It sure was more than a stroll but this day, July 22nd 2005, was meant to be a relaxing day after we were completely unsuccessful to relax on the Buffaure Ridge the day before. The nice ridge hike turned into a long loop with elevation differences reaching 1400m so a second try at relaxation was needed. This time it was to be a loop from Passo Giau to Cinque Torri, from there to the far (eastern) side of Croda da Lago and across Forca Ambrizzola and Forca Giau back to Passo Giau. If you look at a map (we were lucky we received one from the agency which rented our apartment) you'll see that relaxation comes at the price of yet another 1200m elevation gain. But we didn't plan to climb a summit on top of it!
The Dolomiti d'Ampezzo are something of a love-and-hate relationship for me. The mountains can't be much more beautiful than they are there (I know a place or two which can compete) but Cortina d'Ampezzo itself has always repelled me. Much of that aversion has to do with a hike I took along (and beneath) the Sorapiss North Face back in 1999 when all day the air hammers and caterpillars were blasting away on a slope beneath the mountain to prepare a new downhill ski run for some event (word championships?). Though my old pictures quite naturally are quiet my airs still ring when I have a look at them.
But yes, I always longed to get back into Cortina's cauldron-like valley and get a glimpse of all those perfect Dolomite summits. The south-western part is a bit more remote than other parts (or so I hoped) and being the closest one to our lodging place at Falcade it was just a logical suggestion to try and go there.
The starting point was meant to be Passo Giau between Selva di Cadore and Cortina d'Ampezzo, at 2236m one of the higher passes. By car it took us a bit more than an hour to get there but having got up real early we arrived there a bit after 8 a.m., which was perfect since the 30 switchbacks of the road to the pass can be very annoying if driven behind a bus or mobile home.
Trundling along to Cinque Torri
Weather was perfect and Passo Giau offered great views - we didn't even have to move from the car. Marmolada to the right and Ra Gusela up front with a sky that couldn't have been bluer. Little did we know how things would change during the day!
What we hadn't acounted for, however, were the Tofane - they were not displayed on our map but we surely did enjoy the views. Especially after we passed Ra Gusela, when Cinque Torri as well as Tofana di Rozes and Tofana di Mezzo came into full view we stopped to care for our path and rather looked up in wonder at the peaks. HAd we taken in the path we would have noticed that it was going up and down constantly - relaxation surely would have to come on another day...
The temporary destination was Rifugio Cinque Torri to the south-east of the group, not the perfect viewpoint for sure - certainly not for cinque Torri. It is located beneath the great tower and offers "only" views towards Averau, Torre Grande, the Tofane, Hohe Gaissl and Croda da Lago. My favourite, however is the backwards view to Passo Giau with Becco Muraglia (2271m) in front of Monte Cernera (2654m). "Drunken Towers" Vid called a similar picture two years ago :-).
The big drag towards Passo Ambrizzola
From the rifugio the path led downwards to the road to Cortina d'Ampezzo. There were some nice viewpoints but soon the trail lost itself in the pine and fir trees of that slope. There were a couple of nice meadows with cool orchids but that was about all. Moreover Rifugio Cinque Torri can be reached by car and the whole trail was full of people coming both ways.
Crossing the road we started to climb towards Lago Fedèra, the lake which is responsible for Croda da Lago's name. I was hoping for good views towards the western and northern Dolomiti d'Ampezzo as well as a lake with Croda da Lago mirroring in it but neither happened. Those blasted trees (actually I really love them) hid everything from view. There were some places from which we could look back to where we had been but only at Rifugio Croda da Lago did we get to see the likes of Sorapiss, Cristallo, Antelao and even Tre Cime / Drei Zinnen. Unfortunately weather turned for the worse and blue skies were something we could only long for.
Lago Fedèra was a disappointment, too. Lots of weeds grew in the lake that there certainly was no mirror and Croda da Lago was way too close for a mirror effect anyway. Moreover the place was very crowded and we took flight as soon as I had shot a couple of pictures.
To make matters worse first drops were falling out of the sky a nd the climb to Forca Ambrizzola sure was no fun. We were above the timber line again but through the rain all those mountains just looked grey in grey. Suddenly we heard heavy steps behind us. A huge blund man (Swede?) was speed hiking the trail in giant strides with his baby boy (3 years) on the back. It looked like he was training for some speedhiking event with additional weights :-) Junior, however started to complain and was let out of the back carriage and sure enough speed slacked and we passed them again. There are way too many interesting stones on the trails when you're hiking in the mountains with your kids.
In Forca Ambrizzola weather cleared up a bit and awarded us with a good view of Cortina and the surrounding mountains. In good weather this must be the perfect spot to take in the Cortina Cauldron.
Now it was time to head back. We hiked the plateau between Forca Ambrizzola and Forca Giau when the rain started falling more heavily. On the first part of this stage we met a lot of people who were doing the Croda da Lago round trip but after a km everything was lonely again. Our Swede had also decided on the tour so no hasty stomping disturbed us during our ascent to Forca Giau. In all it was quite a pity. The stage is very scenic with views towards the Pelmo and Civetta north faces but today everything was lost in clouds and rain. Only Monte Formin and Forca Giau itself were bathed in sunlight and we hurried to get up there in time. Our elevation meter was already reading 1200m so hurrying was a bit slow and limping but we made it in time. Decide for yourself:
And now the slog back to the Passo and our car started. Tired legs, trails that go up and down constantly, you've seen it all, no new views to amaze you. You go on automatic with your thoughts reverting to your favourite (or pressing) subjects. Where do we go tomorrow (it turned out to be Monte Caoz in similar weather) - is there a possibility to get up to Cima della Vezzana this year - I sure do want to do the Federspiel Ferrata and how can I convince Judith to do it with me? And Judith probably thinking similar thoughts about her favourite destinations...
At Forca Col Piombin we still kept silent but when we had climbed down and up to Forca di Zonia, just above Passo Giau, Ra Gusela shook us out of our musings, we wowed, took a shot completing the day and rolled down to our car. Feet hurt, legs were tired but somehow we both thought we had the day reasonably well.
Somehow that love-and-hate relationship has turned towards love a notch or two...