Into the Dolomites
This morning we boarded our bus for our scheduled tour of the Dolomite Mountains. This is an important tour for Mary Ann and I and one of the main reasons we booked this trip. It’s a “Bucket List” item.I’ve included this picture of a section of the Dolomites so you can see how rugged and jagged the peaks are. This is where Reinhart Messner became famous. He probably climbed them all!
Our first stop was to check out the quaint little town of Ortisei in the Val Gardena on the Rio Gardena river. It is a skiing destination in the winter. There is a pretty little church in the town center with an impressive statue of St Ulrich (890 – 973AD ). He was Bishop of Augsburg and a leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany. He was the first saint to be canonized. He might be trying to say something to Mary Ann.
In front of the church in the middle picture is a couple on our tour: Russ and Carole from Watertown, MA. More on Russ later.The town is known for it’s wood workers. Here’s one of them.
Here are two things I didn’t expect to see: A statue of a boy (with his pants down) watering flowers and a poster for “Kowalski”. What do they mean? Maybe “absolutely nothing”.Here are the bridges over and the Rio Val Gardena that flows past Ortisei.Up the valley, looming over Ortisei is Sasso Lunga. It is a 10436 foot Dolomite peak. Unbelievably pointed. How could Messner climb it??Probably this way. These climbs are very much in an untouched environment, so do not expect spits, fix, marked ways (routes) or sport climbing. The normal ways usually have some pitons and if you are experienced in moving in “wild areas” it is easy to follow them. Usually these ways are called “alpinistic” ways. Remember these are NOT prepared ways, do NOT go there in “shorts” or with an inadequate equipment. Good advice! We drove up and up and closer and closer to the peaks. We finally arrived at Passo Sella at 7414 feet above sea level. We were getting up close and personal with one of the mountains in The Sella group (a plateau-shaped massif in the Dolomites). The clouds swirling around made for this dramatic pic. As we drove down from the pass, we saw more amazing peaks! I’m sure glad we had a good bus driver. He never missed a turn!
We hadn’t had enough of passes yet so we drove up to another one. This is the Pordoi Pass. It is at 7,346 ft. It is the highest surfaced road traversing a pass in the Dolomites.Above the pass is the Sass Pordoi mountain. The Sass Pordoi is easily one of the most visited mountains of the Dolomites. At 9685 feet not much is missing for the mountain to be a 10,000 footer.
A a cable-car leads up from the pass road to its very summit. There is a restaurant up there and a lookout platform, famous for its views towards the Marmolada and Langkofel Groups. The cable-car is free hanging – there are no pillars on the 2625 foot ascent!Here is a little map showing the Passo Pordoi. The black line going straight up from the pass is the 2625 foot cable car. I bet it’s a scary ride. Note the winding road to the pass. Also scary!About all there is at the pass is a restaurant/gift shop and a lonely little church on a bluff.
.Supposedly there are marmots in them thar hills. The only one we saw was a stuffed one in the gift store.We left the peaks and descended to a little town with a nice cutesy restaurant. Most of the group fit into a small dining room in the back. Mary Ann and I ate with Joe and Kathy in the bar. Everything was OK until I asked for some ketchup for my potatoes. You’d have thought I asked the waitress to slice open her wrist. However, she did finally found a bottle and all was well.
Kathy and Joe were in the taxi with us in Rome when I had my rant. Now they heard a ketchup rant. What might they be thinking about this ranter?The “piece de resistance” was the dessert” Ice cream in sauce, pastry, berries, and a whipped cream thingy. It needed no ketchup.When we left the restaurant, we watched a paraglider do loops around the town. Mary Ann’s brothers Bill and Paul do some paragliding.We then drove to Lake Carezza AKA Rainbow Lake. There is a legend that express the whole sense of mystery and magic around this peaceful space: According to the tale, a nymph called Ondina (little wave) used to live in the lake, while the wizard of the Latemar Mountain (The beautiful Dolomite mountain in the background) was falling in love with her.
One day, with the purpose to kidnap Ondina, the warlock covered the sky up with a beautiful rainbow, and the nymph came out from the waters to stare at it. When she saw the sorcerer she, frightened, escaped, leaving him in rage. In that moment, the lord of Latemar, grabbed the rainbow and threw it in thousand pieces in the lake. Since, all the rainbows colors can be found in it.When we saw the lake it was pretty much dried up, the mountain was obscured by clouds, and and the nymph was away. There was a great trail that went around the lake that we hiked.
We ten reboarded the bus and drove back to the hotel in Bolzano. On the way back we discussed our plan to do some hiking with Russ from Watertown, MA and Irv from Rockville, MD. They wanted to join us so we planned to meet at 10AM the next morning in the hotel lobby.