Mountain flowers and a Via Ferrata – A New Experience!
A TRUE STORY by David Tomley – It appened on June 14, 2017
We had decided that during our summer break this year we would follow a route to take in as many of Zaha Hadid’s architectural projects as possible! This meant that part of our journey would pass through the Dolomite region of Northern Italy.
We knew a little about how vie ferrate had been constructed there during WW1 to allow heavy laden Italian troops to climb up and access various mountainous areas and that they were now being used for recreational purposes. We thought that we should have a go!
Both of us have backgrounds in biological science and are amateur naturalists. We wanted to combine trying a via ferrata with looking at alpine flowers.
So we contacted Enrico via his Guide Dolomiti website and chatted on email before we arrived in Cortina. He came up to the agriturismo where we were staying and listened to our ideas, while drinking a few biciclette!
He said he would provide all the necessary kit and guidance for our day, but was keen to ask us about our footwear. He looked at our Vibram soled, sturdy shoes and pronounced them ideal. He advised us to bring a sweater and waterproof shell in a small rucksack, as despite it being June, the weather in the mountains can change very quickly.
Next morning Enrico took us in his car to the start of our day in the mountains. To our surprise it began with a ski lift!
As we sped over pine trees with their scents all around us, we could see ahead the shining white limestone peak that we were about to climb. It was really exciting!
The trees gave way to upland grass as the lift came to its end and we walked slowly up a track towards Rifugio Averau, stopping frequently to look at views and mountain flowers.
We three were the only people around.
The silence, the scenery, the sunshine, together with the powerful proximity of the peaks, all combined to magnify the majesty of the mountains. Enrico watched us, smiling as he saw us absorbing the surroundings. This was his backyard, his domain and he was proud and pleased to be sharing his love of it with us…
We reached the base of the climb and began a steep traverse across a scree slope to the base of the rock and the start of the via ferrata. Here Enrico told us how to conduct ourselves on the iron way. He was clear and concise and we felt entirely secure to be with him. He told us about the techniques necessary; to use our legs to push up, rather than our arms to pull ourselves up; about the use of the carabiners and about the importance of gloves.
For additional security we roped up. Enrico led and then the two of us went up the first pitch, keeping the recognised distance between us. It was exhilarating and engendered a feeling associated with flowing endorphins! We proceeded in this way to the end of the iron way. The distance was not great, but the steepness was.
Along the way we found lots of mountain flowers.
At the top, we rested and just enjoyed sitting on the stone. The views were spectacular as was the sense of achievement. It was here that I told Enrico that I was eighty three! Mind, I am reasonably fit, a regular walker and not overweight.
We came down a different way and ended back at the Cinque Torri, where we had a congratulatory drink in the bar.
We spent a sobering hour looking around the WW1 fortifications, gun emplacements and accommodation that was used by Italian soldiers in the 1915-18 era.
We strolled in a leisurely manner, with frequent stops to photograph the flora, back down to the car. The aromas of low growing herbs like thyme, were noticeable, and the calls of the coughs, the smells of the pines and the contentment of the company made a most fitting end to the day.
A day made possible by Enrico who knew where to take us, how to look after us and who clearly had listened to our wishes.
We loved the mountain flowers and via ferrata!
Without his local knowledge, his experience and his ability to relate well to people, our day would have been so much poorer. So we had a day in the countryside of the Dolomites filled with experiences for the body, things to reflect on, food for the mind, the senses and the emotions – thank you Enrico!