Monday, September 3, 2012

9/2/12: Day 2 in the Dolomites

Day 2 in the Dolomites was a huge day of hiking. We had already planned to go further than one stage, and now we also had to hike the 2.5 hours that we skipped the night before due to my poor planning. Given how tough the hiking was the day before, we were a bit worried! At the dinner the night before we told a few other couples what we were planning. We received blank stares for about 30 seconds, followed by "well, good luck ...".

We woke up a bit after 6, had an excellent breakfast, and were on the trail by 7:30. The first hour of hiking was one of our favorite parts of the entire trail. It looked like a high altitude version of The Shire.

After an hour of quick hiking across this beautiful stretch, we speed hiked / ran down 3,000 feet of vertical back to the altitude we started at the day before. All of that climbing and now we were back where we started! George Costanza would have been proud though, and we made incredible time. We arrived at Rifugio Pederu at about 9:30 and began the climb up to Rifugio Fanes.

Rifugio Fanes is where most people stop for the day, and we arrived at about 11:45am, roughly halfway through our route for the day. It is located in another high valley with streams nearby and plenty of great mountain views. We pushed on another hour up to Gran Fanes for lunch.

Gran Fanes is a small rifugio that is supposed to be quiet and visited less frequently. It looked more like Mardi Gras when we arrived. There were hundreds of people swarming all over the place making it impossible to get a table, go to the bathroom, order food, or basically do anything at all. We finally got a seat, but the waiters were so stressed out they told everyone to leave and stopped serving any food.

Luckily, I was wearing my Rock N Roll USA Marathon t-shirt, which screamed "I'm from Uhmerica!" A few Italians were amazed that we came all the way from the US to hike there. We made friends with them, and they convinced the waiter to finally give us some food. Phew, that was a close one.

After lunch the high altitude valley continued for a while longer. At the end of the valley, Alta Via 1 shot up to the left over a mountain pass to head to Rifugio Lagazuoi. However, we were going a bit off Alta Via 1 to stay at Rifugio Scotoni.

Our guidebook said we would detour on a nice "meandering" path. This translated to shooting off a cliff down an insanely steep 1,000 foot drop that was followed by a 1 hour climb up to Scotoni. For those who have seen Princess Bride - "I do not think this word means what you think it means."
Despite the unbelievably long day, we arrived at 4:15 with lots of daylight left. Scotoni had an excellent beer imported from Munich, good wine, and plenty of great food. There was hardly anyone there, and we had a room to ourselves, unlike at Biella. Needless to say, we were big fans of Scotini and were sad to leave the next day!

Starting our hike at 7:30am. 

The trail cut through this valley up at 8,000 feet.

In the distance, we could see clouds down at lower altitudes

We expected a hobbit to pop out at any minute

Jen was a big fan of this stretch of trail.  Maybe this trek wasn't such a bad idea after all!

Me in the distance staring off at some mountain.  I think this was a pretty typical sight for Jen.

We descended down to Rifugio Sennes, which is just to the left of center.  This looked like a really nice place and was about 1 hour down the trail from Biella. 

We turned onto a wide trail that would soon bomb down to Rifugio Pederu and 5,000 feet

As we went down through the trees, we had good views of mountains we would soon hike towards

Pederu is down in this valley and is out of this picture towards the bottom right.  Left of center at the very bottom you can see the trail we would later climb that went up and to the left.

This is Pederu and looking further down the valley

We had climbed a decent part of the way up to Rifugio Fanes at this point

To the right is a really shaggy bull that was bellowing loudly.  We were almost at Fanes, and the trail was cutting through this lush valley as the sun started hitting the mountains around us.

We arrived here at 11:45am.  Fanes looked like a really nice place, but we just filled up on water and kept moving.

Views around Fanes

At the top of a relatively short climb from Fanes

This was another nice flat stretch leading up to Gran Fanes

The trail forked here.  Fear not, we took the path less traveled to the right.

Our first wild horse sighting!

Rifugio Gran Fanes, where we had our interesting lunch escapade.  Everyone you see in the distance on the hill is in the same group of people and had just been kicked out of the rifugio for overwhelming their little place.

A stream cutting through the valley

In the distance, Alta Via 1 would cut left and climb steeply over the mountains.  We ended up dropping back down into the valley and then climbing up to Rifugio Scotoni.

Shortly after where Alta Via 1 cut left

We were happy at this point to look at the mountains and not have to climb them!

This is right before where the trail shot down a steep descent to the valley floor.  You can see where it drops off behind us.

Down at the valley floor.  In the distance in the center you can see the trail we would soon climb up to Scotoni.

Hooray!  After a really long day we arrived at Scotoni at 4:15.

This Munich beer was so good.  Just what I needed after a long day.

I was marveling at how much distance we covered on day 2!  It was easily 17 miles with tons of ascent and descent.

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