Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dolomites - Day 2: Our First Via Ferrata

After spending a day exploring Cortina, finding our bearings and resting from our travels, we woke early the next day for our introduction to via ferrata.  We met Michele, our guide for the next five days, at 8am our hotel Beppe Selle. Soon we would learn that an early start was important to getting onto the routes ahead of the crowds.  

For our first outing MIchele took us to Via Ferrata Michielli Strobel-Puta Fiames which was only a short drive from Cortina.  There we met Monika who works for Dolomite Mountains. She helped us to arrange our trip including the 5 days of via ferrata with Michele.  Monika joined us for the day which would enable us to drop a car and add a scenic and pleasant walk down from the end of the via ferrata.  

Michele equipped us with a harness specifically designed for via ferrata.  Attached to the harness were two shock-absorbing cords with carabiners that would allow us to clip into the wire cables, steps and ladders along the routes.  We also were given very light-weight orange (Dolomite orange!) helmets to protect us from loose stones that might be dislodged by those climbing above us.

This via ferrata was a Grade 3, Seriousness B which meant is was essentially a "medium" in terms of technical difficulty and exposure.  This was a great choice for us as starting place as we have had some experience rock climbing and being "out there" in terms of exposure.  We found the climb straightforward and it required only a moderate level of attention to placing of hands and feet. This gave us the chance to understand how to clip into the fixed protection and still enjoy the climbing and beautiful surroundings.

Within minutes of being on the route we knew we had found a good match in Michele as a guide . He was clearly very experienced as a guide.  He put us at ease and encouraged us at every point.  We also discovered, as he whistled his way along the route, that he was a fan of music, particularly of rock-n-roll.  His top three: Little Richard, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis.  This gave us common ground for a continued dialogue about music during the time we spent together.  We would learn much from MIchele about history, music, food and culture in the next few days.  We were off to a great start!

At the summit of Punta Fiama we found the views in all directions stunning.  It was all that we imagined in anticipation of this trip.  We enjoyed a quick break at the summit, took in the views and spotted some mountain goats high on the ridge above us. We then wound our way back to the car through a beautiful valley.

At the completion of Day 1, Michele and Monika took us to a local rifugio for the first of many amazing dining experiences to come.  Nestled at the base of craggy cliffs we sat on the veranda of a restaurant where we enjoyed beer, pasta, bread and coffee.  Here we tried Casunziei all’ampezzana, beet ravioli with poppy seed sauce, a local speciality of the Dolomite region.   There would be more rifugios, more local treats, and very welcome glasses of beer to come!

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