Dolomites Adventure: Via Ferrata Entwined with WWI History
Amid the front lines of the White War – Italian adventures on the Iron Path.
Steeped in events which shaped the world, this multi day trip offers high alpine adventure in the Dolomite mountains of northern Italy, hiking and climbing amid sheer vertiginous walls of limestone and through lush free meadows, all in the shadow of the decisive battles fought on the front lines of WWI. Guided by IFMGA Guide Tania Noakes.
OPne for Private Bookings
Duration: 7 days
Grading: Challenging / Strenuous
Nearest Airport: Venice or Verona (IT) or Innsbruck (AUT)
Starting point: Sesto (Sud Tirol) in the Pustertal valley
Cost: from €3000pp
Who is this trip suitable for?
Fit and experienced hikers, with good footwork, a head for heights and an interest in European history. This is a challenging adventure with incredible mountain views, fascinating history, great local food and wine, and warm south Tirolean hospitality.
History and Beauty combined
The Dolomite mountains, situated in North East Italy are renowned for their dramatic beauty. Sheer, vetiginous walls of pale limestone soar above lush green meadows, providing a stark contrast that echoes its bleaker history. During the Great War some of the most savage fighting occurred within these mountains, along the front where Italy fought the Austro – Hungarian Empire. Cable-ways and ladders were installed for access and resupply; natural fault-lines and caves improved and tunnels dug both to conceal the movement of troops and to blast the enemy from their impossible positions. Our journey is linked by a chapter in history; The Iron Way.
Days 1 - 2
We begin our journey in the picturesque village of Sesto in the Alto-Adige region of Italy. It is the perfect setting to acquaint travellers to the history and stories which helped forge the path ahead and is home to the Bellum Aquilarum WW1 museum.
Day two sees us pass the wartime Austrian troop shelters and buildings at Wurzbach before continuing our climb towards Passo Sentinella where Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops fought an intense battle. From below Passo Sentinella we begin one of the legendary Via Ferrata, named ‘Strada Degli Alpini’, following beneath the limestone walls of the main summits. Emerging into the head of the valley, a gentle descent brings us to Refuge Zigmondy for our overnight stay.
Days 3 - 4
Picking up our route, we continue along the former front line towards the Tre Cime di Laveredo, iconic symbol of the Dolomites as a UNESCO world heritage site. We head west along the Strada degli Alpini before descending into the valley to the Rifugio Tre Cime Locatelli. Using a system of wartime tunnels and Via Ferrata we progress along the north ridge of the Paternkofel before descending to the panoramic road leading to the to the Refuge Auronzo. Then we take short road trip into the Landro Valley and the beautiful Refuge Ospedale, renowned for it’s delicious local cuisine.
Departing Rifugio Ospedale we ascend towards the formidable Dibona Ferrata which will take us to the high summits of the Cristallo massif. It is a fascinating and challenging route lined with Austro-Hungarian wartime emplacements. Towards the end of the Via Ferrata we will cross an airy and exposed wire bridge, one of the film locations from the famous Sylvester Stallone movie “Cliffhanger”. We then make a long descent to the Tre Cime pass and short road journey to Rifugio Dibona 2037m.
Days 5 - 6
We hike up beneath the impressive south face of the Tofana De Rozes, in a landscape where the three dimensional battleground created conflict from every possible position. We follow the start of the Lipella Via Ferrata before reaching the Castelletto, a fortified Austro-Hungarian position that troops called the “Schreckenstein” (rock of horror) due to the proximity and intensity of fighting there. We descend to the Col dei Bois before making a gradual ascent to the summit of the Lagazuoi itself. This mountain is riddled with wartime tunnels that still exist today, they were excavated by both sides in a subterranean battle of counter-mine against mine. We descend this system of tunnels by head-torch, passing the famous “Martini ledge” where Italian troops gained a foothold in their struggle to take the mountain. Finally we emerge from the bowels of the mountain just above the Falzarego Pass and return to Cortina for the night.
Transferring from Cortina, Porta Vescova is the starting point of the Via Ferrata ‘Delle Trincee’ (Trincee means ‘trench’), to begin our appropriately named trek. Beginning with a challenging vertical section which we ascend aided by steep metal rungs in the rock face, we gain the start of the ‘Padon crest’ where Austro-Hungarians faced Italian positions at close quarters. The day is set against a backdrop of the majestic glaciated slopes of the Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites. In good weather, we gain stunning views of our final day’s route towards the summit of the Marmolada. We descend to the Fedaia pass before our final effort of the day, an ascent of about 2 hours to the rustic Rifugio Ghiacciaio at 2655m.
Day 7 - 8
We start early from our mountain hut for our 4 hour ascent to the summit of the highest peak of the Dolomites, Marmolada Punta Penia at 3343m. Our route gives a truly memorable 8-9 hour day, and forms an epic conclusion to our journey though history. From the summit we descend across the glacier on it’s northern slopes, where during the war Austro-Hungarian soldiers dug an immense system of tunnels into the ice itself and created a hidden ‘city of ice’, complete with dressing stations, barracks, kitchens and store rooms. In recent years the retreating glaciers has revealed some of its dark secrets.
Returning to the Fedaia pass at the end of our journey, we can choose to visit the museum dedicated to the Great War before returning to the Cortina and our final night together before departure.
After breakfast and farewells, we depart.
Need To Know
1 x night in 4* Hotel in Sesto
4 x Rifugio nights
- Rifugio Zigmondy
- Rifiugio Ospedale
- Rifugio Dibona
- Rifugio Ghiacciao
2 x nights in 4* Hotel in Cortina
Extra stays: You can book additional night(s) at the start and / or the end of the trip if required.
- All accommodation
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
- Drinks on first and last night
- Via Ferrata equipment if required
- Mountain transport: Gondola’s, chairlifts etc
- Museum entrance – Bellum Aquilarum WW1 museum
- All internal transfers according to the program
Throughout the trip there are plenty opportunities to taste both the great local food and prestigious wines of the region.
This trip is uniquely guided by Tania Noakes, IFMGA guide specialising in Sardinia and the Dolomites. Tania first visited the Dolomites in 2003 and fell in love with the region and its mountains. Throughout the summer season of 2019 she climbed all (except 1) of the 102 Classic Dolomites Climbs. In 2015 Tania lead an Army expedition to ski the length of the Alps, from Vienna to Nice, 82 days and over 1000kms, completed in 11 consecutive stages during one winter. In 2018 she skied solo to complete the ‘Norge Pa Langs’ over 2533km.
We adopt an excellent guiding ratio meaning we can cater for differing levels within the group.
Max 4 participants.
Tania is a hugely experienced and versatile mountaineer in addition to her love of history, reading and poetry.