The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday, 21 July 2014

A Week (or so) in the Dolomites

We’ve just spent 9 days in the Dolomites, most of which was in the company of Martin & Sue, together with a group of their friends and friends-of-friends numbering (I think) 17 in total. Here’s a very brief account of “what we did on our holidays”; for more detail and some additional photos, I would recommend a trip over to Martin’s blog.

Day 1 – Sunday 13 July


Martin had planned the perfect first day’s walk – very gentle but with excellent views of what this area has to offer. A cable car did the hard work for us, so all we had to do (aside from learn the names of, and become acquainted with, those in the group) was to stroll along gently undulating tracks, which boasted real chocolate box views of meadows, wooden huts and, of course, the great jagged lumps of towering rock that form the Dolomites. The descent back to the valley was accompanied by rain, but having enjoyed weather far better than forecast, no complaints were uttered.

With the extra explorations Mick & I made up the valley, before we returned to Colin (parked on a campsite in Corvara), we covered 13 miles, with something like 500’ of ascent.

Day 2 – Monday


Misty summit; we lunched in the bivouac hut that’s just visible in the gloom beyond the chapel.


A bit of clambering on the wired-path along the ridge


Descending in the trenches

With the gentle introduction complete, Day 2 was brutal! Or, so my lungs thought with the steepness of the ascent route up to Col di Lana. The day had dawned with very low cloud, which had risen somewhat but was still shrouding the tops as we ascended and it stayed that way until we were a way along the ridge, beyond the summit, when finally it started to clear (albeit still with plenty of passing showers, most of which stopped about 2 minutes after it was decided that waterproofs had become necessary). This was a good walk for an iffy-weather-day, though, with plenty to see close up, like the wartime trenches and tunnels, not to mention the great crater blown out of the ridge by a 45000kg Austrian bomb.

After looping back under the ridge, the final descent took the same route as our ascent, and thus was equally steep. My legs started to complain…

The stats for the day were somewhere in the region of 7.5 miles walked with just under 3500’ of ascent.

Day 3 – Tuesday


Not the best composed photo but that impossible-looking peak is the one we went up


Made it to the top :-)


Cracking views from the lunch spot!


A look of terror on my face as I descend the wired section.

Sassongher dominates the view from Corvara, standing proud and looking a thoroughly unfeasible walk. So, when part of the group declared their intention to visit its summit on Day 3, we jumped at the opportunity to join them.

It’s a steep ascent in places (in fact right towards the top there’s a small section of via ferrata), and it’s almost unrelentingly uphill, yet I found it an easier day than the Col di Lana outing. Lunch, drinking in the views (and in Mick’s case drinking my share of the coffee!), was taken on the summit before we headed down towards Stern, just down the valley from Corvara.

After apfelstrudel at the Gardenazza Hutte, we parted from the group as they continued down to their accommodation in Abtei, whilst we descended to Stern to catch the bus back to Corvara. When we passed a sign saying that it was 40 minutes to the bus stop, and seeing that we had 28 minutes until the bus was due, we decided to made our descent a fast one. Despite the best efforts of a group who wouldn’t let us pass, we made it to the bus stop one minute before the bus arrived. Excellent timing, and a truly excellent day.

We had walked 8.5 miles with 3500’ of ascent.

Day 4 – Wednesday


Lots of people heading up a patch of late-lying snow


The view from the peak I didn’t visit


The via ferrataists on their way down, including Mick (third from bottom)

We fell off my map on Day 4 (and that map is in a cupboard that I can’t reach from where I’m sitting and I’m too lazy to get up to get it), so I’m going to be a bit vague as to where we went. It involved Martin driving us up to a pass about 20 minutes away, from where we walked up to the Averau Hutte. There the group split, with all but Martin & me heading up a nearby peak which involved a via ferrata route. I don’t do via ferrata and Martin was kind enough to sit it out so as to accompany me up the nearby peak of Nuvolau, atop which sits the oldest mountain Hutte in the Dolomites.

After regrouping with the via ferrataists and revisiting Averau Hutte, we then popped back up Nuvolau before descending via a via ferrata route. Not quite sure how that happened, as I don’t do via ferrata! I shall be eternally grateful to Sue for lending me her kit for the one section.

The length of the walk back around the hill, and the pull back up to the Averau Hutte (my fourth visit of the day!) was a surprise so late in the day, but at least, from there, it was only a 45 minute descent back to the car.

We had walked 10.25 miles with something like 3000’ feet of ascent for me and a bit more for Mick.

Day 5 – Thursday

The legs, which had started protesting at the steep, shaley descents on day 2 were really protesting at any hint of a downhill by the end of Day 4, so Day 5 was spent reading our books and enjoying the views, although we did venture down the valley to visit the group in the early evening and thus did enjoy a stretch of the legs to the tune of 3.7 miles.

Day 6 – Friday


A fine spot for elevenses

With the group dispersing, mainly homeward bound, on Saturday morning, Friday was the last day for a sociable walk, and a few people had voiced approval at the suggestion of a gentle walk that made good use of a chairlift cutting out 700m of ascent.

Quite how every single member of a group of six managed to sail past, without noticing, the turn we were supposed to take, I know not, but we rectified the situation by throwing a loop into the walk, from a point further down the hill. That added 300m of ascent into the otherwise mainly-downhill walk (there was only one other notable pull upwards that I recall), but the surroundings were so nice that I don’t think anyone minded.

My favourite bit of the walk came later, as we hugged the hillside, walking through pine woodland. With the day having turned out to be hot and sunny, I was glad of the occasional water trough to be able to soak my hat and was just worrying that I’d under-judged the quantity of drinking water I needed to carry when we descended steeply back to the valley and ambled down to Stern, to where Mick & I had relocated Colin at the start of Day 4.

The stats were 13 miles walked with around 1300’ of ascent.

Day 7 – Saturday


This snap doesn’t do justice to what a truly stunning view this was

Whereas the group had dispersed, Mick and I were sticking around for a couple more days, and on yet another glorious day we set out (initially via chairlift) to go past Gardenazza Hutte, on to Ciampani, with the intention of walking from there to Puez Hutte, before looping back around to pick the path back up just above Gardenazza. The only fly in the ointment was that Mick was feeling rather under the weather, and whilst he struggled bravely on for the first 45 minutes of the day, it was clear that he was feeling miserable – so much so that when I suggested, at the Gardenazza Hutte, that he should turn back, he didn’t put up much resistance. And so, by myself I continued on the route – at quite a lick too, to assuage my guilt at leaving Mick sitting all on his lonesome for the day.

I was back at Colin by 2.15pm, having walked 9.5 miles with just over 3500’ of ascent.

Day 8 – Sunday


When I got back to Colin yesterday afternoon, I gave Mick two versions of the day. One was “It was awful; you wouldn’t have liked it at all”, which was, of course, designed to make him feel better for having missed out. The second, and factual, account was that it was a stunning walk, with an excellent variety of terrain, surrounded by interesting geological features, and with barely a person met other than for the short distance on (the motorway that is) Path 2. I recommended that if Mick was feeling better today, then we should go and walk it again, so that Mick didn’t miss out on such a gem.

So, that’s what we did. With a forecast of a rainy afternoon we made as early a start as the chairlift permitted and by the time we got up high the early low cloud had lifted from the summits. It didn’t start clouding back in significantly until after lunch, and it didn’t rain until we were down in the valley, nearly back at Colin.

It was just as stunning a walk as it had been yesterday (but with smaller snow patches – they’re melting fast!), but gosh, it was hot today! We omitted the off-path plateau wanderings that I included yesterday (intentional wanderings, by the way!), but took a longer route back down to the valley, giving final stats for the day of 10.5 miles walked, still with just over 3500’ of ascent.


(Notes: This area of Italy is tri-lingual, with German spoken by the majority, Italian by a much smaller percentage and Ladin by a very small minority. My very limited knowledge of German exceeds my knowledge of Italian and Ladin, so where places have names in more than one language, I’ve tried to use the German one. I may have failed, here and there, in consistency. I acknowledge that there should be an umlaut over the ‘u’ of hutte, and apologise that I was too lazy to break pace in my typing to üse it.)


  1. Hellooo!! So, you're having a good time then?!

  2. That just about sums it up Gayle. We are glad you enjoyed it, despite the Via Ferrata adventure, and pleased to see you had a good trip back in Colin.
    M & S