The Col Rosa (Ettore Bovero) Via Ferrata

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.

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This is the Col Rosa peak we climbed. The VF runs up the sharp line (arête) on the left side.
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First you have to back track a little through the pine forest to cross the river at a bridge. All the while, the destination is there, with its rosy red orange rock streaks, beckoning.
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Soon you enter into the National Park.
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There was definitely a lot of evidence of active selective logging in the pine forest, trailside. And tons of exceptionally neat & orderly log piles using standing trees to keep them stable, rather than cribs.
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While there were lots of incredibly neat and orderly stacks of wood drying, none were quite like this one!
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The forest as gothic architecture. Organized disorder. I like it. Created by high school students from the area, it was a fun art installation along the route.
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Across the river, we could see clouds snagging on the peaks. Another VF runs up there.
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As soon as we branched off to trail #408, we headed away from the river, and our path narrowed. From that moment on, we went up, ever up, a series of relatively gentle switchbacks to the pass.
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Occasionally, we’d break out of the trees and see our goal: the colourful Col Rosa peak.
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We passed a WW1 troops barracks building…
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.. and then veered off and headed up onto the track that led to the base of the via ferrata, high above the pass. The views were getting better and better as we rose above the pine forested slopes of the mountains and the pass.
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The track hugged the edge of a rock wall for a bit before heading up a series of ledges to the start of the ferrata.
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And the cliffs were huge! A taste of what was to come.
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The fascinating thing was that we passed so many WW1 ruins! There were caves and tunnels and look out windows.
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Imagine young men like this hanging out at sites like this! (This photo is from the War Museum at Passo Valporola, where we went to learn about the things we were seeing in the cliffs and mountains here about the Mountain War between Austria and Italy from 1915-1917.)

The tunnels we explored at the top of this mountain made these photos seem so real… just wait and see! But first, the ferrata!

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We’re almost at the base of the ferrata here. Just a few more switchbacked ledges to go. (We were following those red painted dots).
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And then it was time to head on up!
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It was quite steep in no time!
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And as you can see, some of the foot holds were small little flakes and ledges. I found this ferrata, more so than the one the other day, to be full-on climbing. It challenged me for sure!
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This is the base of the arrête (at Bill’s shoulder). Soon we’d be mounting it to head up.
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It was full-on climbing, so there weren’t many opportunities to take photos with free hands… but here I am at the top of the arête portion.
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It sure was steep coming up that arête!
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Here Bill crosses over from one section of rock column to another.
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Yup. It was steep (not sure if you can tell in this photo, but the blurry part is blurry because it’s so far away!). I’d gone by this section, but at this point, Bill still had to get to the ferrata cable, and then head across the rock, horizontally. This section was one of those “oh my!” moments when you realize just how airy this route is!
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Bill comes across that horizontal section.
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Time to head up again!

Ettore Bovero VF 8

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One last push to the top of the long section for me.
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Looking back down on Bill, below. It’s a long way we came up!
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Bill emerges up behind me. Now we were onto a wide, flat ledge of sorts, covered in what looked like mugo pines. This is the end of the long VF section. We have a little hike to do here to connect to the remaining VF part of the trail.
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Looking down over the forest of dwarf pines. They came up to our shoulders and were so spectacularly green! We hiked through this part.
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One short scramble ahead… you can see two people there ahead of us… a father and his 12 year old daughter! And you can see the red dots painted on the rock for us to follow.
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To do what they did, it was simply a matter of following those red dots.
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Then it was time to do the last push to the top through a series of stemple ladders.
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This was the easy part, and felt like nothing after what we’d been through!
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Another section… we figured they were placed so strangely so that the rock didn’t crack & break apart.
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A third section…
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… and then the final scramble through a wide crack.
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Looking down to the river whose shores we’d walked along… we saw it had sure been a long climb up!
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We made it!

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.Ettore Bovero VF 016A1We’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!

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As we left the peak, another group had emerged up top. Did they know of the wonders that lay beneath their feet down this hole in the rock???
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We headed out down the backside of the mountain. Our trail took us on a more gentle descent than the VF we took up… but it was a loose, steep trail that really tried our knees & ankles!
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On the way down, we came across another set of WW1 ruins.
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I couldn’t resist climbing to the viewpoint by that fantastic pillar.
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Another lookout hole.. this one with barbed wire remaining.
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It was a pretty trail…
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… one that switchbacked this way and that as it descended back down to the river, far below.
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There was still a little down-climbing to do, along with a few more trenches and caves to explore.
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And then, most importantly, a little apple strudel to devour! We are in the Südtirol, after all!
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I have tried, since climbing this VF to discover who Ettore Bovero was… but to no avail. The internet searches I do come up empty, the locals we’ve asked do not know, and our VF guidebook is blank on the subject. For now, I’ll think of him as one of those crazy WW1 soldiers who climbed down and suspended themselves precariously, down the mountainside, dangling from a rope, firing off grenades at bypassers below, by hand.
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Or maybe he was one of these fine, strapping fellas!

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The place we were staying had a booklet of things to do in the area. This is the slogan inside, for the Alta Badia area we were exploring… kind of fitting, no?

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.

If you are interested in trying via ferrata, read these excellent posts for beginners from the Severe Climber: Tips For Via Ferrata and Via Ferrata Virgins.

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.


For more on our 2017 Italy-Slovenia Trip go here: Venice & The Dolomites 2017. And for other places we’ve been around the world, poke about under the Travel tab of my Blog.

14 Comments on “The Col Rosa (Ettore Bovero) Via Ferrata

    • Thanks, Monica! It certainly is a unique way to experience Italy. Not the usual North American way to vacation here. Though we’ve met many French and German tourists here, specifically to experience the area the way we are. We’re certainly surrounded by hardy, fearless people here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True, it is perspective. Although the only thing that has scared me about diving is occasional strong tidal currents or surge. And we try to plan around that.

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      • The thing that scared me, diving, was my impulsiveness… I remember following an amazing sea turtle down on a wall dive when I was a novice diver. The dive master raced after me to stop me because I went far too deep. It was actually comical, in hind sight, being told off underwater.

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    • Oh believe me! We sure are! And we’re thoroughly enjoying the whole rifugio thing… it’s so civilized! We love not having to pack in our food… it’s such a luxury to have a hot meal on the top of a peak! Today, for example, we were at the Piz Boè Rifugio at 3152m… it was perched on a thin ridge line of rock at the top of the mountain, and there we had hot polenta with mushrooms and sausage! It was wonderful after the VF and the climb we did to get there!

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