Jarek Krawczyk on path to Gran Cir, Gruppo di Sella, July 2004 This time we didn't think about conquering any summit, instead we wanted to check out one of the famous Italian "via ferrata". The name means "iron road" and in fact it is a rope made of steel (see photo) or sometimes a ladder allowing unexperienced alpinists to climb along dreadful looking walls. We have chosen the via Tridentina al Pisciadu at Gruppo di Sella, because it was one of the closest from Milan (still more than 300 kilometers). Only Gruppo di Brenta was closer, and we even went there a week before, but we found out that it was all covered in snow, despite the fact it was July ("this year is crazy" summed up a man from mountain shelter). Anyway, as I mentioned before, we were amateurs and we had a little problem with gathering all needed professional equipment. We borrowed two pairs of carbines from our friend and a couple of short ropes, so each of us could attach with one pair of carbines to the rope on via ferrata (it is good idea to have two carbines, since one can break when you fall down). Bigger problem was mountain gear, but I found out in one of the books how to make it from a band (special type - pipe shaped). I also borrowed an industrial-type helmet and here we go! Maybe I looked a little funny, in comparison with other guys on the track, who had all new, shiny equipment right from the alpinist stores, but after all it turned out that it did really well. As I said it was more than 300 kilometers from Milan, so we arrived at Passo Gardena on Saturday at about 10 a.m. For the first day of weekend we decided to have a little practice at Gran Cir (2592 meters above sea level). There is a little via ferrata leading to summit, but very short and, as you can see on the photo on the right, rather easy one. Still, the views from the top are delightful, because you can see from there Gruppo di Sella on one side and Gruppo del Puez on the other.

Via ferrata Tridentina al Pisciadu, Gruppo di Sella, July 2004 We planned to spend the night in camping near Corvara, but we noticed enormous number of people on bicycles on the road. We asked a woman in the shop about this (in German, formally we were in Italy, but in Southern Tirol everybody speaks German!) and she told us, that tomorrow is the Marathon of Dolomites, in which 8000 cyclists take part. For the needs of the race, the whole road around Gruppo di Sella was going to be closed from 5 a.m. to afternoon. This meant that on Sunday morning we won't be able to get from the camping to our starting point at Passo Gardena. Thus, we decided to spend the night on parking lot nearby. Normally it is forbidden to do this in Dolomites, but that night was exception because campings and hotels were overcrowded. The ground at parking lot was rocky, so we decided to sleep in our car instead of putting up the tent. Next day, we started climbing at 7 a.m. The track was described in guidebooks as medium/hard but for me only the first part was a little problematic, because the wall was covered with water coming from the stream. But it was only for the first 100 meters, the main part of via Tridentina was technically easy, even for amateurs like us. The only problem could be that you are climbing one big vertical wall, so you have chasm up to 400 meters deep under your feet. Since I have agoraphilia I was happy about it, but if you are scared of heights avoid this track. You can see the last part of via ferrata on the picture on the left. Red lines show the track and red circles show the people on it.

Bigger problem for me was that there was at least 50 people on the via ferrata. Because of that, we were climbing really slow and the whole track took us about four hours. Usually, we climbed two meters up, and then waited for two minutes for people before us to go further, so at the end I was a little bored. At the end of via ferrata we crossed a small bridge (left side of the photo) and then we arrived at Pisciadu shelter (2587 m.). We went back through Valisetus ravine, there was a small ferrata but very easy one.

To sum up, via ferrata Tridentina is a lot of fun, but it is also the reason of its popularity. Maybe it is good idea to go there in normal working days, not in weekend.

You can check out more photos of Gruppo di Sella.