Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cortina Epic Week Part 6: Torre Toblin

On day six of our Cortina Epic Week we headed out to the popular sight Tre Cime di Lavaredo. These three mega-famous peaks are Cime Piccola, Cime Grande (2999m) and Cime Ovest. The area is usually always quite crowded, especially on a gorgeous sunny summer Saturday like this.

Our guide Paolo drove us past Lago di Misurina to Rifugio Auronzo (2333m). Without further ado we started hiking the wide trail to Rifugios Lavaredo and Locatelli. These places were familiar to me from my past Lavaredo Ultra Trails, but new to my son. We had time to explore the magnificent landscapes more thoroughly than what is possible in a running event.

The main feature of our outing would be climbing Via Ferrata Sentiero delle Scalette to the sharp peak of Torre di Toblin (2617m). Word was the route was airy with plenty of vertical metal ladders bolted to the rock wall. I wasn't sure if we were really quite ready for this challenging task, but we would find out soon. Absolutely no turning back anymore!

In the beginning the trail up didn't feel too strenuous, as we were just hiking. In fact this was my favorite part of the race course, as it was both runnable and scenic. On the saddle between Tre Cime and Monte Paterno (Paternsattel) there was a lot less snow than in my previous run-throughs. I remembered sticking my poles straight up - that's how high the snow walls on both side of the trail had been.

When we reached Torre di Toblin, the path forked to left and right around the mountain. We encountered another group which was obviously heading for the same VF as we. They chose the trail to the right. Paolo told us that the left trail would be shorter and faster. We hurried up that way. Passing would be difficult, so we preferred to lead.

Soon the first ladders appeared, and we climbed straight up. After a few similar ladders I lost count of them. We ascended a narrow chimney between two walls. We had to step across the abyss below when the VF changed sides. Our harnesses had two lanyards, which barely reached far enough to make the passages safe. There were also steep climbs without ladders, with only the steel cable. We wondered how the soldiers in World War 1 had managed all this, in winter and with limited equipment and supplies. I certainly struggled to get up from time to time, although we had proper gear.

Finally we arrived on a plateau. Before I had time to cheer for reaching the top, Paolo guided us to the left. He told us to be careful when walking around the corner. We took baby steps and wondered what lay ahead. Suddenly the path under our sneakers vanished. We faced traversing a vertical wall equipped only with the cable to hold on and iron pins to step on. Below us was only air - lots of it. Now I understood what they had meant with 'airy'. For crying out loud, one could see most of the Dolomites from there. We made it safely to the other side, while Paolo shouted encouragement and shot pictures.

After the vertical ordeal there were only one more set of ladders and we stood on the peak. Surprisingly there were a couple sunbathing on the narrow top. There was just enough room for us to have a little snack. The views on a clear day like this were totally worth all the effort.

The way down the other side of Torre di Toblin was also pretty steep. That was to be expected, it being a tall tower and all. Although I descended last, being the weakest link in our trio I still had trouble finding the holds for my feet and hands. Once again I was too scared to lean back with straight arms and take a good relaxed look down. Obviously you can't see too much with your face glued to the wall, but my simple mind seemed to suspect that my body might fall down any second now.

On our way back we enjoyed nice double-lake view. We celebrated our successful adventure by having a spagetti lunch at full-packed Locatelli hut. Paolo had told us their pasta dishes were excellent, and he was right too. Of course we were also hungry as wolves.

We hiked back to the Auronzo hut another trail above the running course. It was a more technical path, but the view was better. At the mountain pass we looked for a geocache. The compass of my iPhone app pointed to a big boulder, but it wasn't there. Nearby a guy smiled at us, revealing he had just found it. As we busily jumped around the rocks, he kindly advised us if we were 'cold' or 'hot'. Soon my son discovered the cache. While we were logging our find, the guy shouted in panic that he had lost his wallet while he found the cache. Naturally we now helped him to find his wallet, just like he had helped us to find the geocache. Fortunately it was soon recovered, and we continued our respective journeys in different directions grinning happily.

At the end we had time to take a little detour down to the statue of an angel holding a sword. We found another geocache there. Then we drove back to our hotel after another epic day. My GPS watch data can be examined in Movescount. What an epic week it had been already. The next day would be our last adventure, and we tried to figure out what it should be. We were really fortunate to have enjoyed such a good weather all week long.

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