Dolomites -Via Ferrata
Below my feet I see the absolute void. My heartbeats are raised and my hands are starting to "burn" to such an extent that I almost desperately look for the next good handhold, for my feet. Legs are stronger comparing to hands.Grasped on the 600m rock the last thing I want is to get tired of holding or slipping and suddenly fall.
Of course, I am secured by the Via Ferrata kit, but again a fall is a fall, and it can bring many serious damages.
This is my third day in Italy, in Dolomites, at Riva Garda and today I chose to climb Monte Albano (660m) through Mori.The route is a climbing mix and takes about 4-5 hours, according to the information on websites. It took me 2 1/2 hours to finish and I must admit it was the most interesting Via Ferrata route I crossed so far.
Over the past two days I had made two other Via Ferrata routes, of lesser difficulty. On the first day of my arrival in the Dolomites and the Lake Garda area, I started my climb in Cima Capi (927m) in the North East part of Lake Garda. It is an easy Via Ferrata route without much climbing interest, but the view from the top of the mountain compensates you to the maximum. Right In front of it outspreads Lake Garda with the colorful houses built on the verdant cliffs, looking like grape bunches, while its waters are crossed by sailing and rowing boats, almost during all day long.From the starting point it took us almost an hour to reach the place where the cable of the via ferrata trail starts .We used the iron rungs and started our climb.Along the way we crossed lots of Austrian trenches left over from the first World War. Reaching the summit we found a metal Italian flag & a box with a summit-book.We all wrote our names and I stuck inside the box one of my “ Higher Than Everest” stickers.
For descending you have lots of choices. You can either follow the same route while ascending on F. Susatti back to Riva Del Garda or to move towards following the signs for village Biacesa. Close to the summit (almost after 20’ walk) we found a junction where you can choose Foletti via ferrata or other trekking routes to other summits or turn left towars Biacesa, like we did.All these via ferrata trails enable you to reach inaccessible places above Lago Garda even without mountaineering skills and they offer total safety conditions. On our way back we crossed Refuge” Bivacco Francesco Arcioni” and in about 5 hours in total we reached village Biacesa from where we got a lift by car back to our hotel.
On the other hand, the route Ernesto Che Guevara, the one I chose for my second day in the Dolomites, had begun to attract my attention. It is a long-lasting climbing route, well secured along its length wherever there is via ferrata infrastructure and I would finally try something more fun. Those who know me well, you know I like the challenges and especially the difficult ones.
The more difficult it is, the more the fun is. The truth is that I always keep a small basket when I hear about a lot of cherries since the information in guidebooks is always a bit overwhelmed and finally the level of difficulty ends up being lower, minimizing the challenge and finally the excitement. Luckily, the beauty of the landscape balances things and the last impression is always positive. After all, the journey is what counts, not the ultimate destination.
The Ernesto Che Guevara route takes you up the vast south east face of Monte Casale, with over 1,300 meters of vertical ascent .To reach there, you have to pass village Pietramurata, pass through its exit sign, cross a small parking area and then move right, following the signs. The path skirts some vineyards and a quarry and then begins to climb up to the base of the crag through pine forest. Going right, along the base of the crag, we reached the via ferrata cable, we put on our climbing equipment and started ascending through the iron rungs. Although it’s not technically hard (Difficulty 3C), it’s a long day trail with no escape route from the main face.
After a steep and long traverse and then climb up, we reached the summit which is a huge greenery plateau with huts and a big steel cross, close to the summit of Monte Casale. This place is ideal for pic-nic and that’s why during shiny and warm days the place there can be found crowded. For those who don’t love physically challenges there are easier trails to the top and by car you can also get direct to the the nearby “Refugio Don Zio Pisoni.”
We descended through thick forest and then reached again a plateau with a hut right in the middle, with mesmerizing view of the surrounding mountains. It was a long day trail but worthy for sure.
My anxiety will stop only after a few centimeters above, when my foot will step in one of the many iron rungs that composes an exposed but well-secured via ferrata trail. I have just started climbing from the eastern part of Monte Albano, which is above village Mori, next to Lake Garda. The route is quite demanding with very exposed airy sections and it is indicated for experienced excursionists in excellent physical condition. According to the Guidebook “Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Vol2” It’s graded as 5C. Despite its difficulty, Monte Albano is an important tourist destination for the lovers of Via Ferrata, resulting in traffic congestion. This in itself creates a further difficulty, especially in cramped and slippery spots, plus increases the risk of loose rocks falling from the climbers above you.
Fortunately, I and my two climbing buddies chose to start early that morning so as we were the first to climb and we wouldn’t bother by these falls.The starting point is only a few minutes far from the Church of Santa Maria di Montalbano, built in 16th century right on the edge of the cliff, looking like a Queen, seated on her throne. You can reach this place also by car and you can have a pic-nic on the nicely made wooden tables while enjoying the view of Monte Albano and Mori. The day was pleasantly warm and the atmosphere was crystal clear.We started climbing vertically right from the beginning of the trail. It’s a steep and demanding via ferrata route along all its length. Whenever I could stand firmly on my legs and hold tight with one hand I was shooting with my camera trying to capture the moment. The view was stunning!
At the same time the thought that you can find yourself under hundreds of meters abruptly, elevates your adrenaline, transporting you in different dimension. At that point you start becoming aware of your being while perceiving your limits. For me, this is one of the greatest benefits of a Via Ferrata route, since you are exposed to the vacuum but with a relative security at the same time.
Somewhere in the middle of the route we met a middle-aged, but also quite experienced climber who stuck with us till the end of the trail. Above his lips was a thick mustache that made his face look warm and polite. Following me too closely he almost became my shadow. I didn’t even realize when the time passed and my journey reached at its end.
After we took off our helmets and climbing belts, we did a break to enjoy a yummy snack and talk about our climb. My new bearded friend, Italian from the Arco town, offered us few of the classic Italian biscotti, with almonds, that I adore and shared with us stories from his past climbs.Every time I visit a new place I like to interact, get known with local people and learn about the “secrete” things and places usually known only by them. I love listening by firsthand to their stories and learn more about their customs and culture.
Full of new experiences and having made a new friend I finished my trip to Monte Albano. Gazing at Lake Garda, spreading in front of me, I was thinking of my next destination.
* A via ferrata (Italian for “iron road”) is a protected climbing route found in the Alps and certain other locations. The essence of a modern via ferrata is a steel cable which runs along the route and is periodically (every 1 to 10 meters) fixed to the rock. Using a via ferrata kit, climbers can secure themselves to the cable, limiting any fall.