Restrained by Rain
Monday, September 14
It wasn't a surprise when we woke up the next morning, looked out the window, and saw white. The forecast we had been checking and re-checking for days never wavered in its prediction for solid and heavy rain today, and that's exactly what was happening. Down we went for breakfast, and a final check of the weather with hut custodian Marco. He did some looking up on his phone, and yup - super rainy today. But, he did say that tomorrow looked much better.
Gloomy, Rainy Day
We all pretty quickly came to the conclusion that climbing a ferrata in the rain (especially a grade 4, which had been our plan) didn't sound too appealing. Not to mention, we'd have no views at all. We spent the next little while poring over our maps, looking at the layouts of the various trails and ferrata outings in the Sesto Group. If we weren't moving on today, then it meant that we weren't going to be able to do the three-segment, multi-rifugio loop that we had planned.
Weighing the various options, we came up with an alternative that would allow us to wait out the rain here at the rifugio Berti. The plan was to do a long loop outing the next day that would encompass two ferrata routes: a grade 4 on the way up to a summit, and a grade 2 on the way down, followed by a longish but reasonably flattish hike back and around to end up at the end of the day back at the rifugio Berti. The following day, we'd hike the one hour back down to our car and head off. It would mean a longer single-day outing that we'd planned, but hopefully still reasonably within our capabilities.
Drying off in the hut
We communicated our plans to Marco (the hut proprietor), and he seemed also to think it was reasonable (Marco has been proprietor of this hut for decades, and obviously knew this sub-range of the Dolomites inside and out). We asked if we could modify our reservation to stay at the Rifugio Berti for three nights, which he said would be no problem. I also asked if he could call over to the other hut to which we had made a reservation (the Rifugio Carducci) and cancel it, and he was also gracious enough to do that for us.
With our re-jigged plan in place, there was nothing much else to do for the rest of the day. We sat in the dining room after breakfast, chatting and playing some of Stephanie's portable card games (thank God she had had the foresight to bring some games!).
After we tired of playing games, we retired up to our room for a bit of mid-day napping. When retiring became tiring, we went back downstairs and tried a couple of rounds of a different card game. Outside, more rain, more dullness, and no views. Then, more nap time. Time ticks by pretty slowly when you are waiting for it to go by....
It was around 5pm when I awoke from another mid-day doze. I had that faint stuffy headache that you get when day-napping for too long, but still I was looking forward to the always-delicious meals that Marco and his family served. I had a glance outside our room's window (for about the fifteenth time so far today), and this time, it was a bit different: the metal roof of the hut was still glistening wet, but there were no more pitter-patters of raindrops playing across it. And the landscape behind the hut buildings was definitely more visible - the cloud deck had risen. Was this extended period of rain starting to break?
Maybe lifting a bit?
We went back down to the dining room to hang out some more, wait for dinner, and to see if the weather continued to improve. As we played another round of a card game, we looked up and suddenly noticed that the Val Grande (the valley below from which he had hiked up the day before) was now visible. Fifty minutes later, another heart-stopping sight - a small hole in the clouds, through which a strange blue background could be seen. That blue, that blue... now, where had I seen that before...?
So yes, the weather was definitely breaking up. We finished our game and went outside, where the rain had definitely stopped, and the views were definitely starting. Tendrils of clouds still clung to the highpoints, which we could see now all around us. A whole line of jagged towers, completely invisible to us since we had arrived, started to appear. Awesome.
Standing without getting wet
After spending some time enjoying the newfound views, we returned to the hut. It was dinnertime, after all, and after that we needed to get an early sleep and an early start. Tomorrow promised to be exciting, scenic, and fun.
The dinner at the Rifugio Berti was excellent (as all of our Italian hut meals had been so far). Marco's wife was the head cook, and they clearly liked to add little variations to the standard Italian Alpine Club Hut menu. I recall choosing spaghetti bolognese as my first course (instead of soup), and then a second course of sausage, potatoes and sauerkraut, and then a dessert consisting of freshly dipped homemade doughnut-ish pastries. They made so many of these for us that we were completely stuffed by the end of dinner. Superb.