Similar to the day before, we now had to drive through the mountains to a new region, park the car, and hike up to a new rifugio (and with that itinerary, a similar timetable based on registering at the hut for our rooms and our dinner).
We first drove east, downhill to the largest town of the Dolomites, Cortina D'Ampezzo. The plan was to pick up a small amount of snack food and some money, but unfortunately we were only able to do the latter. It was Sunday and the grocery stores were closed.
Our destination was the Sesto Group, on the far eastern edge of the Dolomites. This meant more driving to the east, and as we passed through each town, we kept our eyes peeled for a small store of some sort that might sell some food. Roland especially was concerned about not having enough energy-sustaining hiking food to keep him going during the climb(s) of the next few days.
Lunelli Parking area
Unfortunately, the best we could manage were a couple of expensive apple strudels from a bar in a small town along the way. We couldn't really spend a whole lot of time on this, because (once again) we needed to be at our rifugio on time both for registration and for dinner. Strudels safely tucked away in Roland's possession, we drove onward, presently turning off onto a narrow side road that wound up through thick forest to a road-end rifugio and carpark (specifically, the rifugio Lunelli).
101 to Rif Berti
The forecast had called for the start of some rain today, and we were pleasantly happy with the fact that it was 4:30pm and no rain had yet fallen - although the skies did look fairly pregnant.
This was the start of our longest dolomites outing for this trip: the plan was to do a high-mountain circuit involving two different rifugios and two or three via ferrata routes - assuming the weather co-operated. In any case, no matter what happened with the weather, we would be staying at this particular rifugio tonight. We quickly started to pack up our gear.
By 5pm we had rationalized what gear to bring and were ready to start the 2km hike to the rifugio. Unfortunately, that's when we felt the first few pitter-patter drops of rain. Damn.... would we be able to get to the hut without getting too wet?
The trail started off on only a slight uphill grade, and on a wide, almost road-like gravel track. Ahead of us was a distinctive headwall of semi-forested steep terrain - the head of the Val Grande valley. Upon the rim of this headwall was the rifugio Berti - although we couldn't quite see it from our current vantage point.
In what was becoming a regular thing, it was decided that - just to be safe - I should go on ahead at a faster pace to ensure that we registered ourselves into the rifugio to secure our room and our places at dinner. So, I said a temporary good-bye to the others and sped on ahead.
Trail 101 crossed the flat bowl at the head of Val Grande and then started ascending the headwall in a series of switchbacks. As we climbed, the drops of rain slowly grew in intensity, eventually becoming a light drizzle, then a light rain. I finally relented and donned my raingear. Looked like we weren't going to reach the rifugio without getting wet.
Rifugio in sight
Fortunately, the temperature was not cold, nor was there any sort of wind. That, combined with the fact that I was hiking uphill at a speedy pace, meant that I was adding to the sky-based moisture with my own self-generated moisture. I was glad when I neared the top of the headwall and the top of the rifugio Berti came into sight. A few minutes later (and about 50 minutes after starting off) and I was in the entrance foyer, trying to make myself presentable before entering the main dining area to register.
I introduced myself to the hut custodian - a friendly fellow named Marco - and he crossed us off his register of reservations and informed me that dinner would be at 7pm (so, once again we had arrived with time to spare). He then gave me instructions to our room, up to which I proceeded to lug my stuff. It turned out that this was the main dorm area of the rifugio - a 20-30 space shared bunk area. I was pretty sure I had asked for a private room in my reservation; perhaps they had already given those out.
A few tens of minutes later, Roland, Stephanie and Jenn arrived, and I showed them upstairs to the shared dorm area. Overall we preferred a private room, but seeing as no one else seemed to be bunked up here tonight, it might not make any difference.
Not long afterwards, another party arrived at the hut, drenched from the rain. They soon showed up in our shared dorm room, and our hope for keeping it all to ourselves melted away.
Dried off and tidied up, we descended down to the main dining room to relax for a bit and wait for dinner.
Cozy Rifugio Room
While waiting for dinner, I decided to ask Marco (the proprietor) if, by any chance, there were 4-bunk private rooms available. He flipped through some sort of ledger-like thing for a few moments longer than seemed necessary, but - happily - he then looked up and said yes, he did have a room available. Soon armed with a room key, I went back to the others to give them the good news, which elicited a two thumbs up from Stephanie. We went upstairs to relocate our gear to our new sleeping quarters and then returned back downstairs for dinner.
I can't precisely remember tonight's dinner, but essentially it was a two-course choice from a selection of hearty soups, two types of spaghetti dishes, and a polenta-based dish. Dessert was a choice from an assortment of pies and cakes. My overall assessment of the dinner, though, was clear: delicious.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - hike to Rif Berti - click map to view
Hike Data - Lunelli to Rifugio Berti
* : +/- 75 feet