Sunday, July 22nd
The Via Ferrata degli Alleghesi
I had wanted to try a ferrata in the Civetta group for some time now.
All of the ferrata routes in this group are of a high grade, and now that
we'd done some harder high-mountain ferrate, I felt were ready for this
sort of challenge.
I picked the via ferrata delle alleghesi (or, 'the
via ferrata of the people of alleghe'). It was a long and high route, and
made its way to the top of the Civetta itself - the dolomite's fifth
highest peak. We called and reserved four spots in the Rifugio Torrani,
a tiny mountain-hut built into the side of Civetta not far below its
summit. In this way, we could break the climb into two chunks - the climb
up, and then the climb down and back the next day. Then we'd call Graham
and arrange for a delicious dinner in Agordo!
We arose to yet another fine sunny day in the dolomites. Now, let me pause for a moment and count... this was now our eighth in a row of perfect (albeit hot in the
Chairlift at Alleghe
Our start point for the Via Ferrata Alleghesi was a
chairlift system that started in the small town of Alleghe, about 20
minutes drive upvalley from Agordo. Alleghe is a pretty little town,
nestled next to a scenic mountain lake that is only a little over 200
years old. It was formed in 1771, when a massive rockslide came down
from a nearby peak and dammed the valley, burying several small villages,
and creating the lake. The existing site of Alleghe, around the shore of
this new lake, was built up over the next two hundred years. There is
little evidence of the slide today, save for a slabby area of open rock
high on the wooded flank of Mount Spitz.
Over the town
Parking our cars in the parking lot of the chairlift facility, we were
quickly whisked up over the buildings of the town to the mountain country
just north of the Civetta massif. We could see the famous northwest face
of the Civetta - the so-called 'pareta delle parete' or 'wall of walls':
6,000 metres long and over 1,200 metres high (4,000+ feet), the biggest
rock face in the Dolomites. I knew that part of our route, the last bit
before the summit, followed the crest of the ridge which topped this wall,
and I hoped that we'd get the clear weather needed to see down it from the
The second leg of the lift system dropped us off on a knoll of land not
far from col dei Baldi, a small pass just to the north of the Civetta
group. It was wonderful mid-level mountain scenery here, with undulating
terrain containing patches of forest interspersed with mountain meadows.
Further away on all sides were dramatic craggy peaks rising steeply out of
the more gentle landscape below.
We headed on a good trail down into the little col, and then back up,
making our way into the Civetta group. Being a beautiful Sunday in the
summer, there were many hikers about, and we were constantly winding our way
around clumps of hikers and parents with kids. After a short but steep
climb, we arrived at the scenically located rifugio Coldai (this was a
place we had considering staying at, but it was booked solid, and I could
now see why - the place was swarming!).
Junction behind the rifugio
After stopping for a quick break at the rifugio, we headed around back and
continued our journey. The trail split, and we took the left-hand fork.
We noticed that the vast majority of the hikers we had been hiking alongside were
either staying at the rifugio or taking the right-hand fork. This was
good news for us, because it probably meant that our climb would not be
excessively clogged with people.
The trail traversed southwards underneath the Civetta Massif, gradually
rising out of the world of grass and trees and into the world of shattered
rock and tall towers. Ahead of us, we could now see the full sweep of our
route - and a grand sweep it was, too. Implacable ramparts of white-grey
dolomite rose in solid-looking buttresses to a high ridge, which crested
with a rounded hump near the top - the summit of Civetta. It looked
long. It looked high.
Route of the Ferrata Alleghesi
It was both of those, we knew. We noticed that today, unlike other days,
there seemed to be more moisture in the air. Although the summit looked
clear, we could see wisps of clouds starting to form. I recommended that
we quicken our pace, since in the event of serious cloud build-up, we
could be looking at an afternoon rain event or even a thunderstorm.
Torre di Valgrande
After an hour and bit of traversing along on mostly easy trail, we reached
the junction with the side trail off to the ferrata Alleghesi. We could
see the dots of climbers on the steep and imposing ridge above us, and
they looked tiny indeed. We had, after all, about 3,000 feet to gain in
the short horizontal distance of about 800 metres! There was nothing for
it but to put the head down and go for it, right?
Apprehensive more about the weather than the climb, we approached the base
of the first wires, and donned our gear. Again, not wasting much time,
we started off, climbing relatively easy rock and encountering new-looking
and solid ferrata.
Hmm... I'm going where?
Over the next two and a half hours, we climbed the steep, rounded
buttress, putting almost 2,000 feet under our belts. The climbing turned
out to be quite a bit less difficult than I had expected. It was
definitely easier than our last ferrata, the via ferrata Bolver Luigi in
the Pale, even though the route was graded at the same difficulty.
Andrew on Ferr. Alleghesi
route exploited ledges and gullies in the buttress, greatly lessening the
feeling of exposure, and steep sections were usually aided by an excessive
number of stemples and, in places, ladders. The clouds continued to
gather about us, although there were still amazing views that rolled by
now and then, and we had as yet experienced no rain.
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