August – Dolomites, Italy week 2

Saturday 30th July

Change over/arrival/departure day. Five was the magic number as five were leaving, five arriving and five remaining! This must have been confusing for the Air BnB cleaners when Alan W handed the keys back and said see you this evening.

Of those departing Adam, Charlotte and Juan took the cable car to Cima Tofana. Juan admired the view before waving Adam and Charlotte off on the Via Ferrata (VF) Formenton/Lamon (2B) to the summit of Tofina di Dentro (3,238m) before retracing their way back to the cable car and Cortina. Meanwhile, the remainers (Alan W, Gill, Jason, Meredith and Stacey) went for an Italian open-air cafe breakfast before a day of R&R (retail & relaxation) in Cortina! Juan met up with the Cortina crew for lunch. Juan pointed out the top cable car station after lunch; Gill, who loves a good cable car, and Jason were convinced and departed for Cima Tofana. The retail involved stocking up with group’s food and drinks for week two.

After the arrivals of Alex, Michelle and Victoria and Francis and Steve the whole team headed down in to Cortina to meet up with Max, Shane and Sonia who were having a family holiday nearby.

Sunday 31st July

The departure morning for Gill and Jason. They were heading home with one last adventure on the way; walking over Highline 179 suspension bridge in Austria. (406m long and 114m above the ground.)

Alex, Michelle and Victoria had also booked with Cortina Guides to introduce them to the joys of Via Ferrata. With their guide they headed off to VF Giovanni Lipella (4C), donning head torches for the start through the tunnel of the Galleria del Castelletto. Unlike last week they weren’t racing the weather and managed to make it to the summit of Tofana de Roses (3,225m).

Meanwhile, Alan W, Meredith, Stacey and Steve headed off through Corvara to VF Brigata Tridentina (3B). (This was highly recommended by Bob and Sophie as well as others – thanks.) An excellent Via Ferrata on lovely rock. For good sections they were all climbing on rock and not pulling on the cable. Almost at the end there is a small suspension bridge crossing from the pinnacle to the main mountain. A little bit more wire saw them onto the path to Rifugio Pisciadù (2,587m) for a well-deserved lunch. Where Alan W’s hybrid Italian/German had insufficient beers turn up!

Monday 1st August

We split into two groups for today’s adventures: Alex and Michelle were up and out early to do VF Punta Anna (5C). They completed it and had wonderful views from the summit of Tofana di Mezzo (3,244m) over the Dolomites.

The second group Alan W, Francis, Meredith, Stacey, Steve and Victoria all headed off to Cinque Torri for our first foray into Dolomiti rock climbing. There was the typical waiting around in the car park, but this time was for the chair lift to open. After ride up we had a pre-climbing coffee at Rifugio Scoiattoli, before the short stroll to the North Face of Torre Latina for the day’s climbing on the School of Rock area. Alan W, Steve and Victoria all lead routes (4a to 5a) and set up top ropes for the rest of the group. Francis enjoyed watching everybody climb before going for a walk on the many footpaths around the Cinque Torri.

Tuesday 2nd August

Meredith was keen to do VF Ski Club 18 (5B), the hardest VF in the Cortina area. So were Stacey and Steve. They set off to catch the first cable car up. Our three gym bunnies successfully conquered Ski Club 18; Stacey did describe it as very much like climbing gym ropes! (Lots of pulling on the wire – maybe not one for the purists.)

In the afternoon Alex, Francis, Meredith and Michelle all went for a walk around the stunning Lake Misurima loop.

Meanwhile, Shane came over to join in the afternoons VF adventures, together with Alan W and Victoria as well as a ‘warmed-up’ Stacey and Steve. They all headed off to VF Delgi Alpini (3B) on the Col dei Bos. There was a large group in front of them on the starting vertical section, the crux. One member was having difficulties so they let our team through. Shane did scrabble a bit in his trail running shoes on the crux and the traverse, which followed, but he made it! Our team were watching the weather (something we learnt from Edoardo and Simone the previous week) they could see the weather closing in so decided on missing out the summit and descended via gully, which dropped away from the col before the final climb. This was a little loose and was equipped with bolts, so Steve got his rope out which he and Alan W used to speed their descent.

Wednesday 3rd August

Meredith was keen to do VF Punta Anna (5C) from the bottom to the summit of Tofana di Mezzo (3,244m). She and Stacey departed early to catch the first lifts, giving themselves the best chance of success. As just a pair, they were able to move quickly and successfully summited the third highest peak in the Dolomites. They had a fantastic clear day with outstanding views across the Tofana group and the rest of the Dolomites.

The remainder of the climbing group – Alan W, Alex, Michelle, Steve and Victoria, all headed back to Cinque Torri with the aim of doing some alpine rock routes. With a quick stop for coffee after the chair lift did the hard work; we headed off to rock for the days adventures. Alex and Michelle were the first to climb Torre Quarta Bassa Via Normale (III+) with Michelle leading the fist pitch. Michelle was a little unnerved when an Italian climber started to ‘adjust’ her belay to make more room for himself and his partner! Alex led through the second pitch with Michelle finishing off the third and reaching the summit. Two abseils from the fixed bolts brought them safely back down. Meanwhile, Steve nipped up Bassa Thirteen (4c). Then he lead of to the first belay of Via Normale (III+) bringing Victoria up to the belay. Finally, Alan W climbed up, collected the quickdraws and headed up. He obviously failed his Observer badge in the Scouts as he missed the chains stealing pitch three from Steve, by running pitches two and three together. Eventually arriving at the top with two quickdraws left. After bringing Victoria then Steve to the top, they made the two abseils down. Alex and Michelle then climbed a route to the right of Torre Inglese while Alan W, Steve and Victoria did some smaller sport route further right.

Thursday 4th August

We split into three groups for, what was to be our last day of adventures. Alex, Meredith, Michelle and Steve headed back up the Falzarego Pass to do VF Tomaselli (4C) with Meredith acting as the guide after her successful ascent last week. They reached the summit of Cima Fanis Sud (2,980m), which is only reachable by the VF.

Steve loved the athletic VF Ski Club 18 (5B) that he decided to repeat it solo, at his own speed.

Alan and Victoria headed off to VF Formenton/Lamon (2B) but decided to start at the Rifugio Ra Valles and climb to the summit (opposite way to most guidebooks). While following the ridge up the came across the Bivouac Degli Alpini, which they explored. Later they met a girl, descending the ridge, who was going to be spending the night in the Bivouac. Lunch was taken on top of Tofana di Dentro 3,238m before heading to the Freccia nel Cielo cable car station and that well deserved celebratory beer.

The day was finished with an excellent communal meal in the apartment, supplementing what we had with some fresh food for a memorable feast.

Friday 5th August

The week or two of adventures was starting to take its toll on our intrepid adventurers and some light relief was necessary before the long journeys home. So we all headed off to the Fun Bob in Auronzo di Cadore. Everyone headed to the top for the start of the 3km ride, which drops 505m. Exhilarating, when you are going fast. Bumpy when going around the corners and frustrating when you catch up with the person in front, or get a slow Bob as Meredith insisted!

We lunched in Auronzo at a café, which had an amazing dessert selection. The strudel was fantastic and the photos made Gill go green with envy!

We tidied up and packed before heading down into Cortina for a final team meal. For most of us it had to be pizza!

Saturday 6th August

The end, and our journeys home. Alex, Michelle and Victoria as well as Francis and Steve drove to Venice before flying home. Alan, Meredith and Stacey repeated their drive back to England. Unfortunately, getting bogged down with heavy traffic getting out of Italy and in parts of Austria. However, once into Germany and those Autobahns . . . . A quick overnight stop in Luxembourg, chips for lunch in Brugge. Thankfully, no delays on the Eurotunnel and a couple of hours later it was all over.

A massive vote of thanks has to go to Meredith who said she wanted to go to the Dolomites. Also to Stacey who wasn’t fazed – he planted seeds, watered them, then pulled us all together and arranged the guides. Not forgetting our two accommodation bookers Charlotte and Michelle, many thanks. An excellent week or fortnight. The only question left: with so many un-ticked pages in our Rockfax guidebooks when do we go back?

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