This via ferrata, situated near the town of Cortina, represented a long, but very worthwhile day’s adventure up a dramatic peak, the Col Rosa. It is the toughest VF that we’ve done to date. Though it was rated a 3B, it was very unlike the 3B we did at Corvara the other day. This one was full-on climbing for an extended period of time with very airy exposure, most of the time.
Climbing up along a long, dramatic arête (sort of like a long, upright column of rock that stands out, like a corner, on the mountain side) took a lot of stamina. I definitely felt it by the time we were 2/3 of the way up! This climb, due to the nature of climbing up that arête feature, had far more exposure than the day before. Some of the views down made my heart leap with an, “oh my! that’s a long way down” jolt. It was the bravest I felt I’ve been in a long time, both from an exposure point of view, and from the length of time I had to climb without respite. Bill feels it represented about a 5.7/5.8 climb.
The tunnels we explored at the top of this mountain made these photos seem so real… just wait and see! But first, the ferrata!
Time for lunch, and what’s a summit lunch break, without looking at a map, I ask you! The views up there were tremendous! And it was fun looking through the rather battered guest book container with its entries in many languages. There really is nothing like the feeling of being up top on a summit, with the mountain peaks cresting out before you like waves on a choppy ocean.
You’d think the summit was all we were after, but there was still another great thing to come! And it lay down this hole under a crack in the surface of the mountain top.We’d carried our headlamps up with us, having read that there were WW1 tunnels up top. There weren’t really directions in our book, it just said we’d find them if we knew to look for them. Many people miss them, not knowing that they’re there. And what a warren of tunnels it was! Many came to extraordinary lookout points on all aspects of the valleys that surrounded this peak. It was really something, leading me again to think, what was that mountain war like? Good grief! Getting up here is challenge enough, but living here, fighting here, sending signals from up here… wow!
One of the lookout hole’s views.
A window in the corner of a low ceilinged room.
Tunnels led to view points.
With viwes of the valleys and passes, nothing could slip by.
Some viewpoints were as big as doorways.
The views up top were incredible.
We explored some of the lower passageways with our headlamps.
The tunnels were on different levels.
There was one passageway that dipped sharply down… we could not see the bottom.
Should You Go:
Via ferrata grading is easy to understand. Difficulty is rated on a 5 point scale (1 being easy and 5 being the most difficult). Exposure (as in how steep the drop offs are, or how catastrophic a tumble might be) is rated as an A, B or C, with C being the most exposed.
This ferrata was graded a 3B. So a moderate climbing challenge (say, a 5.8 this time), and certainly very exposed and “airy,” as they say, for the prolonged climb up the arête.
Summit Elevation: 2166m; 900m elevation gain on the hike up; 300m elevation gain on the ferrata itself.
Timing & Logistics: Park in the public parking lot beside the National Park building outside Cortina in the town of Fiames. You will have to backtrack from it to the bridge at the Olympia Campground to get on the proper side of the river for the trail, and then follow the very wide, easy trail #417, past where you parked the car, and beyond. It took two hours to hike up on trails #417 to #408. At the Posporcora Pass, there is a junction where a small track veers off and up steeply to the base of the via ferrata.
There are the remains of a WW1 bunker just before you turn off on the track to the ferrata that you might want to explore before heading up as you will not pass by that way again on your way out.
The ferrata itself took us about an hour and forty five minutes to two hours to do all of its sections. It took 2 hours to ascend to the VF start, and 2 hours to descend the mountain and get back to our car. All told, it was a 7 hour day, including time spent having lunch up top and exploring the WW1 tunnels up there, and poking about in a few WW1 ruins on the way down.
This ferrata has a few sections. The first is very short and simply helps you mount a small cliff band. It only has about 3 bolts. From there, there’s still a bit more hiking to do. The second stage of the ferrata is where the experience jumps to a full-on climbing adventure. It is quite long. Once you have gained the arête, you hike on a very large ledge of sort through a mugo pine dwarf forest. Then, it’s some scrambling and a short ferrata section, using some stemple ladders, to gain the top of the peak.
Once up top, there are really neat WW1 tunnels to explore, so bring a headlamp and plan to spend some time up top there, underground. Promise me you won’t leave without checking them out! You hike out of this via ferrata… and it is a steep descent through innumerable switchbacks on crumbly rock. Good hiking boots and poles (even though it’s a pain to climb with them on the via ferrata ascent) will help with this, and save your knees and the pounding push forward on your toes that you’d get in other footwear. Keep your headlamp handy as there are more caves and WW1 trenches to explore part way down the mountain.
Oh… one other thing! You can get spoiled in this region, not having to pack in food on hikes and climbs because of rifugios existing on pretty much every mountain pass and near every rocky peak. But this VF does not have any nearby. So pack in food and drink.
Trekking up a mountain’s shoulder, hiking through a flowering alpine meadow, snowshoeing through a dense pine forest, or taking in the 360 degree views from a ridge top vantage point make me feel alive. The experiences in these places give me a profound sense of space and place.
Travel does a similar thing, pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking; it also gives me that sense of space and place in this world.
I believe that life is lived in the contrasts: when you experience simplicity and complexity and life's ups and downs, whether they be physically in this world or mentally in your own personal inner landscape, you know that you are truly living.
The bigger they are, the more there is to explore!