Well, things had gone well, and we still had two "climbing" days to kill. I offered two (well, really three) options to Jenn and Brian: do another high-mountain glacier climb, do another ferrata, or no more climbing. After a bit of humming and hawing, they chose another ferrata climb.
Ok, another ferrata climb. Fortunately, there was an interesting and relatively close-by option: the Brenta Dolomites. The Brenta Dolomites are a physically separate sub-group of the dolomites that were closer to our present location, and I'd never been there before. There are a number of very famous ferrata routes there as well, principle among them, the 'via delle bochette', a well-known high mountain ferrata traverse.
Camping near Brenta
A couple of hours of scenic mountain driving brought us to the valley to the west of the Brenta Dolomites. We found a good campsite not far south of the town of Madonna di Campiglio (which is the principle town in the area).
Our plan was to do a section of the famous Via delle Bochette. We again wanted to break the distance up over two days, and we decided on staying on a high mountain hut not far from the start of the section of the route we wanted to do. Since it was a weekend day, I decided to find the phone number of the rifugio and advance-book beds for the three of us. They had room, and we were booked. Excellent!
The next morning, we parked at a busy car park (called 'Vallesinella', I believe), and started off on our hike to the hut. The entire Brenta dolomites is part of a national park, called the 'parco nazionale Adamello-Brenta'.
Jenn hikes into the Brenta
We were headed up trail #317 To the rifugio Brentei. The first part of the route was a very well-maintained trail that led to a lower rifugio; from there it lead upwards through more forest to an area of low scrubby latschen trees, and then into the alpine. We could now see the Brenta Dolomites ahead of us. It was spectacular, of course, but it did look quite a bit like other areas of the dolomites we'd already seen (and that is not a bad thing!).
The trail traversed along the side of a steep-walled valley, even passing through a cave with a shrine, before reaching the rifugio Brentei. The rifugio was a relatively large building situated on an area of grassy alpine meadow. Hikers and climbers hustled and bustled everywhere!
I was expecting to be placed in some huge bunkroom with tens of other climbers. As it turned out, however, we had a bunkroom to ourselves that had exactly 3 beds. How nice!
Since we had arrived early afternoon, We had lots of time to burn. We decided to wander around, and discovered an interesting alpine climber memorial just above the hut. It was a sort of chapel-arch affair, with the plaques for hundreds of climbers affixed to it. The setting for this arch was spectacular.
Dinner at the hut was quite filling, consisting of multiple courses. Almost too much!
The next morning, we got up at the late hour of 5am ;-). We did not have a particularly long agenda today, and so we didn't need to get started at quite the hour we did when climbing Cevedale a few days before. After eating the breakfast provided by the hut staff, we stashed our sleeping gear and headed outside.
We were considered two options: the first, a harder option, involved a grade '4' climbing segment followed by a grade '3' climbing segment. We could easily bypass the '4' section, thereby making our climb easier but perhaps a bit less exciting. We hiked up a short section of trail to the spot where the decision had to be made... and we decided to skip the '4' part of the route. I guess our group was not in the mood for high airy ladders today!
Shortly after this we passed one of the higher of the Brenta huts (the Alimonta hut), and from there we walked over moraines and climbed a small glacier remnant (no flow and no crevasses). There were a large group of people starting our section of the ferrata, and so we had to sit and wait for them all to filter through (this particular ferrata is quite popular).
The Via delle Bochette is a high-level ferrata route that does not actually reach any summits. It can best be described as having a 'ladder-and-ledges' character. There isn't much actual climbing on rock. Most of it is on ladders connecting horizontal ledges. And what ledges they are! As we climbed along the route, we traversed long stretches of almost perfectly level ledges, with completely vertical rock above and below. Quite unique. Too bad that clouds had moved in - we were enclosed in a sea of white. I'm sure the scenery around us was quite spectacular.
Once in a while we had to make way for groups of climbers travelling in the opposite direction. This meant either someone had to unclip completely from the protecting wire, or you had to get close and comfy with the person who wanted to pass by. After a while I took to just unclipping, because although the exposure was extreme, it was, most of the time, a very easy flat ledge.
After traversing like this for quite some time, we descended a little, then climbed through a cleft in the wall we were following. We were nearing the end of our section of the route, and a descent option would soon be upon us. The weather was clearing a bit, and we could see up to a high tower. We could hear voices and shouting from above, and, upon closer examination, we could see groups of rock climbers (true rock climbers, not ferrata climbers). I yelled up in Italian at them, asking what the name of this tower was. The faint response was ' the campanile basso, of course'. The campanile basso (in english 'the lower tower') is one of the more famous climbing towers in the dolomites. And, as we traversed around its base, we could see quite a few different climbing parties on various parts of the tower.
Climbers on the Campanile
Still vertical and exposed
A few more very exposed ledge traverses and a final ladder, and we were at the point where the ferrata was interrupted by a gap in the ridge. It was this gap that we descended, through some steep morainal debris, down to a regular hiking path. The path led directly back to the rifugio Brentei and the end of our climbing loop.
As we hiked back down the path to the rifugio, the sound of a helicopter became apparent, then grew louder and louder. Soon a yellow and red helicopter could be seen, and it was heading straight towards the Campanile basso. I began to think that someone was in trouble up on the tower. Sure enough, the helicopter began to circle and hover around the tower, and it disappeared from view. When it reappeared, we could see a dark bundle dangling off the side. The helicopter disappeared off to the west, only to return several minutes later and repeat the procedure. Definitely someone was getting rescued up there!
Jenn on trail back to rifugio
Very shortly after this we arrived back at the rifugio Brentei, completing our climbing loop. We picked up our sleeping gear, which we'd left at the rifugio, and started the easy and scenic hike down. We had managed a very solid 10 days of hiking and climbing (12 if you count the extra two days Jenn and I spent before Brian arrived). I was pleased with our accomplishments!
It was mid afternoon when we arrived back at the car park. Since we had no further climbing plans, we decided to spend the rest of the day heading north.
Tired but successful
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It was now the third-last day of our vacation. Brian (and Brian's family) were visiting friends in the south of Germany, and he had graciously arranged for us to spend the final night of our trip with them there. This was very convenient for us, since it was only a 1 and a half hour drive from their house (located near Friederichshafen, Germany) to the Zurich airport.
Celebration at campsite
Anyhow. We drove partway back towards Germnay, stopping at a resort town just on the Italian side of the border with Switzerland. There was a reasonable campsite very close to town, and we settled down here for the night. We went to the grocery store and bought some food and a celebratory bottle of red wine. Our exploits of the last 12 days needed to be acknowledged!
The next morning, we crossed the border into Switzerland. It was a delightful drive north across the country, with interesting mountain scenery. By mid-day, we crossed over into southern Germany, and spent a few hours for lunch in scenic Lindau, on the shore of Lake Constance. Then, by the end of the afternoon, we arrived at Brian's friend's house (Wolfgang was his name).
Dinner at Wolfgang's
Lori (Brian's wife) cooked us up a wonderful meal of fajitas, and we spent long hours around the outside table chatting and sipping aperatifs. A relaxing and fitting end to our wonderful trip.
The next morning we got up at a relaxed hour and drove the short distance over the border into Switzerland, and on to Zurich. The rental car return went smoothly, and Jenn and I had enough time to walk out onto Zurich Airport's viewing platform. Unfortunately, no super interesting planes to photograph. Here's a plain-jane Swiss A320 for good measure, though.
Our flight back was uneventful. Asmir picked us up at the airport in Montreal. Thanks again so much, Asmir. You are the best taxi driver ever!
I'd like to thank Jenn and Brian for being wonderful trip companions. In particular, though, I'd like to really thank Jenn for putting up with me in close quarters for a full 3 and a half weeks. I know that can get difficult at times, especially with someone like me!!
Now, the next question is... when is the next dolomites adventure?? Stay tuned....
[ Italy 2005 trip
home page |
The main trip report |
Monte Cervialto |
Herculaneum & Vesuvius |
Palace of Caserta |
Amalfi & Capri |
Abruzzo & Monte Amaro |
The Biennale |
Via Ferrata-ing in the dolomites |
Climbing in the Ortles |
Gottfried's Adventures |
Maps, Graphs & GPS Data ]