The Prags Dolomites stand out among the Dolomites groups for not being wild and impressive. What comes to mind is the huge alpine meadow of Plätzwiese / Prato Piazza and Pragser Wildsee / Lago di Braies, two tourist attractions good for a stroll or two and both reachable by car. Geologically speaking, however, the group is of great complexity, thanks to the fact that is located at the frontline of the big alpine upheaval. Right to its north, in Pustertal Valley / Val Pusteria, is the fault line between the North African and European tectonic plates, the exact place where the creation of the Alps was most turbulent. Consequently you find all kinds of rock in the range and Dolomite is in the minority. There are some notable exceptions: Seekofel / Croda del Becco, Hohe Gaissl / Croda Rossa and Dürrenstein / Picco di Vallandro.
Dürrenstein / Picco di Vallandro seen from the north-east
When seen from the west from Plätzwiese / Prato Piazza Dürrenstein fits into the picture of an alpine meadow with surrounding mountains. A slope of some average 30° heads up to the summit and only the topmost part of the ascent trail is considerably rocky. The mountain - even when seen from this side - has several summits - the main summit in the middle, two summit pyramids to the south and a castle-like structure to the north.
But turn to the eastern side of the mountain and the picture changes abruptly. Here you have one of the typical Dolomite Faces: 500m of vertical rock with an assortment of towers distributed over the face. In fact, about a dozen named summits compose the Dürrenstein Massif, making it one of the most complex ones in the area. While all of the towers have been climbed there are only a handful of established routes leaving the mountain open to adventures.
Dürrenstein can be divided into three sections:
The southern summits (Helltaler Schlechten /Crepe di Val Chiara)
Big Pyramid (2711m)
Pyramid II (2702m)
Gran Pala di Valchiara
Main Summit (2839m)
North-East Summit (2773m)
Torre di Vallandro
Torre di Campani
Torre SUCAI Roma
Punta Braies Vecchia (2560m)
Punta Glanvell (2737m)
Guglia del Bastone (2450m)
Torre Sofia (2420m)
Views From The Summit
Dürrenstein summit panorama across the Prags / Braies Dolomites
Dürrenstein / Picco di Vallandro is one of the greatest lookout peaks in the Dolomites. To the north you see the long chains of the Zillertal Alps and Hohe Tauern while all around rise the compact and impressive Dolomite Groups. Tre Cime / Drei Zinnen and the Sexten / Sesto Dolomites to the east, Cristallo and the Cortina Dolomites to the south as well as the direct neighbours Seekofel / Croda del Becco and Hohe Gaissl / Croda Rossa complete the picture.
Take A22 Brenner Motorway to exit Brixen / Bressanone
Turn off onto SS49 east to Bruneck / Brunico or Toblach / Dobbiaco
From Austria (East)
Take A12 Inntalautobahn to exit Kufstein.
Turn onto B178, later B161 south in direction Kitzbühel.
At Mittersill B161 turns into B108 which heads through Felbertauern Tunnel.
Take B108 until Lienz were you turn right (west) onto E66 which on the border crossing turns into SS49 to Toblach / Dobbiaco and Bruneck / Brunico.
Take A23 north to exit Carnia.
Turn off onto SS52 which leads through several detours to Innichen / San Candido
Turn east on SS49 to Toblach / Dobbiaco and Bruneck / Brunico.
Take motorway S27 north towards its end near Belluno.
Turn onto SS51 towards Cortina d’Ampezzo and on to Toblach / Dobbiaco.
Castello Glanvell left, main summit in centre, Hölltaler Schlechten right
In 1980 an area of 25680ha has been set aside for the natural Park Fanes Sennes - Prags. You are required to treat the Natural Park with care: leave animals and plants in their place, use trails (especially when mountain biking), and take the official open roads with your car.
For more information you can look at the parks official website
For the English text you have to scroll down the right frame.
Maps & Books
The Prags Dolomites / Dolomiti de Braies are not as well covered in terms of Guidebooks. The list below offers the German books I know of dealing with the area but there certainly are more, especially Italian ones.