|Mountain(s) / Location:
Monte Rochetta / Piccoli Dolomiti
Fletcher/Smith Rating: 3B
Hofler/Werner Rating: -
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The Via Ferrata del Centenario is an ambitious route: it climbs from the edge of the old town center of Riva del Garda, almost at sea-level, up well over a thousand metres -- much of it quite steep -- to a little crag of rock on the wooded mountaintops above the town. Its technical difficulty is greatly lessened, however, by the fact that most of the climbing sections are done using long metal ladders. From a strict technical standpoint, then, this is not a hard climb - but in terms of the physical effort, due to of a large amount of elevation gain, and in terms of exposure (of which there is a lot), it is fairly challenging.
The ferrata is located at the north end of Lake Garda, and starts at quite a low elevation (only a hundred or so metres above sea level, in fact). As a result, you can likely do this climb at most times of the year (unlike the higher routes in the dolomites which are definitely impassable for a good chunk of the year).
Cima SAT far above
Hiking path 404 is used to access the ferrata. It starts right on the SS45bis highway, opposite the end of the Via Bastione street near downtown Riva del Garda. If you stand ner the trailhead for a moment and survey the skyline of the high, 1000+ metre cliffs above you, you'll notice the little crag of rock that is Cima SAT - the top end of the ferrata route.
Path 404 is a wide, cobblestoned path that is wide enough to drive a car; it has two smoothed lanes that looked like they were designed to facilitate bicycle traffic. The path is the primary avenue for people to reach the Bastione, a ruined fort that was built in the 1500s, and this is the first major destination on your way up to the ferrata.
The Bastione offers a nice place to stop for a first break. The ruins are interesting to explore (the fort was attacked and ruined in 1703 by the French), and there is a first good view of the town of Riva, spread out before you below at the head of blue Lake Garda.
Path 404 becomes more rocky
Up to this point, path 404 has been a very civilized, street-like pathway. Beyond the Bastione, it reverts into quite a rough mountain trail - steeper, narrower, no longer paved, and with a healthy dose of small boulders and an uneven surface. The path leads in broad switchbacks up through forest (with a few views from time to time) to a small rifugio-like structure called the Capanna Santa Barbara. It was closed on the day (a wednesday) that we were there. Even when closed, the capanna has a patio area with several picnic tables that you can use for a rest / snack break.
Just beyond the capanna, path 404 continues upwards, soon reaching a junction: the path straight to the right is the access path to the Ferrata del Centenario, and the path straight ahead is the continuation of path 404. If you wish to do this climb as a there-and-back, you return back down from the top via this upper part of path 404.
Even if you are not coming back down 404 at the end of your climb, you may find it worthwhile to continue a few hundred metres beyond on path 404 to visit the Chiesetta Santa Barbara, a wonderful little chapel constructed high into the rock of the cliffs as a war memorial sometime in the early 20th century. If you've ever walked around Riva at night and looked up to the cliffs, you will have noticed this little chapel: a small, brilliantly-lit structure high, high up on the cliffs, far above the also-lit Bastione.
If you've visited the Chiesetta, return back down the few hundred metres to the path 404 / ferrata trail junction. Start following the ferrata trail uphill, where in no more than fifteen minutes, you'll be at the start of the ferrata. The ferrata starts off with a few sections of wire-protected climbing interspersed with un-protected trail, and then (more straightforward unprotected path) climbs directly up through thicker forest to the base of the first series of ladders.
Excellent views down to Riva
The ladders look a bit old but are sound. There is a sign on them that says portata massima della scala no. 3 persone. It's unclear whether they mean a maximum of 3 people per bolted ladder segment or for the entire stretch of ladder. We mostly took the conservative approach and spread out.
These first set of ladders are mostly non-vertical, and so not very strenuous. There are some little metal platforms between sections, and only very near the top do the ladders become steeper and more strenuous. Needless to say, there are every-widening and excellent views down to the valley floor below, which now seems quite far away.
Top of first set of ladders
The top of the first section of ladders ends, and soon after, so does the wire. A path leads steeply upwards through another band of thick forest to the base of the second and largest set of ladders. Standing at the base of them, they look fairly intimidating - they recede way into the distance above and get steeper as they do, creating a strong impression of openness and steepness - perhaps even overhanging - at the top.
The second set of ladders is indeed the more strenuous. The rungs seem to go for a long time, and it get little bit more awkward and strenuous with each rung that is closer to the top. Near the very top, the ladder is either vertical or perhaps even a touch overhanging, requiring the use of some upper body strength as you climb. The sense of exposure and the view back down towards Riva from this section is spectacular.
At the top of the second set of ladders, again the route reverts to unprotected forest path. You can now see the craggy summit of Cima SAT, although now it is much closer and more substantial than the little nubbin you may have seen back down in Riva. The forest path makes its way to the prow of rock leading down from the Cima, where a return to wires and a final ladder lead up.
View down the Longest Ladders
The last section of wires and ladder to the top of the Cima is quite short (but quite airy), and soon, you are standing next to a steel Italian flag atop the small rocky summit of Cima SAT. The views of the Sarca valley, Riva, and northern Lake Garda are unparallelled. This is a great vantage point.