Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 6 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Sunday 14 August - A Settsass Circuit

Sunday 14 August - A Settsass Circuit (by Sue) 

Very low cloud remained as we surfaced soon after 7 am. Camp was struck, with wet tents, and we left the site around 8:30. Corvara was the first stop, to look around the village (not a great deal there besides several hotels, a few shops, and a new amphitheatre around a well constructed stage), and to shop for lunch and dinner. 

This gave the cloud a chance to lift and made our intended walk more inviting. The walk (number 19 in Gillian Price's 'Shorter walks in the Dolomites') started at 10:15 from the rifugio just below Passo Valparola (2168 metres), where it was pretty cool and fresh, but not in cloud. The undulating path on limestone through damp meadows with spring gentians and fleabanes traversed the north side of the Settsass Group, bringing us first to some military ruins, with wooden crosses on the crest above. 

There were views down to lower villages, but no distant views due to cloud. At a grassy basin where the sound of cowbells was prominent, a brief stop in sunshine for snacks, before a climb.

As the 2571 metre summit of Setsas was in cloud, a decision was made to continue to the Pralongia refuge (a deviation from Gillian's route), then retracing to continue the circuit. This dog-leg followed another undulating but this time grassy path, above green pastures dotted with wooden huts. We lunched on a bank, where the bilberries had to be picked before sitting down!

Soon afterwards, we visited Rifugio Pralongia, which served good hot chocolate inside and offered an excursion to a small metal cross outside. 

The sky was darkening and they were bringing in the yellow umbrellas. The terrain was one of clay just here, so boots got very claggy. The wind was cool enough for me to wear a cagoule to continue, especially with the threat of rain. We returned over the grassy ridge with numerous ant hills. It was 2½ hours to the end of the walk, over undulating and sometimes rocky terrain, on paths lined with scabious and field gentians.

Field Gentians

Rain started but was never particularly heavy. The lower path option was chosen as it was easier, although slightly longer. No view for a little way, as we were in cloud. We finished at around 5 pm and had just removed our gear and got in the car when there was a heavy shower!

Here's our route - 15 km, 600 metres ascent (click on the image for a better picture)

The rain wasn't over, as we had to contend with a torrential downpour whilst pitching the tents at Camping Dolomiti in Cortina. It continued raining whilst the three of us had dinner of pasta and yoghurts inside a steamy tent, preceded by beer and pringles. Finally, the rain stopped and the hills were crystal clear in the fading light. Bed just after 9 pm. The fires we had seen (similar to 5 November) were burnt and Julia heard fireworks.

Next Day

Friday 5 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Saturday 13 August - Via Ferrata Gran Cir


Saturday 13 August - Via Ferrata Gran Cir (by Martin) 

The 'climbing group' next to us got up at 6:30 but were still faffing when the three of us left at 9:10, having said goodbye to the nice family from Halifax, who left for Lake Garda. Before we left, low cloud had magically vaporized and suntan cream was needed. There must have been a magnificent inversion experience for those staying in high huts nearby.

We strolled up the path to Colfosco, where bread rolls were purchased after the inevitable queuing. Then up to Ronn, from where a path led thrutchily up to a superb belvedere path below Pra de Tru Forceles. An alternative route could have been taken us past the Forceles Hut, which would make a pleasant amble from the Gardena pass.

On the ascent from Colfosco

We turned left, below a wall of rock with shouting climbers perched at intervals up it. Across the valley, the VF Brigata Tridentina could be seen, (above, behind Martin's head) with a procession of people ascending in the shade and cool of the north face, up to the Cavazza Refuge at 2585 metres. We met lots of grockles on strolls from Passo Gardena, and we stopped at a superb viewpoint at which we lingered from 11:30 to 12:00 at 2090 metres.

A bit further along, Jimmy's Hut, marked as 'Clark' on the map, provided excellent hot chocolates outside in the sun, but there were some threatening clouds (1:10 to 1:40).* 

A bit further on we enjoyed a pleasant lunch above Passo Gardena, with good views south 1:10 - 1:40, before embarking on the steep ascent to the start of the via ferrata Gran Cir (CORV 1, page 80 in the Cicerone Guide - Vol 1), graded 1A and not requiring equipment.

Julia decided to opt out and ambled down to the pass for refreshments. 

Sue and I carried on past a broken cross and a yellow madonna, then past lots of fully kitted up via ferrata novices (old and young) and up to the summit cross at 2592 metres. 2:30 to 2:45. 

On the summit of Gran Cir; this easy Via Ferrata is used as a 'practice' route for beginners

Chough summits Gran Cir, expecting his lunch on a plate!

New views opened out to the north west. A solitary person lingered on top with us until two girls arrived, having struggled up behind us. 

In view of distant rain clouds, we descended the VF section (just a few handrails) in twenty minutes and were with Julia at the pass by 3:30. It was a pleasant walk back to camp along path 650, finishing at 5 pm. Tea was brewed, and then it rained, so we all had a soporific spell before the rain eased and campsite showers called. It was inconvenient to do shopping for tea, so we drove back to L'Tabladel for another excellent meal there, by when the rain had eased. 

The nearby English speaking group arrived back at odd times during the night (12:45, 1:45...) to periodically disturb our sleep. Curiously no contact was made with any member of this insular and inconsiderate group.

Our route is shown below - about 12 km, with 850 metres ascent

* We crossed Alta Via2 here - memories of a trip in the distant past, but a recollection of a scary ascent to the south! [I've reminisced, earlier in Lockdown, here.]

Next Day

Thursday 4 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Friday 12 August - Around the Sella Group

                          Sue negotiates obstacles on the path near Colsosco

Friday 12 August - Around the Sella Group (by Sue) 

It dawned dry after rain during the night. Grey cloud hung around. With the promise of a dry day we left at 9:30, me using new boots. The plan was a circuit from the campsite into the Sella group, without any Via Ferrata. Initially the path climbed through woods. It became warm enough to change to shorts, and we admired all the flowers, including dragonmouth, cow wheat and many types of bellflower.

Views back to Corvara and the valley

The path contoured on a lovely belvedere around the hillside beneath the cable car from Corvara, then climbed a piste to reach the cable car station and restaurant. 

Pink Cinquefoil

Yellow mountain saxifrage

Bluish grey saxifrage

Cappuccinos and strudel were excellent, in sunshine, with two greedy goats getting lots of attention. Now out of woods, the limestone scenery dominated, and the huge rock towers loomed above, with occasional cloud on the tops.

Lunch on a grassy knoll below a hut at 2500 metres, with a lack of sun! The path wove around the limestone and we turned off path 638, onto path 637, past a climbing frame and a blue slide, before heading down.

Steeper sections had wire handrails. Here, an abundance of edelweiss. Monkshood also properly identified.

Fanes backdrop

Sella backdrop

Sawwort and the Fanes Group

Here views of Marmolada and its glacier were clear, with Arabba and the Campolongo pass beneath. Our circuit was complete as we reached the Boe lake again, and we stopped to enjoy a nectarine and to wonder what the distant glacier to the NNE was. (Zillertal area?)

Descending to Corvara, with views to Sassongher

All day, paragliders had been soaring around the mountain, but none were taking off as we returned to the cable car station. The last stage was down to a rifugio at 2000m for a cold drink, (Utta Crep de Mont, where there was a dog with horns) then mainly down piste into Corvara. The mountains looked good in the late afternoon light. Beyond a new children's playground and the ice rink, the supermarket provided dinner ingredients. 

Only a short walk back to camp for about 6:30 pm. The evening soon went, drinking tea, making a pasta dinner, having showers, diary writing, and Scrabble, with background music after 9:15 from a brass band playing nearby. Our part of the site now has several English speakers, including a family from Halifax who we met on the hill today. 

Later - the VF Brigata Tridentina could be seen high above, the route to a high hut being lit up. Rain overnight.

Our approximate route - 13 km, 1100 metres ascent
Click on the image below for a wider view - I haven't worked out how to get the route onto this version

Next Day

Wednesday 3 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Thursday 11 August - Travel to Corvara

                                Sassongher from near the Corvara campsite

Thursday 11 August - Travel to Corvara (by Sue) 

We were up soon after 7 am on a reasonable day weather-wise. Packing away took less time than anticipated and we realised at 8:15, when about to leave, that the reception didn't open until 9 o'clock. The restaurant provided coffee and a warm space for reading for three quarters of an hour! On settling our bill, we were given chocolate. 

Our objective was to travel to Corvara to set up camp, visiting Alleghe on the way to work out travel plans for the end of our forthcoming backpacking trip, then to collect Julia after 6 pm in Cortina. 

The journey was scenic, through Falcade, to Cencenighe, then north to Masare and Alleghe. At Masare we had a walk and worked out the time to descend from the last hut on our backpack, then we drove on to Alleghe where I shopped and Martin visited Tourist Information to get details of taxi firms and timings for the descent from the Tissi Hut. 

We continued on through Caprile and Arabba, to arrive at the campsite in Corvara at 12:10. Reception shut between 12 and 3! So in the warm sunshine we pitched two tents, admiring the location between the mountains, and the views to be had. Ate lunch and read, then walked to Colfosco and back along the forest track, where families were loitering by a small lake and people were reading on the benches. 

At 3 pm we booked in, then set off for Cortina via La Villa. Again, dramatic scenery, and place signs in three languages, including the local dialect. Crossed the Passo Valparola at 2192 metres, then Passo Falzarego, and into familiar territory. Ahead, the sky in the Cortina valley was dark grey. There had already been some rain and motorbikes were taking the bends gingerly. 

In Cortina we walked around the Camping Dolomiti campsite, to find probably only four or five free pitches. We will try to arrive early on Monday to secure a pitch. 

Then, a struggle to park near the bus station ~ 5:40 pm. Sat at a cafe for a cup of tea, watching a policeman directing traffic around the one way system. The pleasant sunshine wouldn't last. Cortina was full of people, some being entertained by a flautist outside the Co-op. We shopped, then sheltered from a storm, until it became necessary to go back to meet Julia. As we awaited the arrival of her bus, the heavens opened and rain bounced off the car park. 

Julia's journey had been wet from Venice, and we got wetter walking to the car. The rain stopped during the return drive. After installing Julia in the spare tent, we had a meal in a convivial restaurant (L'Tabladel) in Colfosco. A later bedtime than normal ~ 10:30 pm after returning in drizzle.

You can just about make out our 100 miles of driving by clicking on this overview map

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Wednesday 10 August - Via Ferrata Attilio Sieff

Wednesday 10 August - Via Ferrata Attilio Sieff (by Martin)

We enjoyed a lie in until nearly 8 am, then washed clothes on a warmer day, before driving to Ziano, a comparatively quiet village at about 950 metres, just south of Predazzo, in plenty of time to start VF Attilio Sieff, a 500 metre route up a small summit Punta Polse, at 1450 metres, less than 100 metres higher than our campsite. We followed the route described in Fletcher and Smith's Cicerone guide - Volume 2 page 44 (BOLZ 2).


23°C - a pleasantly warm ascent up zigzags through pine woods. Saw a red squirrel, lizards, and on the descent Sue saw a slow worm. Lots of harebell and leopardsbane varieties. On upwards in good weather, with the industrial noises below slowly softening, to the start of the Via Ferrata at 1350 metres. 12:15. Today it took only ten minutes to kit up, and today, on this route graded 2A, we really did need the kit.

This sort of sign generally marks the start (kitting up point) of a Via Ferrata route

We set off up a dark, steep gully which turned a corner and opened out a bit, but remained steep. It was 'well pegged' and not really difficult, just exposed. 

After 35 minutes we reached the huge cross marking the summit, which is overlooked by forests above. A visitor's book had been put there yesterday, and we were the first recorded visitors (we had met a lone person on his way down as we ascended through the forest).

A leisurely lunch - 1:00 to 1:40 pm, then we donned our helmets again for the steep descent, which proved easier than expected.

Two German girls ascending were easily negotiated, and we uneventfully reached the foot of the Via Ferrata at 2:15. Just after she had taken her helmet off, a stone whistled past Sue's ear!

Strolled down the steep path back to Ziano by 3:15, passing quite a few people on the way up. They didn't look particularly kitted out for Via Ferrata stuff - the only sign of specialist kit was a huge wooden ice axe.

After admiring the well kept graves and their individual gardens in the local churchyard, we adjourned to a cafe, from which in due course we saw quite a few people up by the distinctive summit cross - high and white above the village.

Spot the white cross atop the hill!

Shopping for supper followed - ham tortellini with olive tomato sauce and salad, then another slightly scary drive along the busy narrow road to Bellamonte, for a relaxing evening at camp and around Bellamonte under an increasingly cloudy sky. There is a poorly signed, only just completed (obvious snags remain) Information / Visitors Centre here, and some large hotels. The roads are very full during the day - it seems that lots of tourists just spend their time driving around (what's new!).

Our campsite at Bellamonte

Today's route was about 4 km, with 500 metres ascent.
Here are a selection of maps - click on them for a better image