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On the München-Venedig trail, part 2: The Dolomites

Posted: 2010-09-27 17:40:34, Categories: Travel, Italy, Hiking, 636 words (permalink)

A view of the Dolomites from Wasserscharte pass. The Dolomites looked quite different from the German and Austrian Alps. The rocks had sharper shapes, slopes were steeper and overall there was much less vegetation. Different layers of stone and rock often had their own colors — "European Arizona" as Sandra called it.

We still had a couple of cloudy and rainy days, but were mostly enjoying quite sunny weather, especially in the mornings. Our daily schedule gradually shifted to earlier hours. It became easier to get up in the mornings, and we were not any more the last ones to leave from the huts. During the first week it had always been Sandra waking me up, but it changed so that I was just as often the one who was getting up first — which was a surprise for both of us.

I also got better into the flow in walking. We descended to a valley and climbed up, over highlands, sometimes over a mountain passes and then down to a valley again. The days merged to each other so that it was hard to remember which date or day of the week it was. There was a feeling of traveling as scenery changed slowly but surely. We didn't go very far on any single day, but the events and views of the first days of the trip were already far behind.

Huts were more full than they had been during the beginning of the trip. We couldn't count on having a bed without making a reservation beforehand — something which we both dislike. Of course the huts would usually find some emergency space outside the normal sleeping areas instead of leaving hikers out in the cold, but it would have been extra hassle both for us and them. We took the habit of calling 1-3 days in advance, and canceling the reservations as early as possible when we changed our plans.

Already on our second day of the trip we had met other hikers who were also on the way to Venice. Some of them were faster than us and some slower, but about half a dozen were traveling more or less the same speed. We didn't walk in a group and occasionally would also make different choices of which hut to stay in, but then suddenly meet again a day or two later. As time passed a kind of companionship developed. During the day we were often guessing where our friends would be, and looking forward to seeing them again, sitting together at the dinner table and comparing experiences.

Our last day in the Dolomites was perhaps the most memorable. We stayed in Rifugio Pramperet and set our record by being on the trail at 6:46, a whole hour earlier than any of the mornings before — and without using alarm clock. The morning sun was casting a beautiful light on the mountains as we were climbing uphill. Up on the ridge there were a group of chamois, a kind of goat-antilopes. They ran away well before we reached them, but we were close enough to see well how elegantly they walked up and down on the steep slopes.

We reached the peak of Cime di Citta Sud (2450 m) at around 8:30 am. It wasn't the highest mountain in the area, but the view was gorgeous in all directions. It was also one of the only times we actually climbed on a peak. We cooked a second breakfast near the top before starting our long descent along Val del Ross. The open grasslands changed to forest, the trail followed a river, then there was a road, a few houses, then a small village. Late in the afternoon we reached the town of Longarone, bought two large ice creams and a big bag of fresh fruit, and called our CouchSurfing hosts. That's the beginning of part 3.

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