This is the longest via ferrata in the Dolomites. It consists of two very different sections: First a long slab, then an even longer ridge traverse. An added bonus are the many remains from WWI at the end of the ridge. An even bigger bonus is the descent from the gondola at the end of the route.
From Canazei: follow signs to Alba on road 641. Drive up to the pass, and past Fedaia lake. At the east end of the lake there is parking at a large maintainence garage.
From Cortina: Drive West on road 48. Turn South on road 203, then West on 641. Drive to just before the lake where there is parking on the opposite side of the road.
After parking it's about half an hour's walk on a small use path to the base of the route. The route first contours under some small cliffs before working it's way to the base of the enormous slab above.
There is a memeorial plaque naming the ferrata, and the first cable can be reached from the ground, so it's pretty simple to find the beginning of the route.
This is a poor route for those not accustomed to via ferrata climbing. It's long, exposed, and the cables on the lower section of the route are (as of summer 2008) in poor quality with runouts of up to 15 meters between anchors.
Update August 2012: Most of the lower section has been upgraded with replaced cables and anchors, though some of the easiest sections in the center of the slab still need upgrading.
It is also a killer in storms, as the slab drains runoff, and the often northern side of the ridge traverse can hold onto recent snow.
That said, this is one of the best, most rewarding ferrata routes imaginable.
Once finding the start of the route, follow continous cable all the way up the generally right side of the slab. There is a bit of loose rock in the center of slab, and it's often easier to simply climb the rock, only using the cable for protection. To avoid rockfall, we skipped clipping in altogether on the easiest sections. The slab part of the climb takes 2-3 hours.
At the top of the slab are some large protected ledges, excellent for a short break before the next section. Start by traversing over the gap from the slab to the ridge proper. Again, routefinding is easy, just follow the cable. Here the protection is better on the most difficult sections, though the cable is still rather loose and some of the anchors flex alarmingly when tested. The traverse is usually on the north side with tingling exposure to the glacier below.
It can be frustrating to see future high points along the ridge seemingly nearby, when one cannot see the downclimbs and traverses that are hidden in-between. Toward the end of this section is a World War One ladder consisting of pegs pounded into drilled holes.
Most of these are quite secure. After this downclimb, tourists from the cable car are encountered as they explore the caves and tunnels from the war. Join them in exploring, unclip from the now new and fat cables, and wander to the lift station. The ridge section takes 2-2.5 hours, depending on the confidence of the climbers, and how much time is spent exploring the WWI structures and tunnels.
Descent. The only descent that makes sense is to take the cable car back down. The last run in high summer season is at 16.30, and there is a bus that leaves at 14.50 and 16.50 from the hotel at the base back to Lake Fedaia. If you miss the last gondola, there are possiblities of descending the glacier if you are so equipped, and there is a terrible trail down the scree to the bottom lift station.
Via Ferrata equipment: Harness, and leashes that are equipped to take the force of a fall.
Sticky soled approach shoes, or quality hiking\climbing boots that can smear and edge well.
A short video clip showing cable conditions on the slab
Punta Suruata was just one small point in a much larger mountain war fought by the Italians and Austians during WWI. The front line did not advance up the slopes, but from one side of the long Marmolada ridge to the other. Punta Suruata was originally held by the Austrians, who had already begun to dig into the rock. Then the Italians managed to haul up a pair of heavy machine guns onto opposing pinnacles, setting up a crossfire that convinced the Austrians to abandon their position. After the Italians took over, they set to work tunneling observation posts, sniper lookouts, and artillery positions. Meanwhile the Austrians dug into the glacier below, eventually carving out over 8 miles of tunnels.
Only until one climbs where these poor souls fought and died does one fully grip the complete insanity of fighting a war in such a place. During this struggle, over 6,000 infantry were lost to weather and avalanches during a 3 day time period.
Every summer new artifacts (and sometimes mortal remains) are found as the glacier recedes. There are some small museums (one on the Punta Suruata lift station, another at Lake Fedaia) that are worth the climbers time, as it adds meaning and respect to the climbing experience.