July – Dolomites, Italy Week 1

Friday 22nd July

The advance party set off with the kit on Friday afternoon only to join the channel crossing delays on the M20, finally making it to our first ‘overnight’ stop to Dunkerque at 6am. After a 2hr power nap, we were on the road again and heading for Italy.  Meanwhile, Gill ‘who left Milton Keynes at 2 am’ avoided much of the madness in Dover and boasted to the nation on the BBC morning news, whilst her co-driver looked away.

After 2 full days of travel, both vehicles were safely over the Brennan pass and into the Dolomites meeting the rest of the ‘week one’ gang who had arrived by air into Venice.

Monday 24th July

The first week of our Dolomite adventure was spent in the company of two of Cortina Guides finest, Simone and Edoardo who were tasked with looking after us for the first week.

Our pre-trip itinerary was flexible following the Marmolada glacier collapse and given the learning curve of the group.  Via Ferrata (VF) Michielli Strobel (3B) was selected as our first outing, an opportunity to learn the basic techniques.  We reached the summit of Punta Fiames (2240m) added our names into the summit logbook and descended via the challenging and long scree chute.  Following a slight delay, whilst we found Alan W, (who had found his own way down the foothills), we re-hydrated in the nearby cabin before heading home to the chalet.

Tuesday 25th July

VF Ettore Bovero (3B) was selected as our second outing, and another opportunity to further our skills.  The walk in and out included a short paddle across the cold river at Fiames and a meandering path through the woods, past ruins to the wire.  The route included our first steep arete, with Adam leading the scrambling to the top, with everyone working as a team to ensure we all reached the summit of Col Rosa (2166m).  The descent provided an opportunity to collect pine-cones for Grappa enhancement and interesting woodland art installations.  Post hiking refreshments at Hotel Fiames gave Charlotte the opportunity to attract attention to herself by ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon, whilst Gill’s strudel tasting got off to a good start.

Wednesday 26th July

The team were now ready to progress to the more difficult grades and VF Punta Anna (5C) was chosen as Wednesday’s challenge.  A series of chairlifts to 2,285m and a short 30 minutes walk-in put us on the wire.  For many of us, Punta Anna provided the most exhilarating experience of the week.  The ridge scramble gave us fantastic views over Cortina and huge exposure.  Two groups were formed to give the opportunity for those who could move faster to reach the natural arch of Bus de Tofana before another scree descent to Ra Valles cable car station before heading down for a celebratory Prosceco and lunch in the restaurant at Col Druscie.  This was a spectacular day taking on a fantastic arete, and ridge line to that just kept giving exhilarating exposure and views of the Tofana peaks and Cortina.

Thursday 27th July

VF Giovanni Lipella (4C) offered us the chance to explore some of the war history of the region.  After a long walk in from Rifugio Dibona, a couple of ladders gave us access to a 500m tunnel through the mountain when headtorches and an additional layer was necessary.  Lipella is a long route, that involves traversing and climbing the many ledges along the mountainside.  Unfortunately, thunderstorms were due late afternoon preventing any attempt to reach the summit of Tofana di Rozes.  Our guides had the timing and forecast perfect, we walked along the escape route towards Rifugio Giussani and whilst hiking down the switchbacks the heavens opened.  Rifugio Dibona gave some of us the opportunity to enjoy blueberry risotto (or not in some cases) whilst sheltering from the storm.

Friday 28th July

The 5th and final day of the guides gave us an opportunity to finish our week by achieving a “personal best” and selecting routes where we could demonstrate all the skills gathered and put them in practice at the higher end of the difficulty range.  Two groups were formed with Jason, Adam, Meredith and Stacey choosing Tomaselli (5C) whilst Alan W, Charlotte and Gill tackled Col dei Bois/degli Alpini (3B).  Juan elected to have a day climbing with another guide in the nearby Cinque Torri (5 Towers).  All of us had the opportunity to explore WW1 history and the magnificent views of the Cinque Torri a popular climbing and tourist destination in the area of the Falzarego Pass.  Col dei Bois provided a difficult start after a relatively short walk in, past the site of an old field hospital.  Meanwhile those heading to Tomaselli had a longer walk in, starting at the museum on top of the Lagazuoi chair lift.  Both provided adequate challenge as the routes became more vertical in places.  After another day of enjoyment in the mountains we regrouped for refreshments and strudel in another favourite Refugio further down the pass.

The first week was hugely rewarding, and a perfect introduction to the Dolomites. Saturday gave an opportunity to do our own thing, ahead of heading home, or recharging before another week.

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