The much depleted “Silvia Bello” club of Margaret Sarah Ian and Lisa returned to camping de la Rochetta in early September 2012. A pleasant return to the home comforts of the Bog blox DJ, 5* deli/bar on site, pizza over the road and enough toilets showers for 3 mountaineering clubs. We all fitted into one square for a bargain price of 7 euros and enjoyed the 360 degree view of the mountains, plus local wildlife of flowers and Chamonix Deer crossing the path up to town at dusk. A great start to the continuation of the Alta Via 1.
We began our route from the road below the famous Lagaozui hut (where we ended last year), which is the highest point of the walk. We started a steady climb through the forest to reach the Cinque Torres (now 3 ½ towers). A clutch of Italians were climbing up but not near enough for some serious oogling. It was a brief stop at the plush Scotoloni hut to pick up Margaret who had opted for the tourist route via the cable car. Then we arrived at Nouvalou to sample the delights of awesome views complete with a Bronze sculpture in tribute to a trekker who had conquered Nouvalou 1127 times. We were also told that the hut was the oldest in the Dolomites and saved in the war by nephew who refused to bomb it after it had been donated by his uncle who wanted to enjoy the mountain air when he was sick. Margaret and Sarah opted for the comforts of the lower hut while Ian and Lisa enjoyed a simple life and the start of our love affair with white breads and jam for breakfast and goulash and polenta for dinner.
Next day, we met up again and continued our second day ascending and descending a variety of terrain including; magical green fields, a hanging valley, precarious scree slope with marmots, and finished in a valley with a welcome stream to cool tired feet. Unfortunately the cooking at Citta de fume did not compare to the surroundings; cold green beans and a lots of cheese! Lisa managed to find some quality English literature amongst the books; an S&F (shopping and fucking) book as Ian called it. And we amused ourselves with the first of many card games.
Day 3 started at Mount Pelmo and we were put to shame by an agile local running down the scree slop in trainers with a large 10ft sign post left over from some evil looking fell race. As if that was not exciting enough the girls opted to connect with their inner palaeontologist and scrambled up in midday heat to look at the dinosaurs. A grade one scramble at least and a chance to connect with our ancestors. After crossing beneath the ski lifts we made our way upwards again; passing a farmer with pitchfork and then endless switchbacks to finish our day at the large and friendly Refugio Coldai. There we had great food with amazing views inside and out. The 5 euro showers had prompted our compatriots the elderly Germans to opt for a strip wash in the communal bathrooms which Lisa found particularly concerning. A pity they weren’t a little younger really.
Our morning started past an idyllic lake, which was tempting but just too cold. The weather was turning and the walls of Civetta looked like organ pipes rising above the Codirverie valley, forbidding and moody surrounded in cloud. The Marmots were out again and we could see all the way down.
We had a long descent back into the forest to Vazzoler hut just in time for a spot of sunbathing and a beer.
Next morning we break the club tradition and leave early around 8.00 as there was bad weather coming and we had a few narrow passes to negotiate; not least to avoid the possibility of huge chunks or rock falling down. So we get to use our rain gear as the gloom comes in and thunder is heard in the distance. Fortunately we have a short day and reached the hut soggy but just in time before the full force of the storm hits the mountain. We had a warm log fire and a fab room to watch huge waterfalls cascade off the mountains. The weather turned to snow so we hit the grappa and amused ourselves with a game of dice involving working out who was lying which made us the noisiest in the hut.
Next morning, we were last out again. We needed full gear as there was snow on the mountains. It was a great day where we could see our whole walk stretching out behind us. We crossed a road wandered passed the ski lifts and through woods, in to the next valley and clamber up high over a pass to reach the remote hut of Pamperet. We arrived in the snow reaching a homely hut with log fire and a family who love to cook. The cake is amazing and the pride they take chopping for dinner is a joy to watch. No goulash tonight but a fab risotto. We have an outside bedroom in a hut with no heating so we take up all the blankets and fluffy slippers as it is below freezing.
The next day the sun is back; a cold but incredibly crisp day and three of us start a climb as the hut owner watches over us with his binoculars. Margaret had decided to finish the walk and go for a spot of handbag shopping in Bellumo. The day is awesome. The scramble is not difficult despite the warnings but definitely very exposed, a lunar landscape complete with bowl shape rock formations and incredible curved exposed rock strata with a view across the whole Dolomite range back to day 2 of the Hanging valley.
As we made our way down to through a remote valley to the last hut there were Edelweiss on the ground with the great Schairra Range (where a couple of hardy Germans finished with a via ferrata) towering above us and deep sheer cliffs laden with forest opposite.
The final hut was nestling in a green valley; the local farmer had brought his sheep for the night and there was a roar of something in the distance. Lisa was convinced it was a bear but Sarah could not hear it. We had great meal and watched the sunset. Lisa dreamt of bears and Ian was subject to the friendly fire of books and sticks to stop the snoring!
The next morning after a very early start of 6am Sarah sampled the sunrise and yes could hear a growl in the distance. We asked at breakfast. Yes there were bears in the Dolomites but not in this valley. It was a rutting deer! We left relieved and followed a very long path down the valley, through beech forest to the end of the route at the bus stop. There, we met an American who had not been able to work out how to get to the via ferrata and had spent an entire week from Belluno going up and down the end of the walk.
So we returned to the campsite tired but full of memories of goulash and card games. Amazing and constantly changing views of mountains, dramatic limestone peaks, scarily large chunks of boulders scattered everywhere, naked Germans and the sounds of a bear.
We had a few days in Venice but no comparison really. Alta via 2 next!