Passo della Sentinella was were we got our first look to the west, and happily, we saw a grassy valley in the distance with the sun shining on it. Hopefully some of that clearing would come our way. This gray-clouds-and-chilly-breezes and summits-enveloped-in-the-clouds stuff was beginning to wear thin.
Next, we had to execute what ended up being the trickiest part of our day - a descent down the other side of Passo della Sentinella. A very steep talus and gravel gully sloped down below us to the northwest. It was steep at first, and then disappeared out of sight as it got even steeper further on. The path - still trail 101 - clearly went down this way, so it must somehow "go" - we just couldn't see how from here. It didn't help that a sign at the pass described this as a 'dangerous route'. Still, our topo map clearly showed this as the main trail, and really, the only practical way to get around to the north side of the Croda Rossa. So, down we went. Carefully.
The footpath zigged back and forth across the steep upper slopes of the gully. The loose gravel was reasonably stable, and allowed one to dig in one's heels, so after getting used to the cadence of descending, it wasn't so bad. After descending a short way, we could see that the footpath soon left the gully, well above the point where it became even steeper and snowier (and therefore sketchier).
Leaving the gully about 50m / 160' below the pass, the trail led left onto a wide sloping ledge of scree, with cliffs both above and below. This ledge curved around into another smaller, steeper gully, this time with a floor mostly of bare rock. Although it wasn't explicitly marked, it was clear that we had to enter this gully and scramble up it - unprotected - for a few tens of meters before reaching a distinctive rock ledge, beyond which we could see the start of some ferrata wires.
The unprotected bit of scrambling looked a bit scary before you got to it, since you could see how gully became much steeper below the point at which you entered it. However, once you actually entered the gully, the closeness of the walls around you and the abundance of good holds made it feel quite comfortable and easy. We made quick work of this section and were soon standing on a flat ledge where a line of solid, new ferrata continued west. In this direction led trail 101, heading west on its loop journey around the central peaks of the Sesto Dolomites. If our original itinerary had panned out, that would have been the direction we'd be going.
Instead, with our new itinerary (actually, our new-new itinerary), we were headed north, down steeply towards the bottom of the large northwest gully descending from Passo Sentinella. This was also protected with nice, solid new ferrata wire.
The un-named ferrata/trail led downwards, on sloping terrain at first and then steeper and steeper, until it we were doing fairly legitimate climbing. The holds were big and positive, however, and there never really seemed to be any problems which required much thought. I'd class it as a grade 2 on the Fletcher/Smith scale. Maybe 2+.
The nice ferrata section quickly brought us down to the level of the main gully, where the wires ended. The gully wasn't very steep here, and crossing it was a simple matter of a few steps over bouldery terrain. On the other side, a trail followed a distinctive rising ramp up towards a sloping area of scree that disappeared around the corner. The trail led up to and onto this slope before also curving away to the right and out of sight. Presumably up to an intersection with the Ferrata Nord route on Croda Rossa's northwest ridgeline. This presumption was confirmed when we spotted a "Croda Rossa" sign placed on the rock next to the start of the ramp.
The trail up the rising ramp was easy and secure-feeling, despite the fairly large dropoff on one side. Soon we left the narrow ramp and emerged onto the sloping scree, where the trail continued angling upwards on a good, well-defined tread. The skyline of the northwest ridgeline soon came into view, and we could see a couple of climbers moving along it (the first other people we had seen all day).
Away from Passo Sentinella
We continued hiking up the connector trail to a point just a few metres below the intersection with the northwest ridge, and stopped for our lunch break. The clouds had lifted enough that we could see all the way to the Croda Rossa's summit. The summit's obligatory cross could clearly be seen.
Intersection with VF Nord
Within seconds of starting onward after completing our lunch, we intersected with the northwest ridgeline. Here we were now on the Via Ferrata Nord on the Croda Rossa, and this would be our route to the summit. After the summit we would return to this spot and then continue northwestward, descending more of the ridgeline until we could break off to the east and begin our walk back towards our rifugio.
From the point where we joined it, the Via Ferrata Nord was mostly just a trail, marked with paint splotches and sporting only a few sections of actual ferrata. There were several steepish sections that were unprotected, but the terrain was massively blocky and advantageously incut, so the required scrambling was very easy and very secure-feeling. Along this section we passed many remnants from World War I - large expanses of old timbers, many man-made caves, crude wire-wrapped defensive positions, and lots of old rusted barbed wire.
Finally, at about the 2860m / 9400' level, a final continuous section of ferrata started. Although the terrain was now steeper, it was still of the ultra-blocky, ultra-positive variety, and the climbing difficulty was barely grade 2 level. We continued upwards easily, disappointed by the bank of clouds that had re-enveloped the peak, but happy to be approaching the summit.
The easy ferrata soon ended, and we followed paint blotches and the signs of the passage of feet across a bit of unprotected slope. Ahead, at first faintly through the mist, we could see the summit cross, now quite large in stature now that we were only a few tens of metres away.
The trail became more distinct as we neared the summit area. Tunnels and fortifications, both of concrete and wood, were positioned here and there at strategic locations. We spent a few minutes exploring each of these, noting that some preservation and restoration work had been recently done in and on them.