Aug 09 24
We were going to Iceland, however we changed our minds at the last minute and headed to Italy instead. After a few days in Venice where a coke and a beer costs 15 euros, we headed into the mountains by train and bus.
We arrived in Cortina, a small town known for holding the winter olympics in 1950-something and also for it’s staggering array of cosmetic surgery and handbag dogs in the main street! We were only too keen to get off the main street and into the mountains. After a rather busy, sedate few weeks I was needing to release some energy, so we decided to skip the chairlift and the buses and walk up a mountain from Cortina. The route took in two via ferratas. The first, Sentierio Astaldi was very gentle, but had wonderful views of strata, the second, Sentierio Guiseppe Olivieri was mildy more entertaining and gained us lots of height – always a good thing in a via ferrata as you don’t notice it! The idea of the day was to walk up to a few refugios, take the via ferratas to gain some height and traverse the mountain and then walk down the valley. However, Richard made a small navigational error. The maps in the Dolomites have a bit of a problem with contours … i.e. how do you draw contours on vertical cliffs…. well they don’t. So Richard didn’t think twice when the path started to climb … however we were meant to go down the valley and instead we ended up climbing most of the way up the 4th highest mountain in the area! When I questioned him near the top, he realised. So, on our first day in the Dolomites we climbed 1750 m! My legs were shattered!
Following on from the previous days events, I suggested we had a rest day, so we got the bus up to Passo Falzarego (a col) and walked up a mountain called Lagazuoi. This mountain is cool! It is where the Austrians and Italians met in the war of the mountains and where the Italians blasted the mountain top posts held by the Austrians by digging a spiral tunnel though the mountain – as you can see in the picture we came down the mountain through the tunnel! Although this was a rest day, we still climbed 670 m.
On day 3 my legs were still dead from day 1, I guess it could have been the altitude as well as the climb…. but they needed some rest. We therefore decided to take the bus to Corvara and use that as our base for more trips … this was partly to get away from the glares of the posh people in Cortina as we walked the main street in walking/running gear rather than fake cosmetic outdoor gear. Still, when we arrived in Corvara (which is lovely) we went for a walk up to a refugio (520 m height gain) and talked to a nice butterfly and some ants on the way. In the evening we were treated to a fireworks display, some fireworks of which were detonated from the top of a mountain called Sassongher – this was in celebration of one of Italy’s numerous religious festivities.
This mountain (Sassongher) became our target for the next day. We got a shuttle bus up the first part of it, as the legs were still not quite right, however as soon as we hit the mountain things improved and we beat almost everyone from the 3 previous shuttle buses to the top. We walked back down via a lovely valley and enjoyed drinks in a lovely refugio. Day height gain: 1105 m
Next we embarked on a multi-day trip. We dropped our extra bag off at the tourist information and got the chair lift up to the Sella group of mountains. From there we walked up the highest mountain called Piz Boe via a via ferrata called VF Vallon. We met some british orienteers on the way up, who kindly took pictures of us on the top and then headed off to see some more views. The mountain is odd because it is a large plateau on top. After heading to a few refugios and cable car stations on the plateau we walked to Refugio Boe where we stayed the night. En-route we found lots of cool ammonite fossils in a recent rock fall. This was the one night we had chosen not to camp and we had torrential rain and thunderstorms, and this high altitude hut was in the midsts of it! Wonderful! Day height gain: 970 m
The next day could have been so easy, we could have just strolled off the mountain into Corvara, but no this was not to be. We set out and first scaled Mount Pisciadu, a smallish lump on the plateau with fab. views! We then walked down the mountain, so that we could … walk back up it again … or not exactly walk, but via ferrata back up it! This was the premier VF of the holiday, it was called Brigata Tridentina and was a 750 m altitude gaining vertical climb (with steel cabling all the way). It was awesome. Richard loved it too … or some of it anyway! The route went up a pinnacle of rock so that a bridge was necessary at the top of the VF to get back onto the main mastif. You can see this in one of the pictures. After climbing back up the mountain, we walked back down via a slightly different route and put our dry tent back up on the now, very wet campsite.
Following this trip, we caught the bus back to Cortina for the last two days of the trip. We decided to do a bit of wild camping, so we left our extra bag at the bus station and chose a route up a nearby mountain. It didn’t look like the cable car was running so we started the long climb from the valley. Half way up we realised it was running, but it was too late. We were still climbing after 3.5 hours, but eventually reached the top of a very steep mountain. We descended the other side past a chamois and then saw the most amazing glacial blue lake. After another hour we reached the lake and cooked dinner there (speck, spinach gnocchi and ricotta sauce) and then headed down slightly more to find a place to camp. Height gain: 1450 m
The next day we embarked on our final VF, once again we walked from the valley past the tree line into the mountains and after stopping for a litre of frizzante acqua minerali at the refugio (which we downed in about 2 minutes) we set off on Val de Sorapis to Refugio Auronzo. This was a lovely VF which was relatively tame, but amusing. My legs were pretty tired by the end, but the views of Tres Cime (not the shampoo) were fantastic.
Overall we had an overall height gain during the trip of 8300 m! Not bad for 8 days in the mountains!
Start slideshow with these images