Our first foray into the Dolomites was to Refugio Bolanzo at 2457m. Well supported by the bus from Bolanzo which wound it's way up the narrow road followed by the Siusi gondola which cribbed 1500m off the climb! Did we feel we were cheating, not at all as it was still a slog at altitude though plenty to look at with the cute wooden hay barns and alpine chalets, rolling meadows, wildflowers and handsome cows. The last half hour of rain made us very grateful for the warm fire in the Refugio.
An early morning hike up to Monte Pez for panoramic views of the Sciliar Peaks before a hearty breakfast. The weather warm and sunny by now as we ambled along the plateau toward the rocky spur and yawning ravines with the teeth of the Sella range. Track sidled to the Alp de tires refugium for a delightful coffee where we met our new friends from Norway. They have been visiting this area for years and put us onto the next few days itinerary. Passing many walkers by now as it was Saturday we made it to our new home for the night Sassopiatto, all the mod cons after renovations with lovely blonde wood panelling.
The ascent of Sassopiatto peak 2969m was motivated by the Norwegians who had been thawted by bad wx many times yet here we were, a clear glorious day. They set off at 7.15 and we followed as quickly as we could afterwards reaching the huge iron cross at the same time, go team nz. Stupendous views rewarded us for the sweat. Feeling pretty pleased with ourselves as we passed others making their way up in the increasing cloud and heat it was now time to head round to Refugio Vincenza 1894 rebuilt in 1903 because of an avalanche and no wonder. Poised on a narrow platform, surrounded by vertical rock walls, awe inspiring with massive views out to Alpe di Sius and the Austrian alps. We were pretty rapt to get here not only for the unique landscapes and position of our stay for the night but also as we discovered it had only opened the night before! Lucky rather than well planned. The refugios close over winter and don't open until the snow conditions allow. This last winter was a biggie in Europe. Today we have been walking over snow packs thankfully softened by the sun.
We have found new ground for adventure opposite last weeks trek with a whole new area to explore. Valley Gardena,is our new home, jagged cliffs, high pastures covered with wildflowers and pine forests. We just love the vivid colours with the green, grass, dolomite limestone and the blue sky. We are lucky with good weather. Based at Firenze refugio, our favourite refugio so far, this morning.We climbed up an impossible looking gully to find stairs and handrails. Handmade with timber from the local forest and we often think of the history behind the trails constructed in the 1st World War. The trail opened out into high sheep pasture and meandered past steep dropoffs to the valleys below.. The views were fabulous and we lay about for a long time. To the south is the Alpe di Siusi to the west lthe Sella group, the north the Odle group and in the distance in the east the alps of Switzerland and Austria. Once back at our refugio we thoroughly enjoyed chatting with dutchies and Swiss on the other side.
Julie and Jo