In this post I describe one of the most beautiful treks in our country: alta via numero uno Dolomites. It is a wonderful trek that allows you to admire many famous and beautiful mountains: among them, the Civetta, Pelmo, Antelao and Marmolada are worth mentioning. This trek is about 150 km long with 9000 meters of elevation gain: the highest elevation reached is 2752 meters at the Lagazuoi refuge.
The Alta via Numero Uno has so many detours: this is the classic trek, done without ferratas and especially….done in reverse! Generally, in fact, the Alta Via Numero Uno is done in reverse, so from Braies to Belluno. For organizational reasons, my friend Karolina and I started from Belluno: there are no contraindications in doing this trek ‘backwards’, and anyway I will explain the pros and cons of this choice at the end.
My friend Karolina and I found ourselves in Belluno, a city easily reached by train: here we spent one night. In the morning we took the 9:20 a.m. bus to Alleghe: the driver told us to get off after about a twenty-minute ride. The forecast for the first day was unstable, indeed decidedly negative: so Karolina and I decided to walk quickly to Pian de Fontana trying to avoid the storm. The first thirty minutes of walking were quite hard: in fact, the path climbs very steeply. At the end of the trail, we turned onto a wide mountain road that connects the village of Pinei (which is on the road to Alleghe) to the Bianchet refuge: we thus discovered that there are two places that mark the beginning of Alta Via Numero Uno. After about two hours of easy walking we arrived at the Bianchet hut, used as a cappuccino break.
From Bianchet we reached the Pian de Fontana refuge in about two hours, which turned out to be quite tough: in fact, the trail initially climbs 400 meters, then descends 200 and finally climbs another 150. Reaching the Pian de Fontana refuge without taking a drop of water was very satisfying! After a nice hot shower and a hearty dinner we went to bed.
The first day was a long 14 km with an elevation gain of 1400 meters
Even at the start, we knew this stage would be tough: our predictions were definitely right!
We started from 1630 meters at Pian de Fontana at 8 am. After saying goodbye to the Sheep grazing near the refuge we began the slow and steep ascent to Forcella Zita, located at 2350 meters. It took us a little over two hours to reach the fork: the fog did not allow us to fully appreciate the view. From the fork you descend again to 1800 meters: the first piece is a bit tricky because you go over a small ridge. At the end of the descent you can see the Sommariva refuge in the distance, which is used by those who want to split this stage into two days. Karolina and I therefore continued to Duran Pass.
The view below the Pramperet Peak is definitely very beautiful: the Moschesin Barracks made us realize that we were beginning to enter the battlefields of World War I. I personally found the hike to Duran Pass quite difficult: the length of the stage and its elevation gain made me struggle not a little! When we were about to reach Duran Pass, we found the path full of downed trees (the effects of the October 2018 flood are still definitely visible in places): a lady who went for a walk with her dog helped us find the path again (we literally had to climb over fallen trees, or crawl under them). From the Duran Pass to the Carestiato Shelter, the hike is short: the satisfaction of reaching the end of the big cap was immense!
The second day was 21 km long with an elevation gain of 1,400 meters.
The third day began with an hour-long hike that took us to a fork with a stunning viewpoint. The downside of this vantage point was a rather hostile section due to its steepness and a section on icy snow: Karolina and I well decided to go over the rocks to avoid this icy section. After a long descent we reached a mountain road that would take us, uphill, to the Vazzoler hut. Here, after about 5 hours of walking (including breaks), we had a hearty lunch.
The Vazzoler refuge is located just below Civetta: to reach the Tissi refuge we would still have had to walk about two and a half hours uphill. Walking alongside the Owl is a wonderful feeling! After three days we had the perception that we were walking in a paradise! The last stretch leading to the Tissi hut climbs quite a bit, and this meant that we reached the end of the stage hut once again decidedly satisfied!
The Tissi refuge is located at an altitude of 2250 meters and is a veritable terrace with a view of the Civetta. The sunset from here is something spectacular! Also, seeing Lake Alleghe 1000 meters below us left us breathless!
The third day was 18 km long with an elevation gain of 1,200 meters.
After bidding farewell to the Tissi hut with some regret, we descended, continuing to skirt Civetta closely. After about an hour of walking we turned around and could appreciate the Tissi in the distance and the placid Alleghe Lake well below us. Continuing to walk, we reached the beautiful Coldai Lake, which is located just before the hut of the same name. From Coldai we descended about 600 meters to Rifugio Palafavera, where we stopped for lunch. From Palafavera we took the path that led us to the Venezia refuge: the first 45 minutes were uphill, which I describe as leg-breaking without fail!
Having completed the ascent, we walked alongside the majestic Mount Pelmo for about an hour and a half to Rifugio Venezia: the last twenty minutes were in the rain, which had already made a quagmire of a section of the trail.
The Venice shelter is very beautiful! It is located just below Mount Pelmo and can be used to go around it-this was also our idea, but then we found out that the fork that connects Rifugio Venezia to Rifugio Fiume was snow-covered, so we decided that the following day we would take the easiest route to Rifugio Fiume.
Thefourth day was 18 km long with an elevation gain of 900 meters.
Having decided to avoid the Pelmo loop in the morning, we walked the same trail as the day before, obviously in reverse. In about three and a half hours we reached the Città di Fiume refuge: this hike was very nice because Pelmo is always majestic and always close. The Città di Fiume refuge is one of the easiest refuges to reach for day-trippers: its location below Pelmo,the cows, the beautiful green meadows explain why it is so popular.
From the 1750 meters of the refuge, one must climb to the 2200 meters of the Forcella Ambrizola. From here the view is something spectacular, unique: in fact, it is possible to admire Pelmo, Civetta, Marmolada, Antelao, the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, Cortina d’Ampezzo and even Lake Federa, which houses the Palmieri Refuge on its shores.
From the Fork to the Refuge is a slightly downhill hike that I would easily describe as wonderful!
The fifth day was 18 km long with an elevation gain of 800 meters.
One of the most beautiful days of the Alta Via Numero Uno! After about half an hour of walking we saw a wonderful view of the Tofane Mountains and Cortina d’Ampezzo. After about 400 meters of descent we reached the road leading from Pocol to Passo Giau: we crossed it and climbed another 400 meters, thus arriving at Rifugio Cinque Torri, just below the famous Cinque Torri. Here we stopped for a ‘second breakfast’ break: the owner of the hut recommended that we take the Five Towers tour to see the scenes of World War I. The tour is very short (you reach the Scoiattoli hut in about 45 minutes) and allows you to see the defensive positions of a hundred years ago: it is a highly recommended tour! The Five Towers are also a ‘gymnasium’ for mountaineers: it’s crazy to see so many kids engaging in climbing these towers!
From the Scoiattoli Hut, used as a lunch break, we climbed about 350 meters to the Nuvolau Hut. This is one of the most beautiful refuges in the entire Dolomites: in fact, it is possible to admire the Marmolada, Cinque Torri, Antelao, Pelmo and Civetta. It is also one of the smallest shelters: there are only 24 places available!
The sixth day was 12 km long with an elevation gain of 1,000 meters.
Another day dedicated to history, another beautiful day!
From the Nuvolau Refuge we quickly descended to the Falzarego Pass. As we walked downhill we could see the Lagazuoi Refuge high above and in the distance, watching us from its 2752 meters.
From Passo Falzarego to Rifugio Lagazuoi, two paths can be followed: climb 300 meters on a normal path and 300 meters through World War I tunnels or climb all 600 meters on a normal path. I had already walked the galleries three years ago and they had really left me speechless; Karolina wanted to know these historical pages live, so we decided to take the galleries.
I confirm without a doubt my thought from three years ago: the galleries are worth visiting! They are strenuous, they are slippery in places, they are dark (there is always a rope to help you, but you need a lamp): when you think of the fighting a hundred years ago these tunnels remain a very strong punch in the stomach.
When we arrived at the Lagazuoi refuge, we deservedly rested!
The Gps of this stage is not exactly correct as obviously in the tunnels the signal is almost nil. I think the distances reported here are a bit longer than the actual ones, while the elevation gain is correct.
The penultimate day began with a stunning sunrise that colored the Sella Group and Marmolada in red.
From Rifugio Lagazuoi we descended 700 meters back to the beautiful Rifugio Scotoni (home to two fantastic alpacas) and another 300 meters to Capanna Alpina. Here we turned right and entered Fanes – Sennes – Braies Park. After an initial climb of 300 meters, you walk through a wonderful green valley with many cows and horses.
Just before the Fanes hut a beautiful (and small) mountain lake can be seen. At the Fanes hut, reached in about five hours, we stopped for lunch. From Fanes you reach Rifugio Pederu after descending 500 meters. The weather at the Pederu hut was decidedly bad: to get to our last hut (the Sennes) we climbed very fast, taking an hour and a quarter instead of the planned two hours.
The eighth stage was 28 km long, with an elevation gain of 1,200 meters.
From the Sennes Refuge to Lake Braies is only 10 km of hiking. Only problem: we spent almost all of them in the rain! In about an hour’s walk we reached Rifugio Biella: the owner of this refuge built the famous Italian Pyramid on Everest.
A 900-meter descent begins from the Biella Refuge. There are steel ropes in the first part of the descent; Karolina and I tried to avoid using them given the lightning in the sky. After passing this part, the descent slowly became easier: seeing Lake Braies in the distance gave us joy! Once we arrived at Lake Braies we had lunch and took a bus to Monguelfo: our Alta via Numero Uno was over!
The LAST STAGE was 10 km long with an elevation gain of 350 meters.
- 150 km and 9000 meters uphill (8000 meters downhill)
- It is feasible to travel the Alta Via Numero Uno in both directions: 95% of people travel the high route from Braies to Belluno. We then walked the high route in reverse and encountered no problems: only the Forcella Zita on the second day gave us a little trouble.
- One advantage of doing the Alta Via Numero Uno in reverse is to see the most beautiful views toward the end of the trek: by the third day it is a crescendo of beauty!
- Most difficult day: the second.
- Most beautiful refuge: hard to choose, but I say Tissi.
- Most beautiful day: again hard to choose, I vote sixth.
- Most beautiful sunrise: from Rifugio Lagazuoi.
- Most beautiful viewpoint: Forcella Ambrizola, day 5.
- All the days have a shelter about halfway along the route-they are all on the road, except Sommariva, which requires a detour of about twenty minutes on the second day.
- You can tackle the Alta Via Numero Uno even with a tent. You need to book the shelters well in advance, especially the small ones like Nuvolau.
- Maximum altitude: Lagazuoi refuge, 2752 meters.
- From Belluno one must take the bus to Alleghe. There are two ideal stops to start the route: the first coincides with the beginning of a steep trail, and the second coincides with the Pinei stop (the mountain road from here is wide and easy).
- The backpack should be as light as possible. Generally, for such a trek, even a 40-liter backpack of about 10 to 12 pounds may suffice. I brought 4 underwear, 4 merino socks, 4 technical T-shirts (‘marathon’ style), 2 long-sleeved jerseys (preferably merino wool, it keeps the heat better), high mountain boots, a short shorts, a high mountain pants, a sweatshirt, a windbreaker, kway, sunglasses, hat, neck warmer, towel, flip-flops and sleeping bag.
- Let’s come to the point: the difficulties! The Alta Via Numero Uno is a trek that is generally completed in twelve days; to have finished it in nine was a small feat. I found the second day a bit tricky (particularly the Zita Fork) as the trail is narrow and on a small ridge. The third day was also exhausting at times, as the descents (and ascents) are steep at times. One must therefore be fit, certainly: the presence of so many shelters, however, helps in redistributing the stages to one’s liking. The Lagazuoi tunnels are not recommended for those with claustrophobia: it is essential to have a lamp, but they are still slippery and totally dark. In conclusion, the Alta VIa Numero Uno does not present high technical difficulties, but you still have to pay attention to the sometimes narrow paths and the elevation differences that are indeed challenging (9000 meters in 9 days is no walk!).
- We took a detour to reach Rifugio Venezia: the idea was to go around Pelmo but they reported snow on the trail so we desisted. However, the Venice Shelter is very beautiful and is a popular day trip. However, the Pelmo tour is quite difficult, as it includes a few short equipped passages.
- Other day trips: Rifugio Città di Fiume from Staulanza Pass, Rifugio e Lago di Coldai from Pramperet, Five Towers Tour, Rifugio Croda da Lago from Cortina or from the parking lot of the road leading to Passo Giau, Rifugio Lagazuoi or Rifugio Nuvolau from Passo Falzarego.
- The most famous ferrate, which as mentioned we avoided, are those leading from Passo Giau to Nuvolau and from Marmol to downtown Belluno.
- Once you get to Braies you are practically in Val Pusteria, one of the most beautiful valleys in Italy!