Cycling the Eastern Black Sea Mountains

Doğu Karadeniz Dağları.  The Eastern Black Sea Mountains.  Spectacular.  Unbelievable.  In order to get my mind around the magnitude and magnificence of these mountains I try to compare them to other places I’ve been.  Maybe Kaua’i.  The climb up Waimea Canyon is lush, green, full of good views if you’re lucky enough to get it without the clouds.  The same description describes the climbs here from the seaside, but at 1200m Waimea Canyon is small.  Also Kaua’i has perhaps 3 or 4 four roads that climb similarly.  Here there are dozens if not hundreds.

Another phenomenal campsite in the Eastern Black Sea Mountains; of course I couldn't see a thing when I put my tent here by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1172 by bryandkeith on flickr

Then I tried to compare it to places I haven’t been.  Reunion.  Steep, green, big, but are there roads up the cliffs in Reunion?  Do they end up at high rolling summer pastures (yayla)?  I’m sure not.  I guess, in a word, it’s incomparable.  I guess I ought to like these mountains.  I’ve been bouncing around them for a couple months now.

DSCN1367 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1181 by bryandkeith on flickr

Unfathomable scale.  Sage and I crossed from Yusufeli to Arhavi, dropping 2800m to the Black Sea and then crossed back to Ardahan, a 2600m climb that I didn’t bother mentioning in a previous post.  On my way from Erzurum to Trabzon I got lost in the clouds.  At about 2400m at a yayla in Gümüşhane (Yapraklı Yayla perhaps?), I made a wrong turn and descended to 900m only to climb right back up to 2300m.  Had I not missed the turn I would have only dropped to 1700m.  Another small descent and climb (here a 350m climb is small) brought me to 2500m from where it was a continuous drop to sea level!

Another wrong turn, I think; I followed the sign and went right, but I think straight would have been better by bryandkeith on flickr

Descending below the clouds by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1117 by bryandkeith on flickr

In Rize I chose a side road to get away from the busy flat Black Sea highway for a bit.  Straight up to 2600m and right back down again.

DSCN1366 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1412 by bryandkeith on flickr

I still can’t believe just how long, endless these descents are.  From alpine switchbacks to steep, wet, cloudy, muddy, narrow, cliff-like canyons, to 30km of fast paved descent.  Any one of those sections is a long descent.  Just for scale imagine descending Mt. Evans to Golden on dirt roads.  That’s what I did yesterday.  All day.

Time for the descent; visible here is a very, very small part of it by bryandkeith on flickr

Another muddy descent in a cloud by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1442 by bryandkeith on flickr

Ok, ok.  Sorry for all the numbers.  You need to be a cyclist to appreciate any of that nonsense, but you don’t need to be a cyclist to appreciate the views and a bit of the history of the area.  Liking old stone bridges will help.

Stone bridge by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1136 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1182 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1439 by bryandkeith on flickr

How about the old churches that appeared like magic out of the clouds in Santa Harabeleri?

DSCN1149 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1152 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1159 by bryandkeith on flickr

A few shots from the dry side of the mountains:

DSCN1040 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1049 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN1055 by bryandkeith on flickr

I was so worried about being hot after leaving Erzurum by bryandkeith on flickr

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5 Responses to Cycling the Eastern Black Sea Mountains

  1. Elise says:

    That’s some pretty dang gorgeous country you’re traveling through!

    Big warm jacket with flip flops? Weren’t your feet a bit chilly?


    • Bryan Keith says:

      That reminds me of a warm spring morning in Boulder a few years ago. I was out shoveling snow from the steps up to my apartment. My neighbor came out, said good morning, and started laughing. “What’s so funny?” I asked. “I’ve never seen anyone shoveling snow in flip-flops before!”

  2. sage says:

    (I thought I’d posted already??)
    1049: mathematical hay! plus clouds : )
    1055: gorgeous
    The fog and mud reminds me of…. the descent from the clouds at the pass to not Findilki, post Laz-lar.
    Fleece-less toes and a big puffy. No mosquitoes, I take it.

    Looks like a Christmas ride on the Mississippi for me.

    stay warm. stay cool.

  3. Shelly says:

    Wow, you have been busy! I have been reviewing your blog because I knew you had been to Romania last year and Brendan and I are headed there with another couple on Sept 26. I was getting kind of nervous until I read your posts and saw your beautiful pictures and encouraging comments. Your travels are truly inspiring!

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Shelly,

      I heard from Jack that you had another good Ruby-Horsethief trip. Will you and Brendan be biking in Romania? After Turkey that must be the best cycling of the trip. Transylvania in particular was super, and you can easily get up into the mountains too. September and October were brilliant last year. One word of advice: stay off the main highways. They are very busy. There’s almost always a good (but sometimes much slower) alternative.

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