Postcard from the Dolomites

On the Go

Photos by Sajjad from his hikes in the Eastern Italian Alps

Why keep travelling to the Dolomites when you have mountains just outside Munich, my hometown in Bavaria?

While the mountains of the Central Alps rise gradually, with peaks emerging from various ridges, the Dolomites appear in their own particular way and are unique in their presence. They are HERE and NOW. Suddenly you are standing in front of them and feel their presence; it always casts a spell over me. The Three Peaks are the best example.

Originally I wanted to hike the Munich-Venice trail on my own, but then I fell in love with Saaralya. On a weekend trip to Val di Funes (Villnößtal*) we both discovered the Dolomites for the first time and since then we have become addicted to the area. By now we have completed two alpine treks (Alta Via 1, which is 150 km long, and Alta Via 2, 185 km). The third one (Alta Via 3 at 120 km) I did on my own.

Over the past 12 years we came to know and love the most diverse valleys and regions. Starting from Villnöß Valley (with its Geissler Peaks), we have travelled to Val Gardena (Alpe di Siusi), the Sesto Dolomites (Three Peaks area) (my favorite!), the Ampezzo Dolomites (around Cortina d’Ampezzo), the Pala Group (around San Martino di Castrozza), the Latemar (near Moena), the Catinaccio (Rosengarten) near Val di Fassa, and the Bellunese and Feltrine Dolomites.

The photos you see here have been taken over several years, so we have sorted them according to location. As the alpine crossings are hiked mainly from north to south we have sorted them that way.

(click on photos to admire fullscreen)

Odles Dolomites

Geißlerspitzen

Postcard from the Dolomites
The Odles Group (Geißlerspitzen*), S. Maddalena

S. Maddalena is the last village in the Funes Valley. A tiny road takes you up to a central parking lot right in front of the mighty walls of the Odles Group. One of the trails just below those walls is the famous Adolf Munkel Trail, named after the founder of an Alpine Club. This trail is convenient for beginners and leaves you in awe. It starts right from the parking lot and leads to the Brogles Hut which has that romantic fence in front you see in the photo. After a hike of 4 hours the hut is waiting for the weary hiker with delicious food, drinks – and this stunning view.

Geißlerspitzen

Unfolding
Gruppo delle Odle (Odles, Geißlerspitzen), S. Maddalena, Val di Funes

Behind a beautiful meadow the full range of the Odles (the Geißler peaks) are unfolding.

Gschnagenhardt Alm

A wall of rock
Gruppo delle Odle (Odles, Geißlerspitzen), Funes Valley (Villnößtal)

While hiking on the Adolf Munkel Trail it had started to rain, but the moment we approached our destination, the Gschnagenhardt Alm, the weather changed and, as a welcome, the sun lit up the whole Odles Range in this spectacular way.

The story goes that the Gschnagenhardt Alm was one of Reinhold Messner‘s favourite places. He was born in the area and used to spend his summer holidays here. As a mere five-year-old he climbed Sas Rigais (the peak in the middle) with his father. He later became a world-famous mountaineer, the first man to climb all 14 eight-thousanders without supplemental oxygen.

Malga Cir, Passo Gardena,

Grand opening
Passo Gardena, Colfosco

When we left the Puez Hut, walking onto the Gardeccia highplain to the Crespeina Pass, we reached the bottom of Cir Peak (one of several peaks along Passo Gardena). From there the trail led us down to the Gardena Pass (Grödner Joch). Then suddenly the alpine theatre opened up with a breathtaking view to the Sella range and Sassolungo in the background.

Piz Duleda

Piz Duleda
Longiarù (Campill / Lungiarü) in Val Badia (Gadertal)

A beautiful picnic area with views to the Puez group and Piz Duleda (the peak on the right).

Rifugio Firenze,

Golden Light
Rifugio Firenze, Sas Rigais, S. Cristina

Part of the Odles Range seen from the south near the Firenze Hut (Rifugio Firenze, Regensburgerhütte). The last light of the day is painting the scenery in golden light.

Lech Sant

Living wallpaper
Lech Sant [holy lake], Alpe di Cisles (Cisles Alm), S. Cristina

Some would hang a painting in their living room with such a view. I prefer to live in the reality of it, making the effort to get here, and putting on my sunglasses.

Alpe di Siusi

Postcard from Alpe di Suisi

Postcard from Alpe di Siusi
Castelrotto (Ciastel, Kastelruth)

Alpe di Siusi (Mont Sëuc, Seiser Alm) is the largest alpine meadow in the Alps with its famous view of the Sella Range: Sassolungo and Sassopiatto. The Siusi plateau is a protected area and it almost feels like being in a museum.

Costabella Range

Eye to eye
Sella Range, Sassopiatto and Sassolungo

Climbing along the Costabella Range from the south we got a wonderful view onto the Sassopiatto (left) and the Sassolungo (right).

Alpe di Siusi

Review
Alpe di Siusi, near Castelrotto

Have a seat, take a deep breath and remember the hikes of this summer and autumn. Be grateful and enjoy this very moment – Ah this!

 

* You might have noticed that some of the names are given in Italian and German, and some also in Ladin, because there are actually three languages spoken in this area.

The northern part of the Dolomites, which are part of the Alto Adige (or Südtirol) Region of Italy, were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until the early 20th Century. In fact, WWI saw fierce battles in these mountains. To this day the Alto Adige Region remains primarily German-speaking.

Ladin, on the other hand, is an ancient Rhaeto-Romance language, similar to the Romansh language spoken in parts of the alpine Grisons (Graubünden) in Switzerland. About 30,000 people in the Dolomites still speak Ladin today: in Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Fodom and Val di Fassa.

The southern part of the Dolomites (e.g. Cortina d’Ampezzo) is mostly Italian-speaking.

To be continued…

Sajjad and Saaralya

Sajjad Günter Zwaka is a health practitioner, passionate about mountaineering and photography. He lives with his beloved Saaralya in Munich, Germany. sajjad@gmx.net

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