Ferrata Intro for Sophie
Saturday, June 29
After several days of more convential tourist-ing around, visiting wineries and towns and such, we wanted to spend our last day and a half in the Riva area with something outdoorsy. Luke and Sophie had heard us talk many-a-time about those infamous vie ferrate - the iron climbing routes in the Dolomites.
Since the Riva area is home to several Via Ferrata routes, and since Via Ferrata routes weren't suitable for young Kate, we decided to offer Luke and Sophie a two-for-one sort of deal: Luke would stay back in Riva with Kate today - the Saturday - and Jenn and I would take Sophie on a ferrata outing. The next day - the Sunday - Jenn and I would take Luke on a ferrata outing, while Sophie stayed behind with Kate.
The rest of our group opted out of outdoorsy stuff, and I handed over the keys to the rental VW to Daniel so they could go off exploring the southern reaches of Lake Garda.
Preparing for VF Susatti
As well as introducing Luke and Sophie to ferrate, I decided to expand my own ferrata horizons by choosing routes that I had not yet done before. For today - Sophie's day - I chose an easy-rated (2 on the Fletcher/Smith scale) ferrata that happened to be quite close to Riva itself - the Via Ferrata Fausto Susatti. In fact, the route could be climbed with Riva as one of its endpoints, which was convenient for all involved. Luke and Kate drove us up to a little mountain hamlet not far from Riva and dropped us off. We would hike and climb the route, ending up when all was said and done back at the edge of old Riva. The rendez-vous point, in fact, was to be the little narrow street in front of our apartment at around - I roughly guessed - 4 to 5pm.
We set off walking along the quiet streets of the little mountain town (called Biacesa, by the way) at around a quarter to 11 in the morning.
The first part of Sophie's ferrata adventure was an easy walk to the outskirts of town, and then along some narrow farm tracks. This soon turned into a leafy forest path leading gently upward. We were heading east - back towards Lake Garda - but we were diagonally ascending the steep valley walls as we did so. As a result, we were gaining altitude despite the fact that we were heading down-valley.
An hour or so of walking along a mostly traversing path through forest with occasional views towards Lake Garda brought us to a shady alcove, where formed concrete from bunkers of the first world war told us that we were getting close to the exposed ridgecrest of one of the crags of dolomite that line the shore of Lake Garda. This exposed crag - called Cima Capi - was the location of our ferrata.
I wasn't sure how much further ahead the ferrata-wires were, so I recommended that we don our ferrata climbing gear here.
Point out Sophie's Apartment
It took another 15 minutes or so of hiking and scrambling to get to the start of the wires. We could now survey our upcoming climb. From afar it looked a touch daunting, but as we got closer, I could tell that this indeed was not going to be a very hard ferrata: it didn't appear as if any of the ridgecrest between where we were and the top had any sort of overly-exposed or strenuous rock. Not only that, but there were tufts of vegetation here and there along the ridge, which usually indicates moderate difficulty. If it grows, it's probably not exposed.
Luke is down there somewhere
A bit of final instruction for Sophie on climbing a via ferrata route safely and with etiquette, and we started up. The rock was solid and excellent and the difficulty was relatively low. It was easy to climb without using the wire or the metal stemples for assistance.
This really was the perfect intro ferrata: the climbing was very straightforward and not overly challenging, and we had some great views - especially down to the the sail-dotted waters of Lake Garda, well over 600 metres (2000ft) below. Certainly Sophie seemed to be enjoying it. Mostly she was all smiles and it looked like she was having fun.
In fact, the ferrata was almost too short and too easy: we finished the main portion of climbing in about fifty minutes, and ten minutes later, we were standing atop the scrubby bushes and rocks of the summit of Cima Capi. We stopped for a short lunch break and broke out a special treat we had brought along: one of the half-finished bottles of Valpolicella from our visit to the Bertani winery, two days before.
Although the summit of Cima Capi marked the end of the primary difficulties, we were still only about halfway along the total distance of our planned route. It was now 2pm, and if we were going to honour our 4 to 5pm arrival time, we had to get moving.
From Cima Capi, we descended very briefly and then started following a sometimes-wooded, sometimes slightly-exposed ridgeline that connected Cima Capi to the other peaks of the Gruppo della Rochetta. The trail was easy to move along, however: any place where the exposure got a little serious, the ferrata wire re-appeared to help us along. The trail was also expertly cut out of the solid bedrock of the cliff where necessary, eliminating the need for any actual climbing skill. The wire was more of a hand-rail than anything else.