Climbing in the Dolomites

We’d been on the face of the mountain for nearly fifteen hours; climbing continuously. We were lost as far as the route went, had been for the last four hours. Somehow, somewhere, on this complex and complicated massif, we’d taken a wrong line, I suspect at the top of the sixteenth pitch, and were now forging our way up unknown ground, completely off route. The climbing was getting harder and as I looked over my shoulder the last rays of the dying red sun spread like fire across the sky.  We were at about 2,900 meters judging by the tops of the mountains around us, and the awesome and intimidating face of The Tofana de Rozes still towered above us for another 300+ meters. My spirits plunged with the temperature as the sure knowledge that we would become benighted became a reality. I clipped a piece of rare bomber gear, struggling as I was through horrendous overhanging, loose limestone; the first bit of decent gear in twenty-five meters of climbing, “Lower me,” I called down to Al, “before it becomes too dark to see.” As I dropped away from the wall above me and descended to the ledge where Al was belaying, I looked down and saw the worry in her eyes. I wanted to tell her that it would be alright, but the reality was that we were traveling very light indeed in an attempt to do the route in one day. No backup clothing, no bivvy gear, no reserve food or water.
It was gonna be one hell of a long, cold night.

But there I go again, getting ahead of myself.  I’ve started telling you about a climb that we did during the second week of our holiday, when in fact the best place to start, as always, is at the beginning.

The Beginning.
So this was our sixth trip to the Dolomites; a mixture of revisiting well known and loved areas with some exploration of new territory, and everything orientated around climbing. Any walking or via-ferrataring would only be as an approach to or descent from the climbs.
Our goals were firmly set around big routes; we would do four multi-pitch ‘warm-up’ routes of between c. seven to twenty pitches, and then follow this with harder and longer routes of up to thirty pitches in length.
We’d built in a number of rest days between the climbs and of course had planned it all exactly so any bad weather would fall on these rest days; it was strictly not allowed to rain on days when we should be climbing.
For those of you who know the place well please bear with me, for those who have never been, the Dolomites are separated into different distinct areas and it is natural therefore to think in terms of traveling through or climbing in the ‘Sextener Dolomites’ or the ‘Marmalarda Dolomites’. For the purposes of this article I will break down the climbs into their respective areas.
During our previous visits I have become fascinated by some of the characters involved in the development of climbing in the South Tyrol and intend therefore to share some of this history with you as we proceed area by area. I make no apology for this; treading in the footsteps of some of these characters for me brings more meaning to the route itself; it adds to my sense of accomplishment in one way, because I am able to climb at the same level that they have, although obviously not at the same level of adventure – theirs being a first ascent. On the other hand I am humbled, with my little sticky rock boots, Gortex jacket and state of the art mini-backpack complete with water bladder. I’ve often wondered how I would fare in a wooly jumper and socks, with tweed jacket, rigid frame rucksack and hemp rope at three thousand meters when it started to snow.
I suspect the only thing I would be grateful for was the big boots.

Sextener Dolomiten – Carta Topographica 1:25000 No.10
This area lies to the north-east of Cortina D’Ampezzo towards the Austrian border; famous for the massif of The Tre Cima de Laverado or Drei Zinnen, with spectacular views down to the beautiful Lake Misurina and the Auronzo Valley.
Al had spent the previous week with her friend Rachel in the Aosta Valley and therefore collected me from my Easyjet flight – why do they call it that? There’s absolutely nothing easy about it at all – from Milan airport.
Milan is not the best airport to start from if your final destination is the Sextener area, but hey, we had a five hour drive, just enough time to enjoy a few tinnies, arriving at the Auronzo refugio just before midnight on the 21st July.
Of course the next morning we were both knackered; I because I’d been finishing up all the crap work stuff that you have to do before you can get on a plane and go off somewhere to enjoy yourself; and Al because she’d just finished a seven hour driving stint from Aosta to the Austrian border.
We decided to take it easy.
This included hauling our kit over to the Refugio Locatelli for a rece of the Paternkofel or Mt. Paterno depending on whether you use the Austrian or Italian name, just in case we might want to actually climb something.
We didn’t climb; we just took the kit for a walk. A twelve K hike around the Tre Cima with about five hundred meters of height gain.
I’ve always admired Al’s concept of a rest day.
Up to this point our largest route on previous trips had been the Torre Firenze in the Val de Gardena; a lovely five hundred meter, fifteen pitch mountain, with an easy walk off.
The next day the weather forecast was good so we decided to jump straight in at the deep end and have a go at the Cima Grande; the largest of the Tre Cima.
We climbed the South Face, or ‘Normal’ route, put up originally in 1869 by Paul Grohmann, Franz Innerkofler and Peter Salcher; not technically very demanding, but an interesting excursion in route finding and at twenty-two pitches, a great confidence builder for what we expected to come later in the holiday.
Historically of course the climb is a must; it’s in the top handful of the ‘classic rock’ ticks of the Dollies, and does get you quiet easily to the top of one of the finest mountains in the area. Sadly it’s not possible to make a round of the mountain; the descent being to rap the route.
The next day was scheduled to be a rest-day; the weather was indifferent to poor with slate grey skies growing darker by the minute and obvious rain storms already happening to the north. However, full of the success of the previous day we decided to take a chance, loaded up all our gear and zipped off back to the Paternkofel.
We used the De Luca/Innerkofler via ferrata to access the bottom of the route on this famous or infamous mountain depending on your point of view.
The many areas that we would travel through on this holiday formed one long battle line during the first world war; the mountains are honeycombed with tunnels and via ferrata created as a result of the need to move military personal quickly and safely (relatively) through the mountain environment.
The Paternkofel/Mt. Paterno changed hands many times during the early stages of the war and was the scene of an epic struggle between the Italians who were attempting to take the mountain, and a few defending Austrians led by a local guide named Sep Innerkofler in defense.
I have spent some time trying to understand the Innerkofler dynasty, which is both complicated and dependant upon the source of information, conflicting. But as far as I can tell the following relationships between the different protagonists are accurate.
Sepp (1865-1915) and his brother Christian were the sons of Franz (1834-1898), all mountain guides in their own right, and intimate with the terrain of the area. Other members of the Innerkofler clan, also mountain guides and very active in climbing new routes at the time were Sepps’ uncle Michael (1844-1888), Hans (1833-1895) another uncle, and Joseph and Gottfried, two of Sepp’s sons; between them they ascended many new routes and had several peaks named after them.
Franz made the first ascent of the Paternkofel on 11th September 1882 with his patron Count Erich Kunigl via the southern route, which would be our descent. The north-west ridge, the route we planned to ascend, was first climbed by Sepp and Christian with E. Biendl on 1st January 1896. As a matter of historical note it is reputed that Sepp climbed the mountain by the north-west ridge over one hundred times until 4th July 1915 when he was shot by Italian snipers, while leading a group of his Standschutzen or flying patrols on a raid on Italian positions.
The Alpini Angelo Loschi recovered his body, which was then buried on Sepp’s favorite mountain with a simple plaque made from a preserve tin which read – ‘Sepp Innerkofler – Guide’.
The climbing was loose in the bottom gully but soon improved and the top pitch, with exposed moves around a fine sharp arête, would justify this as a starred route. The main attraction however is the fantastic view across to the Tre Cima.
Thankfully despite the dark and threatening sky the rain held off until we were well down the mountain and exiting the south of the mountain via the Schartenweg via ferrata.
It was one of those stolen days where the sense of achievement is heightened by the threat of poor weather; I always find that this makes the beer taste particularly good in the evening.
We’d just made it back to the refugio when one mother of a storm hit the hill; thunder, lightening and truly torrential rain; perfect timing by us.
The following day we moved from the Auronzo hut down the valley to the Col de Varda; sadly the chair lift that we planned to take up to the refugio had been damaged the day before in the storm. Oh joy; instead of a pleasant eleven minute ride up in the chairlift, we hauled all our damn kit for over an hour; five hundred meters of height gain later we were at the bottom of our route.
Our goal was to climb the Punta Col de Varda by the North West Corner route which is a bit of a misnomer because for the first seven pitches the line follows a chimney system running directly up the middle of the face, and only on the last pitch does it cross to the left arête.
The route was originally climbed by the indomitable, dashing and hugely popular Emilio Comici with Sandro Del Torso on 1st September 1934.
Comici was famous for taking the most direct line on any new face; his catch phrase was “let a drop of water fall, and that is the line I will follow.” Which I like to think was said a little tongue in cheek given the rumors of some of his exploits, especially with the ladies. However, whatever Comeci may have said at the time there is no escaping the fact that this is a fine climb on steep ground with holds and protection abundant at all the right places.
The exit from the tower down very steep scree from the col with the main face is arduous and hard on the knees, but overall it’s a super little ‘half-day Comeci.’
Al and I were now moving well together; our climbing was smooth and natural with good teamwork and understanding; time to move to the other side of Cortina for some more challenging routes.

The Cortina Area – Carta Topographica 1:25000 No. 03
To the west of Cortina the mountains are cleaved for almost twenty kilometers by the road running right up to the col of the Falzerago Pass.
To the north of this road are the fantastic and intimidating Tofanes, and to the south the slopes rise up to the Passo Giau, broken by the famous Cinque Torri and Monte Averau.
We had climbed on the Cinque Torri on previous visits, and this time planned to lift our sights a little and begin with an ascent of the south-west face of Monte Averau.
Albino Alvera first led a party up this face on 29th June 1945, forcing a line through very steep ground with generally large holds but in some places on seriously loose rock.  Because of the nature of the rock many parts of the climb have been protected with pitons and pegs, which in my opinion detracts from the traditional ethic; however I will admit to being grateful for a couple of these pegs at one point where the climbing became very steep indeed and reached a technical level that made a mockery of the 4b grading; of course given my route finding ability it’s always possible that I was a little lost at the time.
We exited by the north face down the via feratta making it a complete round of the mountain, leading easily back to the Nuvelau hut; the weather holding for us to finish in a glorious red sunset; a truly great mountain day.
The following morning the weather was starting to break up again; we traveled to the other side of the Falzerago Pass and took the cable car up to the Laguzoi Hut intending to have a rest day by wandering amongst the hills of the southern Fanes range.
Of course in reality we packed some via feratta gear and a short length of rope and went off when the weather cleared for a brief while to investigate one of the hardest feratta’s in the Dolomites. As it turned out the weather remained unstable and in the event we decided not to do the climb; a good choice as by the time we got back to the hut the rain was on and the hills were completely clagged; exactly the same as they were the following morning when we awoke.
That was Sunday 29th; which was also planned as a rest day, in preparation for an attempt on The Tofana de Rozes the following day. The weather forecast said the following day was even worse with high winds and storms; so quick change of plans.  We decided to climb the Torre Di Falzerago on the Sunday, take a rest day on the Monday and then subject to the weather improving, have a try on The Rozes on the Tuesday; and it nearly worked out as good as that.
Nearly.
The Torre Di Falzerago are two towers stacked one on top of the other on the north side of the pass below and between the Tofanas and the Laguzoi.  We had already climbed the Falzerago Piccalo by the best route, the south arête in 2002; another Comeci route. I would strongly recommend this against the route we did this year to get to the top of the Piccalo. The north-west face is neither as technical nor as interesting as the Comeci route, proving yet again that Comeci had an eye for the finest line.
We had not climbed the top tower, The Grande, before; the six pitches up the south west face proved to be far better than the route on the Piccalo, marred sadly by the rain which came on heavily while we were still three pitches from the top. We finished soaking wet and very cold; did some sandwich cramming, then rapped off the back of the tower and scuttled down to the Dibona hut to escape the bad weather.
The following morning was the worst yet; high winds, black skies and continuous rain.
We spent the day mooching around Cortina, drinking beer, and getting ready for an attempt on The Rozes for the following day.
The Rozes is the third highest of The Tofanas at 3225 meters; The Tofana de Mezzo and the Tofana de Ince being 3244 and 3238 respectively.
However the Rozes stands alone as a huge limestone massif separated from the other two by a wide hanging corrie which houses the Refugio Guissani. To the east its’ flank falls in steep tiers covered in scree to the refugio; on the other three sides, buttress upon buttress soar on top of each other for over one thousand meters in a complicated jumble of sheer walls and amphitheatres, split by jagged gullies.
There is no route at any grade that we could climb from the bottom of these walls, directly to the top; our route must take first one wall, and then cross via complicated route finding through amphitheaters, to the next.  We were warned by one German party that we met a few days before that this route was very serious upon leaving the ‘Great Amphitheater’ after pitch twelve, and that many parties got lost here. The seriousness is accentuated by the impossibility of rapping after this point; once the first traverse is completed we would be climbing above an overhanging buttress some six hundred meters above the valley floor with a bottomless abseil into space as the only option.
The route we had chosen was the Dimai/Eötvös extravaganza on the south-west face, first completed by Antonio Dimai, the Hungarian Baroness Sisters Ilona and Rolanda Eötvös, Giovanni Siorpaes and Angelo Verzi during August 1901.
The Eötvös sisters together with Dimai and the other first ascenionists of our proposed route were responsible for a number of groundbreaking new routes in the South Tyrol during the early 1900’s but this has to be the pinnacle of their achievements together.
The sisters were fanatical about the mountains; inspired firstly by their father Roland Eötvös, a leading scientist of the day who invented the Eötvös torsion balance, long unsurpassed in precision, which resulted in proof that inertial and gravitational mass are equivalent, later a major principle of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Their second inspiration was the Dutch climber Jeanne Immink, one of the earliest and most influential female climbers of the nineteenth century, who was responsible for the first ascents of many Dolomite peaks and had a number of them named after her.
Antonio Dimai together with his brother was responsible for the first ascent of the North face of the Torre Grande of the Tre Cime, and one of the founding nine guides of the Gruppo Guide Alpine of Cortina, which itself at that time in 1871 was still under Austrian rule. Cortina in fact did not come under Italian rule until the end of the First World War in 1918.
We left the Dibona hut at 05.30 on the morning of Tuesday 31st July, somewhat apprehensive about the scale of our undertaking, but positive that without a major problem, it was do-able.
We were travelling very light; a cut-down rack of friends, some slings, five runners, a belay jacket each with a thin lightweight waterproof, one water-bladder of 1.5 liters, shit loads of chocolate and four sandwiches. Our only concession to weight was that we carried two ice-line sixty meter ropes with the intention of running the shorter pitches together to save time.
At the top of pitch twelve the rock around us didn’t fit very well with what the guidebook was telling us; at this point it was midday. Nothing to worry about; we had nine hours of daylight left and we were about halfway up the route.
By the top of pitch sixteen I was totally confused with the route finding; we appeared to be too high on the back wall of the amphitheatre; now we had a choice: rap and try to find the original route, or, press on into unknown ground and try to climb our way out.
Rapping would only work back to the top of pitch twelve; below that was the bottomless abseil. Did I really want to lose over one hundred and fifty meters of height, which ultimately we would have to re-climb further to our left?
I made the call – no.
We would try to traverse left across the headwall; it was atrocious.
Steep; loose; very little gear, for over one hundred and twenty meters.  Al climbed brilliantly in some very awkward and quite frankly dangerous situations, but we were eating time.
We came to the bottom of a huge chimney at least one hundred and fifty meters high; overhanging and loose. There was no way I could entertain it.
We traversed further left away from the small amphitheater; now I knew for certain we were lost; time fell of the clock like water through your fingers.
We’d been on the face of the mountain for nearly fifteen hours; climbing continuously.
We were now forging our way up unknown ground, completely off route. The climbing was getting harder and as I looked over my shoulder the last rays of the dying red sun spread like fire across the sky.
We were at about 2,900 meters judging by the tops of the mountains around us, and the awesome and intimidating face of The Tofana de Rozes still towered above us for another 300+ meters.
My spirits plunged with the temperature as the sure knowledge that we would become benighted became a reality. I clipped a piece of rare bomber gear, struggling as I was through horrendous overhanging, loose limestone; the first bit of decent gear in twenty-five meters of climbing, “Lower me,” I called down to Al, “before it becomes too dark to see.”
As I dropped away from the wall above me and descended to the ledge where Al was belaying, I looked down and saw the worry in her eyes.
I wanted to tell her that it would be alright, but the reality was that we had no backup clothing, no bivvy gear, no reserve food or water.
We hunkered down behind a wall of piled stones to escape the wind; at some point during the night I tried to take a pull on the feed pipe of our water bladder; it was frozen. I said a quick prayer to the man upstairs about keeping the rain off; clag settled over the mountain.
We shivered.
At first light we started moving around, reluctant at first as the wind was still up; it took an hour before I could get enough stiffness out of my limbs for me to walk up and down the ledge.  Could have been worse, the last time I was benighted was in a hanging belay eleven pitches up Bridevale falls in Yosemite; now that was an uncomfortable night.
Al didn’t appear to see how lucky we were to have a ledge to lay on; funny that.
Once I’d got my limbs to the point where I could move around I concentrated on trying to warm up enough to maybe climb something; lo and behold after another hour or so, with the sun coming round the side of the mountain I felt capable of actually putting my harness back on.
In the morning light the wall above looked absolutely terrible; it was a crumbling pile of choss for the first twenty meters then it steepened to plumb vertical directly above us, capped by a roof. To the right were more bands of overhangs, way too big for me to contemplate, and to the left the wall met a corner system, blocked at about half height by a nasty looking system of loose flakes which bulged threateningly.
I re-climbed the first rotten section up to the point I’d bailed from the night before; once again finding the overhang above to be just too big for my abilities.
On a good day I lead 5a, on an exceptional day and very rarely I have been known to lead 5b, but these days you’ll usually find me pottering about on VS/HVS 4c/5a ground.
I recall one time with Graham Stein, new routing at Latheronwheel, we were demented enough to have a go at a line on the north wall of the bay where the stacks are; we gave it XS, 5a for an on-sight, un-cleaned ascent. The second ascent of ‘Monica Lewinsky’ (loose but enjoyable) was made by Graham Little and Scott Muir a few months later, after cleaning the route. They gave it HVS 5a.
This wall I was now on, some 2,900 meters higher than Monica, was harder, looser and scarier; the big difference was that I could have walked away from Monica any time I wanted to, whereas right now – I had to climb this puppy.
I decided the corner system on my left was really the only option; using the rope to my right for tension I began the traverse. It was about thirty feet and I did get one friend in a pocket about two thirds of the way across, which might have held.
I was muttering away to Him upstairs big time, all the way across; I couldn’t actually put my hands together for obvious reasons, but I figured He’d understand.
I got to the corner having beaten my own record for gibbering to find that it was a hell of a lot more solid than it looked; I was a wee bit pumped mentally and jammed a few friends in the crack until I felt in control again.
Looking up, my recent elation was slightly dampened by the bulging flake ten feet above. I bridged up, in what was actually a fine position, and poked at it for a while, until I found the confidence to grab hold and give it a good push and pull.
Miraculously it didn’t move; sure chunks of rotten rock surrounding it fell off clattering down into the gully below, but the flake appeared solid.
I got a number three Camelot in about level with my feet; I just love those things don’t you? Then pulled up wildly, smearing on the wall and suddenly it was all over.
I knew I could climb the corner above, which went at about 4b ish and then I was at the top.
Amazingly there were two big boulders situated in exactly the right places for me to put slings around which made the job of protecting the traverse for Al real easy; she had a wee bit of a problem with the bulge, but apart from that she climbed the rest of it cleanly.
There was that worried look on her face still when she came over the top, but that was because she didn’t know what was still in front of us, which in reality was some easy scrambling to a ridge, which led to the top.
We sat around up there for a while, in the sunshine; by about midday I’d warmed up sufficiently to take off my belay jacket. We’d run out of water hours before and finally thirst drove us down the scree slopes to the Guissani hut.
Copious amounts of cold beer and hot Goulash, followed by more cold beer and eggs and bacon, dimmed the memory rapidly. By eight o’clock in the evening we were saying what a great route it was and how much we’d enjoyed being on the mountain for thirty-three hours non stop; like we’d planned it that way. In the back of my mind was the nagging thought that things would have been very different if it had rained.
We had a couple of days of rest and re-grouping; got the kit sorted, did some washing and cleaned ourselves up and by Thursday evening we were ensconced in the Demetz hut, ready for an attempt on The Funffingerspitzen the following day.

Val Gardena Dolomites, The Sella Group – Carta Topographica 1:25000 No.05
I remember the first time we drove down from the Passo de Pordoi some six years ago and my eyes fell upon the towering spires of The Funffingerspitzen, jutting upwards through the clear blue sky between the massifs of the Langkofel and the Plattkofel, thinking to myself ‘I have got to climb that’.
It’s a compulsion; you see it and if you love towers and stacks as I do, then you’re lost; you have no choice in the matter; you become captured, fascinated; driven.
We first tried the full traverse in July 2004, but sadly we were hit by a storm on pitch eight and bailed at the top of pitch nine, which is the summit of the first tower, The Thumb.
The full traverse goes at between twenty-two and twenty-six pitches, depending on how you put it together, with only two places where you can safely bail; The top of the Thumb, and the col after the Middle Finger.
It was first traversed by Hans Huter, Gustav Jahn and Erwin Merlet, during the summer of 1917; a slightly more difficult proposition then than today I suspect as they did not have the benefit of the chairlift which deposited us at the door of the very comfortable Toni Demetz hut, some twenty-five meters from the foot of the climb.
We were keyed up and ready for this; not as big as our undertaking on The Rozes, but on a personal level more important to me than that route.
I awoke naturally at 05.15, sprung out of bed to check the weather; I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It was snowing.

SNOWING.

I guess the real consolation was that it hadn’t snowed while we were on that ledge two days before.
The hut custodian told me that it was unseasonably cold for the time of year.
Mmmmmmmmmmm……………………..
On the plane home I rationalized it, as you do.
We’d climbed six excellent multi-pitch mountain routes, over seven days; a total of 2,280 meters of climbing in 85 pitches.
Where else can you consistently average twelve good pitches of climbing per day on excellent mountain routes, interspersed with good food, good wine and excellent local hospitality?

And anyway, the Funffingerspitzen will still be there next year.

 The Refugios
I just love them.

Sure there are some that are under par, the service stinks, the food’s poor or the selection is limited, but hey, they’re warm and safe and they beat the shit out of hunkering down behind a few boulders at just under three thousand meters, where the temperature has frozen the feed to your water bladder so you can’t suck a drink down while you freeze your arse off for eight hours; and… I haven’t found one yet that doesn’t sell beer!
We joined the Italian club, ‘Club Alpino Italiano’ (CAI), which you can do over the web www.cai.it/ for about thirty Euros each; there are a large number of huts that offer reduced rates to CAI members, not only on the bed rate but also on food and wine.  We saved quite a lot of money this way.
You should also note that some of the climbing shops in the Dolomites will give you a 10% discount on gear if you show them a CAI card; bit like the BMC card over here. If you’re already a BMC member you will have reciprocal rights with CAI anyway.
The following is my interpretation of our refugio experience and therefore does not necessarily represent a definitive critique of each refugio; I’m just trying to give you a feel for what we found.
Like I say above, ‘in extremis’ all the huts are good. 

The Auronzo Hut. Alt. 2320
Situated at the end of route 101 above the northern end of Lake Misurina directly beneath the Tre Cima de Laverado.
Access is by the toll road.
We found this hut to be hugely commercial because of the road access; however, the custodian is very friendly and encourages her staff to be the same, consequently the atmosphere in the hut is good.
 We had a private room which was clean, warm and comfortable, with excellent views south; the bunk areas looked well kept.
The food was a bit ‘mass catering’ style and fairly bland because of it, but there was a large selection by comparison to other huts; value for money was better than average.
As far as commercial huts go this is a far cry from the infamous SellaJochause which I talk to in more detail later.

The Col de Varda Hut. Alt. 2115
Situated at the top of the Col de Varda cable car from the southern end of Lake Misurina.
Access by cable car or hike up for between 40 mins to one hour.
They were polite but not friendly, and despite the fact that the cable car was being repaired and therefore out of action they were very busy. The rooms were clean and comfortable, but the setting is not that striking and the views of the big mountains are limited.
Value for money was OK with a limited menu but well prepared food.

Refugio Nuvolau. Alt. 2575
Situated on top of the mountain, literally it occupies the highest spot on the peak.
Access is best made from the Passo Giau cable car by the Refugio Fedare, which climbs to the Forc Nuvolau col next to the Refugio Averau; then a twenty minute walk up the mountain to the summit. Alternatively you can take the cable car from the Passo Falzerago to The Cinque Torri and walk up from there, about 1-1¼ hours.
This family run refugio is friendly; the Canadian born custodian obviously speaks English and runs a delightful kitchen offering excellent food with a good choice. The rooms are clean and comfortable with simply stunning views in all directions.
Sadly the hut is mobbed at lunchtimes by via ferrata goers, and as there are limited toilet facilities things turn out a bit messy and smelly. Remember this hut is at the very top of the mountain, there is no natural water here; so there are no showering or washing facilities.

Refugio Lagazoi. Alt. 2752
Situated on top of the Laguzoi Pizo.
Access is either via the cable car from the top of the Falzerago pass, or by walking up route 402; approx. 1½ hours.
I have to admit right up front that this is a favorite hut of mine. The views are just spectacular, especially eastwards to the Tofana de Rozes. The rooms are warm, clean and comfortable with their own balcony. The food selection and quality is excellent and we have always found them to be friendly.
A little expensive perhaps, but given the above, value for money is good.

Rifugio Dibona. Alt. 2080
Situated on the hillside to the south of The Tofana de Mezzo.
Access is by road No. 403 from the Passo de Falzerago. Be aware the final section is on unmade road.
As you would expect from a hut that commemorates the life of the legendary Angelo Dibona, tradition is the order of the day here.
They are friendly, helpful and offer excellent food, albeit with a limited menu.
We have stayed in both the main building and the bunkhouse and found them to be warm, comfortable and clean.
The only downside is that the prices are a little expensive for a hut that receives its supplies by road.

Refugio Guissani. Alt. 2580
Situated on the bealach between the Tafana de Mezzo and the Tofana de Rozes on the north of the Falzerago pass.
Access: If you are going up to the hut directly then the only route is via mountain path 403, approx. 1 hour. However the hut is on the descent route from both mountains and on the occasions that we have stayed there it has been on our way off the hill.
This is another of my favorite huts; everything is excellent about it.
The situation, the views, the people are a joy, the food and wine is superb, the accommodation second to none and the value is quite unbelievable. I don’t want you to think I’m biased or anything.

 The Toni Demetz Hut. Alt. 2685
Situated on the col between the Langkoffel and the Funffingerspitzen above the Sella Pass.
Access either by the cable car which runs from beside the SellaJochause, or via mountain path No. 525, approx. 1 – 1½ hours.
Another lovely old traditional hut; not quite in the same situation as the Guissani but still very good. The custodian is friendly and cares for the hut well, with good food and accommodation; value is average for a mountain hut. The position however between the two massifs is stunning and gives ready access to a wealth of excellent climbs.

 The SellaJochause. Alt. 2160
Access: it’s on the main road No. 242 referred to as the Sella Pass.
When I said “all the huts are good” there is obviously an exception to every rule.
This place would fit in very well in Aviemore, or Blackpool; although that’s probably an insult to Blackpool. It’s obviously impossible to insult Aviemore.
Hoards of coaches full of people trundle in and out of the car park to receive indifferent service at best; on occasion the staff are just plain rude. The bivvy site at 2,900 meters is actually more comfortable than the beds in this place, and certainly a lot quieter. The food is almost inedible and there is absolutely no point in even beginning to discuss value for money.
It does piss me off big time when a beautiful, well kept and well situated hut like the Guissani provides beds to CAI members at 10€ per night complete with a wide selection of excellent food which has to be hauled up the hillside in small quantities at a time, in a bucket lift, while this place, also a CAI hut charges 20€ per night complete with shite food at much higher prices which has been dropped off the back of a lorry in the parking lot.
In my opinion, the place is an absolute blot on the landscape.
There I go again, being objective…………………………..

 Refugio Valentini. Alt 2215
Situated on the path No. 557 on the left just before you reach the SellaJochause
Access: you can drive the first half mile right up to the hut.
Another demonstration of how to make a commercial, busy refugio really work.
This family-run hut is friendly, comfortable and clean if now getting a little bit tatty at the edges, but the real pierce de resistance is the food; this is the Michelin star standard of the refugio world; if you love your food (and your wine) then next time your in the Sella area this place is a must-stop for you. But make sure you book well in advance; there is no such thing as a walk-in here; we’ve found this place to be booked for the whole season one year in advance.

 As you can probably tell I’m a real fan of the huts, with the one exception of the SellaJochause. They offer flexibility and value that can’t be found in normal hotels or pensions. On average we reckoned that for bed, breakfast and a three course evening meal we paid 50€ a night each. Because of the weather we changed our itinerary several times and were accommodated by the huts with a simple phone call without any complications or cancellation charges.

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