The Sella Group in the Dolomites has always held something mysterious for me ever since I first set eyes on it back in 1996. Back then I was staying in Seis / Siusi and each trip to Seiser Alm / Alpe di Siusi or the Ghardenaccia plain made me wonder about those massive vertical walls of the Sella Massif. When seen from the west the Group resembles an oversized fortress with battlements watchtowers and everything you would imagine. Would there be a way in there?
A glance at the map told me that I would not find my kind of hike up there – lots of dotted lines for trails told me that the going might be tricky. I was suffering from sever vertigo back then…
Five years passed and with time I gained confidence in my walking, scrambling, even climbing skills. So in September 2001 we started a trip to the group, attacking it at its weakest spot – Val Lasties in the south-west. There was a thick layer of fresh snow above 2500m which made the ascent more difficult than necessary but added to the profound beauty of the group. Winds came from the north – ice-cold falling winds, the ones we call “Föhn” in Germany – cold but crisp and clear. Never did I enjoy better views than on this day.
The ultimate goal had been Piz Boè, Sella’s highest summit, the “easiest 3000er of the Dolomites” but it was shrouded in clouds and there didn’t seem to be any point in climbing it only to gaze at the fog. We turned around at Rifugio Boè and retreated the way we had come.
The day would have been a disappointment but for two reminiscences: a flock of Steinbock females with their kiddies right beside our trail (the first I had ever come across) and the beautiful view from Zwischenkofel /L’Antersass through Val di Mesdi towards Sasshonger and Heiligkreuzkofel / Sas dla Cruszc. I used that picture as desktop backdrop on my Computer for three years always hoping to return and recapture its magic…
Climbed by Accident
After waking up on July 26th 2005 the first glimpse outside the bedroom windo told me that this would not be one of the remarkable days of this year’s vacation. Clouds raced down from Passo di San Pellegrino into Valle di Biois and it seemed to become one of those days where we drive around in the car a lot without climbing anything. Less than thrilled our breakfast took more time than usual. But finally we set out. The original intention was to go to Passo di San Pellegrino to have a look where there were no clouds – maybe in the Bocche Group – maybe in the southern Marmolada Group – we just didn’t want to drive to a faraway destination and be forced to return because of bad weather.
But on the pass weather was dismal – even worse than what we had seen from our apartment and with the final decision pending we drove down on the other side to Moena in Val di Fassa. But there were clouds all around and still we couldn’t decide. I drove on northward through Val di Fassa leaving Soraga, Vigo, Pozza, Pera behind and finally entering Canazei at the base of the Sella Group. We were joking - livioz had told me the day before by mail that I should look up some hiking guides in Canazei’s public library – I had responded that Canazei was too far away – and now we were here not knowing what to do.
I didn’t remember where the library had to be found – livioz had told me – and so we drove on instead, deciding on the road to Passo Pordoi. Hundreds of bikers were going up that road – it is one of the important passes in the Giro d’Italia and those guys were all testing their limits. 30 switchbacks over 900m – I wouldn’t want to do this, certainly not in the bus and mobile home traffic on the road.
At about 10 a.m. we were at Passo Pordoi and finally we were asking ourselves where we were bound. I parked the car and we got out. At a first glance Sass Pordoi was free of clouds, so maybe that was the way to go? We looked at each other and decided: yes. Take the cable car to Sass Pordoi, have a look and if weather permits spend a day on the Sella plateau. That cable car is very impressive. An 800m rise without any pillar, just hanging from the long cable – and as you get near to Sass Pordoi the walls rise vertically giving you that uncertain feeling in your stomach. I felt a part of my old vertigo returning…
The easiest 3000er of the Dolomites
Stepping out of the cable car station at 2950m the weather seemed fair enough. Yes there were clouds, but Piz Boè was visible – most of the time. The decision to try the climb was made easily and we set out. Our cable car gondola had been rather empty so the traverse of the Sella Plateau was rather solitary – a short descent to Rifugio Forcella del Pordoi, then up again straight towards Piz Boè. But up ahead we could see a large group of people – all having come up by the gondola before ours – and we were slowly gaining on them. It dawned on me that we would be amongst them right in the section which is secured by cables.
I hate to be right – certainly in these circumstances – but yes, we caught up with them at the cable section. And man – can it take long to climb 15m! There were no alternatives so we had to wait. But then – above the cables – I switched to lower gear and overtook all of them in a hurry. But ooh – at about 3000m hurrying up a steep slope is not the perfect idea – I was panting crazily after I was in front, trying to slow down and regain my breath. Fortunately only a few meters were missing to the summit and we gained it easily. I set down on one of the large rocks up there and regained my composure. Views, however, were few and far from perfect. A glance to Cresta Strenta, a short opportunity to see Eisseespitze / Piz Lech Dlace, and some impressive but cloud shrouded glimpses to the plateau below. The group caught up with us and we fled the summit heading for Rifugio Boè.
No luck the first time
So now we were on the turf that we already knew from 2001. Zwischenkofel / L’Antersass, Bergerturm / Torre Berger, just to name the principal views. But everything was in clouds – no magic today – it might as well have been a flat concrete plain somewhere. Very disappointing – And I was so keen in seeing that Val di Mesdi view live again…
Well, to be true, Bergerturm wasn’t too bad after all. The trail leads to the edge of a huge drop from which the tower rises a bit higher than your own standpoint. Everybody draws close carefully, inching his/her way to the edge and going “Wow!”. It’s actually quite fun just watching people.
But anyway – the day was still young and we tried to decide what else to do. Cima Pisciadu came to our minds – but to be fogged out like on Boè was not a good idea. We decided on Piz Miara when we saw the large wooden summit cross from afar. It appeared to be an easy route – just the thing we wanted to do.
Altipiano delle Meisules
To reach Piz Miara from Bergerturm you need to cross the moonscape of the Sella Plateau, the Altipiano delle Meisules. The trail follows the uppermost part of the plateau, right along the edge, offering impressive views into the short and steep outer valleys of the Sella Group. This is where the Group looks like a fortress from the outside – you can expect the best! But not when clouds race across the plain. The upper part of each view was cut off – nothing to be seen on the outside but some remarkable views to the inside of the Sella Group. We “climbed” PizRotic and Piz Beguz and headed for Piz Miara. When we drew near the summit with its cross was invisible! We stopped, discussed – and turned around. Later we saw from the GPS track that we actually had passed the summit, missed by some 50m!
We returned the way we had come – more than just a bit frustrated…
Finally! Val di Mesdi!
Returning to Bergerturm there were still the oohs and ahhs and take cares but now the clouds had torn apart. At least for a short while. I raced up to Zwischenkofel / L’Antersass – and finally saw that dreamlike view again. Val di Mesdi with Bec and Dent di Mesdi – Sasshonger in the back. Time to catch your breath and enjoy…
For me it was enough – yes 4 years before the setting had been perfect and could not be recaptured. But I had seen it live again – it really existed – I was content. That was what I had hoped for all day – but I’m sure I will come back and hopefully then the skies will be blue again!
Today – about a month later – I am again dreaming of the setting…