Lel Davies and Iain Miller were also with us in spirit; Iain had broken his shoulder a couple of weeks before the trip and so, since they had planned to drive out, both were unable to come.
Friends: Glen Mason, Wendy Mason, Luke Mason, Tony Ferrari, Grainee Millwood, Caitlin Millwood and Owen Millwood.
Several of us had wanted a club via Ferrata trip for the past two years but due to other commitments and a range of other factors, this had not happened. This summer, however, we did it! We spent a week in the Dolomites. 2 of us (Helen and Claire) stayed at Camping Rocchetta on the outskirts of Cortina d'Ampezzo and the remaining 9 had a villa near Valle di Cadore, around 30 minutes drive away. Some of us flew out for the trip whilst others took more time and drove out and visited the Black Forest and the Boden See on the way out and Chamonix and Mont Blanc on the way back. Although the less said about the 1 1/2hr queue on the Italian border for a €2 toll fee the better...
So, what is 'via ferrata'? These are routes across the mountains equipped with metal wires, stemples and ladders. Using a harness and VF lanyard (like elasticated cowstails) you can clip in and traverse these paths and take in some spectacular scenery along the way. VF is a leisure activity now, and some routes have been made in recent years solely for recreational purposes, but it has its origins in war. The Italians and Austrians fought on the summits and passes of these mountains during the First World War. The wires were installed to assist the movement of troops and supplies across the mountains.
|Glen, Owen, Helen, Tim, Luke, Claire, Andrea and Rhys|
The weather was on our side for most of the trip as the thunderstorms tended to only happen overnight and in the late afternoon after we had finished our day’s activities. The rest of the time, shorts and t-shirt weather was in order. Tim and Andrea were the most experienced via ferratists among us. Of the rest of us, most had either never tried it before, or only been on one route. We therefore started the week with two easy routes, Giovanni Barbara (1A) and Lucio Dalaiti (1A). This was a pleasant walk which included a few short sections of via ferrata, nothing scary, and a good place to learn to use and trust kit. The setting was very pretty, and there was an impressive waterfall which the route passed beneath the mid section.
|Andrea and Wendy pass beneath the waterfall (Cascada de Fanes).|
|The first section of via ferrata relying on use of the VF lanyards.|
|How to keep feet dry on a river crossing|
|Wendy, Glen and Luke near the lower section of the waterfall|
|Luke, Tim and Owen on VF Lucia Dalaiti|
|Helen looking confident on the steel rungs of Giovanni Barbara|
|The team on the steep walk back to the car park (Photo: Tony Ferrari)|
|The path and all 3 sections of the Cascada de Fanes are visible. We walked behind the small looking central part.|
A walk (Sasso di Stria at Passo di Falzarego) and a visit to the Lagazuoi Tunnels were on the cards for the Monday. The beauty of the scenery is marred by the remnants of war. It is certainly sobering to find yourself walking in First World War trenches and it is impossible not to think about all the lives lost in that place. How cold, desolate and inhospitable it must have been during the winter months when temperatures plummeted.
|Sasso di Stria summit and trenches (below)|
|Andrea on Sasso di Stria|
The afternoon saw us move on to the Lagazuoi Tunnels. War was fought on and inside Mount Lagazuoi. A network of tunnels was dug by both sides within the mountain. The Austrians held the mountaintop and initially the Italians began digging to dislodge them. The Austrians then began to dig counter tunnels. Some of the tunnels within the mountain were to place mines under enemy positions, some were for firing or observation, others for access and some to counter enemy tunnels. In June 1917 33,000kg of explosives were detonated by the Italians in an effort to well and truly dislodge the Austrians. The resulting explosion blew the smaller peak off the mountain, but did not have a substantial impact on Austrian forces. Access is only granted to a small proportion of the tunnels in the mountain, yet even this is incredible (and fairly strenuous at times) and it is easy to spend 2 hours walking through the tunnels before exiting and walking down the outside of the mountain. We then headed off for a pizza in Cortina.
|Tim peering out of the Lagazuoi Tunnels|
The next day saw us trying another via ferrata. This time is was VF Lamon (2B) beginning on Tofana di Mezzo and ending on Tofano di Dentro, accessible by cablecar from Cortina. The views were incredible from the start and it was a fun route that was harder on the reverse (uphill). Quite a few people watched us stepping over the safety barriers and on to the VF and looked at us like we were crazy, so it was a bit like the looks given by customers at Dan yr Ogof when you pass them to leave the showcave behind. Definitely to be recommended. In the evening we headed over to the group villa for some food. See here for Tim's video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWVlX4yLgTw
|The group at the cablecar station|
|What a view!|
|Glen admiring the view|
|Claire and Glen on Tofano di Mezzo|
|Tim on VF Lamo|
|The villa that the rest of the group stayed in|
|View from the top of VF Col dei Bos|
|Glen arriving at the top|
|Lunch and de-kitting at the end of the VF|
|Tim on the way back down|
|Tim, Andrea and Rhys at the top of VF Averau|
|Rhys admiring the view|
|The valley lit up by lightning|
|Andrea enjoying her birthday treat|