Alta Via 1 - an ex­hil­i­rat­ing trail in the Ital­ian Dolomites

Walking New Zealand - - Overseas Walk -

Next morn­ing saw us walk­ing down a steep trail through for­est, to a lovely meadow path full of wild flow­ers. All the way we were sur­rounded by mag­nif­i­cent moun­tains and enor­mous pink and white rock out­crops.

We reached Giau Pass mid morn­ing, and con­tin­ued up to For­cella Giau (2,360m), where wild horses ran to meet us, suck­ing and tug­ging at our clothes.

Con­tin­u­ing up a rocky trail, we passed sev­eral Mesolithic sites, where hunters used to close off the five passes in the val­ley, to trap ibex, elk and deer.

We walked on over a chaos of fallen rocks and boul­ders, and an­other moun- tain pass - at last reach­ing’ Citta de Fi­ume,’ our sec­ond refuge. Tow­er­ing above the hut was ‘Pelmo’ - a rock out­crop which glowed in the sun’s last rays

Leav­ing early the next morn­ing, for Tissi Refuge, we wan­dered down a shady val­ley to ‘Staulanza Pass, and a re­ally beau­ti­ful refuge. From there it was up­hill - to the top of the Cervetta chair­lift; where cy­clists re­trieved their bikes and tore back down the slope..

It was a long hot day, with tem­per­a­tures rang­ing from 39 to 41 de­grees, and with a very steep ‘crawl’ to Coldai Refuge.

Here the views were sim­ply mag­nifi- cent. Coldai is sit­u­ated in the heart of the Civetta, the most im­pres­sive rock wall in the Dolomites. Huge moun­tains sur­rounded us as we sat en­joy­ing the view for a cou­ple of hours.

The trail con­tin­ued through white lime­stone to­wards Tissi with lots of scram­bling over jagged rocks, but when we met bik­ers strug­gling down, we de­cided we had it easy.

By time we ar­rived at 4.45pm. it was def­i­nitely Happy Hour, and luck­ily all refuges have a bar.

Tissi will be re­mem­bered for it’s yummy thick vege soup, and de­li­cious ap­ple strudel.

Our fourth day started with a lovely meadow walk down to Vaz­zoler

From here the trail climbed steeply through Conifer woods and Beech for­est, pass­ing the Col of the Bear, where in days gone by, bears were hunted to ex­tinc­tion.

We con­tin­ued on through dwarf pines, hang­ing on to wire ropes to ne­go­ti­ate rocky out­crops, pass­ing sev­eral old ru­ins, and climb­ing over an­other moun­tain pass to reach Car­res­tiato Refuge just be­fore a storm hit.

Tow­er­ing above, was San Se­bas­tiano, one of the long­est and most dif­fi­cult rock

climbs in this area. Af­ter a night of thun­der and light­ning and heavy rain, we aban­doned our plans, and in­stead, took a trail down through conifer for­est to the vil­lage of Agordo.

We stayed in a cozy B & B owned a cou­ple whose son had a vine­yard near Mel­bourne. They were ex­cited to meet peo­ple from ‘that side of the world’, and shared a cou­ple of bot­tles of Yarra Val­ley wine with us.

Af­ter an­other ‘feast’ for break­fast, we trav­elled to La Pizza, and walked steadily up­hill to reach ‘Bianchet’ - a lovely refuge.

Drop­ping our packs we con­tin­ued on up a well graded track through alpine gar­dens, and ma­jes­tic rock out­crops to ‘Fon­tana,’ where again, views were spec­tac­u­lar as we watched the sun setting be­hind the peaks.

Next morn­ing we re­traced our steps, and caught a bus to Bel­luno - a beau­ti­ful town, with ma­jes­tic old build­ings. We spent the night here, be­fore catch­ing a train to Venice, and the end of our Dolomite Ad­ven­ture.

It is an in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful place, easy to find your way around, and lots of friendly lo­cals very will­ing to ad­vise.

Above left: Barbz on the trail to Giau Pass. Below left: Scoiat­toli Refuge. Below right: The Dolomite Tow­ers by Scoiat­toli Refuge. Above right: Lago Coldai just below Coldai Refuge. Mid­dle right: Tissi Refuge.

Above left: The trail to Giau Pass. Above right: Wild horses at For­cella Giau.

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