Monday, September 23, 2013

Alta Via 2 - Day 4 - Refugio Puez to Refugio Capanna Passa

The breakfast at Refugio Puez is so far the poorest on our trek. Considering the popularity of the hut we expect little bit more than couple pieces of bread, jam, butter and small cup of hot beverage for euro 6.50

We leave at 7:50 a.m., heading gently uphill towards Forcella de Crespepina where we arrive at 9:29 a.m. Soft clouds are lifting from the valley, changing our views constantly. It's beautiful up here between the rocks scattered on green rolling slopes with views of the more dramatic ranges in the distance. I wish we had more time to sit and soak up the scenery but this stage of our trek is so far the most challenging one, many steep miles still lie ahead of us, and we cannot procrastinate.

An hour later a downhill slope leads us to Passo Gardena. The pass is a green oasis between the monochromatic shades of the surrounding rock. A quick stop to have cold drink at local restaurant and at 10:45 a.m. we are walking again. This time our path leads uphill, traversing underneath a mass of tall rocks. At 11:30 a.m. we arrive to a gully, similar to the one we climbed yesterday. This is the easier way up with about 2/3 of the way being a trail and the last 1/3 vertical but easy via ferrata. This is the way we choose. Those daring to undertake the more difficult route will continue on the path for another 30 minutes to the starting point of Via Ferrata Tridentina, rated 3B which according to friends who took it compares to class 4 to easy class 5 scramble. 

The gully is steep but easy going. The trail, like yesterday is well packed and wide enough for comfort. Short cable aids a section around a semi exposed area, perhaps 20 feet long. It's obvious when we reach the last third, cliffy and vertical in my eyes, yet many of the locals don't seem to gear up. We do. Feeling comfortable with the protection on my via ferrata gear, I find this section much more fun than I expected. At 13:10 the gully is conquered, and we take a short 20 minutes lunch before continuing on our journey.

Once again I wish we did not have to rush. The scenery is one of high alpine country. I could sit here for hours appreciating the barren landscape not suitable to sustain life, beautiful yet daunting at the same time. The path takes us even higher, and when we think the climb is over, another wall appears which we have to scale. It's a taxing climb with another short via ferrata section, one we again decide to use our gear on as a part of it traverses a cliffy edge aided by slick metal stakes. 

Catching a first sight of Rifugio Cappana Fassa atop Peak Boe (Piz Boe) where we have reservation for tonight makes me feel uneasy. The mountain looms high above us and the climb from this perspective looks formidable, not mentioning it is still long ways away.

We continue on flatter path now, still enjoying the same rock dominated scenery. Sign at a junction suggest we are nearing Rifugio Boe. We have a choice of two routes, one of them, according to the sign, takes 30 minutes and requires some elevation gain. We see a group of five trekkers taking it. The other should be shorter, 20 minutes on a flat terrain with a section of via ferrata. That is the route we choose to take. Arriving at the protected section we find a first warning sign, realizing this one must be more serious that the others we encountered so far. 

The exposure is significantly higher here, we find ourselves on a narrower ledge in the middle of a cliff with hundreds of feet drop off bellow us. Surprisingly I am not feeling anxious. The ledge is wide enough for comfortable foot placement and hand holds are plentiful. Even more surprisingly I am actually enjoying the traverse. 

Arriving at Refugio Boe at 16:20 we replenish our energy with a bowl of Minestroni soup and a chocolate bar, and then tackle the last 1000 ft elevation gain to the top of Piz Boe. The route is described as a scramble; however there is a solid path to follow with one last protected section for the day which takes us around a cliff. Once again we clip in but many others don't. 

Hour and four minutes later we summit. The views are worth the climb, even though Marmolada Group which holds the highest peak in the Dolomity is partially obscured in clouds.

Refugio Capanna Fassa here atop the peak at 3125 m is the highest point of our trek. The building itself is the most rustic from all the ones along the trail. We walk in and we immediately feel at home. The warmth of the fire is welcoming, so are the owners. The dinner is at 18:30, we have a choice from an elaborate menu considering our location, and we are served what is by far the tastiest food we experienced in the mountains so far. (There are only 22 beds available here so if you plan to trek AV2 and wish to spend the night here I would recommend to reserve in advance).

After a sunset we retreat to the heated dining area, enjoying mulled wine and a game of yuker with our friends Jackie and Cody from Colorado whom we met here and with whom we share part of our journey. 

At 21:30 we hit the bed. Everybody else here is a fellow trekker with many miles ahead of them the next day, and by 22:00 the Refugio is completely quiet. 

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