The Dolomites are like no other mountains in Europe. They consist of thick layers of the mineral ‘Dolomite’, akin to limestone, originally deposited on the floor of an ancient sea. The Dolomite peaks are gigantic, chiselled monuments to the powerful forces of glacial erosion. Continuous sheer cliffs flank most of the peaks. Although not exceptionally high (the highest peak is Marmolada at 3342m), they are amongst the most striking of all European mountains, coloured in weathered hues of rose, yellow, white and grey and rising in steep spires of fantastic form. Below lie bright green meadows alive with wild flowers all summer. In the lower valleys are orchards, vineyards and a chequerboard of cultivated fields. There is plenty of history here and the region was heavily fought over in the First World War in fact the fighting even changed the shape of some of the mountains. Nowadays, in more peaceful circumstances, we can enjoy a beautiful trek in this region of limestone teeth. This holiday starts with a walk to the spectacular Tre Cime di Lavaredo (or Drei Zinnen), a fantastic first day’s walk if ever there was to set the standard for the week. The scenery continues to impress with new panoramas unfolding with each turn of the paths and crossing of the passes. The cliffs of the Tofana, Sella and Marmolada massifs tower above the winding paths where all this magnificent scenery seems packed into an impossibly small area. High mountain paths are interspersed with lush meadows and pretty hamlets and villages. Refuges and mountain restaurants provide a perfect excuse to rest and drink in the views as well as welcome refreshments. To cap it all there are opportunities for the not so faint hearted to stand on a couple of summits and peer down almost vertical rock faces to the valleys far below.
Moderate to Challenging (Grade 4). While generally no tougher than our other Alpine treks, this route does involve some short, slightly exposed, albeit stunning, sections where a head for heights is needed. The two routes that are the most exposed are however options for the days when you have 2 nights at the same hotel so these can be avoided. No mountaineering experience is necessary for the trip but it is a trek most suited to those with previous experience of hillwalking and mountainous terrain. For this reason the trip is graded ‘moderate to challenging’. Average daily duration of walking is around 6-7 hours, although this will obviously vary according to the terrain, conditions, individual or group progress and weather. The trails in the Dolomites tend to be more rocky underfoot than many other areas of the Alps, so care must be taken along some sections. By using buses and cable cars some of the longer days can be shortened.In the unlikely event of extreme bad weather necessitating a change to the itinerary, clients are expected to bear the cost of transport to the next night's stop.
Make your own way to Cortina, an attractive high-altitude town in the northern extremity of the Veneto region of Italy. it is a fashionable winter resort that also springs to life in the middle of the summer.
Accommodation: For two nights, stay in a comfortable 4 star hotel located in the centre which is 200m from the Faloria Cableway and 150m from Corso Italia.
A 30 minute bus ride will take you to the start of today's walk. Begin trekking by climbing steadily into the Tre Cime mountain group. This is a famous block of three vertical sided finger-like towers. The route is often quiet and the climb unravels with anticipation. Head towards the Rifugio Locatelli, taking lunch at or near to the refuge, then descend around the Tre Cime to Rifugio Auronzo, (shorter option 12 km/7.5 miles, 5 h ends here). The descent is through pleasant forest to Lake Antorno. Return to Cortina by bus for your overnight accommodation.
From Cortina, after a few minutes by bus, begin your climb to the Rifugio Dibona at the end of the dirt road. From here climb a little more and then traverse, with the vertical rock walls of the Tofana di Rozes (3219m) and Tofana di Mezzo (3240m) peaks above. Follow a high-level route to the Forc Lagazuoi pass. There is much evidence of First World War trench systems, fortresses, barbed wire here. Much of the rubble lying around Lagazuoi was not created by glaciation, but by huge mines that were detonated in 1915-16. The descent is rocky but easier down to a pretty lake. A steeper section takes you to the Rifugio Scotoni for drinks and strudel. Then onwards downhill, following the stream on the way to your hotel at Armentarola near Sare.
Accommodation: Stay in a well-appointed 4 star hotel in the rural location of San Cassian. There are no local facilities nearby but dinner can be taken in the hotel restaurant.
Our route today is a complete change from the harsh rocky tablelands. You enjoy hiking through forests and climb on to a grassy ridge to the mountain refuge at Pralongia. The strudel is particularly inviting here. Continue to Col Alti (1983m) which also has a nice little restaurant by the gondola station, with panoramic views of the Tofana and Sella mountain groups, our next destination. Descend steeply to Corvara and stay nearby in Colfosco. This is a pretty village with an old church, a few shops, a supermarket, bank and a couple of bars.
Accommodation: For two nights, stay in a welcoming and good standard 2 star bed and breakfast accommodation.
Enjoy a rest day in this picturesque village; there are, however, some rewarding walks on offer. If the weather is good we recommend taking a morning bus up the short distance to Passo Gardena and then walking up to Sas Ciampac (2672m). This is a fantastic walking peak high above Colfosco rewarded by an impressive picnic spot on the summit. The descent takes you down into a glaciated valley where you might see Edelweiss. You should get back to your accommodation by mid afternoon.
Starting from Colfosco, return past the campsite and head up into the trees around the east side of the Sella group. We recommend taking a gondola part of the way to assist in the ascent (saves 600 metres and 2 hrs walking). You then traverse below the cliffs and above the forests, with magnificent views of the Marmolada and peaks to the east. From Passo Pordoi, descend to Campitello, a gondola can also be used for the second half of this descent.
This route should only be undertaken in dry, clear weather. In the event of poor weather or too much snow, a direct bus can be taken via Arabba to Canazei, with connections to Campitello.
Accommodation: We use a 3 star hotel on a half board basis. This is quite a large hotel with good size rooms and a small spa with a sauna.
There are a variety of different walks of varied grades available to choose from. Routes for the day include a popular trail below the Sassopiatto from Col Rodela with the option to climb the peak and a bus ride to the foot of Marmolada from where you can walk or ride up to the Marmolada glacier and the mountain hut there perhaps for a Jaeger Tee.
After breakfast, depart for your onward journey.
The trip was excellent, good routes but of quite varying degrees of difficulty. Accommodation and food were excellent in an area of beautiful scenery.
P. Southwell., Turramurra, NSW. Australia.
Per Person, Twin Share