Day 5, like most of the previous days, was fairly foggy, although it was patchy at times, so we did get some views. We watched the mountain bikers walk their bikes for a while, since they are faster when riding, but not much faster when pushing, and then we saw one of the hut employees coming out searching for the hut dog who had chased after the cyclists. I am not sure what it is about a bike that makes it so irresistable to dogs, but there's got to be something. The first few hours of trail were quite nice, from Rif. Tissi to a rifugio that we did not stay in, although we stopped for an early soup break, an to admire some Alpine Choughs running around on the railing. We also saw quite a few lovely flowers, even though it was clearly past peak flower season.
|All those black dots on the flat face are dinosaur footprints|
|Chris decided napping was more interesting than dinosaur footprints|
The next day was clear in the morning, so we saw a fabulous sunrise, and aside from some Very Serious Mud, the day was pretty nice. We saw tons of cows and some sheep (if unfortunately from a distance) and took a mid-afternoon strudel break before tackling the most technical portion of the entire trip; a steep climb up, and then a set of (relatively easy) via Ferrata up to one of our favorite Rifugios on the trip, Rifugio Nuvolau. These via ferrata were 2 stretches of fixed cables and a few ladders, but unlike the one we looked at a few days earlier, the footholds were obvious and big, and we didn't feel unsafe doing it without any gear, even though the top set was pretty exposed. This Rifugio is very isolated, high on a steep, rocky peak, so there were no showers (not just cold or expensive ones), but the food was good, and the owner is Canadian, so we were able to have eggs and bacon for breakfast, not just piles of white bread with butter and jam, which was a nice change.
|That is where we were going to spend the night! (we could see it after climbing up the via ferrata|
The valley we were heading into is very interesting historically, since this was an extremely highlycontested front between the Italians and the Austrians during WW1; we saw various bits of ruined fortifications, and after incredibly mediocre sandwiches and cofrom a tourist junk shop in the valley we headed up towards one of the more unusual features of our trip (As a side note, if you are planning on hiking the Alta Via 1, do not count on lunch along the busy road between Rif. Tissi and Rif. Lagozuoi; if you need food and don’t want to order it to go from your previous night’s hut, go the more roundabout way and stop by one of the real rifugios near Cinque Torri). The mountain of Lagozuoi was literally fought on and over for years during WWI; the Italians held the bottom and an incredibly narrow ridge half-way up the mountain (called Martini ledge), and the Austrians held the peak and ridge. The “normal” Italian tactic during the war was incredibly stupid, and involved direct assaults up-hill into machine-gun fortified high-ground trenches. Needless to say, high casualties and not very effective. Then the Italians got the crazy (if somewhat less lethal) idea to tunnel up through the mountain to blow up the Austrians from below. Kind of clever, except of course the Austrians could hear what was going on, and were able to pull back before the explosion, so didn’t really lose much, although a huge chunk of the mountain is now gone. Chris was convinced that he could see how it had looked and what was missing; to be honest, there was a lot of rubble that didn’t look that much different from many other scree slopes, but I believe that he was interpreting everything correctly. In any case, we took some steep switchbacks about halfway up the mountain, then got out our headlamps and climbed well over a kilometer up the mountain through tunnels; conveniently supplemented with stairs and cables more recently than WWI. Now, I am increasingly convinced that war is just plain stupid and that it would be way better for everyone concerned if we all just put our energy towards schools and engineering feats of construction not destruction, but the tunnels were pretty cool, nonetheless. There were interesting educational signs and rooms with various recreated things, but even the tunnels themselves were interesting, and it was crazy to be climbing up through a mountain. The fog/rain rolled in about as we reached martini ridge, so the tunnels also served to keep us out of the drizzle. Unfortunately, that meant that we didn’t have great views from the summit that afternoon, but the showers were hot, and the food was very good and different from what we had the other nights, so despite being one of the more expensive (private) rifugios, Lagozuoi was nice. It seemed more like a hotel than a rifugio, and indeed, is serviced by a cable car, so definitely there was more of a mix of people than at some of the more difficult to reach huts. Sasha and I explored the summit a bit before dinner, even though it was foggy.
|Summit cross, Lagozuoi, in memory of the Italians and Austrians who died on the mountain in the war|
|Sunrise the next morning|
|Poor Ann, that pony left a bruise!|
|The pretty meadow we passed by accident|
|Photographing from Seekoffel summit|
|Dinner the last night|
The hike out the final day was nice but fairly uneventful. There was ice on the puddles we passed on the way down, and pretty soon we had views of Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee, which was a lovely blue lake surrounded by mountains. The lake is a destination in its own right, so once we reached the lake, we saw tons of people out for an easy stroll, but the crowds weren’t too heavy in late September, so we were able to have a final picnic lunch on the beach of the lake, before hiking a few more kilometers into town to find our hotel. There were buses to the lake, but we decided it was easier to walk. We reached the hotel with plenty of time for one final strudel, and o find the small grocery store in town to stock up on a few snacks for our train ride the next day. We ate dinner in our hotel, and the food was really good, and not just by hiking standards. And, besides the lovely food, they had a salad bar, which seems like a real treat after days and days of pasta and meat and polenta. As if that weren’t enough, the inkeeper even washed all of our dirty clothing, since they didn’t have coin operated laundry machines (we did pay a small amount, but man, that was definitely money well spent!!)
|Lago di Braies|
|At the official start/end of the Alta Via 1!|
I will tell you about our time in Venice in another post, and will include a separate post about what we brought and some logistical details, in case anyone wants to hike this trail, but I really love hiking in Europe. I love the mountains, and I love how they are just different from hiking in the US. Backpacking with tent and campstove is fun, but so is walking through sheep meadows and having a hot meal prepared for you every evening. Civilization is never very far off in Europe, but the air still tastes clean and fresh, and the mountains and sunrises are glorious.
|the Pelmo from Rif. Citta di Fiume|