 621 7.2 13.0
Sa Calobra Spain 728 9.9 706 7.1 12.9
Monte Serra Italy 812 10.0 700 7.0 11.0
812 10.7 772 7.2 11.0
812 8.5 702 8.3 13.0
Monte Farinha Portugal 940 11.2 730 6.5 15.0
Col de Marie-Blanque France 1,035 9.5 715 7.5 13.0
1,035 15.0 615 4.1 10.0
Xorret de Catí Spain 1,097 3.9 437 11.1 22.0
1,097 13.4 627 4.7 18.0
Rifugio Calvanico Italy 1,130 7.2 814 11.3 23.0
Chartreuse Trilogy - Col du Granier France 1,134 9.7 845 8.6 16.0
1,134 9.4 494 5.3 10.0
Chartreuse Trilogy - Col de Porte 1,326 17.7 1,116 6.3 13.0
1,326 8.3 521 6.3 11.0
Chartreuse Trilogy - Col du Cucheron 1,139 8.5 499 5.9 11.9
Spindler's Hut Poland / Czech Republic 1,198 10.2 627 8.1 24.0
1,198 9.5 481 5.7 12.0
Lysá Hora Czech Republic 1,314 8.5 709 8.3 14.0
1,314 10.6 794 7.5 16.0
Grand Ballon d'Alsace France 1,343 12.3 951 7.7 15.6
1,343 23.2 1,046 4.5 16.0
1,343 19.0 1,072 5.6 11.7
Monte Carpegna Italy 1,358 6.6 611 9.2 14.0
Monte Catria Italy 1,368 11 876 7.9 13.0
1,368 15.9 911 5.7 18.0
1,368 21.0 970 4.6 11.0
Grüntenhütte Germany 1,477 4.3 627 14.6 40.0
1,477 5.8 706 12.2 40.0
Grand Colombier France 1,501 15.4 1,184 7.7 15.0
1,501 15.9 1,241 7.8 22.0
1,501 17.4 1,245 7.1 14.0
1,501 13.0 897 6.9 16.0
Hourquette d'Ancizan France 1,564 10.3 805 7.8 15.0
1,564 22.6 904 4.0 12.0
Porte de Larrau France / Spain 1,585 14.8 1,205 8.1 16.0
1,585 10.8 695 6.4 10.0
Prelaz Vršič Slovenia 1,611 9.2 805 6.7 15.0
1,611 12.0 976 8.1 15.0
Monte Tendre Switzerland 1,615 9.6 875 9.1 17.0
San Pellegrino in Alpe Italy 1,617 18.1 1,347 7.4 25.0
Col du Noyer France 1,664 7.5 616 8.2 15.0
1,664 14.5 616 4.2 10.0
Puerto de Ancares Spain 1,670 16.7 1,080 6.5 17.0
1,670 39.0 1,350 3.5 27.0
1,670 8.1 710 8.8 17.0
1,670 12.0 1,110 9.2 20.0
Sveti Jure Croatia 1,743 29.2 1,692 5.8 16.0
Port de Balès France 1,755 19.3 1,177 6.1 11.2
1,755 19.6 1,125 5.7 12.0
Monte Padrio Italy 1,825 9.4 920 9.9 27.5
Montagne de Lure France 1,826 19.0 1,137 6.0 11.0
1,826 24.8 1,274 5.4 15.0
Lagunas de Neila Spain 1,872 15.6 672 4.3 17.0
1,872 12.8 782 6.1 17.0
1,872 14.8 782 5.3 17.0
1,872 19.7 939 4.8 17.0
Grosse Scheidegg Switzerland 1,962 9.95 905 9.1 15.0
1,962 16.4 1,262 7.7 14.0
Cormet de Roselend France 1,967 19.2 1,154 6.0 14.0
1,967 20.2 1,227 6.1 12.0
1,967 25.5 1,227 4.8 15.0
Monte Crostis Italy 1,982 14.0 1,417 10.1 18.0
1,982 17.7 1,024 5.8 15.0
Passo Rolle Italy 1,984 23.1 1,267 5.6 11.0
1,984 20.5 968 4.7 13.0
Serra da Estrela Portugal 1,993 20.5 1,380 6.7 13.8
1,993 21.8 1,238 5.7 12.0
1,993 20.8 1,342 6.5 12.8
1,993 28.4 1,463 5.2 12.9
Alpe d'Huez Bis (Col de Sarenne) France 1,999 12.8 954 7.5 15.0
1,999 21.2 1,282 6.0 12.0
1,999 19.5 1,071 5.5 14.0
Passo Manghen Italy 2,047 16.4 1,229 7.5 13.0
2,047 23.5 1,662 7.1 15.0
Route des Lacs France 2,196 24.8 1,376 5.5 15.0
2,161 22.7 1,341 5.9 15.0
Bola del Mundo Spain 2,257 21.8 1,350 6.2 21.0
2,257 14.7 1,027 7.0 21.0
Albulapass Switzerland 2,315 30.8 1,464 4.8 15.2
2,315 9.5 628 6.6 16.0
Cayolle-Allos-Champs France 2,250 23.6 1,015 4.3 9.0
2.087 16.3 1,052 6.5 11.0
2,326 29.2 1,190 4.1 11.0
Furka-Grimsel-Susten Switzerland 2,436 12.3 898 7.3 13.0
2,165 12.1 797 6.6 13.0
2,224 27.7 1,602 5.9 14.0
Nufenenpass Switzerland 2,478 24.1 1,319 5.5 12.0
2,478 13.3 1,132 8.5 13.0
Colle Fauniera Italy 2,481 22.4 1,659 7.4 13.0
2,481 22.0 1,537 7.0 13.0
2,481 24.7 1,691 6.8 14.0
Timmelsjoch/Passo del Rombo Austria / Italy 2,509 23.1 1,151 5.0 15.6
2,509 29.1 1,814 7.0 14.1
Colle del Nivolet Italy 2,612 40.5 1,999 4.9 16.0
Rettenbachferner-Tiefenbachferner Austria 2,795 13.5 1,404 10.4 16.6
2,829 14.8 1,438 9.7 16.6

mountain higher by daniel friebe and pete goding

Typical fact file containing gradient charts and map.

The world of publishing is changing. Mountain Higher highlights one of those changes by the use of what's called the QuercusEye app. A number of the images within Mountain Higher have a QuercusEye icon and, if the reader has downloaded the app to their smart phone, all they have to do is point their camera at the image in the book and a still image turns into a video. Showing being easier than telling, there's a short YouTube video explaining the app and showing how it works with one of the images from Mountain Higher. You can view that here.

Also, you can view an extract from the book by clicking here.

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