It’s my second trip to Italy and this time I’m heading north-east in the Dolomites. I have never done rock climbing before but everybody loves a good scramble. And via ferrata is perfect for a rookie like me. Challenging but safe enough. We only have 3 days to spare but also high hopes for good weather. Our itinerary starts from Milan Bergamo via Cortina d’Ampezzo and ends with a stop in Venice.
Tofane – Giovanni Lipella – Tofana De Rozes
We hired a car from Hertz and after 550km and about 7h of driving we get to Dibona refuge (2050m). Among others there is the starting point for Giovanni Lipella ferrata. One has to take 442 route for about 10 mins then continue on 404.
After about an hour of moderate hike you find yourself in front of a metal ladder and a metal plaque that marks the start of via ferrata. Graded 4C the route takes about 5 hours to the top and is quite demanding with exposed sections and vertical walls. Most of the parts are secured but good stamina and overall fitness is required.
First section passes through a 400m long tunnel. Steep, wet and dark therefore a torch is required. Don’t get fooled by the stairs. They’ll go only half way and is steeper than it seems. There are a few groups ahead of us but is not crowded which is a relief. We started at 6 am so time is not an issue. The weather is splendid and so is the view. Wide valleys and rock everywhere. Ruins of military posts from WWI complete the scenery. Soon we find ourselves in front of the metal plaque that marks the beginning of the route.
Once you get to Tre Dita (2680m)you have two options. Continue the via ferrata towards the top via North-West face and descend by normal path or go around the mountain to Giussani refuge. Some of the groups decided to go for the summit, however even in mid July it was covered in snow and ice. Cosmin has injured his knee and I choose not to go alone. I will definitely have to return for this one.
The refuge is pretty crowded and just 15 mins away from Cantore refuge, now closed. The way down is very easy and after about 1h we reach the parking lot. Perhaps the reason why there were so many people.
Cristallo – Ivano Dibona
We head back to Cortina and further ahead to Monte Cristallo. It’s a 20 mins drive to Rio Gere chairlift and there is a huge parking lot free of charge. I’m pretty beat up from the previous day ( long flight and many driving hours) and also the weather doesn’t seem to hold. I find myself woken up hours later by the heavy rain.
Today we have planned an easier but much longer route. Ivano Dibona starts right from the top of Mount Cristallo and one gets there by the chairlift. We get up early but forced to wait for the rain to stop. The chairlift won’t be open until 8.30am so there is not much choice. At last around 9am the sun is out and we decide to give it a try. After 40 mins and 22.5 euros we find ourselves at Lorenzi refuge. A much to expensive accommodation for what it offers ( you have to pay 5 euro to eat your own food) and two via ferrata options. On the right one can opt for Marino-Bianchi and reach the top of Cima di Mezzo.
We’ll stick to the plan and take the metal ladder on the left that marks the beginning of Ivano Dibona route. It started to rain again and it’s so windy it almost blows my camera away. Visibility is almost zero but we are determined to at least reach the summit. The chairlift staff warns us about the weather in a poor English and probably thinks we are nuts as we are the only climbers on the mountain.
The stairs take us to a frozen iron ladder and so it begins. It’s only graded 3C but the rocks are slippery and with zero visibility is hard to tell which way you are going. We remain positive and keep on going. Soon we are at the famous suspended bridge. Trying to get some photos but Cosmin is already lost in the mist.
Once got on the other side a huge metal ladder takes us right on the ridge and at last the rain stops. The clouds seem to rise and for the first time we manage to get a glimpse of the surroundings. Simply beautiful. The route is mostly on the ridge and we can see the summit. A bit of hard work and 30 mins later we are at the top. 3008m above the valley. The rain starts again but at least we have a clear path ahead. We decided to go back and try another route, hoping for better weather.
Punta Fiames – Michielli Strobel
Back in Cortina, now we are heading 8km north west to Fiames. Here the weather is fine and even though clouds can be seen in the distance I decided to give it a try. I’m on my own as Cosmin prefers to give his knee a rest. I go ahead through the woods towards est then south and in less then an hour there I was. A metal plaque marks the beginning of M. Strobell via ferrata. Due to its length, about 3 hours to the top, is rated 3C however a part of the climb is done on vertical walls. The way up is neither as demanding as it seems nor crowded. In fact there was only one Austrian climber already on his way back.
The protection starts about 400m from the beginning after crossing through bushes and rocks along a wide ledge. At the end wires run straight up through the steep wall.
Just like that I found myself on a narrow path across a wide gully that leads to an iron ladder marking the last section before the summit. But I had soon to worry about the weather. The sky was now dark and I heard the first thunder. The thought of reaching the top instantly vanished. My priority was now to get off the via ferrata before the thunderstorm. As soon as I picked up my pack the first raindrop touched my skin. It took less than 30 mins to descent what previously took 3 times more to climb. By the time I got down of the metal chains lightnings were shooting like fireworks. Being chained to a metal bar surely isn’t the safest place to be.
It couldn’t have last much because by the time I have reached the forest limit it was already sunny. Far in the distance I could see the storm making its way through the valley. Soon I was going to enjoy dry clothes and the comfort of my car.
In the end happy we got some good weather, and even though we didn’t manage to complete all the routes, it was time to go. Our last stop was going to be Venice before heading to Milan for our flight. But the rains was going to follow us and not stop until late evening.