Must-do hikes/climbs in the Dolomites?

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Matthew Holliman

 
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Must-do hikes/climbs in the Dolomites?

by Matthew Holliman » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:42 am

My fiancee and I are planning to visit northern Italy for our honeymoon, starting around the end of June. We have a couple of weeks in all, and while I plan to make it to the Lake District for a couple of days, to Venice for a day, etc. we're hoping to spend the majority of the time in the Dolomites.

I have a couple of guide books on the various via ferratas there (the two volume Cicerone guides by Smith and Fletcher, and one other similar sized book whose name I forget, which was translated from Italian), but the sheer number of routes in these is pretty overwhelming for someone who's never visited the area before. And most of the pictures have me salivating, so it isn't easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.

(1) Does anyone have suggestions for must-climb peaks in the area? My fiancee does not have much experience with snow, which seems to rule out options like Marmolada, which would otherwise be on my list. Neither of us have climbed a via ferrata before; my fiancee does not lead, so I assume self-belaying on the ferrata may still be unnerving to her, so I'd rather find stuff towards the easier end of the spectrum, at least initially. (She does well scrambling class 4, although it unnerves me to watch her on this.)

For what it's worth, Gran Cir/Piz da Cir, Sassongher, and Kleine Fermeda (not a ferrata, but sounds cool) all caught my eye, but this is probably a pretty haphazard selection. Easier days are probably preferred to longer days, since it is our honeymoon after all.

(2) Is a car necessary for travel in this area? I gather from various SP pages that this is helpful if pursuing a normal climbing schedule, but given that we'll have a more relaxed itinerary and aren't planning on particularly long days, it would be nice if we could get by with just train/bus.

Any other suggestions for hikes, things to see in the general area, etc. would be welcome as well.

Thanks in advance.

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Gangolf Haub
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Re: Must-do hikes/climbs in the Dolomites?

by Gangolf Haub » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:01 am

Matthew Holliman wrote:My fiancee and I are planning to visit northern Italy for our honeymoon, starting around the end of June. We have a couple of weeks in all, and while I plan to make it to the Lake District for a couple of days, to Venice for a day, etc. we're hoping to spend the majority of the time in the Dolomites.

I have a couple of guide books on the various via ferratas there (the two volume Cicerone guides by Smith and Fletcher, and one other similar sized book whose name I forget, which was translated from Italian), but the sheer number of routes in these is pretty overwhelming for someone who's never visited the area before. And most of the pictures have me salivating, so it isn't easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.

(1) Does anyone have suggestions for must-climb peaks in the area? My fiancee does not have much experience with snow, which seems to rule out options like Marmolada, which would otherwise be on my list. Neither of us have climbed a via ferrata before; my fiancee does not lead, so I assume self-belaying on the ferrata may still be unnerving to her, so I'd rather find stuff towards the easier end of the spectrum, at least initially. (She does well scrambling class 4, although it unnerves me to watch her on this.)

For what it's worth, Gran Cir/Piz da Cir, Sassongher, and Kleine Fermeda (not a ferrata, but sounds cool) all caught my eye, but this is probably a pretty haphazard selection. Easier days are probably preferred to longer days, since it is our honeymoon after all.

(2) Is a car necessary for travel in this area? I gather from various SP pages that this is helpful if pursuing a normal climbing schedule, but given that we'll have a more relaxed itinerary and aren't planning on particularly long days, it would be nice if we could get by with just train/bus.

Any other suggestions for hikes, things to see in the general area, etc. would be welcome as well.

Thanks in advance.


Let's answer travel first. You can get almost everywhere / anywhere with bus service but in many cases the bus schedule is once / twice a day. A rental car definitely helps a lot.

Of your list Sasshonger is the best alternative as its ferrata is only 100m long - and doesn't even make it into the ferrata guidebooks. Peitlerkofel / Sas da Pütia also is a good destination. Again a very short ferrata, which most climbers hike without self-belaying. And it's a wonderful lookout for the Geisler Group.

Val di Mesdi in the Sella Group - you can start from the same trailhead as Sasshonger but hike southward into the Sella Group. You have to see it to believe it, a valley with 100m walls to both sides which gets narrower and narrower. Once on the Sella plateau you can climb Piz Boe, easiest 3000ers of the Dolomites. Plattkofel / Sassopiatto has two routes an easy one and a rather difficult ferrata. There are wonderful hikes in the Rosengarten Group as well and once you get to the south side of Marmolada a whole new wold opens.

Pale di San Martino - a hike around the Pala di San Martino is a must do - in addition you can climb Cima della Fradusta. Cima della Vezzana has a short protected section on top - should also be possible.

In the east you can do a lot in the Cortina basin or the Sexten / Sesto Dolomites. Do you want to see Drei Zinnen / Tre Cime? You'll have to go there as well.

And the longer I think about it the more ideas I get ...

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VF routes

by damgaard » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:01 pm

I have climbed around 10 VF routes in the Dolomites. Favorites are:

VF Trincee. Not too difficult, only the initial wall (when climbing west to east) is hard. Benefits is that the route goes through plenty of WW1 tunnels to add some history spice and then you end up at a refugio where a well deserved beer can be found. You have an awesome view across the valley to Marmolada. Bring flash light or head lamp

Colac (VF Finanzieri). Half day trip on a very nice peak. Use the lift to gain 900+ m. Again super views towards Marmolada.

Bolver Lugli in the Pale Group. Starting point is San Martino. It is hard and long, but the best climlbing I have come across on VF routes. There will most likely be snow on the decent, so ice axe is advisable. It might be too hard and long for the missis though.

btw check is this guys webpage. Plenty of trip reports and lots and lots of photos to give an impression of the routes.
http://alavigne.net/Outdoors/FeatureRep ... /index.jsp

have a nice trip. I'll spend 1-2 weeks in the Dolomites myself in July. You can't spend too much time there :D

-jesper

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Have fun!

by mvs » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:11 pm

My wife's favorite via ferrata is the Tridentina, near the Gröderjoch. It has some exposure but isn't hard. Bus service should be fine, you just have to get to the Gröderjoch.

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by Gabriele Roth » Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:41 pm

this is, I think, the best way to meet and become friends of the dolomites
Alta Via n° 1
technical details
description of the walks
and, giving a deep look to the site, many new ideas will come out

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Matthew Holliman

 
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by Matthew Holliman » Mon Jun 14, 2010 3:17 pm

Thanks, these are all wonderful suggestions!

Tre Cime was high on my list, but I would find it frustrating to see it and not climb it--it would be kind of a tease. (Peak bagger's OCD). If it is snow-free (I assume this is unlikely this early in the season) and I can talk my wife into joining me for it, it sounds like a must-do, though.

A couple of other questions occur to me--with most of these ferratas, do people typically downclimb or rappel? The guidebooks have a fairly opaque system rating "seriousness," but it's not clear to me how that translates to, say, class 4 vs. YDS 5.6. Downclimbing the former seems fine, but downclimbing the latter sounds like it could be a bit spicy, even with a self-belay, depending on how run out the protection is.

Thanks again.

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by Gangolf Haub » Mon Jun 14, 2010 4:22 pm

Matthew Holliman wrote:Thanks, these are all wonderful suggestions!

Tre Cime was high on my list, but I would find it frustrating to see it and not climb it--it would be kind of a tease. (Peak bagger's OCD). If it is snow-free (I assume this is unlikely this early in the season) and I can talk my wife into joining me for it, it sounds like a must-do, though.

A couple of other questions occur to me--with most of these ferratas, do people typically downclimb or rappel? The guidebooks have a fairly opaque system rating "seriousness," but it's not clear to me how that translates to, say, class 4 vs. YDS 5.6. Downclimbing the former seems fine, but downclimbing the latter sounds like it could be a bit spicy, even with a self-belay, depending on how run out the protection is.

Thanks again.


Hmm - I'm not sure if you got the nature of ferratas right. A well maintained one has a cable running all the way along the serious parts. You simply have to clip in one of your two biners into the cable and hike (or climb) along. The rating is difficult as with all the iron the ferrata has a completely different difficulty. Class 4 translates to an easy ferrata but there are also easy ones which run through near vertical wall sections on strong pins. And then there are the protected trails - sentiero attrezato in Italian. Basicaly a hike along a ledge or up som rocky slopes with clip-in cables along.

I'd suggest you start with an easy one - Sasshonger, Roßzahn Ferrata or Sass Rigais to see if you both are comfortable with it. Then try something harder.

Tre Cime will be beyond your wife's capacity - don't drag her up there. There are wonderful places in the vicinity which might not be the climb you dreamt about but which will keep you dreaming of them afterwards:

Two examples from last september - no climbing involved though the Cadini have some horribly chossy sections:

http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/5 ... urina.html
http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/5 ... earby.html

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by mvs » Mon Jun 14, 2010 4:30 pm

Right, as Gangolf said, you wouldn't take a rope on a via ferrata and wouldn't plan to rappel it either. You would downclimb it, or hike down an easier way (quite a dense trail network in the Dolomites).

A big +1 to Gabriele's suggestion of hiking the Alta Via 1 or 2 for a few days. For my wife and I it was a life changing experience that inspired us to move here.
Best,
--Michael

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by fatdad » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:32 pm

I think some of your own preferences are pretty good. The wife and I spent about a week in or near the Dolomites on our honeymoon and had a blast. First a couple days in Bolzano, then a long bus ride to Corvara, which is right at the base of the Sassonger.

The Corvara/Colfosco, Canazei/Arraba area is right around there, and all very nice. Smaller towns, but very scenic. We did the Piz Cir, which is a really easy half day from the Sella Pass. It's only rated an 'a', which is the easiest, and was pretty mellow. Only one exposed section, so we just brought harness and clipped in a with a sling and locking biner. Pretty much the equivalent of the Cables on Half Dome in terms of feel but only for the brief portion. The rest was lower angled and mellow. There's also a nice looking c right next door that we had to pass on.

My wife had a cold when we first got there so I started to head up the Piz Boe (another a), which you can hike to right from the middle of town (as with the Sassonger), but I started late (and the ski lifts weren't running yet) so I stopped about 2/3rd of the way up.

The Sassonger is also an a, but a good hike up to it if the lifts aren't running (I think they start in late June). Looks like a great summit. Wanted to do the Piscadiu, but it was pretty snowy, bus service was irregular, etc.

We took a bus, but a rental would have given us a LOT more flexibility. You can certainly do it without one but if I had to do it again, I'd rent a car.

BTW, spend more than a day in Venice. One, its' your honeymoon and, two, it's every bit as spectacular in it's own right as the Dolomites, maybe even more so. There's lots of mt. ranges throughout the world; there's only one Venice. Nothing else is even remotely like it.

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by Gabriele Roth » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:49 pm

fatdad wrote:... the Piz Cir, which is a really easy half day from the Sella Pass ...
no, from the Gardena Pass :)
there are many ways and different levels of "intensity" in traveling through the dolomites,
As for my experiences the western ranges (Odle, Sella, Sassolungo and Catinaccio) are less exciting and fine that the eastern ones (Fanes, Tofane, Cristallo, Lavaredo, Sorapiss, Pelmo, Civetta)

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by fatdad » Mon Jun 14, 2010 7:04 pm

gabriele wrote:
fatdad wrote:... the Piz Cir, which is a really easy half day from the Sella Pass ...
no, from the Gardena Pass :)


Oops. My bad. It has been nine years, or at least it will be in two days when we have our 9th anniversary.

BTW, if you need a link to a webpage for the area: http://www.alta-badia.org/en/

Re the Western vs. Eastern part of the range, I'll clearly defer to someone like gabriele. I can only tell you I liked where we were. Very spouse friendly.

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by Matthew Holliman » Tue Jun 15, 2010 2:52 pm

Gangolf Haub wrote:
Hmm - I'm not sure if you got the nature of ferratas right. A well maintained one has a cable running all the way along the serious parts. You simply have to clip in one of your two biners into the cable and hike (or climb) along. The rating is difficult as with all the iron the ferrata has a completely different difficulty. Class 4 translates to an easy ferrata but there are also easy ones which run through near vertical wall sections on strong pins. And then there are the protected trails - sentiero attrezato in Italian. Basicaly a hike along a ledge or up som rocky slopes with clip-in cables along.


Hmm, I see. I think. I was interpreting them as basically providing an option for self-belaying on terrain where you would otherwise use a rope, i.e. almost 5th class by definition. So I assumed that where there was a ferrata, it would be "climbing" rather than "hiking."

I guess I'll understand better once we see some of them in person. I think the closest I've seen to this in the U.S. have been Half Dome in Yosemite (turns a 5.4ish slab into a hike), or Lady Mountain in Zion (cables removed these days, but once upon a time they used to be there to, I assume, help people get up a couple of short class 5 sections).

I'd suggest you start with an easy one - Sasshonger, Roßzahn Ferrata or Sass Rigais to see if you both are comfortable with it. Then try something harder.


Yes, we'll start with one or two easy ones.

Tre Cime will be beyond your wife's capacity - don't drag her up there. There are wonderful places in the vicinity which might not be the climb you dreamt about but which will keep you dreaming of them afterwards:


I thought the regular route up Cima Grande was up to about 5.5 at most? That would be well within my wife's capabilities to follow. (As to whether she would want to on our honeymoon is another question.)

Two examples from last september - no climbing involved though the Cadini have some horribly chossy sections:

http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/5 ... urina.html
http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/5 ... earby.html


Wow, these trips look absolutely amazing.

Thanks again to everyone, this is incredibly helpful. And I'm even more psyched about heading out here than I was two days ago.

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by Gangolf Haub » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:26 pm

And as gabriele said everything in the western Dolomites is boring

http://www.summitpost.org/area/range/15 ... #chapter_6

har har har

8)

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by Gabriele Roth » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:42 pm

mvs wrote: .. suggestion of hiking the Alta Via 1 or 2 for a few days. For my wife and I it was a life changing experience that inspired us to move here.

Gangolf Haub wrote:And as gabriele said everything in the western Dolomites is boring 8)

the correct sentence was : As for my experiences the western ranges (Odle, Sella, Sassolungo and Catinaccio) are less exciting and fine that the eastern ones (Fanes, Tofane, Cristallo, Lavaredo, Sorapiss, Pelmo, Civetta)

I've been climbing easy and difficult routes in all (but Marmarole. Bosconero, Oltrepiave and Schiara) dolomites groups and can confirm that Eastern ones are much better than Western ones !!!
Waiting for you to visit the groups you're missing so that you can compare the ranges and agree with my feelings :D :lol: :D :lol: :lol: :D

Sasshonger, Roßzahn, Sass Rigais, Cadini ... looks like you are looking for the poor quality rock ? :lol:
Last edited by Gabriele Roth on Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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by rpc » Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:20 pm

Doesn't Paterno (spelling?) near the Tre Cime group have a via ferrata and a low-5th class route to the top? That seems like a super scenic outing, with main reward being the view of the n. faces of the Tre Cime.

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