Thursday, September 26, 2013

Alta Via 2 - Day 7 - Refugio Passo Valles to Refugio Rosetta Pedrotto

With another long day in our itinerary, we start breakfast at the earliest possible time, 7:00 a.m. There is nobody else in the dining room, and for a moment I envy those with the privilege to sleep in.

Breakfast is good, a nice variety of items to choose from, and a delicious bread. I eat much more than I usually do, there is supposed to be a long climb at the beginning of our day and I will need the energy.

On the trail by 8:00 a.m., heading uphill without warm up. The scenery is beautiful, Passo Valles becomes a dot way bellow us, we are back in a world of high mountains. At first the dirt trail leads through meadows full of purple blooms. It's steep but easy to negotiate, and even the several cable protected sections are a breeze. 

Reaching Forcella Venegia, 2,212 m, at 8:35 a.m. and Passo Venegiota, 2,303 m, an hour later, Refugio G. Volpi di Misurata al Mulaz comes in a view at 12:19. We are now at elevation of 2,560 with many more meters to go. 

After a break to brace ourselves for the steep gully that awaits us, we are back on foot at 12:49. Trail 703 which we start following here lets us gain elevation quickly. It is a firm path, stabilized by lumber beams, several switchbacks and we are looking at the Refugio from couple hundred meters higher.  At 13:50 we are clipped in working our way up a via ferrata. It was described in our book as a little tricky, but except maybe couple steps we do not find it difficult at all.

At 14:55 we have reached the pass. It's downhill from here. Literally. The trail drops down a gully filled with loose scree, we hug a rock wall tightly to prevent slipping at the higher, more exposed area, and then slowly proceed down on loose switchbacks, trying to avoid sliding down. It takes a toll on our legs. (Turning right at the top for perhaps 60 feet and then heading down the gully on much gentler grade would make it easier to descent. It becomes obvious once we are at the bottom, having followed the AV2 route down).

The trail markings on our map suggest the rest of way to Refugio Rosseta (Pedrotti) should be on regular trail with a section of long but easy via ferrata. The adventure; however is far from being over. For somebody (like me) who does not thrive in heights, the narrow path along a cliff with a view of a valley over  2,000 feet bellow, is not necessarily an idea of easy trail. I do not dare to look down, staring at every step in front of me I pray for this section to be over soon. And then a rock outcrop comes which we have to cross. Another one soon follows, and as we find out, most of this "trail" involves exposed scrambling, rarely protected by cable.

By the time we reach the via ferrata section at 17:30 my legs are trembling. I grab the cable, trying to calm my racing heart. The fact that one of the anchors peels off the wall does not help the case.

Otherwise the ferrata is mostly easy. It takes us along cliffs, crosses an exposed gully (some down climbing is required) and spits us on the other side, where the trail is still as narrow and as high as it was before but not with less obstructions we start making a better time. To my liking we now also reach few areas of less exposure (further away from the cliff).

A relief comes at 18:00 when we enter a valley carved by a glacier many millions of years ago. The glacial flow still can be seen in the shape of the valley floor. Still ways from "home" with one last climb ahead of us but the exposure is now over and even though our legs are spent we start making a decent time on the grippy rock as we climb up towards the evening sky.

At 19:01 a sign at a junction announces Refugio Rosetta is 10 minutes away. Couple minutes later we arrive at another junction, unmarked. The main trail is heading up to the left and then curves back while a smaller, faint path weirs off to the right. Both are correct, the right path being slightly shorter while the other one offers a gentler grade. 

Exhausted we arrive at the Refugio Rosetta Pedroti at 19:10, just barely making dinner. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Alta Via 2 - Day 6 - Hotel Garni Roberta to Refugio Passo Valles

September 2, 2013 

After a fulfilling breakfast we spend the first part of Labor Day laboring up a long hill. The sun is out, it seems that weather-wise it is going to be the best day yet and after a rest day we are excited to see more new scenery.

The scenery, as we leave town, is one of a mixed forest through which a paved road leads us. Eventually we loose the pavement and proceed on gravel road to an intersection. Sign for Forca Rossa where we are heading suggests to go left, but Alta Via 2 sign clearly points to the right. According to a map we should be making a left turn somewhere in this area but keep on gaining elevation. The left turn at this junction heads downhill. We decide to follow the AV2 route and find our left turn a switchback higher.

Larches dominate along the trail now, scattered thinly on the grassy slopes, with a backdrop of rugged mountains. We are too early for fall colors, but my imaginations runs wild picturing the trees dressed in their yellow coat. 

On a smaller scale, flowers bloom along the trail, some of them familiar from the previous several days, some I don't believe we had an opportunity to see yet. We also find a first patch of wild strawberries, and yet another one, yielding small but delicious snack.

Eventually we leave the larches behind and walk through open grassland being able to fully appreciate the majestic peaks around us. Ibex down below us watches our steps, too far for a naked eye but thanks to a high zoom camera we get a decent view. 

Reaching Forca Rossa, elevation 2,490 m, at 11:30 a.m., the uphill is over, for the moment. We sign the geocaché register which we find at the pass, have a quick bite, and start the downhill stroll. It is by far the most serene part of the trip, there is not a soul around us, except for horses roaming the pastures. The trail is soft mix of grass and dirt and we make a good progress.

When a hoard of day hikers appears on horizon, it's a sign we must be nearing civilization. At 13:00 we enter a village of Fuchiade, home to a Refugio and several small wooden houses. From here for the next 3 kilometers the soft grass is replaced by paved road, smooth and gently graded but hard on the feet.

Passo St. Pellegrino, elevation 1,907 m, is the low point for the day. Replenishing our energy with spaghetti with ragĂș sauce and ice cream at Malga St. Pellegrino restaurant, we are ready to conquer the next uphill. It's about 1,000 feet of elevation we have to gain towards Forcella di Padazzo, elevation 2,220 meters. The trail, leading through slopes covered with blueberry bushes, is easy to follow thanks to good markings, and even though we have to make few easy moves to pull ourselves over boulders, it's generally quite easy going.

The views from up include distant mountains, closer up there is a lake and a ski lift. Once we top, we find a dirt road, wide and hard to miss, heading downhill towards our destination, Passo Valles. Luckily there is a side trail which not only cuts some distance but is more scenic, and after a long day of hiking, the cushy grass underfoot is much appreciated.

Passo Vales at 2,032 m welcomes us at 17:35. The Refugio here, unlike all the others we used so far, is privately own, and is more hotel like with private rooms and showers. The food is delicious after a long day on feet, and we even decide for desert, a specialty called Torrencino Semifreddo, a lemony tasting ice cream cake. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Alta Via 2 - Day 5 - Refugio Capanna Fassa to Hotel Garni Roberta

With another taxing day ahead of us we are on move at 8:12 a.m. descending from Refugio Capanna Passa atop Piz Boe via "the easier" route which involves three cable protected sections. We clip in for added protection but except for few steps along one of the ledges it is relatively easy descent which spits us back on trail 641 leading towards Passo Pordoi at 9:10 a.m.

Before we reach the pass, we face another decision. To descend the whole way on foot, or to take a gondola down for the final 1800 ft which in our guide book are described as so steep we will slide on our butts. Walking it is. And even though the slope is very steep, the trail is, just as we experienced in every other gully so far, very well set, and not once our butts get in contact with the dirt. It takes us 1hr 15 min to descend. We reach Paso Pordoi at 11:01 a.m. With our appetite built up we decide for a lunch break here, spaghetti with ragu cost 8.00 euro a plate, and are of decent quality.

20 minutes later we hit the trail again. One more uphill, we think, and a gradual descend to Lake Fedaia. We think wrong. The trail climbs up and start traversing slope high above the valley floor. It is a rolling terrain with more ups then downs. The scenery is an opposite of what we experienced yesterday. We walk in green meadows, variety of flowers bloom around us and they attract bees and butterflies. It is a pleasant walk, even though at some spots the trail gets little too close to the cliffy edge.

When the downhill finally comes, it has little to do with gradual. The trail starts dropping into the valley, quickly loosing elevation. A sign warns us the trail is suitable for expert hikers only, what it means is lots of slippery gravel underfoot, and a short section protected with cable which is not that exposed at all, even I do not hold the cable the whole way. Finally we descent to the lake. It is 14:20

Refreshing cold drink sounds good. Estimating we will be on our way in next ten minutes, we order beer and raspberry soda at a local restaurant. Obviously they are not in much hurry. 35 minutes later we finally leave.

According to the guide book we should follow the road all the way to Malga Ciapela. It is not a tempting thought. The road is twisty with many blind corners and no shoulder for trekkers to walk on. Instead we cross the bridge and on the other side find decommissioned road which locals use to promenade along the lake. It is much safer and much more enjoyable than dodging the traffic.

Hotel Carni Roberta where we arrive at 16:50 is one of the smaller ones in town. We are offered choice from two rooms, and given recommendations for dinner. Wi-if is not ncluded but only cost €2.00 per day.

After a long hot shower we visit the shopping area in town, a small grocery store, two sporting goods stores and a souvenir shop, and later make a decision to dine at hotel Roy where they offer us a special, a three course meal for €16.00