Climb to Cima Carega
Monday, June 21
[narrative continued from previous page]
There was no time to waste, so we packed ourselves into the BMW (we decided to travel in one vehicle for this expedition) and headed a short ways east to the Val d'Illasi, a narrow valley that penetrates north into the Vicentine Alps (aka Monte Lessini, I believe), a lower sub-group of the Dolomites. This sub-group of mountains would be our home for the next two days. The highest member of this group of peaks is Cima Carega, a 7, 200+ foot (2259m) peak. Our destination, the rifugio Fraccaroli, lies just a few tens of metres below this summit.
Provincial Highway 10 (SP10) brought us higher and higher into the ever-narrowing valley, transitioning from the broad plain of the Po at its south end into a narrow wooded valley. The highest and final town along this route, Giazza, is a picturesque little town of the sort that time seems to have forgotten. We drove past the town, up through many steep switchbacks in the forest, to the end of the highway at the trailhead. We quickly prepared our packs for travel and headed off up the trail (really a gated former military road that now serves as a trail, and provides private vehicle access to some of the rifugios along the way).
The old gravelled road switchbacked upwards on an easy grade through thick forest. Occasionally there would be a path that would cross the road, allowing us to cut some of the switchbacks. After a short while, we emerged from the trees, allowing us to get views of grassy pastures and white walls of dolomite. It wasn't as hugely grand as the higher dolomites, but it still had a charming ruggedness to it.
Presently the road brought us to Passo Pertica, a break one of the line of peaks leading up towards Cima Carega. There was a rifugio (Rifugio Passo Pertica) tucked into this pass, and we stopped for a short break.
View through Passo Pertica
Looking back to Passo Pertica
The road continued on, and so did we, traversing and gradually climbing along the north-western slopes of the Val d'Illasi. We could now see the head of the valley not far above - a pleasant bowl of sloping, grassy pastures. Above that was Passo Pelagatta and the Rifugio Scalorbi.
Graham and Alanna on the trail
The weather, which had been reluctantly to change from the previous few weeks of continuous wetness, was starting to change. Although it was still cloudy, we could tell that the sun was trying to break through. Always good news when one is heading into the mountains.
We soon arrived at Passo Pelagatta, where it had become significantly cooler and breezier, prompting a clothing stop. We could now see the high terrain above, and I could now spot the 'south-east ridge' of Cima Carega upon which our next challenge - the Via Ferrata Carlo Campalani - was situated. We located the main path (the 'E5') leading up towards Cima Carega from Passo Pelagatta and followed it for a bit, then branched off on a much fainter path at a rock painted with the word 'ferrata'. We followed this up, sometimes steeply, through heathered slopes until reaching a shoulder where the trail faintly switches to the left along some level terrain below vertical cliffs. After traversing along like this for a few minutes, the faint trail ends at the plaques and wire that mark the start of the ferrata.
Faint ferrata access path
Seeing as this was Graham and Alanna's first ever via ferrata, we took a little extra time getting our gear on and explaining the basics. They seemed a little apprehensive about it all, but I wasn't too worried: Graham and Alanna are excellent climbers on tough boulder problems, and the technical level of this sort of climbing should be well within their ability.
Graham and Alanna prepare
Initial climbing, ferrata Campalani
Although graded as a 'medium', the ferrata started off with a fairly tough set of moves - slightly overhanging, even. It was steep for a short while, then traversed sideways on an easy ledge. Then came another tricky bit in a vertical and tight chimney.
Not long after the top of the Chimney, we passed the 'route book' of the ferrata. The angle of the rock eased and overall it was much simpler climbing - a steep scramble in most places, really, albeit with the protection of a wire.
Looking back out over the landscape, we were heartened to see that the overcast was breaking up, and blue sky could be seen here and there. Below us, there was also a spectacular build-up of puffy clouds at the eastern edge of the high terrain surrounding Cima Carega.
Alanna is nearly finished
After a few more minutes of easy scrambling along the wire, the ferrata ended and a steep path up through dwarf conifer trees led up to the crest of a steep-sided ridge. A defined and somewhat airy path leads up along the very crest of the ridge, with spectacular views in all directions.