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Road cycling – the Sellaronda

As road cycling day tours go, the Sellaronda is pretty famous; and for good reason as it passes through some of the finest mountain scenery in the world, climbing some of the most coveted passes. And it’s achievable by cyclists with a modest amount of fitness; 1845m of climbing along just over 50km of high mountain roads reaching just shy of 2300m ASL. Encircling the Sella massif, it visits Arabba, Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, Val Gardena and Passo Gardena, Alta Badia and Passo Campolongo. I’ll split the clockwise route into 4 segments and make some suggestions on how best to approach the ride.

The route

Distance: 50.2km

Total elevation gain: 1845m

sellaronda road map

You can complete the circuit in either direction of course. Here I’ve described starting at Arabba and cycling in a clockwise direction. From Casa Alfredino this is probably the most logical place to start without adding extra miles in the car or on the bike as it is directly on the route. As you can see from the height profile, there are four distinct climbs to each of the passes, and starting at Arabba gets the largest two out of the way at the start of the day when temperatures are a little cooler and the roads less busy. If you would like to use this information, feel free to use my Strava route: https://www.strava.com/routes/5915945

Arabba to Passo Pordoi

Distance elapsed: 9.2km catagory 1 climb

Total elevation gain: 657m

Average Gradient: 7%   Max Gradient: 9%

There is plenty of parking in and around Arabba. It’s an ideal spot to start as this small town best known for it’s skiing hosts a large number of restaurants, cafes, and shops – including a bike shop where you can pick up gas canisters and inner tubes should you need them. There is also a waterfountain near the church where you can top up bideons. The climb towards Passo Pordoi is quite long, 9.2km with an average gradient of 7% with few flat sections and 33 hairpin bends. This said, nowhere is it particularly steep, this being reflected by the max gradient of 9%. Although reasonably enclosed, the views are splendid with at first Piz Boe and then Piz Pordoi coming into view. You pass a WW1 Monument high on your right as you approach the pass where you will find some hotels and the base station of the Piz Pordoi cable car lift. The trip to the summit of the Pordoi is well worth the 14 euro ticket if you have time spare or come back another day.

One of our guests reaches Passo Pordoi.

One of our guests reaches Passo Pordoi.

Passo Pordoi to Passo Sella

Distance elapsed: 6.3km descent + 5.5km catagory 2 climb

Total elevation gain: 417m

Average Gradient: 8%  Max Gradient: 12%

Long hairpin bends take you down the Val di Fassa side of the pass towards a junction known as Bivio Sella. This route can be quite busy with tour bus’ which sometimes due to their length get a bit stuck around bends – so make sure you hover over your brakes so that you can anchor on in a hurry if you need to! You never know what is lurking around the next corner. You reach the junction and turn right and after a couple of short bends you reach the flat of Pian Schiavenais from where you get wild views of the 800 metre high NW face of Piz Pordoi and equally impressive Piz Civazes. They will be your companions for this climb, which is shorter and sharper than Passo Pordoi, with more respite during the bends, but steeper sections mixed in up to 12%. There however are never long and the views help take your mind off them, especially once you approach the pass and it opens up to Val Gardena when you get one ofthe most awe inspiring 360 panorama’s I’ve seen in any mountains. Now Piz Pordoi is accompanied by Marmolada, Sassolungo, Torre Innerkofler, Sass dei Meisules, the Odle range, the Cantenaccio and many others. It also is a good place to look for food – descending a km down the other side you will find some excellent restaurants and huts, my favourite of which is Malga Sella, a small farm sted hut serving excellent local dishes with a sun terrace to the front. It is down a small dirt track to the left after the larger huts.

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.

Passo Sella to Passo Gardena

Distance elapsed: 5.2km descent + 5.8km catagory 3 climb

Total elevation gain: 237m

Average Gradient: 4%  Max Gradient: 7%

Open views, long straights and few hairpins characterise the fast descent to the next junction. The sweeping views are as ever, breathtaking. In only a few minutes it’s over and you start the third climb to Passo Gardena. It’s less steep and intense but by now you’ll be feeling it a bit. Half way through there is a long flat traverse beneath the ramparts of the Sella massif which allows you to catch your breath before a final push up to the pass. It’s all change as as you leave behind Sassolungo and Alta Badia with it’s striking walls either side of the valley come into view.

Passo Gardena to Passo Campolongo and a return to Arabba

Distance elapsed: 9.2km descent + 5.4km catagory 3 climb + 4.6km descent

Total elevation gain: 330m

Average Gradient: 6%  Max Gradient: 11%

You’re now faced with the longest descent of the day. Hairpins stretchout before you for as far as the eye can see and it’s a great descent with long straights between corners. Indeed you hardly need to pedal until you get to Corvara when a short flat brings you into this Ski town. You take a right onto the main road through the town and it immediately starts to climb again. This pass is characterised by a steep section to start with, the gradient gradually picking up as you leave the hotels and bars behind, with numerous short corners. At least it eases again, with long straights until you reach your final summit of the day. The descent to Arabba is quick, letting you enjoy a celebratory beer!

The Giro d'Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.

The Giro d’Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.

 Logistics

Bike hire: If you are only visiting for a few days, you will most likely want to hire a bike rather than transporting your own. There are a number of shops who rent road bikes.

Breakout Sport in La Villa and Corvara

Sport Kostner Rent in Corvara

Ski Service Reba in Arabba have a few road bikes. Unfortunately I can’t find a website.

Of course if you plan on bringing your own bike, most airlines will carry bikes at cost.

Equipment

A road bike, as light as you can afford is the name of the game. The roads here abouts are in good condition, many stretches having been recently resurfaced and with quite modest maximum gradients, a double chainset is perfectly adequate. Most people carry two bideons and refill at intervals along the route. You should of course carry a multitool, a spare inner tube and some gas cartridges which you can get at the bike shops mentioned above. Helmets are essential as the roads here are busy, although drivers are usually courteous and give cyclists space. If you have clipless shoes, it’s worth bringing pedals with you just incase they don’t have your cleat style.

Season

The best seasons for cyclining in the Dolomites are late May to mid July, and September until mid October, when temperatures are cooler and there are fewer thunderstorms. Temperatures at the passes at the start and end of these seasons can be decidedly chilly at the top of the passes so carrying a windshirt is recommended and possibly knee length bib shorts. But mostly it is warm and dry during these times. One thing to mention is that there are several organised Sellarona Bike Day events every year when th roads are closed for the day to motorised traffic. This sees mass starts with thousands of cyclist completing the route.

Where to stay

At www.casa-alfredino.com we offer apartments. We are situated close to the start of the tour at Arabba as well as some of the other famous routes – particularly Passo Giau and Passo Fedaia, two of the most coveted climbs in the region. Why not drop us a line at info@casa-alfredino.co.uk

The Dolomites – 10 things to do to make your holiday special!

You probably already have some ideas about what to do on your trip to the Dolomites, but the area has so much to offer which you might not know about, so let me give you some ideas!

 1) Ride a bike

The Dolomites has some of the best road cycling and mountain biking in the world. There are many hard climbs over beautiful passes, many of which are included in the Giro d’Italia, the second most famous bike race in he world after the Tour de France. The area around Casa Alfredino is used every year; Passo Giau, Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Fedaia – they are climbs synonymous with the event. The famous Sellaronda for example can be completed as a road bike trip or on a mountain bike. With 1800m of height gain it’s a serious undertaking and you need good fitness to complete it. You can rent bikes in La Villa, Corvara, Arabba, or Alleghe. For more detail take a read of our article specifically about the route!

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.

 

 

The Giro d'Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.

The Giro d’Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.

If you are more into mountain biking, the tour is no less excellent, with the route well waymarked. You can either cycle up, or during the high season, use the lift system to transport your bike up leaving you to enjoy the long downhills. There are Enduro sections if you choose and an All Mountain set-up is recommended.

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2) Go for a walk away from the crowds

Casa Alfredino is located on the southern fringe of the most well known area of the Dolomites, which can be especially packed during August when literally the whole of Italy is on holiday. If you want to get away from the madding crowds then head to the south of the range. It’s much less developed and quieter and even in high season you can find quiet forests and high mountain walks on which you will find greater tranquility. Here are three of my favourites.

Cascata del Inferno: great for an off day, head to Valle San Lucano where you will drive beneath the enormous 1600m North Face of Monte Agner, worth the drive in itself. If you drive all the way to the end of the road, you can park, head up a mettled road and after 200 yards take the small track to the right waymarked to the cascades. The deepening gorge is home to some beautiful waterfalls, each one more impressive than the last.

Cavallaza from Passo Rolle: few people know of the Lagorai and its igneous mountains. Starting from Passo Rolle, head over the summit of Tognazza, then onwards to Cavalazza, before dropping to Lahgi di Colabricon. This stunning area is reminiscent of the Scottish or Welsh mountains, with hidden tarns, lush green vegetation and stunning views of the entirely different Pale di San Martino over the valley. There are the remains of some of the Austrian trenches in the mountains too, and the return to Passo Rolle is through dense coniferous forest. Again the drive over Passo Valles to get there is utterly stunning.

Looking across a high mountain tarn opposite the Pale di San Martino

Looking across a high mountain tarn opposite the Pale di San Martino near Passo Valles

Passo Staulanza to Passo giau: Park up at the Rifugio Citta dei Fiumi carpark, not far from Passo Staulanza. The walk up to the hut is a short 40 minute trek up a wide easy track affording views of Marmolada, Pelmo and Civetta. Continue up behind the hut and this leads you to a ridgeline from which you can see Antelao and Sorapiss aswell. The track leads easily over several minor passes through high alpine meadows and some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of the Dolomites. By doing it in the direction suggested and starting early, you complete the route as a 500m climb and thus go in the opposite direction to most people, so for most of the day you will have the mountains to yourself. When you get to Passo Giau, hitch a lift back to the car park

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Rifugio Citta dei Fiumi with Marmolada in the background.

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Alpine cows showing us some love

3) Visit Bolzano

Bolzano, the regional capital of Alto Adige/Sud Tirol has a beautiful old town well worth spending a day on – ideal for a rest day or if the rain comes in. It’s a 1hr 40 min drive from the house over Passo Fedaia and Passo Carezza where you will pass the UNESCO world Heritage site, Lago di Carreza beneath the Latemar towers. It has a splendid cathedral with a multi-coloured tiled roof, arched colonnades with lots of boutique shops, a street market, excellent restaurants (I can heartily recommend the Hopfen & Co Brewery), a museum dedicated to Otzi a prehistoric man who was found buried in a glacier not far away, Mountain Spirit and Sportler, two excellent climbing shops, and Salewa Head Quarters with a fantastic indoor climbing wall.

4) Wine tours

The Adige, Friuli and Prosecco regions are world famous for their wines. Indeed the Adige promotes a wine road and they have many excellent varieties, including Blauburgender/Pinot Nero, Grauvernatsch, Lagrein, Pinot Grigio of course and Eisacktaller. To the south and east of the house, you’ll find the Friuli wines like Riballo Giallo, and Proseccos in Valldobiadene and Conegliano amongst many many others, but also Grappa’s of all types.

5) Medieval castles and history

If you like historical sites you will be interested to know that during the middle ages the entire region as far as Milan was part of Bavaria. As a result it has a great number of beautiful castles, like Castello Andraz. Over the years it changed hands, ceeding to the Holy Roman Empire (indeed Merano, just 30 minutes from Bolzano was the regional capital for a very long time indeed and a papal seat – Castle Tyrol is worth a look if you are in the area) and then the Hapsburg Empire and Veneto, before finally becoming wholly Italian after the brutal battles fought here during the First World War. There are war forts and open air museums at Passo Valparola and high on the flanks of Marmolada which you can visit using the cable car.

Castello Andraz - a small medieval castle in a stunning mountain setting

Castello Andraz – a small medieval castle in a stunning mountain setting

6) Ice skating, swimming and fishing in Alleghe

If it’s so miserable you can’t get out into the mountains, then maybe indoor skating might pass some time; or on a sunny rest day you might want to unwind at the mountain beach set beneath the towering Civetta. You can rent pedallo’s, go fishing, walk by the lake and generally unwind.

Pedallo fun on Lago di Alleghe with the mighty Civetta NW wall above.

Pedallo fun on Lago di Alleghe with the mighty Civetta NW wall above.

7) The Civetta Zipline and the Civetta adventure park

For those of you who have no issues with throwing yourself of a perfectly good mountainside, the Civetta Zipline is a huge 1600m 2 stage line in San Tomaso Agordino, just south of Alleghe. Reaching speeds of up to 80kmh, it crosses a huge ravine twice up to 160m above the ground and descends 260m!

Meanwhile for kids there is a treetop adventure park; take the first stage of the Alleghe cable car up to Pian di Pezze where you will find quite a few different activities for children and this excellent high rise obstacle course!

8) Go sport climbing

If you are a climber you’ll most likely know lots about the famous alpine and trad climbing in the area. But most will not know that we have some superb sport climbing in our area: the best are Sass di Roccia at Laste, Val di Gares, Castello Andraz, Sass di Dlacia and Cinque Torri. All you need is a single rope, some quickdraws, a harness and some climbing shoes. Val di Gares and Andraz in particular are in ideal family friendly settings, in the woods with shade and a beautiful setting. If you would like a taster, we can arrange for a qualified guide to lead you for a day!

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One of our local sport climbing crags at Malga Ciapela. A lovely spot although a bit tough, with rough, steep, pocketed limestone and routes from 6a+

9) Stay at a hut for a night

There is absolutely nothing like hiking up to a hut and settling down with a glass of wine to watch the sun set over the mountains, and then the excitement of waking up to an equally glorious sunrise; I find it hard to sleep! We are surrounded by great places to stay – just ring up before you set off to book a spot. You can expect to pay around 45-50 euro per person including dinner and a basic breakfast. Here are some of the best:

Rifugio Falier 1hr45 walk from the trailhead, or 2hr15 from Malga Ciapela campsite when the road above this is closed during August.

Rifugio Citta di Fiume 1hr walk from the car park

Rifugio Viel dal Pan 1hr10 walk from Passo Fedaia – quite steep but with excellent views

Rifugio Cappana Piz Fassa 1hr30 walk from Piz Pordoi, which you can access using a cable car. This is a tiny hut, at the very top of the Sella Massif with only 20 sleeping spaces, so bookings are non refundable.

Rifugio des Alpes Accessible by cable car from Campitello di Fassa, or by a 1 hour walk from Passo Sella

Tierser Alpl Hutte a 2hr 30 walk from Campitello di Fassa, or 2hr 30 from Passo Sella – either version is delightful, although the latter has more spectacular views. Or walkin from Sella pass, then walk down to Campitello the next day and catch a lift back up to return to Passo Sella

Rifugio Fronza alla Coronelle A 15 minute lift ride from Via Nigra below the Cantenaccio

10) Eat, drink and be merry

Italian food is renowned the world over and the Dolomites is no exception. With a superb mix of traditional local Tyrolian, Fodom and Ladin dishes and of course pastas and pizzas, you can dine in style. Add in the great wines mentioned above and you have a winning mix. Even food at huts is usually of excellent quality and very reasonably priced, so don’t worry about your lunch time sarnies and get stuck in. Speck, canederli, roe deer and venison stews, goulash, casunsiei and porcini mushrooms are delicacies not to be missed and feature on most menus in our area.

A spot of lunch at the excellent Rifugio Castiglioni situated beneath the ramparts of Sassolungo. A fantastic hour long walk to a lunchspot with a kids play area and superb food.

A spot of lunch at the excellent Rifugio Castiglioni situated beneath the ramparts of Sassolungo. A fantastic hour long walk to a lunchspot with a kids play area and superb food.

The Sellaronda Ski Tour – Orange.

The Sellaronda is world famous – in the summer as a fabulous road and mountain biking tour, or in winter as an on piste, whole day excursion. You can do it in either direction, without using any other mode of transport than the ski lifts and the planks on your feet. It’s a wonderful thing to do and can be accomplished by any intermediate skier – if you can ski any red, it’s on. Indeed you shouldn’t be put off when looking at the map as this trip is more about the volume of skiing than the difficulty – bar a couple of slopes in the Arabba area, both directions generally follow the line of least resistance! Personally I prefer the Orange route but theres really not much in it. Of course if you are a strong skier, you can add detours for added excitement and I will detail some of these below.

The lay of the land

The Sellaronda encircles the Sella massif; a square chunk of Dolomite which was uplifted by the underlying igneous layer of rock in one piece. It’s a magnificent, apparently flat topped range, with only the occasional breech in its vertical walls through which a valley pours. Surrounded by the Ladin speaking valleys of Val di Fassa (Val de Fascia), Val Gardena (Val Gherdëina), Val Badia and Val Cordevole. Each valley has its main village from which the tour can start, or if you are in one of the outlying villages you can join it with a variation. From Casa Alfredino you have to do just this, starting in Malga Ciapela where you take a lift to Monte Padon which allows you to descend in a couple of runs to Arabba. You could also either drive to Arabba or Canazei in about half an hour. But for now I will describe the tour from Malga Ciapela. If you are not coming from there then ignore the next section.

Logistics

This route takes most people a whole day, especially if you add in some detours for lunch etc. You must be able to sustain a good fluid pace for the day to complete it. If you are a speed freak and straight line off the top of every lift and don’t stop it can be completed by the shortest route in about 3 hours 30 minutes – this should give you some understanding for the amount of skiing involved.

There are frequent huts all around the route – it’s not really worth carrying a packed lunch with you as inevitably you will want to stop for a drink, and wolfing down some chips won’t cost much at all. Skiing unencumbered with either no pack or only a small one, is much nicer.

You will need a Dolomiti Superski pass which covers all the areas of the Dolomites. If you have a choice, avoid the end of the week and Sunday’s as these are the busiest days. Saturday (changeover day) can work well and also early in the week when people are still warming up a little.

Accessing Arabba

From Casa Alfredino drive or take the ski bus up to Malga Ciapela. If you have a car, there is a small carpark at the lift to Monte Padon which is further up the hill than the main Marmolada lift – if you reach the s-bends on the way up to Passo Fedaia you’ve gone to far.

Jump on the lift which takes about 15 minutes. The red run down from here is quite intimidating, although it’s not as bad as it looks as it’s usually uncrowded and first thing in the morning will be perfectly groomed. It widens and becomes easier as you descend. when you get to the bottom, there is a small 2 seat chair which takes you to the middle of the Arabba range, again a 10 minute ride. This takes you in total maybe 40 minutes if you take it steady, and it’s a good warm up for the day.

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Orange, clockwise route

From here on I’ll describe the route in the Orange direction. I say Orange because the route is signposted with Orange arrows for clockwise and Green for anti-clockwise. Both are roughly the same difficulty – some people enjoy one direction so much they do it in the other the next day!

So having skied down a blue run from the Malga Ciapela link, you will come to the mid-station of the bubble car lift to Portovescovo. Get on this and then ski down the short access run which links the to Portovescovo lift houses to one another. Coming around the corner you will find probably the hardest run of the day – handy whilst you’re fresh. It’s a steep and often very bumpy run which gets carved up by intimidated skiers. If you are lucky, keeping to skiers left and skiing the powder swept to the outside edge of the piste can give you a good run – keep left and you will inevitably get mixed up in the mayhem. However it is steeper on this side.

Once down this slope, runs lead off leftwards – keep take the left most alternative which traverses the mountainside towards Passo Pordoi. Initially they are wide slopes with some steep pitches which can be crowded, so be careful – rolling into them at speed is asking for trouble – again the outside of the piste is your friend if you are. Then it transitions into a track which curls around the until you reach the long chair up to Passo Pordoi.

Passo Pordoi to Sella Pass

To get to the Val di Fassa slopes, ski down under the lift and then take the chair on your left – it goes quite steeply up to a summit in a col. This marks the end of one of the less interesting sections. The next run which is long and goes all the way to Lupo Bianco is excellent at the start. For side country skiers, duck under the ropes I front of you and there is an excellent area down between some rocks. On piste, the run which leads right is my preferred way, although either is good – down left there is a small boarder cross run which can be fun! The whole area funnels down towards a bowl just above the trees – lots of skiers congregate here as its a natural meeting spot. This then takes you down into a long valley run which is narrow with quite a few hairpins. It’s fun although often busy.

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The view at the top of Col Rodella across to Piz Civazes

 

After a few minutes there is a run to the right which you must take – not to do so will lead you down to Canazei which will mean walking back to the lift house, catching a ride back up to the bowl you’ve just come from and starting again – it is an easy mistake to make and if you do so towards the end of the day could be costly too if you end up in the wrong valley! Instead, you will go through a tunnel under a road and then arrive at bubble cars to Sella Pass. Here either schuss down to a short chairlift on skiers right, or for a small excursion, go left to a 2 man chair to the top of Col Rodella which affords a fantastic view. You have to return to the same lift, but it’s a worthwhile run, especially for the side country on skiers right. Finally you are set up for a run down to Selva Gardena.

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Sella Pass to Selva Gardena

This section allows for the most deviation from the standard run. For the easiest run (although bad for boarders due to a number of flat sections), you can follow initially the red to Hotel Passo Sella, and then the blue all the way to Pian di Gralba. Alternatively, pull up at a 3 man chair on your left about half way down to Piz Seteur. If you ski towards where came from you will find a great red run, called Falk which takes you Plan do Grabla. Or you can take on of the runs over the other side of Piz Seteur which are directly infront of you when you demount the lift. This allows you to reach Rifugio Comici, a nice sport for a break in stunning surroundings. You need to take a couple of ski tows to do this. You can also reach this point from Pian di Gralba by taking the large cable car to Piz Sella. From Rifugio Comici either ski the eastern slopes down to Plan di Grabla, or better take runs westward beneath Sassolungo down to lift 21 – it’s a secret back run which is quiet and beautiful. Lift 21 then allows you to access Ciampinoi by way of another lift, 22 from where you can ski either the excellent black or red down into Selva di Gardena.

Should you descend from Plan di Gralba, the run is a long easy red with a couple of short obvious lifts to gain you a little altitude in flat spots. All the described runs lead to a car park in the centre of Selva where you have to take your skis, go over an overpass and onto the next section.

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Looking out from Dantercepies towards Sassolungo and Val Gardena

 

Selva up to Passo Gardena and on to Corvara

At the end of the overpass catch a lift, and then ski down to the Dantercepies bubble cars. This takes you to the pass in one fell swoop. Although this marks geographically the halfway point, in reality completing the route is now not far off and you can take you foot off the gas a bit. With one long red, you will descend to Colfusco beneath mighty north facing cliffs. Perpetually in shade, the runs are cold. On the right you will see ice falls through the trees, and it’s worth stopping to stare up at this massive cathedral of rock. If you fancy a detour, when you get to Colfosco, go up lift 46 (Cofosco) and then 50 (Forcelles). There’s a well positioned hut here which affords expansive views across the Sella – it’s worthwhile if you have time as you get a much better idea of this side of the Sella from here.

To get down to Corvara you have to take a lift – there are no runs. This is a pretty flat lift and it delivers you right to the lift house which accesses the next leg.

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Corvara to Arabba

The last leg is really nice again. Back in the sun, with some excellent runs and some opportunities for deviation. Lift 19 takes you up to the Boe ski area. Here you can either continue or take a lift to catch a steep black run, Vallon nestled in a bowl to your right. In years gone by the area just outside the lift station was a bind as it was flat to mildly uphill so pushing or walking was required but they now install a small conveyor lift to help – infinitely better! The run down to Passo Campolongo is good, although can get badly bumped at the end of the day as it’s in direct sunshine so the snow piles up progressively until it’s sometimes a real challenge. This happens on a slope about halfway down to the pass. Luckily the worst is not very long and you can usually ride them out by taking long diagonal runs across the slope. Or draw your knees together, ready your poles and imagine you’re on an Olympic Mogul run. Just don’t come crying to me when it goes wrong.

After the moguls bear right at the next junction to catch the last lift you need to get to Arabba, Bec de Roces. If you have time, you can cross the road on lift 31 for a run down from Cherz – there a really nice sweeping red run which comes down through the trees – lots of fun for a quick blast.

From Bec de Roces Arabba is one run away. The reds are all a blast here although late season they will be pretty slushy by the time you get there as they are plumb south facing and exposed. But, all things equal in a few minutes you will be at the new Arabba Fly lift which will transport you back to near the base Portovescovo lift. Here we recommend taking the DMC Europa 1 lift. The Cable car to Portovescovo is always jam packed whilst the DMC bubble cars seem to be missed by many who just pile onto the cable car as it’s the first option available. At any rate, in a few minutes you are back to where you started on the Sellaronda, all you must do is retrace your steps to Monte Padon and collapse in a heap!

M.Speciale, Piccolo Lagozuoi, VI-

M.Speciale is a fantastic 300m route which climbs to the top of Piccolo Lagazuoi on a very direct line. Its difficulty is a little discontinuous, but the crux pitches especially are really quite special, certainly some of the most fun climbing I’ve done of that grade in the Dolomites. It is airy, with highly pocketed and water worn grey Dolomite on the hard sections and is broken by a terrace at mid height from where you can escape to the right should you need to.

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Topo showing approach and descent, and approximate line of route

 

Approach:

Approach is fast and easy from Passo Valparola, where you park in a lay by opposite the old fort. Follow the Kaiserjaeger Path towards the base of the Lagozuoi and after climbing for some 15 minutes, strike out directly to the base of the wall up loose scree. The route starts at an obvious chimney near the lowest point of the buttress and to the right of an overhang.

What to take:

There are a great number of threads on this route, many of them equipped with tat of varying quality. Stiff Kevlar cords and dyneema slings to thread these are useful. The rock is a touch tricky to place gear in, so a limited rack of a set of nuts and a few cams (0.4-1 Camalot) are useful. Double ropes are advised should you need to retreat during a storm as the pitches are quite long.

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Close up of the route. The best pitch is up the black water worn rock near the start.

The Climb:

After a short easy chimney the route strikes out leftwards in a determined fashion across a rather blank wall; it has just enough good holds to make it relatively easy. There are a number of pegs to protect, but a few nuts also help. Shortly a  belay in a shattered niche is reached where there is a peg belay. The next pitch is fantastic; steep and featured, it looks intimidating from the start. However you soon realise that you can follow a line of jugs which breech the wall and a couple of small overlaps. In a 35m pitch you reach a belay, again equipped with pegs although there are plenty of alternative placements should they be needed. It’s a small belay and not ideal for more than 2 people.

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Federico climbing the steep, exposed and utterly excellent first pitch.

 

From here you climb more easily to a terrace which is crossed. This the point at which escape to the right is possible, just be careful not to knock off rocks as there are a number of busy routes which climb the wall beneath it. All being well though, belay at the back of the terrace beneath a steep wall. Here you climb a fairly obvious weakness in the wall to a hanging groove. You reach another loose terrace with few good belays. Retrospectively I would search for something close to the edge of this terrace as the rock at the back is loose and shattered and provides little real security.

 

Federico larking around on the terrace. What a spot.

Federico larking around on the terrace. What a spot.

Climbing leftwards across this terrace you will approach a steep wall beneath a large black bulge. Climb until you find a rampline which leads back right wards into an open corner beneath the wall and belay to a thread and nut. Now strike out boldly leftwards, climbing through a first overlap and then a smaller second one with some difficulty. You will reach a ledge leading leftwards – do not be lured along this but instead climb quite directly to a hidden peg and from there to a large ledge. Here arrange a runner for your second and traverse the ledge leftwards to a peg belay beneath a crack in the overhanging wall above.

Looking into the abyss from the last belay, just before the short hard crack.

Looking into the abyss from the last belay, just before the short hard crack.

Climb this crack with some “urgency” to yet another loose terrace and belay. The exit of the climb is on the left, across scree covered ledges, at first quite steep and exposed but quickly giving way to an easy path.

The Descent:

The descent is certainly not easy. You must be sure footed and comfortable with quite tricky scrambling. According to the guidebook we had, after traversing ledges rightward, you find some pegs for an abseil. We never found this, and instead followed first a large terrace and then increasingly narrow ledges eastwards across the mountain until we reached a large slope above the East face of Piccolo Lagozuoi. There we picked up the top of the Kaiserjaeger path which is equipped with a bridge and cables to protect exposed sections. We followed this directly back to the carpark in around 25 minutes, the whole descent taking about an hour.

Sass di Stria, Spigolo Sud, IV+

The Spigolo Sud or South Arete of the Sass di Stria is a magnificent and highly attainable goal for the aspirant rock alpinist. Over looking the famous Passo Falzarego it affords not only excellent climbing, but stunning views and an extensive insight into the history of the area during the descent. With a minimal approach it is great as an introductory climb if you’ve not experienced Dolomite rock yet.

Looking out over Passo Falzarego towards Tofana di Rozes, Cinque Torri, and Averau.

Looking out over Passo Falzarego towards Tofana di Rozes, Cinque Torri, and Averau.

Approach:

Only 25 minutes drive from Casa Alfredino, park either at the Lagozuoi cable car station or at the Fort museum at Passo Val Parola. From the cable car station follow the road towards the pass and vice versa from the pass. About midway between the two there is a small rock gym area just south of the road on the very foot of Sass di Stria. Walk over to this from where you will see an obvious path leading around the eastern flank of the mountain. This ascends quite steeply through scree and scrub until the South Arete is reached in around 15 minutes. If you go a little further you will reach old trenches which are interesting to look around.

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What to take:

As with most trade routes in this area there is extensive fixed gear on the route. So 10 extenders (slingdraws are useful), a few 120cm slings, a set of nuts and sizes 0.5-1 Camalots will suffice. Of course it’s assumed you will carry a small pack with a rain proof and something warm in case of a summer storm!

Shortly before reaching the Arête, at one of the numerous beefy ring bolts enroute.

Shortly before reaching the Arête, at one of the numerous beefy ring bolts enroute.

 

The Climb:

Six pitches at a fairly sustained grad of UIAA IV or around Hard Severe / 5.6. The initial pitches start easily climbing out of a gully onto a rib. Belays are denoted by large steel ring bolts which are usually painted with a red blob and are frequent – you can easily run some of them together.

On the arête looking out over the mountains.

On the arête looking out over the mountains.

The route follows this rib for a couple of pitches and it slowly becomes more and more acute to form a sharp arete. At one point an improbable and exposed section leads up the left side of the arete just when you think it should go right; the difficulties are short lived but exciting. This leads to a chimney and large ledge where upon if you look right you will see an enormous leaning flake with a passageway behind it.

The hidden passageway. Continuing direct at this point is apparently about UIAA VII!

The hidden passageway. Continuing direct at this point is apparently about UIAA VII!

Climb up to this and through the hole to the other side. Here you find either an easy exit at grade III or a more testing direct line up a groove at V- which is well worth the effort if you have the ability. This deposits you directly at the summit cross where you can sign the summit log.

The summit - it's a great place with room for a nice lunch and tremendous 360 views.

The summit – it’s a great place with room for a nice lunch and tremendous 360 views.

Descent:

Trenches from the war extend virtually to the road from the summit. From the cross go down westwards where you will find the first one. If you have time, take a head torch with you so that you can explore the war tunnels. If pressed for time it takes maybe 45 minutes to reach the car park from the summit. The route is reasonably obvious bar little side trenches, but if you get lost, climb up out of the trench to help you reorient.

Some of the trenches with their wooden ladders. Although classed a Via Ferrata, there is very little one could call climbing, bar a few ladders.

Some of the trenches with their wooden ladders. Although classed a Via Ferrata, there is very little one could call climbing, bar a few ladders.

 

Ski Val Gardena – one of the best and most varied resorts in the Dolomites

Val Gardena is one of the busiest skiing valleys in the Dolomites and for good reason, with a system which is well organised, extensive to say the least, not to mention some fantastic runs. It links easily into Alta Badia, Val di Fassa and Alpe di Suisi with a network of lifts, buses and train links. What’s more, the villages are beautiful, have a great many excellent restaurants and a huge offering in terms of hotels. If there can be any criticism, it would be that it has lost its originality and a little of its charm as the tourism industry has done its stuff.

Back to the skiing. The valley can be roughly divided into four areas:

  • Passo Sella and Plan di Gralba
  • Selva di Gardena and Monte Pana
  • Seceda
  • Passo Gardena

Each provides a days skiing in their own right, before you even start linking one into the other.

Green - Sella Pass and Plan di Gralba Blue - Monte Pana Red - Ciampinoi and Selva di Gardena Purple - Seceda Yellow - Dantercepies and Passo Gardena

Green – Sella Pass and Plan di Gralba
Blue – Monte Pana
Red – Ciampinoi and Selva di Gardena
Purple – Seceda
Yellow – Dantercepies and Passo Gardena

Passo Sella and Plan di Gralba (Green)

This is one of my favourite areas in the Dolomites; there is a mix of mainly easy and intermediate runs in utterly breathtaking scenery, well served by huts and lifts and I have been to some resorts which offer in their entirety as much as this one sector alone, especially when you consider that in reality the Selva Gardena and Monte Pana areas are in reality one with this.

The reason I’ve split them is purely as its too much to write about in one chapter!

From Casa Alfredino, the easiest way to access the area is to drive for about 25 minutes over Passo Fedaia when it’s open and to park at Campitello di Fassa. Alternatively you can drive (if you have a Dolomiti Superski pass) to either Lupo Bianco or directly to Sella Pass. From Campitello a cable car whisks you directly to Col Rodella, the top of the range. In this part of the world Col means hill, so you are deposited more or less at the summit of a mountain which affords immense views of Sassolungo, Sass Pordoi, Marmolada and south to the Fassani mountains.

From the treeless runs at the pass one can take an enormous and very easy uninterrupted run all the way to Selva di Gardena. It’s great for beginner skiers, but I wouldn’t recommend this for snow boarders as there are quite a number of flats spots and instead there are a number of easy deviations you can make, to either make this longer or more difficult.

From Casa Alfredino, the easiest way to access the area is to driver or about 25 minutes over Passo Fedaia when it’s open and to park at Campitello di Fassa. From here a cable car whisks you directly to Col Rodella, the top of the range. In this part of the world Col means hill, so you are deposited more or less at the summit of a mountain which affords immense views of Sassolungo, Sass Pordoi, Marmolada and south to the Fassani mountains. The opening run from here is truly great – it could just be longer! It drops quite steeply, although if you pick an outside line can be skied by less able skiers quite comfortably – it’s bark is certainly worse than its bite. For those keen on side country, head just to the left of the return chairlift and tackle the excellent and steep run down beneath the lift. The first time I discovered this, there was deep powder and I spent a quarter of a day just going up and down that section on its own taking different lines.

Sassolungo by early morning light.

Sassolungo by early morning light.

At the bottom of this slope be careful. If you have only bought a single area ticket, don’t ski down into Val di Fassa as you won’t be able to get back up from Lupo Bianco. Instead, there is a short lift which delivers you back to some slopes just above the Sella Pass. From here swoop down past the grandiose new 4 star hotel at the pass (excellent food if you’re there about at lunch) and past a small hut on a long and flattish blue run. Make sure you keep up your speed on this section as it can be a long walk if you don’t and take care of your snowboarding buddies. It leads down into the woods and to a short lift up leftwards. Here you can either continue on the blue down to Plan di Gralba, or take the lift which opens a variety of possibilities. Indeed if you pile out and ski back down the line of the lift, shortly bearing left, you will find my favourite red of the entire resort, Falk. Given heavy snowfall and low visibility, the contrast provided by the trees makes this into a deserted quasi off piste paradise! Even in more normal conditions, this rolling run, with its steep sections broken by nice breaks is just good fun.

Jump back on the cable car lift to the top of Piz Sella and you have access to the meat of the sector. The black you’ll find at the top here if you leave the right hand side of the lift house, is steep and narrow and often icy. Not for the timid, and in my opinion just not that good. Better, take the red or black to your left which gives really wide sweeping runs back to Plan do Gralba. In the bowl at the bottom of the first section there is an excellent restaurant, Rifugio Comici with different levels of culinary excellence at different price tags. Indeed this bowl is somewhat of a playground. Usually bathed in sunshine until the early afternoon, these runs are dwarfed by the mighty walls of Sassolungo, and there is a snow park, and often timed courses, or slalom runs. It’s packed full of easy blues. Lastly, from Rifugio Comici, there is a little known run which heads over the pass down towards lift 21. This is a special run, as you ski right beneath the North Ridge of Sassolungo which is quite one of the most impressive places you can ski in these parts as it towers some 1000m above the screes. It also links to Monte Pana and can provide some fun skiing through the trees.

Sassolungo Monte Seura

The huge Sassolungo North face from Mont de Seura, in the tucked away Monte Pana ski area.

 

Monte Pana (Blue)

I’ll quickly talk about the small area at Monte Pana – it’s worth a trip as there are some nice runs there, and it also provides access to the back of Alpe di Suisi. From the bottom of lift 21 simply continue along the easy and in places flat blue. This brings you shortly to a bowl in the shadow of Sassolungo. If you aim to get to Alpe di Suisi, head to the car park where you will find a bus stop – usually they leave every half hour or so. It’s a great trip along a back country lane – the buses are equipped with huge snow chains and the road is absolutely not navigable normally. It’s a really nice outing and can be made into a tour. I’ll write another blog sometime detailing it.

But back to Monte Pana. There is an area of blue runs served by ski tows, probably only of interest for larking about or letting the kids loose in a small area on their own whilst taking a break yourself. However, take the lift back to the top of Mont de Seura and you will find two superb runs back down through the trees, a black and a red. They are often pretty much empty as this is a bit of a back water and a little tricky to get to, but well worth the effort. When you want to return, take the lift up to Mont de Seura and return to lift 21 which gets you back into the previous area quite quickly.

Selva Gardena (Red)

So, the last area on this side of the valley is utterly fantastic. You can either access it by skiing all the way down to Selva di Gardena on the return run, or from the top of lift 21. I will describe the later as I suspect it will be the most interesting for our guests. The ski map is a little confusing here and could really do with some arrows to help you work out what’s up and down!

So, take the run down from 21, or join it using the previously mentioned tricky black from Piz Sella. This is sometimes a little bumpy, especially as the day progresses. At the bottom there’s a nice little hut for lunch. Continuing from here will return you to Plan do Gralba. Instead take the lift just uphill of the hut, no. 22 which takes you up to Ciampinoi. Here the fun starts. This is an extremely busy area and it’s easy to lose each other, so come up with a plan before you start. In front of you you will see a steep “end of the earth” black – great for those looking for a short challenging slope with a long run out. Right, a flat link leads across to the other piste, in particular the famous Sasslong, which is used every year during the FIS season as a downhill run.

Indeed as you schuss down the first drop, think about the racers straight lining this section and reaching 100kph along the relatively flat section. The Sasslong is quite possibly the most fun black I’ve ever skied. It’s not desperately steep at any point and rolls and winds it’s way down the mountain. Try skiing it in one go and your legs will be on fire during the steep sections with just enough rollers to give you a rest. Invariably when you get to the bottom, you will be dismayed by how slow you were compared to last years winners whose time is posted above the arrival arena.

High above Val Gardena, spotting the way to the trees!

High above Val Gardena, spotting the way to the trees!

If you don’t fancy the black? Well there is an excellent red which runs parallel to the Sasslong and passes the beautiful Casetllo Wolkenstein. From this arrival arena, you can take the subterranean train towards the Seceda area, but more of that later. Taking the lift back up to Ciampinoi, there are three alternatives (once you’ve done the Sasslong AGAIN…)

Ski down the slope towards Selva di Gardena and you will find a red and a black run. Both of these are excellent. The red splits, one going towards Plan do Gralba and lift 22, the other rejoins the black further down the mountain. Both these runs are great fun, my preference being for the one to Selva which is steep and twisty. Indeed, the black is only slightly harder. It’s a very quick route down and puts you in a position to go towards Passo Gardena.

The final alternative from Ciampinoi is a red which descends beneath lift 22 – be careful with this one. It is narrow, exceedingly busy and because of its shape allows snow to build at the edges in quite large moguls. It is quite normal to see beginners and intermediates spread eagle across the slope, and descending at speed will land you in trouble. The aforementioned return to the bottom of 22 in my view is a much better way and is far less frequented. Unless it’s early in the morning I’d avoid it.

Seceda (Purple)

Let’s pick up in Santa Cristina in the Sasslong arena. As previously mentioned, here you will find a train link housed in a larch clad building which will take you up hill to a bubble lift. Seceda is great for easy, sun drenched skiing with grid views. It’s not stellar skiing, and because of its sunny position often softens up considerably in the afternoon and snow cover can be a bin thin in a dry year. That said its less busy and is worth a visit. It allows you to ski over to Ortisei where you can link by lift to Alpe di Suisi as part of the Hexentour.

Fro Col Raiser, a short linking run takes you leftwards to a further chairlift  takes you to the top of Seceda. To access Ortisei, facing downhill ski right wards where you will find a red valley run. It curls around the mountain through the trees. It’s long and pleasant with little requirement for a break as its a pretty easy red. You will pass a cable car house which allows you to return to Seceda if you wish or continue all the way down to the town. I’ll save how to link to Alpe di Suisi for another day.

If you want to return to Santa Cristina simply follow the reds back downhill beneath the chairlift. Be careful about side country around here – it may look silky smooth and thick but it’s often just a skin which will leave you with a repair job that evening!

Dantercepies and Passo Gardena (Yellow)

It’s been a long blog so far – keep with me for this last area as its a good one! Having arrived in Selva Gardena from Ciampinoi, you will ski pretty much into the centre of the village. Take your skis off, walk over the road on an overpass and you’ll find a sneaky lift hidden behind some buildings. This is only a short lift which delivers you to the Dantercepies bubble cars. This in turn takes you to the top of Passo Gardena. Check out our blog about Alta Badia to learn about the far side!

If you want to return to Selva, there are three runs; a blue, a red and a black. The blue is a long easy cruise, great for tired legs at the end of a day, or beginners who want to see the sights at the top. The red is a little harder than the blue and indeed it joins it two thirds of the way down. Not many steep sections, although the ones there are are quite fun. But the stand out for me here is the black which takes the line to the furthest right. It has some good, sustained steep pitches and is by far the most interesting run of the sector. Great as part of a Sellaronda in the green direction!

Returning to Val di Fassa

Be careful – this is a HUGE area and it is easy to get carried away and end up at the far end of the range, stuck. It’s an expensive taxi ride back! Set yourself a cut off time when you need to head back. From Ciampinoi it takes a good hour to get back, so you need to get on the lift in either Santa Christina or Selva Gardena most likely 1.5 hours before the last lift to make it back before they close the slopes. The lift down from Col Rodella is the easiest way to return to Campitello, although you can ski down the valley run to Canazei. I’ll explain in a minute.

Returning to the Sella Pass shortly before the last lift.

Returning to the Sella Pass shortly before the last lift.

So, leaving Ciampinoi, ski down towards Selva for a few yards then take the red to the right to Plan di Gralba. Take a small chair no 45 back to Piz Seteur, then a small blue linking run (skiers lift, passing diagonally beneath a chairlift) to lift no 49. This takes you to a very flat blue – it’s not at all ideal for snowboarders so make sure you get speed up out of the lift station and DONT stop or catch an edge. It’s a long trudge at a critical time of the day! This will take you back to the Sella Pass.

Here, if you need to continue, catch 55 to the top of the range, and then either ski all the way to Lupo Bianco, or Canazei. If you parked in Campitello and opt to ski to Canazei you will need to walk for about 5 minutes down to the main road through town to catch a bus from the central plaza back to Campitello. Alternatively, avoid this by catching either 151 or 152 (often 151 is not operating) back to Col Rodella. It’s a nice apres ski spot as there is a round tent bar with awesome views to Piz Pordoi – well worth resting your bones there and watching the sun go down before catching the last lift…

Guest Blog: Pete comes ice climbing

Last year at the end of January, I hosted a weeks ice climbing at Casa Alfredino. Amongst the guests was Pete Derrett who some of you may know from Dicks Climbing in Bristol. It was his first time in the Dolomites and I asked him to write a guest blog about his experience.

Months back we at Dick’s Climbing ran a promotion with Casa Alfredino in the Dolomites and at the time it was mused that we should head over and check it out ourselves, with promise of roadside Ice climbs and long mountain routes the seeds were definitely sown for me. I finally had chance to head out and see for myself.

Excalibur

The mighty Excalibur. Falling 3 pitches from the South side of the gorge, this famous route is one of the plum lines of the gorge. Floodlit by night, this route is as spectacular by day!

Casa Alfredino is located in Col di Rocca, an hour and a bits drive (or easy public transport) from Venice Marco Polo airport and consists of three floors all fashioned into their own individual lodges with their own community areas and bedrooms coupled with a shared, attic drying room. Fifteen minutes walk or two minutes drive away is Italy’s hidden Ice Climbing gem, Serrai di Sottoguda, a monstrous cleft with water ice routes pouring down along it’s whole length. It had been a funny winter in the Dolomites, no snow meant that several routes which look monstrous in the guidebook simply weren’t there, yet others forming on natural, high volume watercourses were fully formed and ready to go. What this meant in practice was that we had plenty to go at, with plenty more to look forward to next year. There will definitely be a return visit in order!

Catedrale Centrale is a line through the wide expanse of ice you find halfway up the gorge. It has no less than 4 main lines on it with a great number of variations on it and is over 100m in length!

Catedrale Centrale is a line through the wide expanse of ice you find halfway up the gorge. It has no less than 4 main lines on it with a great number of variations on it and is over 100m in length!

 

Jason Bailey starting up Excalibur. Vertical for 40m, 2 different lines and fantastically mushroomed ice characterise this climb.

Jason Bailey starting up Excalibur. Vertical for 40m, 2 different lines and fantastically mushroomed ice characterise this climb.

 

Equipment-wise, it’s your standard ice rack; pair of technical tools, nice stiff pair of  boots and crampons, monopoints were popular amongst our party, and finally as many screws as you can muster, don’t worry too much about the stubbies, you’ll be sinking 22cm screws full depth most of the time, the ice is that fat – I took thirteen screws and was finishing some forty to fifty metre pitches with just one left! Whilst I did sling a V-Threader and cord in my pack, it was soon clear that bolts and tat tied off around trees were de rigueur.

Cascata del Gelato, a short WI3 perfect for warming up or indeed your first cascade ice lead.

Cascata del Gelato, a short WI3 perfect for warming up or indeed your first cascade ice lead.

If you’ve got a mixed bunch of abilities Sottoguda is the perfect location to start; short WI2 ramp routes lead into two of three pitches of WI3 to the top. These give a great introduction to ice and by the end of a week trip I imagine many first-timers will be happy to have a go leading these given the large volume of training they will have been able to pack in. Talking of training do what the Italians do and set up top-ropes and run laps on the routes if you  really want some mileage!

The first WI5 in Italy, Spada is one of the most striking lines you could imagine. 45m and plumbline vertical.

The first WI5 in Italy, Spada is one of the most striking lines you could imagine. 45m and plumbline vertical.

Once feeling a bit more confident there’s several routes of WI5/5+ routes to get your teeth into. Long routes …
Some times though, 100m multi pitch routes just won’t cut it, it’s then time to head out into the mountains.

Jason Bailey high on Cascata Nevere in Val Corpassa on the flanks of Moiazza, a 5mm WI3+

Jason Bailey high on Cascata Nevere in Val Corpassa on the flanks of Moiazza, a 5mm WI3+

Less than an hour hour away, my final day was spent in Val Corpassa heading up hundreds of metres of outrageous virgin ice (be aware that ascent lines are marked in dotted red lines, with descent routes in solid green …) On these routes all the alpine tricks should come out; get ready for some healthy walking in and out, simul-climbing and soloing and an early start to get back before nightfall and into the pub in time for last orders. A real full value day out was had and the views from the top as dusk set in were magnificent, again full marks to Mike from Casa Alfredino for suggesting a top class day out.

Searching out the route.

Searching out the route.

View 1

Looking out towards Sass Bianch after a long day climbing the casacades.

View 2

Approaching the foot of Moiazza after out ascent.

With copious Pizza and Italian wine consumed sadly the trip drew to a close and I took up Mike’s kindly offer of a drive across Western Europe home, Vodafone welcoming me to Austria, Germany France and finally back in the UK. Recharged by time spent amongst the snow and ice, it’s now back to relative normality.

So who would enjoy a winter trip to Casa Alfredino?

Anyone.

– Pete –

Serrai di Sottoguda conditions report 19/12/2015

After a long journey down from the UK I went up the gorge today to take a look at how things are shaping up for early season ice. Thus far the snow is utterly dismal – all the slopes have been made up with artificial snow and its a rather bizarre sight – white pistes descending through the brown and green fields. So what does this mean for the ice? The weather has been unsually warm thus far with the jetstream coming either from the Carribean or hooking north too early to provide the moist warm winds required for snow in Italy. The temperatures have been a little odd too – for example yesterday whilst driving over the Sella pass the temperature was 8 degrees at over 2000m, whereas as we drove through Sottoguda at 1300m it was 2 degrees. Anywhere consitently shaded is considerably cooler. Secondly, the complete lack of snow and the extended period of dry weather experienced during October and November has left the slopes above the gorge bone dry. This is evidenced in the gorge by lines formed by seepage being underdeveloped or absent at the moment.

All that said, the cold temperatures in the valley have helped for quite number of lines well, with quite a few being climbable and others being maybe a week away. The high volume drainage lines are the ones to go for at the moment.

Cascata del Sole.

This is complete to the end of the main difficulties. The final section to the ledge is thin and looks somewhat fragile. With this in mind the belay inside the cave to the left of this section could be used to retreat should you find it in poor condition or too thin for you liking. Given a snow fall and another week to form it should be pretty climbable if at the upper end of its grade.

2015-12-19 13.36.33

 

Clessidra

After a thin start above the stream, this looks good all the way to the chains. Sure it’s not spectacularly deep ice at the moment but it does look in good fettle. 

next to Spada

Spada nella Roccia

Meanwhile the great Spada is almost ready. There is just a short section of about 1m at the top which looks thinly verglaced. The rest is thin and featured but very nearly ready. I think given another week it will be ready to go.

spada nella roccia

 La Catedrale

The main event is looking to be in good shape. The central falls are a little thin at the top and need another week. Left seems complete and as solid as it needs to be, whilst right is also complete although a little thin on the pillar. The furthest right options for the second pitch have not yet touched down but the ottom tier looks emminently climbable just about everywhere.


Catedrale

 

Cascata delle Attraversate

The initial pitches were being climbed today with the left hand line looking etter than the right, the opposite to the situation last year. It’s thin but all there. The pitch up the pillar, ramp and then the second pillar look pretty well formed, maybe a little thin at the start. Again another week should see it in good condition.

traversate

Excalibur

This seems to be the best option at the moment. Whilst the third pitch thins at the top, it seems complete. The first is quite vertical on the left hand line at the moment and a climber with considerable cohones had climbed it with just 4 screws. Whether this was because these were the only options I’m not sure but it certainly looked pretty impressive!

Excalibur

Further up the valley, Arbre Magique looks thin at the moment maybe another 2 weeks to go for that one. Over the next week I’ll try to bring you more info about outlying areas. I suspect Digonera and Laste are well on their way to being in good condition. Hopefully I can get up high to take a look at some of the routes on Marmolada too as the pistes are now open affording a ski descent to get to their start. The Couloir Serauta looked to be dry but Tre Magi had snow in most of the gully.

The Civetta ski range – something for everybody

House banner

Civetta is our most easily accessed large resort and its really really good. Before we bought the house I’d never had the opportunity to ski the range so it was with some trepidation that I set off to explore – what would it be like? It looked good but would it match my expectations?

Just for starters you are skiing in the shadow of one of the mightiest faces in the whole of the Alps, the NW face of Civetta – it’s an utterly mind bending wall, bigger than the far more famous El Capitan in the US, with climbing routes of 1400m+ on it. You can’t help staring at it and wondering what it would be like to be stood half way up it surrounded by an ocean of rock, as you gently swing in your cabin on the way up from Alleghe. Luckily though this severity is not transposed to the slopes as the Civetta (or owl) range is a really varied collection of runs with something for everyody. And once you’ve reached the summit you realise that the area above Alleghe is only the start as you can cross over into two completely separate valleys to Selva di Cadore to the north and Zoldo to the east. I’ll describe what you will find on the Alleghe side first as it’s a logical place to start.

Piani di Pezze is where the first lift kicks out and is the central hub for this side of the mountain. All runs end here apart from the return to the valley, so it’s useful as a rendezvous point should anybody get lost or you decide to split up. It’s a pleasant spot to have lunch being in a cosy bowl which catches the sun all day and plays host to there huts to eat at. In addition there are all sorts of family amenities here – you’ll notice as you ski down from the first lift that there is an air bag for practising jumps, a freeride park for boarders and skiers with rails, table tops and all the usual accoutrements and a ski school area for toddlers and youngsters.

civetta

From here another long Gondola (down to skiers right) continues to the summit of the hill, Col dei Baldi. The top is special, with views to the south wall of Marmolada, the other world famous precipice in the area, Monte Pelmo and the Sella massif in the distance. There is another restaurant here, a little basic but the tuck is good. Facing the lake in Alleghe there are a number of returns to Piani di Pezze which get harder from left to right. The blue which contours the mountain numbered 15 takes you gently down and away from Alleghe. Indeed this is the key to accessin Val di Zoldo but we will come to that in a minute. After 1km or so it turns right onto no 8 and from here its a pretty steady affair with one steep pitch which can be avoided by a chicken run to the left. It’s a little narrow, but certainly preferable if your kids are new to skiing.

The next blue round, no 14. is at the top of the grade and is continuously steeper than 8. Its a fun run and pretty direct – it rejoins 8 most of the way down it. I’d not advise it for total beginners who will find its continuous nature tough. Then there is a really nice red which starts just over the brow of the hill to the right of the lift station before you reach some blues again which run down to a col called Pra della Costa. From here there are a number of reds and a black back to Piani di Pezze – really good, steep technical runs which require good short turning skills – either that or a strong constitution. But you can also reach Col Fioret which gives a long blue back, mostly easy but which can get some bumps forming by the end of the day. It also gives access down to Selva di Cadore – this area I’ve haven’t yet managed to ski – it will be my first priority this winter!

To Pecol and Zoldo

Back at Col dei Baldi, and you can make your way along the very leisurely run 15 and take this route all the way to Pecol. It’s a good long run and for the most part is extremely easy. However, it must be said there are two sections which are steep, one which makes it tricky for beginners and is the last section of a steep red run. Here your ward will need to do some long zigzags to arrive at the base of the steep pitch. The final steeper section as you roll into Pecol is easier and wider but can get bumpy through the day. It’s a really nice run to do with your kids once they’ve gotten the hang of linking turns. There is a large hut at Pecol which can serve as a pit stop – it does get very busy at lunch though so you might want to get there early or avoid it around that time! There is a button lift to take you back up to repeat the last section or a chair to take you onto the return journey back to Alleghe. This chair also leads to two excellent red runs back to Pecol. Both are at the upper end of the grade which steep skiing and are really rewarding runs which are often empty. Then of course you can  ski down to Zoldo – as you descend to Pecol there is a piste off to skiers right. This is a little steep and narrow in places but not hard considering this. In around 1km you reach the village where there is lots more skiing to be had. I’ll cover this in another blog once I get a chance!

Back to Alleghe

Lastly, you have to return to Alleghe – you do this by skiing from the top of the Pecol lift or Col dei Baldi back towards Piani di Pezze. However, before turning off onto the last schuss to this area there is a small piste which leads left. If you miss this, then you can get back to it by taking a short button lift next to the Board park. It must be said that this run back is not for the faint of heart. For a red it is consistently steep and technical. I would certainly not recommend it for small children at the end of the day who are more than likely going to be tired and a little strung out until they are really happy on all reds. It can be icy AND bumpy at the same time – so even as an adult it can be testing. If this is the case, make your way back to the lift from Alleghe at Piani di Pezze and catch the lift back down.

That said, if you catch this run in good condition, either soon after it’s been groomed in the morning, or its been snowing, this is an outstanding run. If you’re happy on the bumps and steeps it’s a thoroughly enjoyable leg burner which will leave you quivering and wanting to go around for more! It brings you straight back to the bottom of the lifts in Alleghe and a short walk back to the car. Alternatively of course, if you know where there is a sneaky cut through at one of the last  flat sections on the right before you come into the town where you can schuss down to the apres ski bar the Granda Guerra – well worth a stop!

Ice Climbing Meeting 2016

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Every year, Sottoguda hosts an Ice Climbing Meeting, an opportunity to go climbing in the fantastic Serrai di Sottoguda, and to test gear at the same time made by many of the best manufacturers out there. This year Black Diamond, Camp, Cassin, Scarpa and Edelrid will be in attendance and it’s taking place between the 15th and 17th January!

For more information about some of the excellent ice climbing in the area, take a look at our information page where you will find links to our UKClimbing destination guide to the area, a destination guide to the the Dolomites by our friend, guidebook writer and photographer James Rushforth and of course should you decide to come, then feel free to contact us about accommodation!

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