Sunday 4 September - Lago di Braies to Annweiler
then an easy drive to
Dropped off Richard, Jenny and Sue for easy journeys back
Andrew and I continued to Annweiler (430 miles) and found a nice campsite. Lovely warm evening and nice steaks. Excellent stop off.
Monday 5 September - Annweiler to
Tuesday 6 September -
7:30 departure -
slow drive to Carrefour at
Here's a short summary I produced at the time:
Backpacking for Beginners - Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites
A warm glow of satisfaction lingered in the highly charged air above Rifugio Passo Staulanza as the five travellers relaxed with their second round of beers under the canopy. The light show that had started moments after their arrival slowly faded into distant cracks and flashes, before the jolly group retired to its excellent room to carry out the necessary, albeit brief, daily ablutions.
Today’s classic walk had been the fifth day of our ‘Backpacking for Beginners’ journey along Alta Via 1 from its start at Hotel Pragser Wildsee, by Lago di Braies. We had started the day from our high perch at Rifugio Nuvolau – 2575 metres high on a spectacular rocky Dolomitic crest. Our day had begun at 6 am when Notchy threw back the curtains to reveal piercing shafts of light from the lazy sun tying to break out from the peaks to the east. Cag Angel and I both turned over whilst Notchy escaped from our three-berth cell to enjoy a sunrise as stunning as last night’s Brocken Spectre treat, with a group of mountain bikers. (What were they doing up here!) I had slept well in the top bunk, with no need to go far, though there was a touch of vertigo, and disorientation from staring up at what appeared to be a planked floor with skirting boards. Birthday Boy appeared in shiny clean blue apparel, the red version having been ‘treated’ last night in an attempt to stem its overwhelming will to gain the persona of a Chinese wrestler’s jock strap cooked in chip fat on a greasy day. Then Night Bird arrived, bleary from a room shared with Birthday Boy and the German World Snoring Champions.
The blear in our eyes was soon dispelled as we set off at 8.30 in blazing sunshine along Alta Via 1’s magnificent route. Here, just metres from the Nuvolau refuge, we were guided by a metal wire on the crest of the mountain as the path trips down a rocky scramble where the abrupt start to the day ends with a short ladder. After Cag Angel had ferried rucksacks for the nervous among us, and with this minor technical hurdle behind us we gently eased our way down path 438 to a cliff edge from where a narrow wired groove led down to easier ground. This was the easiest grade of Via Ferrata. These are artificially aided paths originating from before WW1 and extensively developed during that conflict, and further renovated and extended since the 1970s. No special kit had been needed, even for the beginners among us, though others at Nuvolau had decided to take the easier path 452 to Passo Giau. Here we enjoyed refreshments in the bright sunshine with Roberto and Nicole, the fat Americans who had eschewed the mild scrambling. The Hotel here has excellent if idiosyncratic toilets, featuring two halves of a goat. Fabulous rock scenery helped to make the rest of the day a memorable one – a wonderful day’s walk. “Great Walks of the World contender” beamed well traveled Notchy. Nobody contested his view.
Despite the many alternatives for accommodation, different groups of walkers on AV1 are likely to encounter each other from time to time during their trek. On this day we passed some slumbering Germans beyond Forcella Giau, shortly before our idyllic lunch spot in a meadow full of edelweiss below Forcella Ambrizzola. Suddenly a familiar rakishly poised felt hat appeared from the German group and sidled over to us before surreptitiously snapping Cag Angel as she posed with an open mackerel sandwich!
The col, with a stunning view towards Cortina d’Ampezzo and
beyond to the Cristallo and Sorapiss ranges, was soon gained. Beyond this we rambled on with the sheer face
That was a day typical of those on this sociable and leisurely seven day trek covering two thirds of the AV1 high level trail. From the welcoming if eccentric Hotel Pragser Wildsee on a gentle but uphill morning’s walk to the rather basic Rifugio Biella. From there it was a nice afternoon stroll for three of us up 2810 metre Croda del Becco for views of Tre Cima, Pelmo,Tofane and other lofty peaks. Meanwhile a search party tried in vain to locate a missing, brand new, unused Berghaus Paclite waterproof jacket. Much gnashing of teeth, and muttering of “How will I stay dry for the next week?” from Birthday Boy. So early next morning Cag Angel set off back to Lago di Braies to pick up a spare, rather less lightweight, garment to replace the lost item. Meanwhile the rest of the team proceeded gently to Rifugio La Varella, reaching our objective in warm sunshine before 3 pm, with Cag Angel, having by now covered Day 1’s ground no less than three times, bounding into the bar an hour later. [The replacement anorak was never used, as the closest encounter with rain was at Staulanza as recorded above.] Meanwhile Memory Man’s sunglasses had sadly parted company with the rest of his sparse luggage, but this time there was no ‘Sunglasses Angel’.
The next two days took us first up to Rifugio Lagazuoi, perched at 2759 metres above Passo Falzarego, with its history of WW1 conflicts and narrow tunnels to explore. We just lazed in the lovely weather on the expansive balcony, Cag Angel only briefly being distracted by Felt Hat Man’s chat up lines. During our evening meal, served as always in these mountain refuges at 7 pm precisely, after the cable car had been put to bed and all the day-trippers had long since departed, the entire occupants of the refuge regrouped on the balcony to admire the wonderful sunset while their risottos cooled.
Then on to Nuvolau, another brilliantly situated refuge perched on the very summit of a mountain, for more fantastic views and good food.
The next day took us on along that Great Walk of the World to Staulanza. Then our route took us up to Rifugio Coldai, where we enjoyed the best hot chocolate of the trip, then on to our final high level destination, Rifugio Tissi, again perched high above a cliff, this time above Alleghe, and with the dark, high walls of the Civetta to the east, this was another magnificent setting. Here we tried to book a taxi for the following day back to Lago di Braies but Cag Angel’s command of Italian deserted her and the guardian of the refuge was enrolled to assist. These guardians are generally very helpful if you catch them in a quieter moment, and it is standard practice for them to phone ahead to book the next nights accommodation.
The following morning it was a steep final descent, now off
the main AV1 route, involving some dodgy, slippery cable. But Alleghe was in a jolly mood and we
enjoyed a slap up lunch before the arrival of our taxi and our consequent
leisurely return to the pleasures of Hotel Pragser at Lago di Braies, where the
manager kindly withdrew us from the vagaries of the ‘group eating session’
where commercial groups appeared to be assembling to start the walk (we had
seen no strong evidence of these groups until now). And so the trip ended in the ballroom where
Heidi, the hotel owner, was hosting her 70th birthday party to which all the
great and good of the