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Tuesday, July 24
Storms on the Eastern Front
courtesy PChen
Downtown Cortina
Settled in to the campsite, we pondered about the rest of our day. Daryl and Jenn were up for some ferrata-ing (Daryl was looking forward to more wartime stuff and/or tunnels); Pu, I think, wanted a break from the climbing-every-day thing (and maybe also a break from us!), and so decided to use one of the campground's rental bicycles to head into Cortina for a look around.

For the rest of us, it was climbing time. Flipping through my ever- useful guidebook, I settled on a set of routes in the Sesto dolomites to the east of Cortina. There were routes there that were new to us, not a far drive away, had some interesting looking wartime artifacts and tunnels.

The western gateway to the Sesto Dolomites is from Rifugio Auronzo - a large, privately owned mountain hut at the end of a twisty, ascending toll road. And an expensive toll road it is - twenty euros expensive. Parking at a large parking lot at the end of the road, we gathered together our hiking and ferrata gear.
Heading off
The weather was unsettled - as unsettled as we'd seen it since we'd arrived in Italy. It was cool up here, too - a fact heightened by a nearby young american climber who was milling about near his car in the parking lot - he had his thick sleeping bag wrapped up around him.
Church of the Alpinists
It was nearly 2pm by the time we were ready to hit the trail. We were still trying to come to grips with the relationship between the outing times in the guidebooks and how that related to our personal times, so we headed off at a good pace, wanting to be sure we finished before it got too late.

The first part of our approach was on a broad, gravel track - wide enough for a vehicle, really, but it was a foot-route only.
Backside of the Cime
To our left was a famous landmark of the dolomites - the Tre Cime di Laveredo (the three towers of the Laveredo, or the Drei Zinnen in German). It is one of the most picturesque sights in the dolomites, but not from this side, where it looked impressive but not especially distinctive. The other side was the famous side.
Forcella Lavaredo
Passing a tiny little mountain chapel dedicated to alpinists, we continued up past another rifugio to Forcella Lavaredo. Here we encountered many rock climbers either going up or coming down from the Tre Cime (the Tre Cime is also a famous climbing destination). Up ahead to our right we could now see the jagged ridge that housed much of our route - Monte Paterno.
Tre Cime in clouds
Monte Paterno and the ridges that radiate away from it saw more than their fair share of conflict in World War I. The ridges are riddled with ledges, tunnels, and lookout-holes. The route we were about to take is named after two soliders of the first world war: Pietro De Luca, an Italian 'alpini' soldier, and Sepp Innerkofler, a member of the Austrian Standschutzen.
101 continues
Sepp Innerkofler was a famous mountaineer and soldier who was attempting to lead a stealth mission to retake the top of Monte Paterno from the Italians occupying its summit, but was spotted and hit by one of the Italian soldiers - Pietro De Luca. Some accounts say he was taken out by a rock [thrown by De Luca] and fell to his death. The De Luca / Innerkofler route is named after this unfortunate interaction between the two. For an interesting account of Sepp's life and of the war in this area, please see http://www.worldwar1.com/itafront/sepp_ink.htm.
Tre Cime di Lavardeo
As we continued our approach to the start of the De Luca / Innerkofler route, thicker and heavier clouds rolled in. We were now on the 'famous' side of the Tre Cime, but the low clouds now obscured the three summits.
First rain of the trip
It started to patter with rain, and there was even a boom of thunder. We pulled out our rain jackets for the first time on our trip and continued on along the traversing path, taking refuge in a wide, square cut underground room. The rain soon eased, and we continued on under leaden skies.
courtesy PChen
Well carved gallery
Meanwhile, back in Cortina
Monte Paterno
Shortly above the underground room, we arrived at the Forcella Toblin (Toblin Pass). Here, a large modern hut, the Rifugio Tre Cime a Locatelli rigufio (Drei Zinnen hutte) now sits. This first version hut was first built by Sepp Innerkofler himself - however, during the war it was shelled into rubble.
Forcella Toblin
A long, jagged ridge extends north from Monte Paterno and peters out at the pass. It is along this ridge that the route leads, southwards.
Because we had approached the start of this route from the side, rather than directly from the Forcella Toblin, we had to wander about for a couple of minutes, making sure we'd intersected the right path. It was obvious when we found it, because it was sunken in spots - inset into the ground with stone walls on either side, and went right past a tall narrow spire of rock mentioned in the guidebook (a local landmark known as 'the Frankfurter').
The Frankfurter
Looking back at the sausage.
Main tunnel entrance
Soon we came to the cool stuff - the path continued along on it's merry way, heading straight for the spine of the ridge, and then - bloop! - via a dark hole, borrowed straight into its long axis. This was the start of the route.
Daryl enters the depths
After fixing our ferrata gear and our headlamps, we entered the darkness. The tunnel is large and well-constructed, with old wooden beams holding up the ceiling in places, and soon starts a long, quite steep climb, with steps are fixed into the floor.
courtesy DBoyd
Climbing the steep stairs
Due to the jagged nature of the ridgeline, the tunnel periodically popped out into the open on its climb towards Monte Paterno. These brief openings provide wonderful glimpses of the surrounding landscape and perceivable feedback on the manner in which the tunnel burrows its way inside this ridge.
Neat 'ridge tunnel'
The landscape was indeed beautiful, with excellent views north to the Forcella Toblin and the to the interesting-looking Torre Toblino. However, it also revealed an increasingly-foreboding looking sky, which had darkened very noticeably since we entered the tunnels.
Bad Weather Approaching
Cool staircase
Between tunnels
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