The main objective for the day was another ferrata nearby. The general idea was to keep increasing the grade of ferrata as the trip progressed, and after a first day with a grade 1 ferrata and a second day with a grade 2, it was now time to try out a grade 3. Fortunately (more like deliberately, as we had chosen the Rif. Guissani in part for proximity reasons), there was a suitable half-day grade 3 ferrata just up the road towards Passo Falzarego. Called the VF al Col dei Bos (or sometimes the Via Ferrata degli Alpini), it was a relatively new addition to the scene, having been built only within the last ten years (apparently by the Italian Military, who had wanted something for training purposes).
Strobel Parking Lot
Graded a 3B on the Fletcher/Smith ferrata difficulty scale, the VF Col dei Bos is relatively short and quite accessible, making it perfect for us, since we had to complete it and then move ourselves to a different part of the dolomites (and to yet another rifugio) by the end of the day.
The departure point was only about ten kilometres up-valley from the Rifugio Dibona carpark, next to the Strobel Grill/Cafe not far east of the height of land at Passo Falzarego. Due to this proximity, it only took us about 35 minutes to end our journey down from Rifugio Giussani, drive up the provincial highway towards Passo Falzarego, park and be ready to head off towards the ferrata.
Intermittent sun and clouds continued as we hiked up the somewhat slippery (from mud-slicked ground) trail to an old military road that runs along the base of the cliffs on the north side of the valley we were in. We turned right on this old road, soon coming to the extensive ruins of a World War I army hospital for the 5th brigade of the Italian Alpini mountain troops. This may have something to do with the alternate naming of the nearby ferrata Col dei Bos as the Ferrata degli Alpini.
The rock walls above the old hospital had a lot of traditional climbing (not via ferrata) going on today. We could see many groups of roped climbers making their way up the textured dolomite.
Another look at old hospital
After briefly inspecting the old hospital ruins, further signs directed us towards the ferrata (all of the signs were labelled 'Ferrata degli Alpini', by the way. We didn't see 'Ferrata al Col dei Bos'). Following the signage to leave the old military road, we started up on a well-used path towards a large buttress of rock - the Col dei Bos. At the base of it, we could now see the little dots of climbers at the start of the ferrata. This wasn't going to be like the other days, where we saw no one else on the climbing routes. This one was going to be busy.
The sun was still managing to poke through the few remaining holes in the ever-thickening cloud deck as we reached the base of the ferrata, and began to put on our gear. There were several groups waiting at the base and several more climbing above. We would simply have to wait our turn.
Fifteen or so minutes later, the final group ahead of us had climbed high enough to allow us to start. I went first, and immediately it was obvious that this was a notch harder than the grade 2 from yesterday. For one, the pitch was steeper and not all holds were obvious, and secondly, there weren't any stemples or pegs to help you. With some effort, however, I was able to climb up this stretch without pulling on the wire. After about 10 metres of this sort of climbing, the route turned right and began an easier section of traversing on a slight upward diagonal.
Starting off, VF al Col dei Bos
Our progress up the route was intermittent, for we would periodically catch up to the group ahead of us. Without directly asking, there's no polite way to pass a climbing group that is ahead of you, and in any case, they weren't all that much different in speed than us, so occasionally having to wait wasn't that big of a deal.
The climbing difficulty remained at a fairly easy grade for the next while, sometimes climbing up diagonal ramps where the wire was not much more than a handrail, interspersed with a short vertical steps where a brief sequence of real climbing moves was required.
Jenn on VF al Col dei Bos
A stretch of steeper climbing and a pleasantly airy traverse led higher. These sections, interspersed with a few easy ramps, brought us to the top of a narrow sub-summit. Here the ferrata ran on the level, across the sub-summit's narrow crest, and then slightly down before ending at a gravelly bit of ridgeline between the sub-summit and the main mass of the Col dei Bos. An easy walking trail (without wire) led across the gravelly ridgeline to where the wire started once again.
Observing the moves ahead
Beyond the unprotected stretch, the final bit of climbing to the top of the ferrata began. It was of generally the same grade, and again fairly easily climbable without pulling on the wire. It was becoming gloomier and chillier as we climbed higher, and along this stretch we entered the clouds proper, reducing visibility to just a few tens of metres.
On this last stretch, we bunched up once more against the climbers in front of us. We now had several groups behind us who also had to stop, including a red-suited Austrian couple. We called down to them and asked if they wanted to climb by us, but they responded in the negative (they understood us, and responded in english). Not long after we had resumed climbing, however, they came right up to us and climbed over/passed us without so much as a word. Now, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt - had they interpreted our interaction as an invitation? If so, they didn't seem to acknowledge it as they muscled past us (don't forget, we're all on one wire, so passing someone means getting right in their face). Not impressed.
Stephanie completes first 3
Soon after the unpleasant Austrian incident, I reached the top of the via ferrata - still solidly in the clouds. I put on a few extra layers and waited in the chill air (fortunately it wasn't windy) for the others behind to finish their climb. Once back all together again, we had a quick snack and then prepared to hike down. There is definitely a superb view from this point, but the weather wasn't going to let us see any of it (the top end of the ferrata, by the way, is not actually the highest point of the Col dei Bos - that honour is reserved for a higher point on top of a cliff a few hundred metres to the north).