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Dolomites - July 2017

Original Post
Kayla Allen · · Colorado Springs · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 20

My fiance and I are taking our honeymoon in Italy and we want to climb some of the via ferrattas there. He has some experience with international climbing, I have none. We've been perusing these forums and other travel sites for information, but does anyone have any advice? I think we want to stay as close to Cortina d'Ampezzo as we can - but we need to get there from Bolzano. It looks like we will need a rental car and we can stay in refugios, is that accurate? How does the cable car system work? Is there any other basic information we ought to know? Thanks!

Kevin MP · · Redmond, OR · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 213

The Rockfax guidebook is an excellent resource for planning your trip and covers climbs and via ferrata (important note, the via ferrata in Val Gardena is no longer open). It will help you get some idea of what routes you want to do and what regions they are in beforehand so you don't spend your whole time driving the fun but slow mountain roads.

You will most likely want a vehicle to make the most of your time in those amazing mountains. If you are looking to save a dime there is primitive camping available between Cortina and Falzarego pass, by the road to Cinque Torri, and in other areas too if you can bring your camping gear or buy stuff there. Obviously depends how long you are traveling for whether it's worth it. Fuel, campgrounds and dining out are generally pricey but groceries are quite cheap compared to the US, even in the mountain towns.

The cable cars provide great access to some areas of the mountains and make for a great "vacation climbing" experience. For example, Via Maria on Sass Pordoi is a 10 pitch 5.8 that tops out at a mountain hut with a bar and restaurant, and a cable car that brings you directly back down to the parking lot, no knee-busting descent! Most of these lifts are independent and sell one-way or round trip tickets on the spot although I think there is a pass for all of them if you will be doing a lot of this. Just be aware of their hours before you plan your adventure.

Happy planning!

Dustin B · · Steamboat · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 1,195

There are regional bus systems that can get you from Bolzano to the mountains and between the towns, but a rental car defiantly helps make things easier. If I were to go without a rental car I would try to stay in Corvara as many good via ferrata and climbs can be accessed by foot and lifts that leave right from town, and the village is a lot smaller than cortina and slightly less posh. Staying in Refugio's can be a bit crazy, some have private rooms but some have communal style accommodations that can be packed, and you will be on their schedules for eating and sleeping. Renting an apartment is our preferred way, we like to stay here: , the previous post mentions the rock fax guide, it's awesome.

Did my first via Ferrata last week there, called Tridentina and it was Incredibly fun, with a capital F. Great to climb a massive face with my wife in an hour and a half. Sport Kostner rented us VF tails for 5 euro per day, we used our regular climbing harnesses and helmets. Happy to share any details to assist your planning, it's the most amazing place I've ever been.

pierref · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

That's a very good idea and the cortina corvara area has a plenty of great climbs or VF! I have been there 8 or 9 times and i suggest:
- having a car to move between sella, falzarego, tofana range (max of 1 hour drive every day).
- rent an appartment in one of the valleys (corvara or la villa or san cassiano are good place because close to sella and Falzarego).
- a number of great routes or VF start from the valleys, a refuge is barely mandatory (starting from a refuge is mandatory only in Civetta, Marmolada and pala di san martino)

And in case of persistent bad weather (the weather forecast are acceptable), a 2 hours drive south and you are in Arco and lago di garda

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,822

The Rockfax guidebook
That's the most modern English-language book for overall Sport + Trad climbing routes in the Dolomites, but it contains only small number of the Via Ferrata routes. Also it's limited to the _mountains_, while some of the best VF routes around there are in the valleys.

The English-language VF-specific guidebooks from Cicerone press are much more complete -- though the format is old-fashioned. Covers the valleys as well as the mountains.

The best VF guidebook I've found is Klettersteigfuhrer Dolomiten : mainly German-language, but English summary for each route. And much of the info about each route is in symbols or numbers or diagrams, so you can learn a lot from it without knowing lots of German. Way better than the Cicerone VF books in lots of ways. Also with excellent coverage of the valley VF routes, not just the mountains.
. (unfortunately the Rockfax guidebook treatment of VF shows no evidence of being aware of the superior German guidebooks, or learning from them.

Two other English-language sources are Andrew's website on Dolomite VF (I sort of think he was based in Canada, and visited the Dolomites multiple trips multiple years); and
I have posted lots of reports on VF routes, including details on why it's better or worse route, and details on (with GPS) on how to find it. My reports are recently on MountainProject (search Trip Reports forum), also on (search in the Destinations forum) -- or for older reports try a google search for the name of a VF route, with the suffix "".

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,822

Dustin B wrote:
> Sport Kostner rented us VF tails for 5 euro per day, we used our regular climbing harnesses and helmets.

If you're going to rent the VF kits ... Yes,
best to bring your own climbing harness -- so you rent only the special additional Via Ferrata kit - (because lots of shops will not rent the climbing harness).
. . (also bring your own climbing helmet. The Dolomite mountains look great, but most of the rock on them is loose junk).

warning: Using a normal Via Ferrata kit properly will not prevent serious injury if you actually fall on a VF route. And when the guidebooks say that a VF route has good "protection", they normally do not mean good protection against injury if you actually take a fall.

Therefore ... If the stronger partner has experience with leading outdoor rock climbing, also good to bring a short rope (16 meters?), a couple of slings (to attach the Lead climber to a fixed anchor point), perhaps a couple of quickdraws (to direct the rope on diagonal sections), and a belay device ...
so the Lead climber can give a rope belay to a weaker partner in crux situations.
. (I often give Sharon a rope belay on crux sections of strenuous routes.
. . It has allowed her to take on harder more interesting VF routes).

Alternative protection strategy could be to use your own special Skylotec Skyrider VF kit. Around the Dolomites that's like getting a rope belay from above. Great if you want to try harder moves with your hands and feet directly on rock,rather than grabbing the cable or other steel fixtures -- but I'm not sure how to purchase one outside of Germany.


P.S. third leash short ...
Also very useful on more strenuous VF routes is a "leash" or "cow's tail" something like 100 cm end-to-end (much shorter than the two leashes/lanyards of a VF kit) attached to your climbing-harness belay loop. So you can rest in the midst of a strenuous sequence by clipping it (with its own carabiner) to one of the (non-cable) steel fixtures or to one of the cable anchor posts.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,822

I think we want to stay as close to Cortina d'Ampezzo as we can - but we need to get there from Bolzano.
The unique thing about Cortina in the Dolomites is that it has a rather nice car-free main street for restaurants + shopping. And there are some good VF routes reachable by mechanical lifts (sort of like "cable cars") say like five minutes walk from the main street. But those VF routes are pretty difficult. (Likely want a rental car to reach the good less-difficult VF routes you might want to be trying first).

Sharon and I love the pedestrian main street, but we don't make our sleeping base in Cortina any more, because:
  • it's a long way from the major train stations of Bolzano / Bozen (and the smaller but useful train station at Brixen / Bressanone).
  • Cortina is a long way from the great valley VF routes.
  • When the weather is wet in the mountains (happens a lot in the Dolomites), there's very little valley sport crags in driving range of Cortina with easy routes for Sharon.
  • No indoor climbing gym in Cortina for rainy days.
  • longer travel from major international airports MUC + MXP (and minor INN).

So now we prefer the NorthWest Dolomites, like Val Gardena with Wolkenstein and Ortisei.
  • closer to major train stations and airports.
  • some great mountain VF routes in close driving range (e.g. Brigata Tridentina mentioned above by Dustin B).
  • driving range of great valley VF routes.
  • the mountain scenery in the NW Dolomites is at least as spectacular as around Cortina - (get a place in Wolkenstein with an east-facing balcony: like waking up in mountain heaven).
  • When the mountains are wet, in driving range of several rather nice valley sport crags ("klettergarten") with easy climbing routes for Sharon (as well as moderate/hard routes for me). And in range of two nice modern indoor climbing gyms in Bozen and Brixen.

Cortina might have the nicest shopping street and a great base for climbing in sunny weather ... but my advice is ...
for best versatility in mountain and valley climbing, make your base in the NW. Then non-climbing "honeymoon" tourism drive to Cortina one day, and drive to Venice one day.
. (which will reveal the unfortunate fact that the main street of Cortina is outstanding for the Dolomites, but nothing compared to lots of European non-mountain cities).

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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