Expeditions, Navigation, Guided Walks and Trekking
After our traverse of the Brenta , (see previous blog), Mike and I drove across to Corvara in the Central Dolomites. We had been there a couple of years ago, and were set to join up with friends who had driven across from the UK. We were staying at Chalet Verena with Colletts Mountain Holidays. Our drive was through a tremendous downpour, the one we thankfully just missed in the Brenta. Coming over the Gardena pass in the cloud was as exciting a trip as it could be.
Dick and Rachael were there already, in their camper van at the campsite, the rest of the group arrived the next day, with time to grab a low level walk, in the snow up on the Panorama walk above the village. It was cold and the surrounding peaks were plastered with snow and ice. Our trip up Marmolada looked at risk if the weather didn’t improve.
Parking at the Fiames Visitor centre, a lovely path through the forest took us to the top of the waterfall, so as we were passing, we took in the only VF that I know of that goes behind a waterfall, the Giovanni Barbara. The path took us on a good path behind the thundering water, after which we dropped down a wall to the bottom and climbed back to the path. Great fun. Next we had a hard 600m climb up a steep track to the Posporcora pass, and through bushes to the cliff face. This approach took us a fair time, for most of the group this was the first push since arriving in Italy, some without much fitness preparation. Our route has some airy and strenuous climbing, pushing it to the top end of the 3 tech rating, with some good exposure – so now at the grading of 3B++. After some pushing and pulling and much panting, we made it to the top, to a superb sunny view looking up at the Tofana’s. We had to descend at pace as the evening was coming and we would already be late for dinner at the Chalet.
After our first long day, we decided next on an easier approach but upped the technicality. So we headed for the Ferrata Via Delle Trincee – La Mesola, one I had on my list since we missed it on our last trip due to the lift closing earlier. A good 4B, with sound climbing but less committing than the Bochette of the previous days in the Brenta.
This has a lift almost to the start, a hard and exposed start that is a challenge and calls upon some real climbing. A superb slab leads around a corner, over a few towers on the summit ridge, across a swinging bridge; a tricky descent to a grassy col, great lunch break place.
After some more ledges past some WWI buildings, the wire disappears down a corner, to a steep couple of pitches. The party in front of us had a party member that had fallen down to a ledge, where they were patching her leg up with plasters. It looked a superficial wound, and they had it under control, so the first-aider didn’t swing into action.
Dropping down this pitch, the wire took us to the north side of the ridge, which still had a fair covering of snow and occasional ice, so we carefully traversed to an ice filled tunnel, taking us back to the sun.. More ridge walking and tunnels took us to a Bivouac hut were the end of the route was in sight at Rif Padon, where beer and strudel waited, but not long. On the way down to Arraba and the car we crossed a flat area just below the north face of La Mesolina, which we had just traversed. This area was covered with old WWI trenches, now homes for Marmots, who whistled for us as we passed, as well as posing for a few good photos.
After a couple of sunny days, we reckoned that the Marmolada would be in better conditions, and besides, Mike and I were running out of time, so we confirmed with the guide and had a worrying night, this was going to be an epic.
Day dawned misty and fine, and three of us set off in Giorgio’s bus to the car park at the end of the Fedaia lake, and next to the Fiacconi lift. This is just a cage for a couple of people to stand in. Anyway it took us up 500m almost to the bottom of the glacier. Below us, the mist was still hanging in some valleys, but what a clear day! We dropped down around a large fin shaped rib, then up to the edge of the secondary glacier. Giorgio helped us on with our crampons and as we set off gave us a few lessons on how to walk, bow legged, feet up/down the slope, “Happy Walking” he called it. We soon overtook a large group also on the start of the West Ridge via Ferrata, all dressed in red jackets, looking like a Mammut advert. Then across a wall on a wire, now doing some mixed climbing across the ice and snow.
Soon we were up the stemples and ladders, finding the crampons making the route much easier, particularly when we steamed past many of the groups in front of us. This could also have been due to Giorgio not letting us stop for an occasional breather or photo. He would give a quick tug on the rope, impatient to get to the top. We asked him what the rush was, and he said he had a client waiting to do the Matterhorn, he was driving there after our ascent!
Guidebook time was 2 hours to the start of the vf, 2 hours up to the summit, 2 hours down, we were running 30 minutes ahead of that, it looked like Giorgio would get to Switzerland in daylight!
Soon we hit the handrail on the ridge, needed just for security, above a vertical drop down the south face. A gentle snow covered path led to the summit and the Refuge, where the guardian seemed to be a great buddy of Giorgio. After hot tea and strudel we had the summit photo’s, but only after clearing the Mammut advert from around the summit cross.
“Crampons obligatory” was our guides clear instruction for the descent, the glacier started straight away, with many climbers on their way up the normal route, including one guy with his dog (both in snow goggles). There was a rocky drop, protected by a wire, where the crampons where not helping, but we soon hit the steep edge of the glacier, the path keeping level to avoid the large crevice, and about a deep bergschrund. Giorgio belayed across the start, dragged us over the snow bridge and then took us on a direct descent straight down the ice. “Hey you, First, Happy Walking” he shouted at Steve at the front, who struggled to keep his feet straight down the slope, taking the seemingly easier way of keeping feet across the slope. Our thighs were now screaming with the unusual way of walking, but we soon got down to an easier slope and then the end of the ice, just above the refuge. All done in good time, 5 ½ hours, but exhausted after a quick climb and rapid descent. We were back at the chalet before the others enjoying the occasional beer in the sunny garden.
Last day of Mikes and my holiday was a recovery day. We had heard at the Colletts office-hour about the refuge that does chips, on a walk for all our group. This was up to Rifugio Averau from the Falzarego car park. Some of us took in the ascent of Averau up the fun 2A via ferrata to enjoy the superb views across to Col de Bos and the Tofana’s. Those of us that did the summit missed out on the chips, difficult decision though. The walk back through the sparse woodland above the pass and car park was so different; we could have been in the Caledonian forest!