TRAVERSE UNDER THE CRODA ROSSA RANGE
The itinerary for the day took us on a diagonal swath across the Fannes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park, a pretty spectacular place. By the time we checked into Rifugio Fodara-Vedla that evening, we had trekked 11 miles, up 7,700 feet and through two storms one with thunder, both with plenty of wind.
We started around 9 a.m. and, save for one hour for lunch at a fun rifugio, we hiked about nine hours total. I was pushed to a limit, that’s for sure. And there was no such luck for a repeat of the great weather from Monday.
Before we started, Peter mentioned that, depending on the weather and how I was feeling, there was an option to take a bus to a spot about three miles into the trek. By taking the bus, we’d also skip a 283-foot climb and a few more of those tricky parts with the cords and chains. I declined. I’m here for an adventure.
Plus, I felt good, even with my arthritic hips. So we were off. As a guide, Peter must always check the weather forecast. We knew from Monday that it was going to rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, but not until the afternoon, so said the forecasts. And forecasts are always correct.
The path took us under the façade of the Croda Rossa, (the Red Wall) for several hours. It was a fantastic hike, even with the grey sky and rain. I don’t know how to convey that even under those conditions, the thunder and the wind, this place is still a marvel. I’m hiking through a rocky valley with these spires of rock towering above with red and grey and slate blue and black colors. It’s eerie and it even felt a bit apocalyptic with the weather. I loved it.
The rain hit about an hour or two after we were on our way. We were already at the tricky parts with the cords and chains. Peter took my poles and I simply progressed like the day before and went one step at a time. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. But the rain? That’s a different story. It almost felt like being pelted with sleet and then the wind kicked into gear. That was cold. Still, you just keep moving.
Such is hiking in the mountains. I knew perfectly well that the weather can change hour to hour, minute to minute, depending on how high up you climb. So even though I was uncomfortable and my pants were soaked, I took it as part of the experience, grinned, even laughed and forged on. (And made a mental note to get a pair of those waterproof pants to slip on. And a big poncho.)
After the first storm, we had about five minutes of sunshine and it was a delightful five minutes. It was just enough to get my pants on the path to “dry.”
At one point along the way, you can see the path laid out ahead and it simply did not look so much like a path as a sort of clearing on the side of a mountain. From a distance it was a bit daunting but once you get on it, you see that it’s flat enough for walking. Sort of. Actually, that was kind of a rush, I admit. You go along, with spires above, the rocks below. After a half hour, I turned around and looked at where we came from, at the sprawling landscape. “Yes!” I thought, adding an air fist bump.
We stopped for lunch at this wonderful little rifugio, Ross Alm, where it was nice and warm inside, especially in the kitchen where I camped out for about 20 minutes, talking to one of the owners. They let me stand in front of their wood-burning stove to get dry, as well as hang my pullover above the stove to get it somewhat dry. There was a group from Denmark there who were headed to where we just came from. We ate a delicious bowl of pasta with tomato sauce and had some tea. We talked about the weather, the hikes, what’s ahead for us that afternoon. It was a nice stop and I have zero photos of the place. None. They even insisted that I try their homemade grappa before we headed out. Let’s just say I barely took a sip and that was enough. I was 7,000 feet above sea level. Are you kidding?
So we were off again and for the next two hours or so, it was nothing but rocks, across a somewhat level area and then the climb began again. I thought, where the heck is the top? Slowly but surely I got there, landing at 7,700 feet up. There’s a rock there with “Rif. Biella, 5m away” painted on it. Rifugio Biella was just five minutes away, down the hill. What’s funny is we couldn’t see it because of the clouds that had camped out on the side of the mountain. I just followed Peter down the trail, on the loose scree, right up to the door of the place. Peter knew the owners there too and he was telling them about our planned hikes for the next two days. The forecast called for rain on Wednesday but Thursday there would be sun.
Keep a tally now. For two days, we heard that Thursday was going to be the nice day of the week and good thing because we had a long, steep hike planned. “Better to take tomorrow and rest a bit,” one of them said to Peter.
So we continue, with about two hours still to go. Ten minutes later, it starts raining again. This time we’re on an open road and it pours for about 15 minutes. We are soaked again. Well, at least you’re going to have something interesting to write about, Peter said. I agreed with him. After a quick stop at a rifugio along the way, and trudging through what I thought was a swamp, we finally make it Rifugio Fodara Vedla, our place for the night, at 6,500 feet up. I paid a few euros extra for a private room and it was worth it. Dinner started with a piping hot bowl of pasta in broth, followed by a dish of mixed grilled meats, roasted potatoes and salad. Everything was delicious.
The highlight of the night? The hot shower. That meal and the shower made all the craziness of the day dissipate. Peter laughed and said this day, with the two storms, was like the equivalent of two hikes. And my feet ached! I thought maybe it was because my boots were a half-size too small. Or maybe it was because we hiked for 10 hours, covering 11 miles. We went into the bar area and talked about options for Wednesday. It was looking like a day to just hike about five miles around the area. Not a bad way to spend the day in the Dolomites.