The first entry for the OM Travel Story prize takes us to the Dolomites for two weeks of hiking and some fantastic views...
Castello di Fiemme, The Dolomites - Summer 2005
Our holiday was organised by the Ramblers Holidays. The holiday included the return flights from London Gatwick (a pain when you hail from up north) to Verona, coach transfer, half board accommodation and the services of our walking leader. Ramblers only provide one leader, so it is important to be comfortable with the grading of the holiday. Ramblers organise both C and C+ holidays from Castello - ours was a C+ holiday. Typically 6 to 7 hours walking each day, with an average of 1000m of ascent. The C+ tackled more protected (i.e. easy via feratta) walks and had more tops which were sometimes optional. The Dolomites walking was much more varied than we expected - with verdant valleys as well as rocky mountain tops.
Ramblers send out information about the area but do not send out detailed notes on the walks. The leader will normally brief you at the start of the holiday about the walking in general, with a detailed brief each evening for the next day's walk. There were 11 people on our holiday, including our leader. Simon was very experienced and had also led the previous two week C holiday at Castello. On the arrival day, after settling in Simon took us on a short "orientation" walk around the village.
Our holiday was a two week holiday Thursday to Thursday. Simon led a walk every day except the first Tuesday and the second Sunday.
Simon's website can be found here. As Simon is often travelling and plans change, it would be best to e-mail him from his site to confirm dates.
Castello di Fiemme village and amenities.
Castello di Fiemme lies in the Val di Fiemme in the Province of Trentino in the Trentino Alto-Adige region of Italy. The Val di Fiemme is part of the Dolomites.
Castello di Fiemme is a small village a few kilometres (and about 30 minutes walk) from Cavalese, which is one of the main towns in the valley. The village church is in a prominent position above the centre of the village. The road tunnel that goes under the church yard is known by the locals as cemetery tunnel. The village centre is compact and was just 5 minutes stroll from our hotel, with two supermarkets, a bakery, the post office, an information office and a bank. The bakery opened at 7am when you could buy bread, pizza slices and apple strudel for your packed lunch. Most days the supermarkets stayed open till 7pm making it easy to stock up on provisions.
We stayed at the Hotel Los Andes. The hotel was very comfortable, all the rooms were en-suite and most had balconies. There was a lounge and bar area, plus a large restaurant and swimming pool. The food was good quality (but not necessarily gourmet) and there was always plenty to eat. Breakfast was buffet style with a choice of cereals, bread, preserves, ham and cheese. Teas, coffee and fruit juices were all available. The evening meals were three courses, with 2 or 3 choices for each course, and you could have a starter as a main course if you wished. There was a good choice of local wines - Trentino is one of the main wine producing areas in Italy.
Ramblers are the only UK company that do walking holidays in the Val di Fiemme (as of 2005). To do this on your own would require flying to Verona airport, getting the train to Trento (about 1hr) and catching a local bus from Trento to Castello di Fiemme (2hrs). Verona airport is 12 km from Verona and there is a regular shuttle bus service to the railway station. Other airports in Northern Italy could be used such as Bergamo and Venice. You could also drive to Castello di Fiemme, a car would prove very useful - local bus services reduce significantly from the start of September, even though the area continues to be popular. We made extensive use of private minibuses to reach starting points, often returning from a different location.
There is no railway line to Castello di Fiemme. There are buses which run down the valley connecting the villages. Please check the local bus timetables for the times - they are not that frequent. There is a bus station at Cavalese that serves as a hub for local bus services. On this holiday use was made of private transport for most of the walks. On our own walk to the Schwarzhorn we walked to Cavalese and then caught a local bus to the top of the pass - however a couple of days later this would not have been possible as the bus only ran till the end of August.
We used three lifts in the Fiemme valley - Alpe Cermis from Cavalese; Latemar from Predazzo; Alpe Lusia from Bellamonte near Predazzo. Summer lift passes are available to cover these lifts. In 2005 the cost was 28 euros for 7 consecutive days.
We also used two lifts in the neighbouring valley of Val di Fassa - Ciampede (Rosengarten) - lift from Vigo di Fassa; Buffaure - lift from Possa.
The Val di Fiemme, together with the neighbouring Val di Fassa, is an excellent and varied walking area. The Ramblers Holiday provided us with a good selection of walks which enabled us to fully appreciate this area. Many of the photographs of the Dolomites feature the large limestone "monoliths", the Latemar and Rosengarten (aka Catinnacio - many places have both German and Italian names) are good examples of these. However the scenery is much more varied - for example the Lagorai range (a long "ridge of mountains", somewhat quieter than the more famous areas), lovely green valleys, and a very impressive gorge. If you were using public transport then Cavalese would be a better place to be based than Castello. None of the "package" companies go to this area in summer, but Thomson and Crystal do have hotels in Canazei and Campitello which are in the northern area of the Val di Fassa.
The best maps for walking are the Tabacco maps available locally, and the Kompass maps 79 - Val di Fiemme-Latemar-Lagorai (1:50000) and 686 - Val di Fassa-Marmolada-Gruppo di Sella (1:25000). All the walks we did were covered by the two Kompass maps which are available in the UK from "The Map Shop".
The paths in this area were well marked, with the familiar splashes of red and red and white paint. There were many mountain huts, baitas and malgas for refreshments on the walks.
All the walks, apart from one walk on our day off were led by Simon.
The walks have been described in chronological order.
Bletterbach Gorge and Weisshorn (2317m)
This walk was in the area north of Castello. The minibus took us along the Auer road to the village of Kaltenbrun, turning off a short distance to Unterradein. We walked up roads and tracks towards Radein, stopping off for drinks at the Hotel Beghof.
From the hotel we walked past the church in Radein, and picked up path 3 leading to the Bletterbach Gorge. This is a very impressive gorge, and was a popular spot with many people walking there. There were some excellent (in German & Italian) information boards describing the geology of the area. After descending to the bottom of the gorge, the path followed the stream before climbing out of the gorge via a metal stairway.
Once out of the gorge, we followed pleasant woodland paths before traversing across (not so pleasant) eroded slopes of the Weisshorn. Once onto the north ridge there was a short scramble before arriving at the summit. It was cloudy so we didn't get much of a view. From the summit it was a short descent to the Jochgrimm Pass (Passo di Oclini) where we had a drink in the Scwarzhorn Hotel before meeting our transport back to Castello.
This walk was to the Latemar Massif, an example of typical Dolomite scenery. The minibus took us to Predazzo where we took the cable car and chair lift to Passo Feudo (2150m). From the pass we walked up path 516 to the Rifugio Torre di Pisa (2671m). This was a small mountain hut where we stopped for drinks. Stopping for drinks was a regular feature of the holiday.
Most of the walk was now through very impressive rock scenery - however Dennis managed to miss the very impressive arch by chatting away. We walked out as far as the Forcella dei Campanili, making a small diversion to the Madonna della Neve high on a pinnacle. At the Forcella we took a break watching people start on one of the via Ferrata routes. We retraced our steps a short distance before taking the path to the Gammstallscharte (2560m). From the col we descended down a steep rock and scree path to meet path 22, which took us back to the Passo Feudo and the chair lift.
This walk was to a mountain hut in the Pale di San Martino range. Simon was planning to do the Cima Boche walk, but the Bellamonte lift was closed when we got there. The minibus took us on to the Val Venegia in the Panaveggio Natural Park for the start of the walk.
From the car park close to the Malga Venegia we walked up the valley on a track. We then took path 710, steep in parts over rock and scree to a col Paso del Mulaz (2619m) before descending to the Rifugio Mulaz. It was very cloudy and cold, so we were glad to get inside the hut for some hot drinks, we were allowed to eat our packed lunches inside.
Due to the weather we did not ascend Monte Mulaz, but climbed to a viewpoint Sasso Arduini before retracing our steps over the pass and down path 710 to the valley. Here we took the Passe Rolle path which climbed out of the valley and up to the Baita Segontini. This was another welcome refreshment stop. From the Baita we walked down the path to Passo Rolle and our minibus.
Castel di Bombasel
This walk was the first of three walks in the Lagorai, the long chain of mountains to the South of the Fiemme valley. The day started with a walk from our hotel to Cavalese ,where we took the Cermis cable car and chair lifts to the top station Paion de Cermis (2130m).
From the lift station we descended to the Forcella Bombasel, and then up to the grassy peak of Cimon della Trappola (2401m). We then walked along the ridge before scrambling up a rocky and scree path to the summit of Castel di Bombasel (2532m). After taking in the views we descended to the Laghi di Bombasel. The lake was popular - it was not too far from the top station by the direct path.
From the lake we descended down path 6 to Lago di Lagorai. We then followed a cobbled track (not too good for sore toes) down the valley for quite a while. It was hard work on the cobbles so we were glad to leave the track and pick up some forest paths that took us across to the mid station of the cable car. We then took the cable car down to Cavalese, where we had a beer at the station before catching the bus back to Castello.
Today was a day off for Simon, so no official walk. However that does not mean that Jackie got a day off. Instead I accompanied Tim and Dennis to the Schwarzhorn (Corno Negra). Simon provided us with the details for the walk, as it one of the walks offered on the 'C' party holidays. The day started with a walk to the bus station in Cavalese, where we got a local bus to the Passo Ocini. This is where we had finished our first day's walk. Note that the local bus only runs until the end of August.
From the pass we walked past the Schwarzhorn Hotel picking up a well walked path to the summit of the Schwarzhorn (2439m). We took some pictures before descending over the grassy hump of Il Palone on path 502 down through forest to the Kugeralm. This was a small shelter where we filled up our water bottles from the supply to a water trough. It was a hot day so we were glad of the cold water. From the hut we continued down path 502 before branching off onto path 53 to Ganzaie. Here we had a beer sitting outside the cafe.
From Ganzaie we walked on a path around Solombo to the Masi Cavello 2 campsite. A short distance downhill from the campsite (cafe here) we picked up a delightful path following the Calveti river downstream to a main road and Castello. Note from Jackie - somehow Dennis missed out the mess we made of finding our way back - we ended up climbing barbed wire fences. Like many mishaps we were close into the village when it happened, and had we been going in the other direction there would have been no problem.
Gronton and Cima Bocche
Today we did the walk that was originally planned for Sunday. The minibus took us along the Fiemme valley to Predazzo where we took the road up the Travignolo valley, through the small resort of Bellamonte to the Alpe Lusia chair lift. Fortunately the chair lift was running, so we took it to the top station at Morea.
From Morea we walked up to the Rifugio Passo di Lusia which was closed. We then took path 633 to the first of the Lusia Lakes. From the lake we took the path following the Gronton ridge. This was our first Via Ferrata of the holiday. Via Ferrate (iron ways) are very popular in the Dolomites. This particular route was easy and did not require any special equipment, it was mainly cables protecting some awkward steps. From the top of the ridge we descended down to the Forcella di Bocche where we had our lunch break. During this walk there was plenty of evidence of
First World War activities, trenches lookout posts and plenty of rusted barbed wire.
From the col we climbed up to the summit of Cima Bocche (2745m)
, there was quite a bit of cloud around so we did not get the best views. From the summit we descended to the Lago di Juribrutto and Malga Valazza where we picked up the minibus. After dinner we returned to Predazzo to watch the summer ski jumping.
Val Moena and Cima delle Stellune
This walk was the second of our walks in the Lagorai, it was also the longest walk of the holiday. The minibus took us up the Val Moena to the Malga Caore(1706m). From the malga we walked up the valley on path 317 to the Forcella di Val Moena and then a scramble up rocks and slabs to the summit of Cima delle Stellune (2605m). It was a sunny and clear day so we had some great views. We retraced our steps down to the main path where we met back up with Jackie who was rucksack monitor.
We continued along paths which took us over the la Busa, la Busa dell'Or and di Lagorai passes into the Laghetti valley. We walked pass the lake and another ascent over the Bombasel pass brought us to the Bombasel lake. From the lake we took the direct route to the top station at Paeon di Cermis.
We took the cable car down to Cavalese where it started to rain heavily. After a hard days walk we deserved our visit to one of Cavalese's gelateria before the bus back to Castello.
Rosengarten - Cigolade Circuit
This walk was in the large mountain massif of Rosengarten (Catinnacio), a very impressive example of Dolomite scenery, particularly the views across to the famous peaks of the Marmolada, Sella Group and Sasso Lungo. This was our first walk in the Val di Fassa, with the minibus taking us though the town of Moena to the village of Vigo di Fassa and the gondola station. Here we took the very large gondola (up to 100 people plus operator - it was very cosy) to the top station at Ciampedie. It was a hot sunny day, and there were lots of people enjoying the mountains.
From Ciampedie (1998m) we walked along path 545 through forest and on to the Rotwandhutte (Rifugio Roda di Vael). We stopped here for a drink and pictures, before a rocky traverse and a steep climb to the Passo delle Cigolade (2550m). We continued down path 541 before taking a "diversion" on path 550 up to the Passo delle Coronelle (2630m). The top of the pass was a narrow gap between the rocks. Returning to the main path we continued on to the Vajolet Hut, where we met up with the people who had not done the diversion. However a few people cheated - as there would be no time for a drink (i.e. Jackie) she did not go (up!) to the last hut, choosing to have a much gentler amble down. From Rifugio Gardeccia we took a forest path back to Ciampede.
Buffaure to San Nicolo
Today's walk was also in the Val di Fassa, but the scenery was again different. The minibus took us to the village of Pozza and the Buffaure chair lift, which we took to the top station at the Col de Valvacin (2372m). From the col the path followed a grassy ridge for a while over Sas d'Adam to Sas Porcel. The path continued along the ridge before contouring along the slopes of the Sas de Roces and then descending to the Rifugio Passo San Nicola (2340m) for a refreshment stop.
From the refuge some of us took path 509 across scree slopes below Col Ombert before dropping down into the San Martino valley and the Baita alla Cascata. This was a very small but pleasant hut which was close to a waterfall. We stayed here a while having a drink and enjoying the views.
We continued down the valley following the river to our final stop at the Malga Crocefisso where we enjoyed a beer before the minibus picked us up.
Rosengarten - Passos Scallete and Antermoia
This walk took us back to the Rosengarten (Catinnacio) massif. The previous day had been a rest day which we had spent visiting Cavalese and watching the Woodcutters festival in Molina di Fiemme. The minibus took us to Pera, just north of Pozza. Here we caught a shuttle bus which took us up to the Rifugio Gardeccia (1949m). From the hut we followed path 583 which climbed steeply up, with short sections of rock scrambling and via ferrata to the Passo di Scaletti (2348m). This was a very stark area with impressive rocky peaks. The path climbed up to Passo di Laura (2700m) before descending down to Valon de Antermoa where we had lunch.
After lunch we climbed up again to the Passo Antermoia (2726m) where we met a German walking group and held an impromptu sing song - Simon impressed up by being able to sing in German - which earned us brownie points. We descended down a scree path to the Rifugio Principe and then down the path to Vajolet.
Instead of going to the main hut we had a drink on the terrace of the Rifugio Preuss before descending to the Refugiuo Gardeccia and the Pera shuttle bus.
Passo Manghen Circuit
This walk was the third of our walks in the Lagorai, and although it was rated as one of the easier walks it involved over 3,000ft of ascent and 7 hours walking. The minibus took us up to the top of Passo Manghen (2015m), on a road running south from Molina di Fiemme. From the pass we took path 322 to Cima de Valsolero (2339m), and then up a ridge to the peak of Monte Ziolera (2478m). After a steep descent we rejoined path 322 which took us to the small Monthalon lake where we had our lunch stop.
From the lake some us walked out to the small grassy knoll of Mugon (2121m) and back. The walk out had kept to the south of the main ridge, the return route was on path 322 on the north side of the ridge, and around the Lago delle Buse. We passed a some of stone pines which this area is famous for. At the pass we had a drink at the Mangenhutte before taking the minibus back to the hotel.
Costabella and the Bepi-Zac Via Ferrata
Today's walk was the hardest of the holiday in that it was a long Via ferrata route with a reasonable degree of exposure in parts. The minibus took us up the main valley to Moena before turning east into the Pellegrino valley to the Passo di San Pellegrino. The minibus turned off onto a minor road leading to Cima Uomo (2030m). From the hut the path climbed steadily across grassy meadows to the Passo delle Selle (2528m). The refuge was closed but a small wooden hut provided refreshments whilst building work progressed.
From here the route was along the Costabella ridge - an easy Via Ferrata named Bepi Zec. This area had been the border between the Italian and Austrian front in the first World War. There were trenches, tunnels and lookout posts, many of which blasted out of the rock. The path was on exposed ledges and ridges with occasional sections through tunnels. There were chains, pitons and large wooden ladders to help us on our way. The route also took us over the summit of Cima de Costabella (2762m). One of the most interesting features along the route was an exhibition of gruesome war photographs (war on war) displayed in a old look out post - this had an adults only warning which was well merited.
Simon did a great job ensuring that the party made steady across some of the more tricky parts. At Cladin col we left the ridge and descended a scree run before paths took us back to the pass. We had a drink at a small baita, exhilarated that we had completed the walk, but sad in that it was the end of the holiday with a great group of people in a marvellous walking area.
For more photos of our walks, or information about other hiking ventures, have a look at our website.