Generally I put full safety gear on when I climb on Via Ferrata routes. The only exception are the grade 1 routes (such as this one). I've learned over the years that these are technically very easy, and we've decided that harnesses and lanyards are not really required for anyone who has a reasonably good grasp of heights and scrambling. We did put our helmets on, however, as one never knows what loose rock might come careening down.
Approaching Ferrata Start
Arriving start of ferrata
As expected, the Via Ferrata Camillo Depaoli was quite straightforward. In addition to not being a vertical climb, the route stayed in unexposed gullies and had ample extra aid (stemples and pegs) any time there was anything steeper. The wire was a handy safety rail if needed.
Soon we entered the cloud deck, and from here all the way up to the ridgecrest we climbed upwards in a white, misty world. In all, it was a good non-difficult introduction to via ferrata-ing for Roland and Sophie, although with their existing climbing experience, they could have easily started off with a higher grade. We chose the easier route due to Roland's injury, of course. Fortunately, he did not seem to be having any problem with this climb.
A short thirty minutes of climbing and we were finished the ferrata, which ended at a grassy notch along a ridgeline. The high valley on the other side was filled with cloud, and we could see nothing. From our map, however, we knew that we were close - perhaps only 500 metres of walking from the rifugio.
Now back on a well-defined trail, we headed on the level across a steep grassy slope. Essentially we were on the other side of the ridge we had hiked along before the ferrata climb, and now that we were on the other side, we were hiking back in the other direction.
As we walked along, a small opening in the clouds gave us a tantalizing glimpse of some huge rock wall or towering spire. We knew we were surrounded by grandeur, but mostly we couldn't see it.
Happily for us, the clouds began to dissipate as we hiked along, and larger and larger chunks of scenery began to appear. Then, directly ahead of us, a rounded knoll of bare rock became visible, and perched atop it, we could see the tidy little form of a sturdy stone building. This was our hut - the rifugio Velo della Madonna.
Fifteen more minutes of uphill walking brought us to the hut's deck. A line of wet snow melting on the deck testified to a recent early snowfall, and a chill wind kept our picture taking to a minumum. Soon we let ourselves inside.
The rifugio Velo della Madonna is a 54-bed mountain hut that offers a warm, dry, and hospitable place to end one's day in the mountains. Like many of the Italian rifugios, it offers private rooms as well as the more traditional shared large bunk room arrangement. I had asked in advance for a four-person private room for ourselves and, happily, one was available. After stashing our boots in the entranceway and donning some goofy hut slippers (boots are not allowed in the hut), we made our way up to our room. Cozy and small - perfectly adequate for our needs.
After storing our gear in our room, we returned back downstairs to the main open area, containing the front desk and the dining area. It was decorated and furnished in an alp-ish style with lots of wood panelling, mountain trinkets on the walls, a full bar, books, magazines, a hot stove and windows looking out over beautiful alpine terrain. Definitely the place to hang out and await dinner (which, at this rifugio, was scheduled for 6:30pm).
Dinner was, as I've come to expect at these mountain huts, excellent. It consisted of a three-course (two main courses and a dessert) meal, with each course usually offering one of two options. We chose a first course of spaghetti (marinara or meat sauce), followed by an excellent goulash with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. And, a fruit salad dessert. Although I do like the "totally roughing-it camping" scene with tents, a stove, and freeze-dried food, one has to admit - this was pretty damn nice.
After dinner, Roland and I went out into the evening to take some final pictures. The clouds had broken up quite a bit by this point, and some moody shots were to be had as dusk settled in over the nearby peaks and valleys. A surprisingly chilly wind quickly forced us back inside, where we then headed upstairs to our room to get a good night's sleep.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Climb to Rif velo d. Madonna - click map to view
Hike Data - Hike/Climb to Rif Velo d. Madonna
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet