My time in the Dolomites ranks in my top 3 summers. Despite spending 4 and a half months in such a fabulous location I was left with the impression towards the end of the season that I had barely scratched the surface of what the Dolomites had to offer. Chief among the places that I had only seen from afar all season was the queen of mountains herself, the Marmolada. Standing at a height of 3343m she was in the view from most places that I visited, but I had not seen her up close. With my season coming near to an end and snow falling up high my girlfriend and I decided that it was a case of now or never and planned a walk for our penultimate day off. We planned a route from Canazei at the Pordoi pass, behind the Portavescovo ridge taking us down to the cable car that would deliver us to Arabba. We would use a bus to get us to Canazei and a bus to get us back home from Arabba to Corvara. The night before our walk the snow line was projected to be at 2000m, giving us cause to triple check our planned route on the map and ensure we packed for every eventuality.
The Start of the Walk
We woke early, ready to start our hike and get ourselves up close and personal with the Marmolada. We got ourselves an early breakfast at the chalet (having packed the night before) and took ourselves to the bus stop at Sport Kostner. A small 6 Euro fee later and we were on our way to Canazei. At 8:00 am in the morning it felt a little early still and the road was pretty damn windy, as most mountain roads are. Both my girlfriend and I get slight travel sickness, despite being avid travellers! The mountains road definitely didn’t do us any favours with the motion sickness, that being said the views were as usual in the Dolomites absolutely stunning.
After around 45 minutes the bus eventually delivered us to the Pordoi Pass at Canazei. After getting off the bus we were met with majestic views back towards Arraba with snow halfway up and greenery stretching away to
the next pass. Looking up towards the other side of the Sella massif to which we were normally based was both unusual and also awe-inspiring. Just viewing a mountain from a different side to which you normally see it, is like seeing it for the first time again it is so different. We had the same experience seeing Sassongher from multiple angles, though Sassongher never looked more impressive than from the garden at the chalet we were both living & working in. An unusual relic from the First World War an 8 pounder field gun was stationed outside the car park and on the route towards the path we were going to be following.
We decided it was a touch too cold and opted to put on our hats, gloves and an extra layer before beginning the hike, we knew that we would be going higher and that there was a reasonably thick covering of snow where we would be walking. I had been above the snow line on path 7 the week before and knew what I was letting myself in for! We headed up the path with a reasonable ascent of around 350m initially. It wasn’t very hard going and the gradient wasn’t too steep with a good gravel path under the snow. We came out at the top of this part of the path which gave us our first glimpse of Marmolada and a fantastic view of Sasso Longo.
Following the path a little further up what we thought was a ski slope during the winter (and definitely felt like it in the snow!) we came out at a rifugio that was now shut for the season. I spied a marmot eating out of the gutter and running away into the snow as I approached to take a closer picture. The path led down towards another rifugio and we got another great view of Marmolada, and I managed to get one of my favourite shots of the day here.
Traversing the Ridge
By now we had done pretty much all the ascent of the day and the path traversed behind the Porte Vescovo ridge in front of Marmolada offering us the most amazing photos along the length of the path as Marmolada kept presenting different faces and facets as we continued to walk along. As we got approximately halfway along, as we were approaching Capella on the Porte Vescovo ridge Lake Fedaia came into view and we also quickly approached an open rifugio, where we stopped to take more photos and eat lunch.
Along the length of the path, we had amazing views of both the path ahead and behind and the mountains around us. In the distance, we could see Civetta, which I had climbed a few weeks previously. The path was fairly exposed with a very high steep drop into the valley below. As we approached lake Fedaia the path forked, taking the left-hand fork would take us to the Porte Vescovo cable car and then back down to Arraba. There was a little bit of cabling along the path and a lot of snow making it a little harder going than it would be in the middle of summertime. Before we reached the cable car Marmolada offered us yet another magnificent view and photo opportunity.
The Cable Car Station and the End of the Walk
Approaching the cable car station there is maybe 200m of fairly steep ascent, once you reach the station the reward is one of the best views towards Le Cheval, Pralongia, Corvara and Boe that I had in the Dolomites. One can really appreciate the mountains and the views from here fully and there is a very nice restaurant in the cable car station too. The cable car wasn’t on our season pass and was a fairly hefty 10 euros to get back down. But it was worth every penny to not have to make that descent, it is a long way down from there. We managed to complete our walk in a pretty respectable 5 hours and waited in Arabba with a couple of beers perusing the photos that we had taken for an hour while we waited for a bus to take us back to Corvara and pizza night!
In some ways I wish I had managed to get over there and do the same walk earlier in the season, having said that the snow made for some unique photographs and a unique experience for us. The views were absolutely stunning as ever in the Dolomites and it was certainly worth the excursion. Should I go back I would take the higher path that follows the summits along the ridge which I should think to offer even more stunning views of the Dolomites!