Three days (and a shade under 50km) later, we have completed our hut-to-hut hike. It’s been marvelous – the scenery is stunning, the company is good and after the grim first day the weather slowly but surely improved. The cloud was high, rather than absent, but we didn’t need waterproof trousers again so I count that as winning.
We stayed the second night in the excellent Rifugio Dibona at the base of a huge hulk of rock called the Tofana de Rozes. We ambled in its imposing shadow for the latter half of the second day and the first part of the next, finally dropping down into the stunning Val Travenanzes. There is a collection of ruined fortifications at the top of the valley, left over from the First World War. I’d not really ever thought about the Italian’s part in the great war and there is some fascinating (and grim) reading about the front lines in the Dolomites. The peaks alone are estimated to have cost the lives of over 60,000 men: lines and camps put up in the summer months had to be held through harsh, pitiless winters with devastating effects. In one incident 400 men were killed by a single avalanche but it gets worse: on 13th December 1916, ‘White Friday’ 10,000 men were killed by avalanches alone. There is remarkably little evidence of the ‘War of Snow and Ice’ today but remains of old walls, trenches and some lookout posts carved into the rock are still visible, particularly at the valley entrance.
The end was an anticlimactic bus journey back to our car, abandoned at the Passo Falzarego where it all started. It seems particularly alien to be in amongst all the crowds after three days of relative solitude. Tomorrow, we shall rent some gear and attempt some via ferrata, but for now it’s a grand luxury to have a shower and a quiet, non-dorm, snoring-free room to sleep in.