For every great, storied road cycling climb – the Tourmalet or Alpe d'Huez, say – there are countless others just waiting for iconic status to be bestowed upon them by the lycra-clad cognoscenti.
In Mountain Higher, the follow up to 2011's Mountain High, photographer Pete Goding and co-author Daniel Friebe set out to pay homage to some of Europe's overlooked cycling climbs. In the first of a three-part series, Goding gives a fascinating insight into the creation of their beautiful new book…
While Mountain High paid homage to some of the continent’s more celebrated climbs, we decided that for the second in the series we would focus on some of cycling's unsung heroes.
For the making of Mountain Higher, Daniel and I explored 50 unique mountain climbs; we travelled from the dizzy heights of Tiefenbachferner in Austria, at a breathtaking height of 2829m, to the wilderness of Prelaz Vršič in Slovenia, and finally to one of my favourites – Bealach Na Bà in the Scottish Highlands, in all its rugged glory.
Our aim was to showcase some great mountain climbs that remain largely undiscovered by both cycling aficionados and other travellers. Strictly speaking, of course, these are territories that have been charted – and cycled up and down for decades – although they might not as yet have reached the iconic status of the likes of the Tourmalet in the French Pyrénées or Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse. These are famous arenas, but in Mountain Higher we set out to discover some of the lesser-known but equally noteworthy climbs within these mountains: monolithic giants battled (or in some cases still to be battled) by the cycling elite.
A Hump Called Catria
Every mountain has its own persona and can inspire some of literature’s greatest works. In The Divine Comedy, Dante says of Monte Catria, in Italy’s Marche: “Between two coasts, the Apennine mountains ride, not far from your native place, and so high that the thunder sounds far lower down and make a hump called Catria.”
Monte Catria is a spectacular setting, towering above its neighbours. I captured it as the sun was setting. Having timed my arrival with only minutes to spare, I quickly assembled my tripod as the shadows of the surrounding mountains slowly began to envelop me. As I peered through my viewfinder, a golden glow illuminated the iron cross in the distance, with the rippling mountains of the central Apennines awash with colour on the horizon. "That’ll do!", I thought.
Mountain Higher: Europe's Extreme Undiscovered and Unforgettable Cycle Climbs (Quercus £25) by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding is out on September 26