Tuesday, July 24
Storms on the Eastern Front
Settled in to the campsite, we pondered about the rest of our day. Daryl
and Jenn were up for some ferrata-ing (Daryl was looking forward to more
wartime stuff and/or tunnels); Pu, I think, wanted a break from the
climbing-every-day thing (and maybe also a break from us!), and so decided
to use one of the campground's rental bicycles to head into Cortina for a
For the rest of us, it was climbing time. Flipping through my ever-
useful guidebook, I settled on a set of routes in the Sesto dolomites to
the east of Cortina. There were routes there that were new to us, not a
far drive away, had some interesting looking wartime artifacts and
The western gateway to the Sesto Dolomites is from Rifugio Auronzo - a
large, privately owned mountain hut at the end of a twisty, ascending toll
road. And an expensive toll road it is - twenty euros expensive. Parking
at a large parking lot at the end of the road, we gathered together our
hiking and ferrata gear.
The weather was unsettled - as unsettled as we'd
seen it since we'd arrived in Italy. It was cool up here, too - a fact
heightened by a nearby young american climber who was milling about near
his car in the parking lot - he had his thick sleeping bag wrapped up
Church of the Alpinists
It was nearly 2pm by the time we were ready to hit the trail. We were
still trying to come to grips with the relationship between the outing
times in the guidebooks and how that related to our personal times, so we
headed off at a good pace, wanting to be sure we finished before it got
The first part of our approach was on a broad, gravel track - wide enough
for a vehicle, really, but it was a foot-route only.
Backside of the Cime
To our left was a
famous landmark of the dolomites - the Tre Cime di Laveredo (the three
towers of the Laveredo, or the Drei Zinnen in German). It is one of the
most picturesque sights in the dolomites, but not from this side, where it
looked impressive but not especially distinctive. The other side was the
Passing a tiny little mountain chapel dedicated to alpinists, we continued
up past another rifugio to Forcella Lavaredo. Here we encountered many
rock climbers either going up or coming down from the Tre Cime (the Tre
Cime is also a famous climbing destination). Up ahead to our right we
could now see the jagged ridge that housed much of our route - Monte
Tre Cime in clouds
Monte Paterno and the ridges that radiate away from it saw more than their
fair share of conflict in World War I. The ridges are riddled with
ledges, tunnels, and lookout-holes. The route we were about to take is
named after two soliders of the first world war: Pietro De Luca, an
Italian 'alpini' soldier, and Sepp Innerkofler, a member of the Austrian
Sepp Innerkofler was a famous mountaineer and soldier who was
attempting to lead a stealth mission to retake the top of Monte Paterno
from the Italians occupying its summit, but was spotted and hit by one of
the Italian soldiers - Pietro De Luca. Some accounts say he was taken out
by a rock [thrown by De Luca] and fell to his death. The De Luca / Innerkofler route is
named after this unfortunate interaction between the two. For an
interesting account of Sepp's life and of the war in this area, please see
Tre Cime di Lavardeo
As we continued our approach to the start of the De Luca / Innerkofler
route, thicker and heavier clouds rolled in. We were now on the 'famous'
side of the Tre Cime, but the low clouds now obscured the three summits.
First rain of the trip
It started to patter with rain, and there was even a boom of thunder.
We pulled out our rain jackets for the first time on our trip and
continued on along the traversing path, taking refuge in a wide, square
cut underground room. The rain soon eased, and we continued on under
Well carved gallery
Meanwhile, back in Cortina
Shortly above the underground room, we arrived at the Forcella Toblin
(Toblin Pass). Here, a large modern hut, the Rifugio Tre Cime a Locatelli
rigufio (Drei Zinnen hutte) now sits. This first version hut was first
built by Sepp Innerkofler himself - however, during the war it was shelled
A long, jagged ridge extends north from Monte Paterno and peters out at
the pass. It is along this ridge that the route leads, southwards.
Because we had approached the start of this route from the side, rather than directly from the Forcella Toblin, we had to wander about for a couple of minutes, making sure we'd intersected the
right path. It was obvious when we found it, because it was sunken in spots - inset into the ground with stone
walls on either side, and went right past a tall narrow spire of rock mentioned in the guidebook (a local
landmark known as 'the Frankfurter').
Looking back at the sausage.
Main tunnel entrance
Soon we came to the cool stuff - the
path continued along on it's merry way, heading straight for the spine of the
ridge, and then - bloop! - via a dark hole, borrowed straight into its long
axis. This was the start of the route.
Daryl enters the depths
After fixing our ferrata gear and our headlamps, we entered the darkness.
The tunnel is large and well-constructed, with old wooden beams holding up
the ceiling in places, and soon starts a long, quite steep climb, with
steps are fixed into the floor.
Climbing the steep stairs
Due to the jagged nature of the ridgeline, the tunnel periodically popped
out into the open on its climb towards Monte Paterno. These brief
openings provide wonderful glimpses of the surrounding landscape and
perceivable feedback on the manner in which the tunnel burrows its
way inside this ridge.
Neat 'ridge tunnel'
The landscape was indeed beautiful,
with excellent views north to the Forcella Toblin and the to the interesting-looking Torre Toblino. However,
it also revealed an increasingly-foreboding looking sky, which had
darkened very noticeably since we entered the tunnels.
Bad Weather Approaching
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