We enjoyed one of those days that couldn’t be better for hiking: great weather, anticipation of a truly scenic walk (supposed to be one of the best in the Dolomites), and the good company of our cousins. Off we go! Lots of uphill, but we are easily distracted by so much to see. In late morning we arrive at the perfect picnic spot.
We are on a grassy high point literally surrounded in all directions by snowy peaks. The mountains to the north are in Austria. We snack and rotate periodically where we are sitting to take in the perfect views. It was hard to leave.
Next was a challenging downhill workout. This rocky mountainside went on forever. In fact, it’s called the “giant staircase.” We were pretty spent at this point. Somewhere down the trail was a little farmhouse café. On we trudged. At last it appeared! Chickens were all around so we ordered (what else?) an egg dish. Yummy! As we revived, we all studied the map. The guidebook said this was a 7.25 hour hike. It was almost 3pm, we’d been on the trail for 6 hours. So, by the guidebook, we should have been close to the end. To our shock we were only at the half-way point! That meant we’d arrive at our hotel at 9pm in darkness. Not a good plan. We had no way to bail out and take a different route, and we certainly weren’t going back up that rock wall! The verdict: forge ahead, at a much faster pace, and no breaks.
Off we went and quickly. We took in the scenery but didn’t stop to take photos. Uphill, around mountains, grabbing chains on narrow paths with steep drop offs. Finally the path started downhill, and we consulted the map.
By 6 pm, we’d gone an amazing distance. The sun was disappearing behind the mountains. We finally walked into Rifugio Vallandro an hour later. Exhausted, but – oh! – what a hike!