ALTA VIA 10 – DOLOMITES

This trek is 200 km in length and starts from Andriano, just outside Bolzano – and ends at Gardone Riviera on Lago di Garda. The route was devised in 1985 and is one of the 10 AV’s that cross the Dolomites (6 down, 4 to go!). Particularly striking is how you cross from the alpine terrain at the start, into the obvious Mediterranean climate and vegetation of the last few days – this serves to emphasise the length of the journey you have made. We split the route into fifteen separate days walking – I think it would be very ambitious to try to do it in less time than this, mostly owing to the length of some days and the limits imposed by available accommodation. Don’t expect the route to be waymarked with a “10” – like the most popular routes in the Dolomites covered in the Cicerone guide – you will need to follow a map throughout. Some sections require care and would be unwise to attempt in poor visibility. We used a guidebook, plus maps. The guidebook is only available in German and is “Dolomiten Hohenwege 8-10” by Dr Franz Hauleitner, published by Rother Wanderfuhrer. The party consisted of myself, Allan, Byron and Laurence and took place in August/September.

We flew to Innsbruck and then travelled by train to Bolzano the following day, after spending the night at the Youth Hostel there. Having passed through Bolzano many times, this was the first time I had the chance to explore the city properly, due to our overnight stay. I was really impressed with what I saw.  The central area is quite extensive, very Austrian in architectural styles – like the centre of Innsbruck, but more of it!

DAY ONE: Although it would be possible to get to the start of the route by bus from the city centre, as there were 4 of us, we decided to use a taxi. The day was sunny, but cold, as we set off in the car – reaching our start point – Gasthof Pichler – in a few minutes. We began an steep ascent immediately on Path 536 – a lovely route through beech woods to Groben Scharte. The scharte itself is a dramatic steep rocky cleft with some cables to assist your ascent. Here we had good views down over Bolzano and the plain surrounding it.

Bolzano

Bolzano – from the ridge

At the top we stopped briefly for a drink before turning left on path 500 (shown as 512 on the strip maps in the guidebook) and descending gently through coniferous forests. Care needs taking to stick to the path here – as there are several farmer’s tracks leading off in various directions. After passing Furglauer Scharte the track comes near to the edge of the cliffs – here we stopped for lunch and admired the fine views across the Dolomites to the east – Puez gruppe, Langkofel, Rosengarten and Latemar – with the snow capped peaks of the Zillertal just visible in the far distance. The route continues past communication aerials to reach Hotel Panorama (Penegal 1737m) where we were booked in overnight. This is a great spot – the views were as already outlined,  and by climbing an observation tower, you could also make out the Ortler Gruppe and the Otztal to the Northwest. By now the clouds had filled the sky, obscuring the tops. In later days we were able to see this point from various parts of the Brenta – so clearly, we would have also been able to see the Brenta Dolomites from here too on a better day. The walk took about 4 hours (without stops)  and about 500m of ascent in total.

DAY TWO: Today we planned to walk to Mendelpass (45 minutes), then on to the Uberetscher Hutte (2 hours 15 minutes), Monte Roen and onto Rifugio Predaia (3 hours 30 minutes). There is a lot of up and down between the last two points which makes the day quite a tiring one. With hindsight, although Penegal was a great place to stay, it might be worth walking on to Mendelpass on Day One and staying there overnight, thus shortening Day 2 by an hour.  The day started overcast with a cold wind – things were not to improve (although we had no rain).  The route continues from Penegal on Path 500 on a good path with fine views, hugging the edge of the escarpment all the way to Mendelpass. From here there is a steady walk to Roenalm where we stopped for coffee, and an easy ascent onto Monte Roen – where sadly we were in the clouds – so had no views at all. Despite being a rounded lump, it became evident later in the trip that we would have had super views here of a large part of the trek! From here the path takes a tiring, never ending up and down route to Rifugo Predaia – about 7 hours walking in total for the day.

DAY THREE: To a large extent this day can be counted as a rest day – from the rifugio, an easy descent of 1 hour 15 minutes took us to the village of Sfruz  – 360 metres of descent – (care needs taking to find the route around Passo Predaia). Here we caught a bus to Cles – our overnight stop. The valley here (the Val di Non) is the apple growing region of Italy and is truly amazing – every possible space is covered with orchards. The activity here at harvest time must be an incredible sight to behold.

DAY FOUR: Today’s destination was Rifugio Peller (2022m) – the book shows it as a 4 hour 30 minutes route with 1360 metres of ascent to cover. The morning was sunny and cold – which gave excellent visibility. Although the start of the route is along roads out of the village past orchards, it is clearly marked on lampposts and walls up to Ristorante Bersaglio.  Here the route splits into two – one is signposted to Rifugio Peller – this is not the AV10 route though – (it is shorter but follows a 4×4 track all of the way). The alternative route is signposted Sentiero Beppana – and this is the official AV10. It starts as a pleasant track through pines and then beech trees. Although it crosses several forest roads it is well signposted. At an area of cleared trees there is a good viewpoint across to Penegal, Mendelpass and Monte Roen. Arriving at an area of holiday cottages, we went wrong by following an obvious track which we realised was going down and would take us in the wrong direction, so we had to retrace our steps. The route should be followed here to Font Maora – Path 313b.  At the font you emerge onto a forest road which is then followed by turning left for the rest of the journey to the rifugio. As you ascend and eventually the trees thin out, lovely views open up – with a striking view ahead of Monte Peller – this is a rounded lump with a sharply glaciated hollow on one side – as un-dolomitic in appearance as you could imagine. Nevertheless, situated as it is at the far north eastern end of the Brenta, the views from the flat top are apparently amazing. It was a shame we did not have the time to go to the summit. Today and tomorrow would take us into the wild and unfrequented northern part of the Brenta – home of the brown bear (which we didn’t see!) The last part of the trail was an inevitable climb up to the rifugio and a welcoming beer. The rifugio and a lot of the route followed today (and part of the following day) forms part of an MTB route – Dolomiti di Brenta Bike – which circles the whole of the Brenta. With regular signage, variations, booklets etc – apart from obviously being a fantastic route, this seems streets ahead of anything available in the UK.  (www.dolomitibrentabike.it). A circular trek – the Dolomiti Brenta Trek follows it for much of the way. (www.dolomitibrentatrek.it) The rifugio was very friendly and the guardian was helpful in advising us on the route for the following day – despite neither of us being able to speak each others language!

DAY FIVE: We knew today’s route would be long and tiring – the book shows it taking 8 hours 30 minutes – 1170m ascent, 930m descent.  Two errors on the way meant we added at least another hour and a half to that – so by the time we arrived at Rifugio Stoppani al Groste it was 7pm and not far off getting dark. This was undoubtedly the hardest day of the trip. The route follows the Sentiero delle Palette after reaching Passo della Nana. At this point there is an alternative shown (harder and longer – the Sentiero Costanzi – the rifugio guardian told us this way was not possible due to winter damage). The section to Passo della Nana is a straightforward walk along a wide track, past malghas with impressive views skirting Monte Peller and Pallon.

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Pallon and Monte Peller

From here (there is a large statue fixed to a rock) the path skirts Cima Uomo and enters a large rocky bowl shaped meadow area. Cattle tracks and a lack of signs meant we carried along the northern side of this for quite a distance before realising our mistake.  Retracing our steps we then crossed the flat bowl. If you look upwards along the ridge there is a wooden marker visible – this is where you need to eventually head. The next problem is finding the route up the rock face – we headed directly upwards but should have angled left – looking round I could see the path clearly marked in red and white flashes across the rough limestone pavements, so we made our way over to the markers and eventually, the col. From here the route was obvious.  The path hugs the mountainside and is exposed in places. It was a magnificent route. Having been to the busy Central Brenta before, I was struck by the wildness and solitude of this part of the same area. This is the territory of the bear – though sadly we were not to see any! This is not a place to get lost or injured so it is not a route to attempt in poor visibility or slippy conditions. With views below us of Lago di Tovel,  as well as Monte Roen and Mendelpass in the distance, we passed under the summits of Cima del Vento, Palete and Corno di Dentro – often along slippy and eroded tracks, sometimes with not very helpful or broken protection, sometimes with none  – this is tough, unremitting territory – before finally arriving at the Passo di Palete and the start of the protected path – the via ferrata. Laurence proved you could do this without using the kit, whilst the rest of us (having carried it all this way) donned arrestors and harnesses! There is a series of downward ladders to negotiate through a long gully (about 150 metres of protection) before arriving at an exposed ledge.

Descending the gulley

Descending the gulley

Despite knowing there were probably two hours of walking to do from here, I guess we conned ourselves into thinking we were nearly there – but a long up and down trail awaited us to the rifugio. Doing this route the opposite way round, this would have made a lovely start to the walk, but for us, it seemed never ending. The book suggests staying at Rifugio Graffer which is about 45 minutes walk below Rifugio Stoppani (which you would have to walk back up to again the following day) – we had been unable to make a booking there – so it was with gratitude that we ended the day at the Stoppani. Although this is a pretty anonymous restaurant type refuge at the top of a cable car it was welcoming and we had a good meal.

DAY SIX: With it’s close proximity to Madonna di Campiglio, and its cable cars and car parks, the central part of the Brenta is always busy. This would be a massive contrast to yesterday, when we saw no-one! The route today was from Rifugio Stoppani to Rifugio Pedrotti – via Rifugio Tuckett and Rifugio Brentei, (book time about 5 hours of walking). The day dawned crisp and sunny with a cloud inversion in the valley below us. Knowing that this would scenically be one of the highlights of the trip we were to be very lucky indeed with the weather. The route from Stoppani to Rifugio Tuckett is on the Giro dei Brenta (path 316) and circles the northern side of the magnificent Cime del Groste.

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On the Giro dei Brenta

We were lucky to be able to see the snow capped peaks of  the Adamello/Presanella range across the valley as we progressed. After coffee and cake at the Rifugio Tuckett we continued on our route. From this point, the route through the mountains at Bocca di Brenta looks impossibly steep and impassable!

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The distant Bocca di Brenta from Rifugio Tuckett

Path 318 Sentiero Bogani leads up steadily alongside the upper Val Brenta  – with the vast imposing peak of Cima Tosa 3173m towering above us on the right. By the time we arrived at Rifugio Maria e Alberto ai Brentai the sunshine had just about given up – we stopped here for lunch.

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Cima Tosa from the Sentiero Bogani

The final push to the Bocca, still Path 318, now called the Sentiero dei Brentai, continues as a fine panoramic walk, eventually reaching the first of two obviously permanent snowfields. Crossing the first, you next have to negotiate a steep rocky band (beautifully and probably newly cabled) before the final snowfield takes you up to the col itself. By now we were walking in occasional cloud. As we neared the top we could first hear, then see, a family group completing the final stages of the Via Della Bochette Centrali – part of the classic chain of via ferratas across the top of the central Brenta. From the Bocca it was a short walk down to Rifugio Pefrotti – our destination. This busy refuge is perched dramatically on a shelf with fabulous views from all angles.

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Rifugio Pedrotti

DAY SEVEN:

Today ‘s route, the Sentiero Palmieri Path 320, includes a section of via ferrata – Via Ferrata Ettore Castiglione – before continuing on to Rifugio XII Apostoli. The book indicates this stage takes 5 hours, but the weather forecast suggested rain arriving in the area around 1pm. We were therefore up for breakfast at 6.30 and away at 7.05am. It started raining about 15 minutes before we arrived at XII Apostoli – so we definitely made the right decision with an early start. The walk starts with a great panoramic path (320) sweeping around the peak of Cima Ceda Bassa, before arriving at Forcolotta di Noghera and then turning northwards to arrive at Rifugio Agostini. This very friendly and spotlessly clean refuge gave us the chance to have a coffee and a strudel before continuing. One point of note here is a gigantic rock as big as the refuge itself, lying only metres away from the building. Photographs inside the building showed that this had crashed down from the mountain along with a massive amount of debris about thirty years ago – amazingly the rock stopped before obliterating the building itself. Following Path 321 within 10 minutes you reach the first wire – however this is not the start of the via ferrata – this is about a further 30 minutes walk away. Reaching the start of the via ferrata, Laurence steamed ahead. The gloomy weather meant that apart from three Italians we met shortly after the first ladder – we saw no-one on the route itself. The via ferrata is basically a ladder route – well protected throughout. There is 200m of climbing over 300 rungs shared out between 13 ladders.

Byron on the Via Ferrata

Byron on the Via Ferrata

There were a few reasonable resting places in between some of these which enabled some photographs to be taken. Eventually after the final ladder you arrive at the Bochetta dei Due Denti 2859m where the view down to Rifugio XII Apostoli is superb. It is worth not taking your ferrata kit off here (as we discovered) as there is a quite a steep cabled section on the descent, only a few minutes from the pass. There was a snow field below us – which is likely to be always there – my advice is just to aim for the tongue of snow at the bottom (it is not steep), where the path (clearly marked on the rocks), can be rejoined. As we reached here it started raining, so we rushed as fast as we could over the last section, to reach the refugio about 15 minutes later.

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Panorama from Rifugio XII Apostoli

This rifugio is absolutely superbly situated – with magnificent views across to the Adamello/Presanella mountains. We were the only people staying though, so there was a distinct lack of atmosphere! However, as it rained for most of the rest of the day, it was good to be in the warm and dry! All in all, this was a fantastic day – a highlight of the whole trip!

DAY EIGHT:

The official route is from XII Apostoli to Passo Daone – a 7 hour walk. The book suggests there is accommodation here – Rifugio Capanna Durmont and gives a telephone number. When planning the trip this number proved to be no longer in existence and a search on the internet failed to find anything about the place at all. This left us with a dilemma – walk there anyway with the possibility of finding it closed down (as it was a long walk there would be no other accommodation nearby) – or try to find a viable alternative. In the end we decided to vary the route slightly in its latter stage – walking down into the valley that runs parallel with the official route instead – the Val di Nambi – and book in at the Albergo Brenta instead.

The day dawned rather gloomily with a cloud inversion in the valley. Nevertheless there was an excellent view of the Adamello range in front of us as we left the rifugio to start the route.

The Adamello from Rifugio XII Apostoli

The Adamello from Rifugio XII Apostoli

The path (307) is the Scala Santa and begins as a fine balcony route, before descending steeply down the rocky headwall of the Val Nardis. By now the sun was out.  The valley itself is particularly beautiful and tranquil. From here, the (now muddy) path enters lovely pine woodlands, eventually reaching the Passo dei Gotro. Here the AV10 continues along Malgha Movlina to Passo Malghette, Malgha Pramarciu to Passo Daone. Laurence was ahead and did not hear our calls and continued walking the wrong way. (He later realised his error and had an adventurous descent through fallen trees to eventually arrive at the Albergo about an hour after us). Care needed taking at the Passo dei Gotro, owing to a lack of signposts. The path (333) turns south from here and in a few metres a proper signpost appears, showing the way. The route drops through beech woods into Val de Nambi, eventually turning into a dirt road, passing several summer farmsteads, until you reach Albergo Brenta (at the road head). As we sat outside with a beer, there was a heavy shower – getting somewhere minutes before it rained turned into quite a pattern for us on this trip!

DAY NINE:

Today was to be a lovely sunny day. our walk began on a quiet road – which was actually quite pleasant – and dropped steadily alongside the river. The Val d’Agone is a beautiful valley. We then took path 300 which was a delightful balcony path to Ragoli and then across the valley bottom on to Zuclo and our overnight stop. There were fabulous views of Care Alto from here.

Care Alto - from Zuclo

Care Alto – from Zuclo

DAY TEN:

The next official stage of the AV10 is from the village of Zuclo to Malgha Stabio – a 2.5 hour walk. There is no serviced accommodation here – just a stove and sleeping spaces. So in order to stay here we would have needed to carry a sleeping bag and sleeping mat (for the whole of the trip – to use once),  plus pick up some food en route. The prospect of doing this just didn’t seem worthwhile – so it was time to investigate alternative ideas. Joining this day with the following day’s route and attempting the whole lot in one day meant a 12 hour walk plus stops – so that was crossed off the list – this was supposed to be a holiday after all!  The advantage of travelling in a group is that using taxis suddenly becomes very viable and therefore lots of potential ideas become feasible. Looking at the area map, a good alternative seemed to be to get a taxi to the village of Ballino, where, via a forest track, we could easily reach the ridge where the AV10 ran.

When I originally looked at the AV10 to consider whether it would be worth doing, I had thought that after leaving the Brenta Dolomites, the rest of the route might turn out to be a bit of an anticlimax. Whilst it was true that we not going to experience the dramatic grandeur of similar scenery, (and we did have two or three pretty uninteresting days which is inevitable on any trek), I was also wrong – in that we were also to have some fantastic walking days before arriving at Lago di Garda. This, as it turned out, was going to be one of them.

The taxi arrived promptly and at 9am we were on our way. About 20 minutes later we were dropped at the square in the village of Ballino and, without too much difficulty, found the start of the route. The forest track gained height quickly and easily, with views opening up, showing a smallish lake – Lago di Tenno – below us to the south. As we gained more height the northern end of Lago di Garda came into view for the first time. Despite being so close to it we still had several more days of walking to do. Eventually the path reached a small rocky col where we stopped for a rest and to admire the view of a stunning alp before us. Heading across here we slowly started to gain the ridge at Bocca di Val Larga. Here Laurence and myself decided to turn north and get to the top of Dosso Della Torta, whilst the others decided to carry on. This rocky little peak can be ascended via a  good scramble.

The Brenta Dolomites from the summit of Dosso della Torta 2156m

The Brenta Dolomites from the summit of Dosso della Torta 2156m

The view from the summit was spectacular as the ridge turned away here, leaving the views northwards uninterrupted. In front of us was the mighty Care Alto and the rest of the Adamello group of mountains stretching behind it. To the right the whole of the Brenta Dolomites and further right (still) Monte Roen!

Dosso della Torta in the Val-di-Ledro Alps

Dosso della Torta in the Val-di-Ledro Alps

 The walk along the ridge from here on to our destination – the Rifugio Nino Pernici – was spectacular. Narrow, mostly grassy, it twisted and turned, giving great views 360 degrees around us  and climbed two smaller peaks, Tofino and Corno di Pichea, on the way. As it is narrow and exposed, this would not be a path to attempt in poor weather. Eventually, after arriving at a rocky col – the Bocca di Trat – the descent began.  The path split into two and we took what looked like the obvious way down – this turned out to be a horrendously rocky, slippy descent – which clearly, was just a shortcut people had made in ascending from the refugio – this was confirmed when we met the other path again, at the bottom.

Rifugio Nino Perninci was run by friendly staff, and despite being the only people staying overnight, we were made to feel very welcome. The rifugio was clearly built to house soldiers or officers in The Great War and it has an impressive display of wartime memorabilia in the dining room.

DAY ELEVEN:

The day began with some rain and wind – walking in that didn’t look particularly inviting, so we delayed our start for as long as we could. Today was a short day – two and a half hours walk – to the small town of Pieve di Ledro – so again, we were very lucky with the weather. By the time we started out, the rain had pretty much stopped. The route begins on Path 413 which is a fine balcony trail to the Bocca di Saval. Here care needs taking as there are a myriad of tracks and trails (unmarked) leading off in various directions (mostly made by cattle). The route drops down past the Malga Saval, where two men were repairing the roof, – eventually arriving at the Forcella Cocca, before dropping through woods, (with good views of the Lago di Ledro below us), to eventually appear on a road just outside Pieve di Ledro. We arrived in this lovely village at around 12noon, so we headed off to find a restaurant for a pizza (which probably deserves an award for the slowest service ever). The weather was gradually improving and when we finally set off, the sun was coming out. From here we had a lovely lakeside walk along the Lago di Ledro to the village of Mezzolago and our hotel.  3 hours walk – 140m ascent, 1070m descent in total for the day.

DAY TWELVE:

The trek resumed in Pieve di Ledro, so rather than walking back along the lakeside from the hotel, we caught a bus directly from the hotel back into the village. The weather was cloudy and cool – but on the plus side, it didn’t rain. From the village the route (path 456) goes down the side of the lake, up a suburban road and then into woodlands – emerging briefly at a chapel –    San Martino – with a good view back across the lake.  More woodland, before arriving at a pass – the Bocca Spinera, then the pastures of Malga Gui and onto Bocca Caset. Here the whole of the pass was covered with nets stretched from poles (looking uncomfortably like the 1970’s when migrating birds were routinely caught and eaten). Happily, this was part of a long term project tracking migration patterns of birds. The students doing this, very kindly took us up to their ringing point and spent a fair bit of time showing us some birds being ringed and weighed. A forest track then took us out into Tremalzo. This felt a rather forlorn place. Although quiet and lacking any real appeal, there were lots of 1980’s style holiday apartment blocks around – at the bottom of the valley we could see a massive holiday complex development which had clearly been started many years ago – but construction had never been completed. It looked as if unsuccessful attempts had been made in the past to develop this area as a holiday destination. From here we walked up the road to Passo Tremalzo and our hotel – Albergo Garda – situated at the road head. On arriving we saw a small bus parked outside – the driver looked familiar. It was the same bus and driver that had picked us up from the hotel! We realised, looking at the timetable, this was a holiday shuttle service that could have taken us straight from the hotel to here!!  We would have been so bored all day though if we had taken that option. It is worth noting this though – if you wanted to shorten the trek you could get transport to here and then walk on and complete the next day – so missing out a day (of, it has to be said, not very interesting walking). Statistics for the day – six hours walk – 1160m ascent and 130 metres descent.

DAY THIRTEEN:

The day dawned gloomy and cold – we thought it would inevitably rain at some point. The guidebook told us that today’s route was a long one on unmarked paths “requiring much attention”. As it turned out, both were wrong. The rain stayed away and the route was straight forward (yellow – not red – markers though). This was the second of the unexpectedly excellent days too. From the Albergo we dropped quickly down a dirt track to Malga Ciapa on the Sentiero Antonioli. From here you walk through woodlands to next reach Passo della Cocca. here the path becomes more and more interesting – rising steadily to Bocca di Lorina and Val di Campo. The track is wide and incredibly engineered and passes through several tunnels – it was clearly constructed to carry military machinery and men quickly through the mountains. Arriving home later I checked online and discovered that the Sentiero Antonioli is indeed a military road, but I was astonished to see how long it was – starting in Limone (on Lago di Garda and ending at Cemmo near Lago d’Iseo, west of Brescia (100km). At Bocca di Lorina the route takes a sweeping loop and then ascends under the foot of the impressive rocky peak of Monte Caplone 1976m to reach Bocca di’Campi. Here we met lots of mountain bikers negotiating what on a bike would be a seriously hard route – exposed and rocky.  Once here, the route  reaches Malga Tombea and then continues along the top of a grassy ridge which has many old sentry posts along it – built into the rocks. At Bocca di Cablone – the path sweeps back on itself to descend for a long time in a south easterly direction, eventually reaching our goal for the day – Rifugio Cima Rest (1210m).

DAY FOURTEEN:

The rifugio at Cima Rest is run by an elderly couple who gave us an excellent meal and charged a derisory small sum for our stay. By the side of the refugio are some old traditionally thatched farmsteads which have been turned into attractive holiday cottages. Much of the walk today ended up being on roads. Speaking as someone who doesn’t do road walking, I did not particularly enjoy the day. Our destination was the village of Capovalle, where we had accommodation booked – the day’s statistics were to be 500 metres ascent, 800 metres descent – and an estimated walk time of 6 hours. The route began with a walk down quiet roads to the beautifully situated village of Magasa, where we stopped for coffee.

Magasa

Magasa

From here we walked on a trail rising up above the village to Bocca Pagana where the path then dropped again through beech woods, to reach the river and Ponte Franato. More peaceful roads took us back up all the height we had just lost, to reach the small settlement of Persone, where we stopped for lunch. The morning had been sunny, hot and humid – so by now the clouds had built up dramatically – and as we were sitting outside the cafe, it started to rain. The rain quicky turned heavy, so we eventually waited for over an hour for it to stop. The final part of the route was through the forest to Capovalle – but facing the prospect of being soaked from rain dripping off the trees, we opted to walk along the road instead. Joy!

DAY FIFTEEN:

Our final long day of walking – today’s destination – Rifugio Giorgio Pirlo – situated under the cliffs of Monte Spino 1486m – a 6 hour walk 670m ascent, 420m descent. This was to be another unexpectedly good walking day – unfortunately marred by what happened at the end (read on!)  The route began with yet more road walking from Capovalle – though as it was Sunday, there wasn’t much traffic about. There were also views of Lago d’Idro to the north, as we walked along to reach Passo San Rocco – plus an interesting sanctuary – Santuario Madonna di Roisecco – on the way to Passo Cavillino, where we stopped for coffee. Leaving the road we followed a dirt track ascending through the trees – accompanied by the various antics of several macho 4×4 drivers. Reaching Passo Ganone, there is a long and beautiful walk through beech woods, along the Valle Corpaglione. Here there is the substantial and beautifully situated Rifugio Campei – which was closed and locked up for the end of season. We sat outside for some time for lunch and to soak up the sun. We spoke to a group of Italians who were amazed when we told them of our trek and they insisted on shaking our hands to congratulate us!  From here there was a lovely balcony path to follow- the Sentiero dei Indroni – skirting around the foot of Monte Spino – with good glimpses down the valley to Lago di Garda. We passed a lot of evidence of old fortifications on the way, so it became apparent that Rifugio Campei was originally a military camp – hence its size and appearance. Particularly noticeable was the thorny vegetation on the track – which clearly indicated we were now definitely into a zone heavily influenced by the weather of the Mediterranean. At another col, (another bird ringing station), we turned westwards to reach our destination – Rifugio Pirlo allo Spina (1765m). We arrived just in time to see the staff loading the last of their consumables onto a jeep and shutting up the refuge. We told them we had booked and they merely shrugged their shoulders – telling us they had tried to contact us to tell us, (I assume the poor weather had reduced the number of visitors to a trickle, so they decided to close before the end of the season). It was a Sunday afternoon and there were lots of people about – so by any stretch of the imagination, it was a stupid decision. Eventually they told us we could sleep on the floor of the restaurant, but they were not able to give us any bedding or any food. The next place where there was accommodation was about 3 hours walk away – which would have meant walking for at least one and a half hours in the dark – with no certainty of finding anything when we arrived there. Fortunately, a young guy restored our faith in the fantastic Italian hospitality we have always received in the mountains. He had just finished a day’s paragliding and was going down in his vehicle. He insisted on taking us with him – this turned out to be probably the scariest and most memorable part of the whole trip. Picture an old vehicle with the boot entirely taken up by his kit (on which he rammed in our four rucksacks), then the four of us inside – with him driving and his three year old on a child’s seat!  I have to say his driving abilities down a track which I would have described as impassable, were amazing – though it helped considerably if you didn’t look at where you were going!  He took us down to a small hotel – the Hotel Ristorante Colomber – and rather than just dropping us outside, insisted on coming in with us to check there were rooms available. We salute you!  The hotel was delightful and the manager was incredibly helpful and genuinely upset at our experience – even though it was nothing to do with him. A highly recommended hotel – brilliant!

 DAY SIXTEEN:

Just a short walk took us down roads and village tracks through the small villages of San Michele and Tresnico – before arriving in the grand setting of Gardone Riveriera and the end of the walk. As our hotel was on the front, we literally had reached the point where we could walk no further. Walk duration – about one and a half hours, 320m descent.

Journey's End - Lakeside, Gardone Riviera, Lago di Garda

Journey’s End – Lakeside, Gardone Riviera, Lago di Garda

DAY SEVENTEEN:  This was a spare day we had built into the trip and we spent it taking a boat trip around the northern part of the lake – visiting Malcesine, Limone and Riva del Garda – before heading off to Verona and our flight home the following day.

TO VIEW THE PHOTO GALLERY FOR THE WHOLE TRIP CLICK HERE

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One thought on “ALTA VIA 10 – DOLOMITES

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