With my feet firmly on a narrow rock ledge, I unclipped the first carabiner from the steel cable and reclipped it on the next segment. I unclipped and reclipped the second carabiner and moved my left foot along the ledge. Then I moved my right foot and slid my right hand along the cable. In this way, I carefully traversed the rock face and made my way to the metal ladder bolted into the rock. With both carabiners securely clipped into the cable next to the ladder, I ascended to the top rung, pulling my body weight over each step.

via ferrata dolomites

This climbing technique is called via ferrata – literally, “iron path” in Italian. During World War I, the Italian army established a network of cables, rungs, and ladders in the Dolomites as a way for soldiers to move from one location to another high in the mountains. These routes are available to climbers today, and that’s how we found ourselves high on a rock ledge wearing climbing harnesses, helmets, and gloves. Under the expert guidance of our friend and certified mountain guide, Roberto, we enjoyed four days of exhilarating via ferrata in the Pasubio Dolomites. One day we climbed to the top of Monte Cornetto before descending through a beautiful forest to Refugio Campogrosso where we spent the next two nights. Another day we tackled several pitches on the Strada delle 52 Gallerie (Road of 52 tunnels), a military mule road built in 1917 during WWI.

via ferrata dolomites

While the climbs had several challenging sections – physically and mentally – we felt safe and knew that Roberto wouldn’t take us on something we couldn’t handle. The breathtaking scenery and immense satisfaction after reaching the top spurred us on during difficult moments. Wildlife sightings of several chamois and two wolves were an added treat. Our well-earned reward at the end of each day was a cold beer, and, on one occasion, a plate of homemade ravioli at a picturesque mountain farm.

via ferrata dolomites

Roberto’s expert guiding skills, knowledge of the history and culture of the Sudtirol area, and detailed planning and logistics all made for a fabulous, unforgettable experience. We certainly impressed our friends back in California. Mille grazie!

Laura Deck & John Schuck

San Francisco Bay Area, California

October 2022

 

 

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