For a long time now I have nurtured an ambition to try my hand at a Via Ferrata route. And when Bob and I started to discuss this years holiday it seemed as though everything could just drop into place.
We discussed several options as usual and both agreed that we liked the look of the Alta Via One trail – this is a high level route over the Dolomites to be completed over six days. We decided to book through a company called Tracks-and-Trails who offer this particular walk plus add on days to try a Via Ferrata. Our decision to use this company was also greatly influenced by the fact that one of its directors, Lindsay, had guided us over last years Haute Route and was going to be leading this trail too.
It seemed a perfect option – Via Ferrata (ambition achieved) followed by a strenuous high level trail over a region we have never walked in before. And so the booking was made – and then another wonderful happening, not only was Lindsay leading us, but we were also going to be walking with Donna from the Haute Route and Niamh from Mont Blanc. A reunion with old walking friends – fantastic!
And so our holiday began – we travelled to Villabassa on Thursday 21st July using planes, buses and trains. How does the song go – “…Trains and boats and planes…” anyway you get the idea. It was a long day, made longer by a cancellation of one of the planes – but we got there just before midnight and, bless them, the hotel let us have an enormous glass of beer each before we collapsed into bed!!!!!
7.30am the next morning saw us clambering into Guido’s car, along with Donna and Lindsay, in order to complete our first challenge – the Via Ferrata!!!!! And what a wonderful challenge this was.
The concept of the “V.F.” was further developed during WW1 for soldiers to use to help them cross the mountains. Also, in this area, the Dolomites are riddled with tunnels built by the Italians during the same period. Its hard to imagine all those men, engaged in war, living up there, it must have been a very, very tough life – its hard to imagine how tough!
For us, however, it was pure pleasure – wearing a harness and roped to each other we climbed up sheer rock faces, supported by karabiners which we attached to wires to enable us to haul our way upwards. It was hard work, but so worth it when we reached the summit and looked out at the magnificence of the Dolomites – stark and rugged – these mountains are unlike any I have seen. Our way down was just as challenging and on more than one occasion I was extremely thankful for my hard hat as I head butted a protruding bit of rock! I could eulogise forever about the V.F. but I won’t. Just let it be said that it was an experience I would repeat and recommend!
But onto the walk itself, a stunning route, with the backdrop of the Dolomites. How to describe them? Awesome, rugged, stark – the sharp pinnacles stretch heavenwards surrounding the area with a wild sort of savagery. The grey rock gleams occasionally with a redness from the iron ore. The sun shines down and glints on the metallic grey. Impressive is too mild a word. We traversed the side of the mountains, crossed scree slopes, climbed over boulders, watched rocks falling from the heights above us and went through wooded areas which contrasted their greenery with the greyness of the mountain side.
We met wild horses, goats and wonderful cattle including Italian/Scottish Highland Coo’s!!!!!
But one of the highlights has to be the Refugio’s, not just the ones we stayed in but the ones along the route! What can I say about the cakes, the coffee, the sense of happiness in eating and drinking to sustain us as we wended our way through the spectacular terrain with no sense of guilt re too many calories. Life could not get much better!!!
As for the overnight Refugio’s, the accommodation was excellent, and the settings were mostly fantastic – as at Rifugio Lagazuio – with its panoramic views of the Dolomites all around. Or perhaps the Refugio Averau where the food was to die for! There’s definitely a theme here, food, drink, scenery, food…..
This was a fantastic walk which we shared with old, and a new friend, and which was led by a totally professional and extremely knowledgeable guide – thank you Lindsay not just for your guiding but also for your friendship. It made the journey so much better.
So overall I cannot recommend this walk highly enough, the downside is the fact it only takes six days to complete, but then again there is the Alta Via 2 : 3 : 4…….
Alta Via 1 - Statistics
|Date||Start||Finish||Km||Miles||Meters||Feet||Highest Point||Height (m)|
|24/07/2016||Lago di Braies||Rifugio Pederu||17.90||11.12||1041||3415||Porta Sora il Forn||2388|
|25/07/2016||Rifugio Pederu||Rifugio Lagazuoi||21.70||13.48||1670||5479||Rifugio Lagazuoi||2752|
|26/07/2016||Rifugio Lagazuoi||Rifugio Averau||15.30||9.51||849||2785||Rifugio Averau||2413|
|27/07/2016||Rifugio Averau||Rifugio Passo Staulanza||18.90||11.74||637||2090||Forcella Giau||2360|
|28/07/2016||Rifugio Passo Staulanza||Rifugio Vazzoler||20.80||12.92||1126||3694||Forcella Coldai||2191|
|29/07/2016||Rifugio Vazzoler||Passo Duran||14.00||8.70||741||2431||Forcella del Camp||1933|