Alta Via Uno - 120 km through the Italian Dolomites
Courtesy of Austin Lillywhite
Stage 1 . Lago di Braies to Rifugio Fanes
Stage 1. starts at the beautiful alpine lake, Lago di Braies, surrounded by towering peaks and pine forests. It begins with a steady climb to the first pass, Forcella Sora Forno (2,388m). On route you encounter several steep walls of rock that are surmounted by short but thrilling zig-zag routes aided by cables. At the pass you enter the Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti d’Ampezzo. The panorama from the broad meadowy pass is vast and breath taking, including the northern most Dolomite peaks, as well as the Marmolada, the Tofane peaks, and the Pelmo. From here the Alta Via 1 crosses some of the most breathtaking terrain, rolling and undulating meadows with far off views of Dolomite spires spread out around you as you re-enter the Parco Naturali Fanes-Sennes-Braies. From here you begin a steep descent into the rocky cleft of the Val di Tamersk, with its fascinating orange rock walls. The last portion of the stage involves a final extended uphill stretch that finishes in a beautiful alpine basin.
Stage 2. Rifugio Fanes to Rifugio Lagazuoi
On this stage the real highlights of the trip begin as you enter into the Cortina d’Ampezzo valley, cross one of the most thrilling passes of the entire trip and reach the trip's high point on the summit of Mount Lagazuoi. The stage begins through idyllic meadows, streams and rolling stony pastures and becomes more rocky and enthralling as the day goes on. The route heads for a dramatic notch between Cima di Lago and Punta di Fanes, the pass of Forcella del Lago (2,486M). from the top of the pass you are faced with a plunging stomach dropping gully. However the descent is made slowly but surely on reinforced switchbacks before a fantastic scree traverse over the picturesque alpine Lago di Lagazuoi. The stage closes with the stiff uphill climb to the summit of Mount Lagazuoi, which takes you over a lunar alpine landscape with ever improving jaw dropping views of the Cortina valley before you. At the top you reach the busy Rifugio Lagazuoi featuring one of the best and most expansive panoramas encountered on the Alta Via 1 and in the entire Dolomites.
Stage 3. Rifugio Lagazuoi to Rifugio Nuvolau
Stage 3. competes with the previous one for being the highlight of the entire trek as it takes you into the very heart of the Cortina valley at Rifugio Nuvolau, perhaps the most beautiful and spectacular spot on the entire trip. From Lagazuoi the Alta Via 1 embarks on a spectacularly scenic path, a somewhat exposed and thrilling traverse along the awesome southern flank of the massive Tofane di Rozes with excellent views across the Cortina valley. The Alta Via 1 then drops down into the valley briefly before making a climb to Nuvolau. En route you pass the fascinating and famous Cinque Torri area, a centre for rock climbing and well worth a detour to explore the maze of the five rock towers. From the Cinque Torri you begin the steady climb to Nuvolau, yet another rocky alpine lunar landscape with ever improving views. Nuvolau is arguably the highlight of the entire trek located on a prominent summit in the very centre of the Cortina Dolomite with an unrivalled 360 degree panorama.
Stage 4. Rifugio Nuvolau to Rifuioi Città di Fiume
Stage 4 encounters an amazing variety of Dolomite landscapes. The stage begins with the most technically challenging and most exposed part of the entire route, a series of via ferrata or cable and ladder aided stretches to descend from Nuvolau to the valley. The cables come in two rounds and are over sheer vertical and exposed slabs of rock; thrilling and vertigo inducing but short. Here you descend the rest of the way to a road pass at the valley floor where you begin ascending once again to the grassy pass of Forcella Ambrizzola (2,277m) where you begin to bid farewell to the Cortina valley and head into a beautiful pasture amphitheater backed by the impressive Monte Pelmo looming up behind it. Here you descend through patches of forest before all of a sudden the Monte Pelmo rears up incredibly close at hand, nicknamed Throne of the Gods, with the refugio Città di Fiume situated just at the base of it. This massive mountain is isolated on all sides making it extremely prominent and making it recognisable from afar for its arm-chair shape.
Stage 5.Rifugoi Città di Fiume to Rifugio Tissi
Stage 5 makes a long and steep climb past the spectacularly situated Rifugio Coldai, where you enter the realms of another awesome stone giant, the Civetta. On route up the switchbacks you get some of the best vantage points to view the beautiful, massive Pelmo towering high above the valley. From Rifugio Coldai continue over to the beautiful Lago Coldai, perhaps the most beautiful alpine lake on the whole trek. From here finish the climb to the spectacularly situated Rifugio Tissi where you get divine technicolour sunsets, some of the best in the whole of the Dolomites. Located at the top of the hill, Cima di Col Rean, you get an absolutely dizzying birds eye view to the north, a sheer drop in the valley floor below you is Lago Alleghe and an incredibly memorable panorama to the north spreads out before you with Marmolada front and centre. Behind you and also astounding, are both the Civetta and the Pelmo. The Civetta is one of the most impressive Dolomite formations, shaped like an enormous trident, it rises sharply and majestically.
Stage 6. Rifugio Tissi to Rifugio Carestiato
From Tissi you descend gently through meadows across from the phenomenal Civetta. As you round the southern most corner of the Civetta you connect to the Moiazza which soars to 10,565 feet. From here you begin a steady but steep forested climb approaching the the thrilling somewhat exposed pass of Forcella Col dell'Orso (1,823m), situated along the amazing west wall of the Moiazza group. After this follows a brief short climb to Forcella del Camp (1,933m)and the breathtaking spectacle of the Molazza Sud and its countless spires. From here you descend and traverse through larch woods and scree before reaching Rifugio Carestiato (1,834m) where you are greeted with a new view, the San Sebastiano Tamer range to the south.
Stage 7. Rifugio Carestiato to Rifugio Pian de Fontana
Stage 7 begins by descending to a road pass where you enter the Parco Nationale Delle Dolomiti Belunissi which heads through quieter and less frequented places in the San Sebastiano Tamer group. En route you pass the Forcella Dagarei (1,620m) where the panorama is vast taking in the Cordevole valley. Alta Via 1 continues and after a short climb reaches a spectacular look out just before the Forcella del Moschesin (1,940m) where you take in the Cima de Zita and Talvena formations before you. From here you begin the ascent to one of the most difficult passes on the whole trip, the Forcella de Zita Sud (2,395m). This is one of the best sections on the Alta Via 1 and takes in the magnificent rugged scenery of the Dolomiti Belunissi. You enter a wonderfully rugged rocky alpine mountainside where you can admire the stunning panoramas to the north looking out on a sea of peaks with Pelmo, Monterau and Cerafees specially impressive. After a final steep slog you reach a narrow exposed rocky ridge. Here you have several steep exposed sections along this ridge which are short but not for the faint hearted. The pass is the gateway to one of the most beautiful valleys on the Alta Via 1, the Forcella de Zita de Fora. The descent is gentle at first but steepens down a grassy hillside before reaching the Rifugio Pian di Fontana.
Stage 8 Rifugio Pian de Fontana to La Pissa bus stop
This scenic conclusion to the Alta Via 1 crosses into the wild Val Vescova which is dominated by the marvellous Schiara formation rising dizzily to 8,714 feet. From the Rifugio Pian de Fontana you quickly drop down before a short but steady wooded ascent to the grassy balcony path of Forcella Lavarezza with plunging views down before you. After passing Rifugio Bianchet you enter a dramatic and beautiful ravine as you make the final descent into the Val Cordevole where the Alta Via 1 finishes at the La Pissa bus stop.