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Published: July 20th 2011
I'm probably preaching to the choir here and I definitely know better, but high altitudes, mountain hiking and more than moderate booze consumption do not mix! Save yourself the agony and adopt a do what Jane says, not what Jane does approach on this one!
I had planned to spend my 'rest day' stepping up a via ferrata level, pushing myself to conquer a more technically demanding VF. Instead I found myself undertaking a more relaxed 'stroll' up a mountain to the Lagazuoi Tunnels (which to be fair I also wanted to visit) all due to excessive Vino Rosso and the poor influence of my fellow trip mates (honest guv'ner they made me drink it!).
Lagazuoi Tunnels (VF Grade 1A, 2,752m) are a legacy of World War I when the Italians and Austrians were fighting for control of the mountains. The Austrians and Italians dug in and spent the years of the war tunnelling, shelling and generally trying to kill each other (that's war for you!). What remains is a mountain littered with rooms, passages and WWI memorabilia and I'd have to say a good day out.
We were advised to jump the cable car to the top
The views were just stunning
and I'm looking ok considering, but maybe that's cause I was sitting down
and walk down, planned to walk up through the dark, cold tunnels instead and managed to stuff that all up (oops missed a turn) and instead walked the entire trooper path zig zagging up the mountain to the refugio. It was somewhere above the snowline where a combination of altitude (I'm sticking with that excuse), poor hydration and self inflicted hangoverness caused my body to try and kill me. I had a few moments of leaning against a rock, well away from the gaze of any other human accepting I was a broken woman before I talked myself into 'manning up' for the final push to the top.
There is nothing ... nothing ... so comforting as stepping foot inside a refugio at 2,807m and finding a chair with your name on it. It took me an hour to finish a bowl of veggie soup and a cup of tea while watching the others dig into hearty south tyrol fare such as goulash and polenta. The loss of another eating opportunity was true punishment for the lack of judgement (but rollicking good time) of the previous evening. Lunch, though painful and slow, did perk me right up for the
afternoon's adventure of the tunnels.
From the Refugio it is about a 10 minute walk down to the entrance along narrow pathways hugging the mountain and from then it's down into the dark tunnels (BYO head torch) negotiating a series of large, often slippery steps in the semi darkness - perfect way to spend an afternoon. The tunnels snake through the mountain with rooms and offshoots everywhere and it's quite an easy walk down as there is a wire running down the wall to help you navigate, well there is when the 'Vire is not Kaput' (to be said in dodgy german accent, sorry Anja & ilona, your accent rocks!). Living in cotton wool health and safety land where you are constantly protected 'for your own good' and because some people shouldn't be allowed to walk outside alone, it is fantastic to be able to walk to the edge of sheer cliffs and just stick your head out, hell stick your whole body out there - I did and the views down were fantastic.
If you really want to mix it up you can go along the 'Gallerie' and find another set of caves and tunnels to go
back up again to the top or do what I did and just wander along the ledge for a while so you can be a "ledge end". (lame I know, but funny at the time ... remember I was euphoric at this stage as I'd been soooooo bad earlier!). The trickiest part of the whole thing was crossing a slushy little snow bank right near the end, but having survived that I celebrated with good old strudel (treat of the week!). Top day, wish I'd been able to enjoy the up a bit more, but fond memories!
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