The Alfredo Benini ferrata affair

The Alfredo Benini ferrata affair

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 46.17580°N / 10.90124°E
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 4, 2019
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Via Ferrata
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall

Route preparation

 

“So, you think I should pack crampons to take all the way to Italy just to possibly use on a small part of one route that we might or might not do?” Marie asked.

I thought about my answer for a few seconds.

“Yes”, I said.

Marie, as usual, was trying to pack her suitcase and make it as light as possible.

I, as usual, was more or less up to my weight limit and wondering if by moving stuff around in the suitcase, it would become lighter?

The Alfredo Benini ferrata was on my list of possible routes to do and I knew that the descent route from the Bocca del Tuckett was a snow filled couloir (sometimes known as the Vedretta di Tuckett) – most of the guide books said “crampons optional” – but I didn’t want to leave them behind and be sorry.

In the end, I took mine and Marie left her’s behind.

 

Early days

 

Early in the trip, we had a great day traversing the Gustavo and Natale Vidi ferrata in lovely, clear weather. I really wanted to do the Benini and now Marie was wondering if she would join me on the route. 

The weather forecast for the trip was often very similar. Clear mornings, cloud building up by lunchtime with rain by the middle of the afternoon. The first two parts of the forecast were usually correct but it rarely rained before evening, if at all. We were waiting for a good forecast to do the ferrata, so needed an alternative route for the day.

“It would be good to see how much snow there is in the couloir and how steep it is.” Marie said.

I consulted my notes.

“We could go up in the Passo Groste cable car and walk over to the Rifugios Tuckett and Sella,” I said. “From there, we might be able to see it or maybe walk up a bit towards it.”

That route is a popular walk and it would be good for us to familiarise ourselves with a part of the Brenta we hadn’t yet seen. According to my research, it would take about 1 ½ hours to walk this route and I felt confident we could do it in a shorter time.

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata, Central Brenta dolomites.
Alfredo Benini ferrata, Central Brenta dolomites.

 

 

 

Across the "wasteland" to the Rifugio Tuckett 

 

We left the Passo Groste under light cloud and crossed a relatively flat limestone “pavement”, following the red and white flashes on the rock. This only lasted for 10 minutes or so before the path took on more of a descent into different terrain.

 

The Wasteland
The Wasteland

 

The whole area was a sea of shattered limestone blocks of varying sizes, ranging from scree the size of a fist up to blocks the size of houses, the path picked a way around, in between and over these rocks. It was always easy to follow but it was impossible to get into much of a rhythm as the terrain was so rough. Up and down it went, under huge rock faces and across stony pavements. Very little grew here except for the hardy alpine plants that provided a splash of colour in between the stony grey rocks.

Time ticked on.

From close up, I didn’t think the Brenta mountains looked that spectacular. I later realised that I needed to view them from a bit further away to really appreciate them.

I kept glancing at my watch and looking for any view of the rifugio and as time moved on, I realised I was walking a bit quicker!

 

 

Finally, just as the 1 ½ hours were up, I got to a crest in the path and saw the roof of the Rifugio Tuckett ahead.

“There it is,” I pointed to Marie.

“This is really tough going,” she panted. “There are no easy paths in the Brenta.”

This became our mantra for the rest of the trip, 10 minutes later we reached the rifugio.

 

From the rifugio, we could see the descent route from the Bocca del Tuckett clearly but we were still a way off so, we decided to walk up a little. I didn’t really plan to go as far as we did but as we got higher, the going got easier until we were crossing huge limestone slabs and looking down on the snow.

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata. Looking towards the Bocca del Tuckett
Alfredo Benini ferrata. Looking towards the Bocca del Tuckett

 

We sat on the rock and had some lunch. Up to that point, no one had descended but now we could see two figures descending slowly from the Bocca del Tuckett.

“They are going quite slowly.” Marie pointed out.

“They’re just being careful, don’t want to slip.” I replied.

The figures were approaching a part where the couloir narrowed and steepened.

“This should be interesting…”

Instead of coming down the snow, the figures detoured onto the rock above us and vanished from view. We realised there was cabling just above us and soon the figures re appeared moving fast on the way down.

 

 

The two young men approached us, Marie tried to speak to them but they didn’t speak English. Instead, she spoke in Italian. I worked out a few words…

“Bochette Alte ferrata…. Rifugio Alimonta… 5 ½ hours…”

“That’s one of the harder routes, I think. Sounds like a good time”

Marie nodded. “Didn’t look like they would wear crampons with those boots.”

“That’s why they got off the snow as soon as possible.” I said.

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata, Bocca del Tuckett.
Alfredo Benini ferrata, Bocca del Tuckett.

A man passed us heading upwards on the snow, no crampons. We watched him as we ate, he continued quite quickly until the snow steepened at the narrow part of the couloir. He stopped.

We finished eating and started to pack up, I took some photos.

The man reappeared, descending now. Maybe he planned to only go part way or maybe he planned to continue but thought better of it.

I scrambled down to the snow. The top of it was soft but if was harder underneath and I struggled to kick steps.

We headed down, back to the rifugios and decided to return to the Passo Groste and the cable car rather than take the long route down towards the Vallesinella waterfalls.

Going back, I thought, we know the route back to Passo Groste now. It will seem easier and we will be quicker.

It didn’t and we weren’t!

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata

 

Alighting from the cable car at Passo Groste the following week, at 9.35 am on a glorious sunny morning, I followed the signpost up towards the top of the pass. I knew that the route started somewhere beneath the east flank of Cima Groste, I didn’t know exactly where but surely, it would be easy to find and I would soon be there?

Marie had decided to give the route a miss, so I was on my own.

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata, Cima Groste (2901m)
Alfredo Benini ferrata, Cima Groste (2901m)

I noticed in front of me 2 couples adorned with ferrata gear, they looked like they were going my way and the woman at the front looked like she knew where she was going, I followed them.

We passed the top station of the closed, winter chairlift and by this time I found myself quite close to the woman at the front, ahead of her companions. I stopped to look behind me, 2 more men were now following at the back of the group. They looked a bit older than me, one was dressed in blue and the other was in faded orange clothes. With long, grey hair, my mind automatically christened him “an old hippy”!

In front of me, the woman stopped. I passed her and headed to the crest of a rise. So far, I hadn’t seen any footpath sign or flashes on the rock to signify we were on the right track. At the crest I could see the path we were following continued on, so I followed it. I assumed the whole group of 6 were now following me and I continued the best I could.

Some minutes later, my path came to an end at a small cliff. I stopped and turned around to gesture to the others, this was the wrong way… no one was there.

I waited a few seconds but no one appeared. I looked left and right to see if they were close but couldn’t see anyone.

 

 

Either I had walked so fast, they had fallen far behind (unlikely) or they had gone a different way and overtaken me (possible) or they had realised I was going the wrong way and gone the correct way (most likely).

I contemplated returning but decided against it, instead I found a way over the rough ground and continued, heading towards Cima Groste.

Soon I found a faint track and followed it, then, a red flash of paint on a rock! I was on the correct route but still no sign of my former companions.

After a few more minutes I realised I had lost the route again! I scrambled up to a cairn only to find it marked the top of an outcrop! I found my way down and onwards again. Red paint and “305” on a rock. Again, I had found the route.

I could see more flashes ahead and in the distance, a man on his own crossing the boiler plates of limestone beneath Cima Groste. I continued and at some point, I looked back. No one was following – where were the other 6?

I reached the start of the route, there were some people gearing up and getting ready to leave. We exchanged “Buongiorno’s” and I dropped my sack and got my gear out. I was surprised to find it had taken me an hour to get to the start and it was already really hot.

I drank some water, checked my gear and set off after the last pair – I could see it was going to be a day where I needed to keep going as quickly as I could in case of later hold ups.

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata, Bocchetta dei Camosci.
Alfredo Benini ferrata, Bocchetta dei Camosci.

 

 

The route started on a rough path beneath the cliffs on the east side of Cima Groste. This continued around the end of the mountain and on to the Bocchetta dei Camosci, a gap in the mountains, across the valley the Pressanella range looked good in the sunshine. Although there are sections of cabling here, I didn’t use them except as handholds in case of a slip.

For a while I was on my own as I passed underneath the cliffs of Campanile dei Camosci. Great views eastwards to lonely sights we hadn’t so far seen, including the occasional view of distant Lago di Molveno.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was held up for a minute or two behind a family of 3, who were roped together but after passing them, I was back on my own for a while. Passing around what I guessed was Cima Falkner, I saw that the route dropped steeply down a cable protected buttress. A queue had developed here and I clipped in and descended carefully to take my place at the back, a respectful distance from the man in front of me.

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata
Alfredo Benini ferrata
Alfredo Benini ferrata.
Alfredo Benini ferrata.

 

 

We moved down slowly every now and then. Behind me, a clatter of falling rocks made me look up. A man was descending the cables quickly, he wasn’t clipped in and was just climbing hand over hand downwards. I turned forward to concentrate on what I was doing but he came up right behind me.

Now, I don’t mind people soloing on ground they find easy – I do it myself – but he was right behind me and getting on my nerves. I do try to be considerate to others, there was no way around me and only more people queued in front.

After a few minutes of feeling annoyed, I decided to stop and let him get past. He did so and went on to bother whoever was in front of me. We all continued to the bottom of the buttress, I was aware of another man behind me but not very close. At the bottom, I looked back and saw he was older, dressed in faded orange clothes and with long grey hair.

Suddenly, I realised – the man who had passed me was in blue, it was the 2 older guys I had seen earlier near Passo Groste, they had caught me up!

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata
Alfredo Benini ferrata

 

Somewhere around the Bocca di Vallesinella a lot of people had stopped for a rest. I realised I was desperately thirsty and did so too. As I bent over my rucksack, sweat trickled on to it from my helmet so I removed it to try to cool down. It was pleasantly warm in the sun but I had overheated with the exertion.

After a drink and a boiled sweet, I continued. Soon, the route descended into what I guessed was the Vedretta di Vallesinella superiore, (it was). I say “guessed” because I had left the map and guidebook with Marie to save a bit of weight (I did bring crampons!) so I wasn’t certain. I expected this to be a glacier of sorts but there were only a few small patches of snow. Everyone in front of me had descended here but I thought I remembered from the guidebook that I had to stay high to get to the Bocca del Tuckett (I was wrong).

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata
Alfredo Benini ferrata
Alfredo Benini ferrata, Vedretta di Vallesinella.
Alfredo Benini ferrata, Vedretta di Vallesinella.

 

Consequently, I spent about 15 mins looking for an alternate, higher route around Cima Sella. A few others followed me before we all gave up and descended, I eventually found the junction with path no 315 and realised I was now going the correct way.

I started back up and around the other side of Cima Sella, in front of me I recognised the rock features on the Cima Vallesinellla side of the range that Marie and I had seen earlier in the trip.

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata. Ladders on the south face of Cima Sella
Alfredo Benini ferrata. Ladders on the south face of Cima Sella

 

 

I neared the edge of the cliff, clipped into a cable and got to the top of the first ladder. The guidebook describes some of these ladders as “steep”, I think “overhanging” would have been a better word!  Luckily, they weren’t as intimidating as some we had encountered above Riva del Garda but as I descended, I found I was getting pretty tired. I needed to get to the Bocca and have some food.

Down a ladder, along a ledge, down another ladder, I could see the Bocca del Tuckett down below me. The route descends and traverses a huge rock wall.

“Blimey! That couloir looks steep!” I said to myself!

I told myself it was not that steep, it was just the perspective I was seeing and I continued on descending. The going was not too difficult and the exposure felt minimal. Soon, I stepped off the rock face and onto the level, gravelly Bocca, the official end of the route at 1.15pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata. Descending towards the Bocca del Tuckett
Alfredo Benini ferrata. Descending towards the Bocca del Tuckett
Alfredo Benini ferrata.
Alfredo Benini ferrata.
Alfredo Benini ferrata. Descending Cima Sella
Alfredo Benini ferrata. Descending Cima Sella
Alfredo Benini ferrata, South wall of Cima Sella.
Alfredo Benini ferrata, South wall of Cima Sella.

 

It was great to sit down and after a quick bite to eat and most of the rest of my water, I put my crampons on. I had watched a couple descending earlier without any. They slipped and slithered downwards as the soft surface of the snow slid away, I was pleased with my decision to bring them.

I heard English voices…..

“It’s slippery, I think we should.” The woman said in reply to an unheard question.

The couple sat down nearby and put on “spikes” quickly. They continued downwards and after a while I followed.

The descent was pretty straightforward, my crampons cut through any soft snow into the firmness underneath. The way down was well defined by previous footprints and I caught up with the couple as we left the snow and reached the rocks.

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata. Looking down Vedretta di Tuckett.
Alfredo Benini ferrata. Looking down Vedretta di Tuckett.
Alfredo Benini ferrata. Descending the couloir of the Vedretta di Tuckett.
Alfredo Benini ferrata. Descending the couloir of the Vedretta di Tuckett.

 

“Glad I had crampons” I said by way of introduction.

“Yes, I wish I had yours.” The woman replied. “That was the hardest bit of the whole route.”

We chatted for a while before they left. I sorted my gear out and stashed it in my sack. It was 2.00pm and I still had to descend to the Rifugio Tuckett and walk back to the Passo Groste to meet Marie at 4.00 pm, it was going to be tight!

I set off down as quickly as I could. By the time I reached the rifugio, I was boiling hot and gasping for a drink. I bought a Coca cola and sat in the shade to drink it. Suddenly, I realised it was 2.40pm and I still had 1 ½ hours walking to do! I set off as quickly as I could.

Back across the wasteland, in full sun. Any benefit I got from the coke soon vanished. Once again, the route was longer than I remembered.

Time ticked on…again.

As I neared my destination, Marie popped up from behind a rock, what a welcome sight!

“Do you want some water?” She asked.

I guzzled her water greedily!

We walked back to the cable car station, arriving at 4.10 pm – 6 hours 35min after I had left. I told this to Marie.

“Ok, that’s not bad.” She said. “I saw this German guy earlier who looked like he might have done the route, so I asked him how long he took. He said 6 hours, so I knew you would be along soon.”

We went into the restaurant area and Marie spoke to a man sitting outside in a deckchair.

“I found him.” She pointed at me.

“Ah, he made it.” The German said in perfect English.

He was dressed in blue and sitting next to a dozing, long haired, older man who was dressed in faded orange clothes… my soloing couple!

I smiled at them but I don’t think either of them recognised me!

 

Alfredo Benini ferrata. View towards Cima Presanella
Alfredo Benini ferrata. View towards Cima Presanella

 

 

 

 

 

 



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