Monday, October 31, 2016

Dolomites - Day 10: Sassongher Peak

The town of Corvara is dominated by the backdrop of Sassongher peak, and the mountain had made an impression on us the day that we arrived.  We soon realized that there was quite a straightforward path to the summit with an easy via ferrata on the way.

Sassongher peak

We took took the bus up the valley once again, and disembarked at the village of Colfosco.  From there we walked a short distance to a chairlift to take us up to Col Pradat.

Village of Colfosco

Firewood for the winter

After checking out the refugio for later in the day we embarked on our hike which took us up steep terrain above some very impressive limestone cliffs.  The trail was airy and sustained, but not too technical and soon we were at the start of the via ferrata. This turned out to be very easy and we ascended using the wire as a  handrail (we did not feel any need to clip in or use our helmets).

Some airy views

On the way up

Looking back down the path

We arrived at the summit just in time for elevenses, and enjoyed the view of the town and the surrounding peaks.  The trip back down followed the same path, and we were back at the refugio for beer and ice cream by 1.30pm.

On the summit

The path back to the valley


Friday, October 21, 2016

Dolomites - Day 9: A hike and an easy via ferrata

With just a few days left on our vacation we decided to take the bus to the Gardena Pass, and then hike back over the high peaks to our B&B.  We found the bus stop without any problems and managed to get on the correct bus!

Soon we were on our way up the valley, navigating hairpin bends and steep drops on either side of the road.  We passed through the small neighboring village of Colfosco and then arrived at the Gardena Pass.  It was a beautiful Sunday and we had plenty of other people to keep us company.

The first part of our adventure was an short side trail to the minor summit called Gran Cir.  The path to the summit is listed as a grade-1 (easy) via ferrata and we found it easy enough that we didn't need any safety equipment.  The biggest hazard was the loose rock being dislodged by hikers above us.  The views from the top were great, and we could see the via ferratae that we had climbed on the previous two days.

The summit of Gran Cir

From Gran Cir we scrambled back down to the nearby refugio for a cold beer, and then headed back out on the trail for an afternoon hike back to Corvara.  The path stays at high level all the way and affords splendid views of the rocky limestone landscape that is typical of the Dolomites.  In places it reminded us of the Yorkshire moorlands with limestone pavements and caves very similar to those around Malham Cove.

Eventually we could see the peak called Sassongher that loomed above the town of Corvara.  We were excited to see this from this vantage point as we planned to hike to its summit the following day.  We were able to scope out the route up and determined that we could use a nearby chair lift to minimize the impact on our knees!

The peak of Sassongher

We were out hiking much later than most days and we paid the price for this our last hour of hiking.  The clouds that had been building up over the peaks during the afternoon coalesced and we were treated to a sudden downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning.  Thankfully we had remembered to pack our rain-gear and we arrived back at the B&B a little damp but quite content to have had another great day in the mountains.

Dolomites - Day 8: Piz da Lech & Refugio Vallon

We awoke to another bright and sunny day, and headed out early to meet up with our guide.  This was our last day with Michele and we were planning to go up to the summit of Piz da Lech.  This was a peak that we had seen on our rest day from our hike with Damon and Jayne.

After meeting in town, we took the Piz Boe cable car and the Vallon chair lift up to get on the route early.  From the top of the chair lift it was a short (~15 minute) to the bottom of the via ferrata.  

The route starts up a small rib and then moves onto more exposed terrain, finishing up another set of iron ladders on a vertical wall. 

The via ferrrata climbs up the rock in the center of this photo.  If you look carefully you can see people at the bottom and just below the skyline.

In this picture it is possible to see people on the ladders on the final section (this picture was taken from the path on the way down).

Sheri enjoying the route up.

After reaching the top of the via ferrata it is possible (and usual) to hike for about 20 minutes to reach the summit of Piz da Lech to enjoy the 360-degree views.  There is a small cross and a cairn to mark the summit.

From the summit there is a moderate hike back to the bottom of the route, and a short section of via ferrata to climb down.


We had made good time so we headed across to the nearest refugio for a light lunch.  The clouds rolled in as we were eating lunch and we felt a few drops of rain, but the clouds soon blew over.

After lunch we headed back to Corvara on the cable car and were back at our B&B in plenty of time for tea and ice cream.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dolomites - Day 7: Out on our own on the Brigata Tridentina via ferrata

On day-7 our guide was still feeling unwell, so we decided to venture out on our own.  Just up the valley from our hotel was one of the most spectacular (and well known) via ferratas in the region.  So, we got up early and transferred our bags to the B&B that would be our home for the rest of the trip (the Garni Haus Tyrol) then headed up to the start of the route.

Our route for the day (from across the valley the next day)

When we arrived at about 8.15am there were just a few people ahead of us, including a young boy of about 8 years old.  This boosted our confidence, and we set off in near perfect conditions with a spectacular blue sky above us.  

At the bottom of the route.  This via ferrata is of intermediate difficulty.

Sheri led the way up several iron ladders and across a steep wet section that lead to a stance beside a waterfall.  From here we climbed steadily with fantastic views - both beneath our feet and across to the other side of the valley.

Sheri getting started in the early morning sun.

On the way up.

Onward and upward.

Enjoying being on the rock in perfect conditions.

The final section of the via ferrata is quite steep and involves climbing up two iron ladders that are affixed to a vertical rock face.  There is literally nothing below you feet and the exposure is quite amazing!  After climbing these ladders there is an exposed traverse to a suspension bridge that crosses a big rock-crevasse.  The bridge sways just a little and the views from this point are breathtaking.

Crossing the suspension bridge. 

Don't look down!!

The next few pictures (taken from the path back down to the valley) show just how exposed this route is. 

Looking back across to our ascent route...
See the bridge (in the middle of the picture)?

A close up (with people all over the route by mid-afternoon)

Once we reached the top of the via ferrata it was a short walk to the refugio Pisciadu for a rest and something to eat.  As expected the refugio had great views and great food!

At the top of the route

At the Refugio Pisciadu for soup and strudel

From the refugio we walked all the way back dow the valley to our B&B.  We enjoyed hiking in a verdant green valley and saw many beautiful flowers and waterfalls along the way.   Overall, it was a spectacular day and well worth the effort of getting up early to avoid the crowds.

On the hike back to Corvara

Don't take a wrong turn!

Looking back up the mountain.

Yellow poppies on the trail.

Nearly back to the B&B.

Just a few steps from the B&B.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Dolomites - Day 6: A Relaxing Day with Friends

We awoke on the morning of day-6 a little weary, but ready for another adventure on the via ferrata.  However, we soon received a call to let us know that our guide was sick and could not join us that day.  In truth this was a blessing in disguise because we were both quite tired and we had learned that our friends Damon and Jane would be passing through Corvara that day.  We hadn't seen them for many years, so we were very happy to have the day free to spend with them.

We arranged to meet up with Damon and Jane when they arrived and agreed to go for a short hike.  They had been in Rome, Florence and Bolzano and were not yet accustomed to the altitude, so we took the Piz Boe cable car up to the area near the Refugio Al Vallon and started from there.  It was a beautiful day for a hike and we had great views in every direction.  We were back to the hotel by mid-afternoon and we enjoyed a great dinner together at the end of the day.

A cappuccino in the sun for "elevenses"

At the Refugio Al Vallon for lunch

The resident dog at the Refugio Al Vallon

Enjoying a hike in the sun

Views and blue skies all day

Back at the Hotel Table for pre-dinner drinks