Alpe di Fanes Walk – Dolomites
July 25, 2014
Yesterday we were rained out and had to turn back after taking the gondola to Jimmy Hutte. The weather is still variable and the walk planned for today is to Fanes and a malga that is now a rifugio. If the weather holds we can go further to the Refugio Fanes.
We pass San Cassiano and turn left onto a paved road heading uphill and just past 9:30 we are in large parking lot just below the Capanna Alpina (1720 m). The sky is a perfect summer blue with high white puffy clouds. We are surrounded by the mountains and below the parking lot runs a small river.
The trail starts out through a small park with tables and benches and tall pine trees and in the background mountains. Within a few minutes we are crossing a wood bridge over one of the many crystal clear mountain streams we will see today. The sound of water follows us sometime from the streams, or actually babbling brooks describes the sound and feel quite accurately, and sometimes from water cascading down the rock faces in long white columns.
This first part of the trail winds uphill along a shaley path. There are logs across the trail to hold the rocks in place and they create this step effect.
The trail climbs up through a forest of mugho pines and other coniferous trees, a rich dark green in my peripheral vision. I focus on keeping a steady pace and placing my boots firmly and confidently. I also want to keep the stride short and low. This way I can regulate my breathing a bit better and I am not hauling my body weight upwards. I still need to take a few breaks to catch my breath but I am not winded and able to thoroughly appreciate the mountain landscape.
On the last part of this climb there is a wooden railing which psychologically makes me forget that I am walking along a bit of a precipice. There is a small gate and then a few more meters uphill and you are in a flowery meadow overlooking the trail that we have taken up and the green valley below.
Fifty minutes of uphill climb to reach the Col de Locia (at 2069 m) look-out. The view itself is a great reward for the climb up. Then the capogita calls me over to where he is standing by the safety fence. He points to the flowers but I am not sure what he is trying to show me. Then my eyes go to a white flower – stella alpina – edelweiss. These are the first early blooms – silvery white and star-shaped. The flowers and the leaves are fuzzy almost fur covered to survive the winters. To me they symbolize this image I have in my mind of the alps – rugged, crisp, clean, walking through flower strewn meadows on a summer day. I have been asking all week if we will see the stella alpina. Now here I am on a perfect summer day in the alps feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the spectacular walks we have been on and just amazed that I am actually seeing edelweiss.
As we continue down the trail I see a low shrub that looks familiar – blueberries with some bell-like pinkish white flowers just starting to bloom. The low bright green sassifrax around it is also very reminiscent of when we used to go blueberry picking in Abitibi.
We leave the conifers behind as we cross a wooden bridge again over a crystal clear brook and enter a rock strewn alpine pasture. And as we walk the soothing sound of water on stones keeps us company. Mountains rise on both sides of the pasture. We are on Le Gran Plan – Plains. During WWI Lagazuoi and M.te Sief were the front lines and observation points high in the mountains, this area was where the barracks, kitchens and supplies were located in the fight for the Sud-Tyrol.
We cross a small log walk over a stream and pass cows and horses pasturing contentedly in an area that has more rocks than grass. Grey clouds have been swirling around for a while and now it is starting to rain – just sprinkling so we decide to keep going.
The ground is muddy from the rain and the hoof prints of the cows and gets wetter as we walk along the Ju dal’ Ega – Piano del aqua.
The Gran Majarei is full of big flat-topped rocks wet and shiny. We see huge rocks that were blown off the side of the mountain by artillery fire in WWI.
We reach the Rifugio – Malga Alpe di Fanes Grande – Utia de Gran Fanes (Ladin) at 2102 m. A malga is the name for the building where the people looking after the cows lived. This was also where the cows were milked and the cheese was made while the cows were in these summer pastures. This one has been here for some time and the wood is weathered grey and brown.
We head up the hill and to Lago Limo – Le de Limo at 2159 m. It is a tiny blue-green alpine lake. At one time there was an alpine hotel here and I saw pictures in a guide book of people out in row boats though I am thinking the lake may have been a bit bigger at that time. We try to ignore the clouds but then decide that it is best to head back and not continue on to the Rifugi Fanes – about 15 minutes away.
We stop at the now abandoned Caserma dei Alpini to eat our panini. There are grey clouds circling around the mountains summits as we head back on the trail. We do take the time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the brook as it falls over the small rusty colored rocks.
It is now raining lightly and we pull on the rain jackets. By the time we reach the Gran Plan it is pouring and we stop to put on the ponchos and take out the umbrellas. With umbrella in hand I can no longer use the walking poles and the trail is even more slippery but we have to pick up the pace. So I focus on sure, confident steps. My pant legs from the shins to the top of my boots are soaked and they cling to my legs and the water is running down my hands and arms as I hold the umbrella up. But it is not cold and the air has this fresh washed scent that makes for a still enjoyable walk. As we climb the hill back up to the Col de Locia the sun pops out again. Off with the ponchos, put the umbrellas down to dry and it is almost as if it never rained.
We take some time to enjoy the edelweiss once again and take some more pictures.
The walk down the hill is of course a little more slippery because the stones are wet. But I feel that I am finally understanding where to place my feet – it is no longer a haphazard hope for the best approach! And as always on the descent I am able to enjoy the scenery – the green valley below, the mountains around us.
Back at the Capanna Alpina and the cold beer tastes really good! This is our last walk and while it was not as challenging as the others, it felt as if I was finally able to pull it all together, apply what I had been coached to do and above all – I lived and loved the walk!