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Rain, snow and ice
Wednesday September 19, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI reporter, Katy Dartford, had been planning to hike, climb and run in the Dolomites. Not just any old route, but the Alta Via No1. Then the recent snow changed things a bit....

"If there have been many bees in the summer, then there will be plenty of snow," a trekking guide from the Aosta Valley had told me earlier in the summer.

Perhaps I should have taken her more seriously.

There had been plenty of bees, and flies seeking warmth for that matter, buzzing around the Italian rifugios where I'd spent the last few days.

I was in this playground of pinnacles that are the Dolomites, to hike and trail run along part of the high-level walking route, Alta Via N.1.

The 93-mile long route runs through the eastern Dolomites, beginning in the Italian Sud Tirol and leads south through the Pragser and Tofana mountain groups.

It should be largely free of snow at this time of the year....and it certainly seemed that it would stay that way for the week....It was t-shirt weather with brilliant blue skies and gentle breezes as I arrived.

I packed light.   

Started as summerStarted as summer












I'm dripping with sweat as I hike up to Rifugio Fodara Vedla (1,965 m /6,447') in the Natural Park of Fanes-Sennes-Braies from Pedero.

Despite the heat- I'm kept going with stunning views of the hazy Tofane and Marmolada mountains. I cross just east of the Croda Rossa Massif, breathing in the smell of warm pine needles, until I reach the rifugio and settle in for the night with a hot shower, Aperol Spritz and three course Ladin dinner, which I certainly needed after hiking just 1,8 miles but with 1,640' elevation gain.

The next morning was again warm and bright again so I welcomed the long downhill descent towards Rifugio Pederü, and dripped with sweat again on the steep uphill to Lago di Limo and our bed for the night, the bustling Rifugio Fanes.  

However, weather reports for the next day predicted heavy rain and possibly even snow - hang on, it's early September.

Closing inClosing in













It was certainly chillier the next morning so I tried to layer up with the very few clothes I'd packed and set off for the next destination, the highest point on the route, Monte Lagazuoi at 2,750 metres.

I'm met by Karin Pizzini who guides us through the Altopiano di Fanes with its beautiful panoramas of the Western Dolomites and the Marmolada Massif. 

'The Dolomites were once like the Bahamas,' says Karin. But I can't say I'm feeling particularly balmy right now as I see the rifugio Lagazio engulfed in clouds in the distance...

"The mountains are 80- 250 million years old and were once in the ocean, some were actually coral reefs, so you can see lots of shells and layers.

She points out a Megalodonte fossils in a boulder by my feet. "See its horn shape?' says Karin, 'Shepherd's used to tell stories about them because of the shape.  They said it meant that the devil had passed by, perhaps to warn people off the path because it's very rocky and windy.'

As we climb to the Forcella del Lago,  a narrow and dramatic gap in the mountain, the heat generated enough warmth to keep me going, but by the time we reached the trail descent through steep talus on the south side, I was frozen.

Getting heavierGetting heavier












I was  itching to begin the long, steady climb to the Rifugio Lagazuoi to keep me warm. But the heavens decided to open so we retreated back down to valley, drenched, but relieved to be out of the rain.

It was a disappointment not to see the stunning views and do some trail running.

The next day I optimistically opened my curtains hoping for a day of climbing, but there had been a healthy dusting of snow across the mountain. My heart sank.

It's 1 degree c in the valley and no good for climbing, so we decide to go for a walk through the World War 1 Tunnels at Lagazuio instead. They turned out to be fascinating.

It was certainly more adventurous as the tunnels were lined with ice, good thing my new guide, Marica Fave was once a top ranked ice climber, I thought.

We stop for lunch, the local speciality of deliciously sweet beetroot ravioli. It was delectable. Then looking at the weather, it seemed a little brighter, so Marica suggested we climb some easy routes on the Cinque Torres in our trainers, so our feet didn't freeze. 

We head to Torre Quarta Bassa and climbed the Alta and Bassa routes and despite freezing fingers and flakes of snow beginning to fall again, we'd defied the weather and managed to climb something at least. It was challenging and fun.

It hadn't been quite the trip planned, but then that is the mountains. You take them as they are and make the most of what is on offer. Shades of life really.

The next day as I began my train journey to Innsbruck, the morning dawned sunny, without a cloud in the cobalt blue sky and looked set to stay this way for a while - Typical.

Oh well, I will just have to come back.

Not welcome by allNot welcome by all













You can book these and other activities through Dolomite Mountains, who will arrange all your accommodation and transfer your luggage.

Where to stay:

- Lagaciò Mountain Residence, San Cassiano in Alta Badia (4-Star) Micurà de Ru 48 39030 San Cassiano (BZ) -

- Rifugio Fodara Vedla / Fodara Vedla Hütte San Vigilio di Marebbe, Val Badia (BZ) -

- Rifugio Fanes San Vigilio di Marebbe, Val Badia (BZ) -

- Rifugio Lagazuoi Cortina d'Ampezzo (BL) -

- Rifugio Lagazuoi is one of the highest rifugi (refuges or mountain inns) in the Dolomites. 

For the spirit of the mountains

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