Go Rest High on That Mountain(Vince Hill & Alison Krauss)-Well George(aka Gretchen) We've Knocked the Bastard Off,Dolomites Conquered! - 4th June 2016

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June 4th 2016
Published: June 10th 2016
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In reality we had made up our minds yesterday about where we were going to hike to today in the Dolomites.

Yesterdays walk had been a breeze but we were sure today’s was going to challenge the fitness a lot more. And to add what might have been a straight forward hike up and down the mountainside we have decided to add in a ‘stroll ‘across a plateau that continues on beyond the initial peak on the trail.

The day is similar to the two previous days we have been here. Low cloud around some of the tops but broken cloud to blue sky above us. It seems the best weather is through the middle of the day with any chance of a shower coming later. With that in mind and realising that today’s hike will take longer than even the one to the church two days ago we got ourselves ready earlier than previous days.

In a couple of weeks time the large gondola would be operating for the summer and will be whisking people to Piz La Ila at 2077 metres or a rise in altitude of just over 600 metres from La Villa in a matter of minutes.

For us though it will be our legs carrying us on the journey and as with the previous two days we are going to be doing the tough bit first. The uphill climb of just over 600 metres!

We could have walked down to the start of the hike from our apartment but that would have meant we would have had to walk back up when we returned and that didn’t sound like a good idea after we considered what was ahead for us.

Today’s hike will give us a different perspective of the mountains that we have been amongst for the last two days as today’s hike is across the San Cassiano valley from where we did our first hike. Rather than looking straight up at the rocky face as we did on the hike to the church, the scene will be more expansive as we will be further away.

With our food and water as well as rain jackets neatly packed we set off up the road on Track #4 which gave us a good surface for traction. The road wasn’t sealed but the surface was very compacted and in winter time it was part of a ski run down from the spot we were heading for over 600 metres higher in altitude.

A couple of cars passed us going both uphill and downhill as we trudged our way up the road pausing every 5 minutes or so to catch our breath and also to take in the mountain scenery.

Like our hike of two days ago we didn’t know actually how far the hike was going to be .All we had was the time it was supposedly going to take to get from the bottom to the top. At over two hours it was going to be a long slog if the first 3o minutes were anything to go by.

Gretchen in her usual frame of mind of wanting to get to the top as quickly as possible surged on ahead and kept on reporting back to me about 30 or 40 metres further down the mountainside that ‘there was a flat area coming up’.

This was supposed to encourage me to try and keep up with her but after she tried this encouragement on me a few times and it didn’t turn out to be ‘a flat bit ahead ‘I resolved that I would just plug on at my usual pace.

Actually taking a stop every 5 minutes or so was good anyway because of the changing mountain scenery as we climbed. Even the occasional low misty cloud drifting across the peaks changed the face of the mountains that were in view.

About three quarters of the way up a four wheel drive vehicle that had passed us going down earlier came by on the way up and stopped to offer us a lift. We didn’t actually know how far we had to go but assumed it wasn’t that far and declined but thanked them for their offer.

It wasn’t that further on that we made an area which had 3 chairlift bases, each going off in different directions further up the mountainside with ski slopes all around.

This wasn’t our target. That was at the end of one of the ski lifts and that still looked a long way away across a small valley.

We changed the plan at this point and decided to walk the plateau in a different direction and turned onto track #21 which would take us up to Piz Sorega which was at an altitude 70 metres below our original target Piz La Ila which we would still get to over the plateau.

We were now above the forest line and it looked like it hadn’t been that long since the winter snow had melted off the ski runs. In fact there were still huge frozen deposits of the white stuff in little depressions in the mountainside which didn’t get full sun.

We were still on a formed shingle road which at least meant we didn’t have to tramp across what looked like mushy grass. The gradient was less severe now although still steadily upwards.

At Piz Sorega we stopped for lunch in the deserted area that in the winter would be crammed full of skiers. We were not sure if the ski lift here would operate in the summer but if it did the hike up could be avoided. Here there was a restaurant, a building with a ski school and other sundry buildings.

It was while we were having lunch that out of nowhere a couple of people suddenly appeared from the trail we had come up. We hadn’t noticed them following us at any time so perhaps they had come up the easy way, by 4 wheel drive. They acknowledged us and went on their way to a building on the plateau that had a small terrace with sun umbrellas out and smoke coming from the chimney of the building. Perhaps it was a restaurant in the middle of nowhere or was it a small private lodge. We will never know as we weren’t going to hike off the formed track across grass to find out.

Our reasoning for hiking along at least half of the plateau was to take in the alpine flowers which were blooming everywhere you looked. They weren’t as noticeable while we were walking but when we stopped for photos of the mountains and then looked down across the meadow you then realised just how in abundance they were as their colours of yellow, bright blue and white of the different varieties clamoured for attention.

So now we not only had the mountains to contend with to take photos and video but also meadows of alpine flowers.

A short distance onto the plateau we came across another ski lift at Las Vegas. No casino but there was another restaurant and outbuildings.

The plateau walking trail wasn’t quite flat but rather rose and fell in easy stages. Had we walked the full distance we would have covered another hours walking there and back but we were satisfied at the halfway point and at Bioch where there was another restaurant and tremendous views of the mountains we had not yet seen today across the Corvara valley.

This was the turning point for home and we had in mind when we reached Piz La Ila, our original destination, that we would take a different trail down the mountainside, the #2, through forest to the river we had walked alongside yesterday.

As we made our way we heard this noise that sounded like one of the many commercial jet aeroplanes that fly across the Dolomites far above us.

With aeroplanes you always look ahead to see the plane if it is visible as the noise takes a little longer to get to earth and our ears.

This was the same but it was slightly different in that it seemed just a little closer than an aeroplane at 40,000 feet.

Then we saw what it was and what good fortune we had!

It was a rock avalanche on the other side of the Badia valley on Sassongher at an altitude just a little lower than where we were.

A large cloud of grey dust came up from a very narrow near vertical valley almost directly opposite us was visible as the noise of the rock slide continued.

We were spellbound. This was nature in the raw and we wondered whether the same could happen where we were hiking but we decided that we weren’t crossing any open rock areas on this hike or at least don’t intend to.

We walked on and before we reached Piz La Ila we heard and then noticed two smaller slides with the debris ending up on an area between the vertical rise of the mountain and the forest on a massive expanse of shingle. There were houses below the forest but we guess the locals just have to get used to landslides above them and anyway there was a fair amount of tall trees in the forest to take out the impact of a slide.

At Piz La Ila there were more buildings including a restaurant and one for the gondola which would be operating in a couple of weeks.

Trail #2 was supposed to start here but search as we might we couldn’t find it and where it probably should have been was a vertical drop of the edge although we could see a walking tail about 100 metres down but no obvious way to get to it from here. We must have passed it as we walked across the plateau and not recognised it.

There was one thing for it as the weather started to look more threatening and that was to take trail 4A down.

This would have been our trail up had we kept up with plan A and gone to Piz La Ila first.

It was just as well we changed our minds as the trail, if you could call it that, down was very steep and basically a ‘sheep’s track’. Except a sheep would have had the sense to walk across the mountainside on a zig zag pattern. This wasn’t, it was straight down for a hundred metres or so to the forest line.

Somehow we managed to keep our feet.

But it didn’t end there. As we entered the forest the trail became a rough, dirt track and although not as steep as the bit across the grass it was still a challenge to keep our feet.

We were very pleased to reach the forestry road which then joined in with the steep road over the ski slope we had walked up earlier in the day.

By the time we reached the bottom we had been going for just over 6 hours and were feeling pretty exhausted. We were very please the car was there to take us up the hill to the apartment.

The first cold beer didn’t touch the sides and the second delivered the much needed boost of energy to cook dinner.

It had been a great hike nonetheless and we have many memories of the scenery, the rock landslide and the alpine meadows not to forget the challenge of hiking up and then the downhill stretch across the grassy slope.

We think we have made the most of our three full days in the Dolomites and can now tick it off the bucket list as achieved!

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