A short spring excursion to Son Pouses
Today I suggest an easy hike to Son Pouses, which was a very important fortification of the Schützen during the First World War. Son Pouses is located on the southern slopes of Croda de r’Ancona. The hike is a two-hour circular route that doesn’t present any technical difficulties. Especially in spring, when snow at higher altitudes precludes access to other wonderful corners of the Dolomites, climbing to Son Pòuses can be an excellent alternative.
The hill, as it is not a real Dolomite peak, rises to a height of 1829 meters above the Alemagna road. During the Great War, Son Pouses became a strategic point to prevent the advance of Italian troops to the north. But I’ll tell you more about that later, for now let’s talk about our short hike.
Description of the hike
From Cortina, drive to Tornichè. Tornichè is the first hairpin bend on the Cortina – Dobbiaco road, about 8.5 kilometers from the center of Cortina. Here you will find ample parking, and the narrow road that leads to Malga Ra Stua begins. The location is called S. Uberto, the patron saint of hunters.
Circular itinerary to Son Pouses
What I am about to describe is a circular route, which I suggest in a clockwise direction. In case you want to do it counterclockwise, you will have the possibility to extend it and continue to Malga Ra Stua .
At the beginning of the road that goes up to Ra Stua, just beyond the barrier, we take a path on the left that indicates the “Pedestrian path to Malga Ra Stua”. The path enters gently into the woods, and then becomes steeper and reaches the paved road.
Shortly afterwards, on the opposite side of the road, the path continues uphill to a viewpoint from where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Tofane Mountains and Valon Bianco. Now our path runs for a short stretch parallel to the road, until a fork. We are at an altitude of 1551 m, and clear signs indicate the way to reach Son Pouses.
Here the real climb begins, first in the woods, then on scree. Shortly you reach another fork: to the left for Malga Ra Stua, but we take a right towards our destination.
Climbing diagonally up the scree, we regain the forest. Some ruins of the old soldiers’ shelters almost appear suddenly, a sign that we are almost at Son Pouses.
And in fact, here we are at the finish line, where we can enjoy a magnificent view of the valley below and some majestic peaks of the Dolomites. Wandering around a bit, you will discover fortifications, trenches, and galleries, sad memories of hardships and suffering.
On the flat summit, you will also find, strangely, some fruit trees, now withered, called the “Meli di Son Pouses” (Son Pouses apple trees). Some suggest that the trees were planted by the Standschützen during the Great War, while others argue that they grew spontaneously from the cores of fruits eaten in the trenches during the fighting. However, the truth will never be known.
After a well-deserved rest, the descent begins, sometimes steep but still without difficulties. In about twenty minutes, you will arrive at the base of high limestone slabs, equipped for sport climbing.
The Son Pouses crag was one of the first climbing spots in Cortina, equipped by the Scoiattoli in the early 1980s. What characterizes this crag compared to other cliffs in Cortina is the type of rock, which in this case is not dolomia but beautiful limestone with vertical slabs.
Elevation gain: 410 meters
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Map: Tabacco Map No. 03 – Cortina d’Ampezzo and Dolomiti Ampezzane – scale 1:25,000
Son Pouses during wartime
The darkness is impenetrable, especially in the woods, and the entire slope of Son Pouses echoes with monstrous screams, no longer human voices, but animalistic. Moans, hoarse cries, sometimes faint and sometimes shouted lamentations, weeping, calls with indescribable sounds that make your skin crawl. An infernal circle that envelops the mountain, made up of a thousand chilling echoes of the soldiers immobilized on the ground.
Taken from the book “Il soldato che correva”, chapter “La montagna”, paragraph 10.
The Son Pòuses outpost dominates the underlying access road to Dobbiaco and offers an unparalleled view towards the Ampezzo valley.
In 1915, at the beginning of the war, Cortina d’Ampezzo was the smallest Captaincy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Austrians immediately realized that Cortina was difficult to defend and abandoned the valley in May, even before the beginning of the war.
And it was precisely at Son Pouses, as well as on the Croda de r’Ancona and nearby ridges, that the Austro-Hungarians set up the defensive barrier against the Italian advance northward.
Already in 1913, in anticipation of an armed conflict with Italy, Son Pouses was transformed into a fortified stronghold. On May 19, five days before the start of the war, 135 Ampezzan soldiers and 60 head of livestock were sent to Son Pouses. At the outbreak of the war, the defense of the area was entrusted to the Ampezzan Schützen, who were able to see the devastating effect of the shells that, from Son Pòuses, bombarded Cortina.
For the Italians, who planned to reach the Brenner Pass through the Puster Valley, the Son Pòuses barrier represented an obstacle to overcome at any cost.
The first attempt dates back to June 7-8, 1915, when Italian troops climbed the small valley that borders on the right the gray wall of Son Pòuses, but had to stop in front of the implacable fire of machine guns.
I won’t go into detail about the war events, of which my knowledge is very limited. Suffice it to say that in the second attempt to conquer the sector (June 7-27, 1915), the Italians lost 324 men, to whom were added 2826 wounded and 85 missing.
Son Pòuses proved once again impregnable, even more deadly as its artillery relentlessly bombarded Italian positions towards Val Grande, Creste Bianche, Val Felizon and Forame.
And Son Pòuses, despite the continuous attacks, was never conquered by Italian troops.
As I mentioned above, since it’s a loop trail, it’s possible to do the hike in the counterclockwise direction as well. In this case, to take the trail, you need to go up along the asphalt road for about 150 meters past the barrier until you reach a signpost on the right indicating Son Pouses.
If you decide to do the loop in the counterclockwise direction, you can choose to extend it in the following way: once you reach the summit of Son Pouses, you begin the descent into the forest on the west side. Along the way, you will come across the ruins of some brick barracks.
You cross a scree and continue downhill until you reach a junction with clear indications. Taking a right turn, after a short climb and a long almost flat stretch, the trail will take you to the Ra Stua farmhouse. To close the loop, all you have to do is descend briefly along the road, taking advantage of the numerous characteristic pedestrian crossings, such as the “Sentiero delle cascate del Boite” (Path of the Boite waterfalls).