DAY 3: LOOP THE SENNES PLATEAU/ DAY 4: FANES GRANDE
My least favorite four-letter word. It’s July 14. Three days earlier, my guide Peter and I were sweating under the beautiful Dolomite sun as we hiked. Today? I spy snow.
Since Monday, everywhere Peter and I stopped there was chatter about the weather for the week. Oh there are going to be storms Tuesday and Wednesday but Thursday will be a nice day. OK good, I thought. We’ll deal with Tuesday and Wednesday and then really kick it on Thursday because the itinerary planned is tough, with a few steep climbs.
When I looked out the window Thursday morning, I saw the beautiful mountains I took a photo of the night before and the one in the middle changed slightly. It had snow on it. I chuckled, sent Peter a quick message and thought about how in the world I was going to stay warm that day. The snow really is very high and so it didn’t affect us all that much. Well, it was chilly but not freezing. Peter did alter our route and, as we learned later in the day, it was a good thing because the original steep path was covered in snow.
Oh we still walked about 11 miles, we still climbed and descended like all good Dolomite hikers. As the day went on, however, the sun came out and it was quite pleasant. I never really got cold. I sweat a lot but that was because I had three layers on under the windbreaker. It turned into a nice day and the hike was terrific.
But the day before, Wednesday, July 13, we were all about the weather. We both kept an eye on the gray sky and the clouds. We took a leisurely stroll around the area and climbed a bit, stopping at a hunting cabin that overlooked a cliff. As usual, the vistas were incredible. We walked about five miles out, and what do you know, it started to rain, thunder included. We waited under a big evergreen when the rain really started to come down hard. We made it back to Rifugio Fodara Vedla, ate a leisurely lunch and then just waited for a break in the weather. While sitting and waiting, the clouds rolled in, kind of like some horror movie where you shouldn’t go near the fog. For a few minutes, we literally couldn’t see anything outside.
Peter said when there’s a break, we’re leaving. Forty-five minutes later we were on our way. The route to our rifugio for the evening, Rifugio Pederü is steep. No other way to describe it. Steep with switchbacks. It was a gravel/cement road but it was steep! My knees were screaming! It took about an hour.
We checked in, again, a private room, hot shower, bliss. Thursday arrives with snow on the mountain. We head out and, as per usual, start to climb. I’m all covered up with a buff on my head, three layers of tops, a windbreaker, and I did not get cold. That might have something to do with the fact that we were going up about 6,000 feet.
Then the sun came out as we walked along a babbling brook. Suddenly the snow didn’t matter anymore. How much more quaint can you get? Snow capped mountain, evergreens, sunshine and a mountain stream. We passed a small lake or two, some cows relaxing and stopped at Rifugio Lavarella, which sits right in the pasture, a mountain range behind it. This was a nice respite, made all the nicer by chatting with the owners, whom Peter knew, and a warm piece of just-made apple strudel.
We stopped for lunch at this quaint little rifugio, Malgo Fanes Grande, joining others at a table. Within 10 minutes, everybody was talking to everybody, which is THE best thing about doing these hikes here. You meet people from all over and everyone shares their stories.
We headed out toward the Fanes Grande range and walked right down the middle of views to the right and left. When Peter saw the water gushing from a stream, he ran over to take a few photos because he’d never seen it that strong. I asked him, “Even though this is your job and you’ve been a guide for nine years, do you still discover new things?” “I always discover something new,” he said. “That’s why [the job] is so great. There’s nothing I don’t like about it.”
On the other end, we were up 1,300 feet and had to walk all the way down on these rocky steps, if you can call them that. It took about 90 minutes but alas, at the end, the trek was done.
The beauty of that Fanes Grande area was captivating. It’s a pretty level stroll through the meadow but you are up more than 5,000 feet. I couldn’t take enough photos, as you see. The morning snowfall was a distant memory. The day was perfect.
On the way out of Cortina d’Ampezzo Friday morning, I still couldn’t take my eyes off of the mountains. And let me say this: four days is not enough. If you want to do it right here, you have to stay a week. I mean seven days or more of hikes. I look forward to doing that next summer, discovering the paths that I’ve yet to place my boots on. I won’t even care if it snows.