|Mountain(s) / Location:
Monte Casale / Piccoli Dolomiti
Fletcher/Smith Rating: 3C
Hofler/Werner Rating: -
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This route climbs a big wall to a flat, grassy-topped peak (Monte Casale). The route is long, with a lot of elevation gain, and the routefinding leading up to and after the route is not always super-obvious. The protection is very sound, and the rock is solid, although there are many smooth slab sections that are aided with stemples. The ferrata is located in the 'piccoli dolomiti' region (more specifically, near the northern end of Lake Garda). The start elevation is quite low, and It can be a very hot route in the middle of summer!
The route is described as a loop, with the first half of the loop being the ferrata leading up to the top of Monte Casale, and the second half is the descent route.
This ferrata starts in the parking lot of quarry operation in Pietramurata, a town about 10km or so north of Arco (maybe 15km north of Riva del Garda) on highway SS45bis. On the north edge of town there is an entrance to the quarry complex. Turn west into this entrance road, which immediately turns south and runs parallel to the main road. Follow this for a short distance (100 or 200 meters, maybe). You'll see a well-paved parking area with nicely painted parking spots. You can leave your car here. The start of the ferrata is about 50m to the west of where you park your car, at the edge of a bit of vineyard. There are signs here that indicate the start of of the 'Croz dei Pini' trail, and, on a smaller sign, the via ferrata Che Guevara.
Start of Che Guevara Ferrata
Follow the signs onto a path which goes west, parallelling the quarry works (i.e the quarry works will be on your right as you hike along). Eventually you'll enter more continuous tree cover. Here's the first point where things aren't so obvious.
There are several side paths branching off to the right. I recommend staying to the left for at least the first couple of these. Your objective at this point is to follow a good path up to the base of the wall immediately above you, at which point the route hugs the base of the wall as it works its way north. When I did this route, I prematurely took one of the false paths that went straight up to this wall, and I paid for it by climbing up some very tiring scree. Since I didn't follow the ideal route, I can't describe the correct path precisely. Remember - the objective is to get up to the base of the wall and then follow it north. Shortly after reaching the base of the wall and starting north, you'll encounter the first wires, which angle diagonally up (towards the north and west). Please consult my interactive tracklog for a more detailed visual account of where to go.
When we did this route, in the middle of July, it was super-hot, with temperatures in the 35 to 40 degree range during the middle of the day. The east face of Monte Casale (which this route climbs) catches the early morning sun, so things heat up quickly here. Take lots of water and be prepared to drink often if you are climbing in these sorts of conditions.
As I mentioned, soon after reaching the base of the first wall, the wires start, and lead up over good rock. Even this section is a little airy. Above this section, the ferrata stops, and a well-defined path continues north and west for a while, then swings around to the west and south, and starts to climb a series of steps, sometimes just scrambling, sometimes with a bit of ferrata and stemples. There are several large elevation points painted on the rock along the way ('Quota ').
The route leads up to a vegetated bench (i.e. a small patch of forest). The well-defined path leads up through this bit of forest to a bit of scrambling below the big, main wall. This is where the 'real' ferrata starts. There are red waymarks and a big red painted star to guide you over these rocks. The start of the wires is hidden behind a little outcropping of rocks. You'll know it when you see it, because 'Ferrata Che Guevara' is painted in big red letters on the rock next to the start point.
Just before the real start
The main part of the route starts off boldly, climbing steep and excellent rock. The route does wander back and forth, exploiting narrow ledges and weaknesses in the rock. There are a few breaks here and there where a brief bit of trail-walking leads between sections of wire. The views back into the valley below are pretty stunning, and there is a decent dose of exposure.
Climbing on Che Guevara Ferrata
As you approach the upper part of the main ferrata route, the rock gets tougher - there are fewer holds, and in places the rock is so smooth and featureless, it almost looks like it has sanded down. In these places, though, there are big sets of stemples that allow you to easily climb.
Daryl and Jenn high above
Above this section, the main part of the ferrata ends, and you reach a small patch of forest - which, if it is hot, is a godsend, since you can take advantage of the shade. From here on up, the ferrata is much easier and very sporadic. In fact, it is more steep trail hiking than anything else. The routebook is encountered in a small house-shaped box bolted to a wall on a shaded ledge. Above that, the route the first of several excellent lookout points, allowing good views to the south of Lake Garda.
Straight down to the endpoint
A couple of more easy ferrata steps and you are done with ferrata. The route is very close to the summit plateau now, and it is only a bit of steep climbing, first through dense forest and then through open meadows, to the summit plateau.
The summit plateau is a wide, gently-domed expanse of grass. The 'summit' cross you may have noticed on the way up is not the actual summit. The actual summit is on the crown of the rounded plateau and has a small semi-circular summit monument.
Monte Casale summit plateau