At this point we've spent almost an entire week in and out of Cortina D'Ampezzo. Nice as it is, we are looking to move to a new area and explore there. And so after packing up our stuff from the campground we take a scenic (and very very twisty) route through the dolomites to an area called 'Val di Fassa'. Brian and Lorraine and I were here last year and had explored some of it, but there was still a very scenic area called the Rosengarten that we had not explored (click here
to visit my page with last year's ferrata adventure).
Last year we stayed in a very interesting campground in the area. Like most of the campgrounds we've encountered in Europe, the campsites were sparse but the facilities good. This campground was no exception, except that the facilities were so good, so fancy, you'd be hard pressed to find better in a five-star hotel. Marble, Granite, Fancy fixtures, pillars, paintings, piped music, a heated eating room with wide-screen TV, you name it. Just look at some of the pictures to see what we mean. And not any more expensive than any of the other campsites. The place is called Camping Vidor, and if you are ever in the area, definitely check it out!
The ferrata adventure for today was a very scenic route over the jagged backbone of a mountain ridge in the Rosengarten mountain group. This was to be our first ridge route. We had originally planned to take a cable car part way up the mountain to ease our ascent, but Markus would have none of it, grumbling about cost.
So the rest of us relented (and wouldn't let Markus change his mind) and we hiked every inch of the way.. All the way through cow pastureland, past decrepid farm buildings, past the strange Cristomannos memorial with its huge bronze eagle, and past the Roda de Vael hut. Up through a huge boulder field (with a surprising amount of snow, still, even after many days of sun) to the start of the ferrata, high up on the south end of a ridge. The ridge stood out like badly formed teeth, jutting into the sky. But the ferrata looked fun and sporty.
And it was, with lots of tricky little ups and downs and arounds as it wound its way cleverly along the ridge. With a ridge climb, there are always great and varied viewpoints, and essentially there are many mini-summits. There was one point where a madonna figurine high on a rock wall had its head replaced with a rock (see picture). Very strange...
The ultimate objective was an ascent of the highest peak of the ridge, called the Rotwand (the Redwall), at over 9,200 feet (2805m). The last part was tricky, with a few hard descents and ascents along with having to let a bunch of goofy germans go by in the opposite direction. By the time we approached the summit, it was getting fairly late in the afternoon. Still, we are all mighty happy to have done this route, as it was highly rewarding.
Then it happened: as we were starting to descend the backside of the Rotwand, Andree did not notice that a section of wire cable (ferrata cable) was icy, and when she grabbed it, she slipped and twistied around. She recalls feeling an intense pain in her knee. I recall hearing a cry and a lot of swearing.
After a moment to calm down, she said that it seemed ok. Then she put some weight on it, and her face disfigured in pain. this looked bad. She said something in her knee "didn't feel right". That especially sounded bad. I ran through all kinds of bad scenarios in my mind - dislocation, ripped or torn ligaments, something like that. This of course would mean a distract turn in our plans. But first, we had to get off the mountain. There was only an hour or two of light left and we still had a fairly long technical descent to make, and with only one usable leg this was going to take a long time.
Of course it is always advisable to lighten the load on an injured limb. However, Andree refused to give up her pack. Not wanting to argue for hours, we started down. Slowly, with frequent wincing from pain and muttered oaths from Andree. After more than an hour-long descent we make it to the end of the ferrata.
Eventually we are able to talk some sense into Andree and she gives us her pack to carry, which makes things much easier for her. Slowly, with assistance from us, we hobble down the trail, hoping to get to reasonably level ground before the light gives way completely. After some confusion and mistakes, I also realize that this particular topographic map that I have has a fair bit of incorrectly marked trail information, and we find ourselves on a less-than-desirable path, one that is higher and more difficult than the one I wanted to take. Of course this has to happen when it is getting dark and we have an injured person. Thanks, Murphy.
Soon it is dark enough to require headlamps. We attempt to make our way down to a nearby hut to see if it is open and if anyone can help us out. The trail down to this hut turns out to have the worst case of gooey, slippery muck that it has ever been my misfortune to encounter (courtesy of the recently melting snow, no doubt). And of course this is especially welcome when we have an injured person that could easily magnify a bad injury with a fall.
Amazingly, we successfully negotiate the steep muck without any major disasters except some very muddy boots and butts, and we reach the hut. No one inside seems very helpful, though, and the nearby cable car is silent and unmanned. There is nothing left to do but hike the rest of the way back to the car. And so we make our way down, thankfully with the trail getting better as we go, for the last few kilometres back.
Well, now _that_ was an adventure. A mix of great and horrible, and quite an experience. Exhausted and grimy (see picture), we drive back to town and stop at a fairly ritzy pizzeria, where we clomp in looking like zombies just risen (we don't care what we look like at this point). Still they let us order and soon we are back at the campground, thankful for the warm lit TV room that the campground has. The Pizze are wolfed down and we crash for the night.