Dolomites are the place where the history of popular via ferratas begun. The origin of "Iron paths" is to make the dangerous way through the mountains safer and easier. And it's here, in Dolomites, where we can find the most beautiful classic ones.
Old legends say, that the glittering veil, we can see around the rugged towers in the night, was made of the moonlight by dwarves. Every morning and evening the pale mountains become red and pink, because of king's Laurin hidden rose garden, where he was hiding a kidnapped princess.
Milions of years ago, there was a sea called Tethys. Corals, seaweeds and molluskst lived a the bottom of the sea and deposited their bodies to form the rock, which was later lifted up by geological forces. Sun, water, wind and erosion scuplted those magnificient shapes we can admire here and nowhere else in the world.
Dolomites are part of the Southern Limestone Alps, also called Tyrolean Alps. The name itself is not so old. The range is called after its explorer, the french geologist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu (1750 - 1801). He was one of the first to describe the mineral he discovered. This sedimentary carbonate composed of calcium magnesium carbonate differs from the limestone already known before. It did not effervesce with weak hydrochloric acid. Dolomieu showed those pieces of white rock to the french scientist Nicolas-Théodore de Saussure who gave it a sonorous name.
The highest peak is called Punta Penia (3343 m) in Marmolada massif. It is also known for its glacier and impressive south face.
Thanks to its unique geology and history, in August 2009, the Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During the First World War, the front line between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian army ran through the Dolomites. Many soldiers were killed not only by the weapons of the enemy, but also by the frost, avalanches and severe mountain conditions. Hiking in the mountains today, we still can see remains and ruins of trenches, barracks and tunnels.
Although the firts via ferrata was constructed on Dachstein by Friedrich Simony in 1843, the war contributed significantly to the construction of fixed ropa paths that made the mountain crossing safer. Souldiers installed ladders and steel ropes to secure their way. These routes were later used for many new sport routes. I personally perfer old classic routes with an interesting history before the new generation of sport routes with much more steel placed to the rock.
Panoramic Monte Paterno - 2744 m
Via ferrata De Luca Innerkofler – Paternkofel Klettersteig
An introduction roufe of moderate difficulty can be the Monte Paterno / Patrenkofel ascent. It was a strategic lookout tower during the world war I to overlook the Forcella Lavaredo pass (2454 m). To control this spot meaned to see any single move of the enemy in the pass. Italians were the first to settle at the summit in july 1915.
An austrian mountain guide and soldier Sepp Innerkofler tried to konquer the position by climbing the mountain secretly in the night. His hand-grenade didn't explode and he was killed by italians protecting their position. They burried his body near the top of the mountain. Later he was burried in Sexten, his native village. There is a small monument near the summit cross today.
The via ferrata strats at the Locatelli hut (Dreizinnen Hütte). It it the one with the most beautiful view of Tre Cime towers, the iconic sambol of Dolomites. You climb the north ridge, partly through the tunnels made by soldiers (take a headlamp - asl allways...). After the galerias, there is a slightly exposed climb to the summit (difficulty up to grade C).
The summit view is a reward and the great way to know and admire other beautiful rocky peaks of Dolomites.
Topo and more info in german:
Ladder way to heaven to Toblinger Knoten
Leiternsteig to Torre di Toblin / Toblinger Knoten (2617 m)
The day doesn't have to end by Monte Paterno. There is another lookout nearby. The rugged Torre di Toblin was also a subject of severe fights more than hundred years ago. Austrians used it as a base for the attemtp to conquer the neighboring Sextener Stein occupied by Italians. They lost and reconquer it in one day in spring 1916.
The Via Ferrata name itself mentions thel ladders. They are installed almost all the way up in the rocky chimneys. An exposed path is graded C.
You can descend alond the easier (B) Feldkurat-Hosp-Steig (B)
Topo and more info in german:
The access to both of there ferratas is along the south face of Tre Cime towers. A mountain road ends at the Rifugio Auronzo hut. There is an easy hiking route to the Locatelli hut. Alternatively you can start at Lago d'Antorno with additional 450 m of altitude.
War history is everywhere in Dolomites, so if you are interrested, there are more hikes for you. Technically easy "tunnel" route from Lagazuoi to Passo Falzarego worths seeing. There is a cablecar from the pass to the mountain. Then you can descend along the trail with plenty of old tunnels and barracks around. It's called Galerie Lagazuoi.
Even easier is the neighboring Hexenstein / Sass de Stria or famous Monte Piana.
Ferrata Giovanni Lipella to Tofana di Rozes (3225 m)
Dolomites are not only tunnels, but there is one not to be missed. Galeria del Casteletto is a part of beautiful farrata Giovanni Lipella (difficulty C/D). It was excavated during the fights for casteletto, a mountain fort at the southwest foot of Tofana, near the Forcela Col dei Bos pass. A sport ferrata route named after an italian soldier was opened in 1967.
It is a loop around the mountain which can be shortened or extended by climbing to the summit cross. Be prepared for a whole day trip with the possibility od snow fields even in the summer.
From the Angelo Dibona hut pass the impressive 800 m high Tofana south face and continue clockwise to the beginning of via ferrata. It starts with a 300 m long tunnel (wear a headlamp as always...). You can see old ladders and wooden structures at the lower tunnel entrance. Once you leave the tunnel, you realise that you gained a lot of altitude. Continue along rocky terraces and steep climbs.
There is a small rock tower called Tre Dita, where you can decide whether to descent to Fontananegra pass or climb more iron ropes to the top. The way down passes by the Camillo Giussani hut anyway. There ale also some ruined barracks along the way.
Topo and more info in german:
Iron route to the highest of Tofanas
Giuseppe di Olivieri and Gianni Aglio to Tofana di Mezzo (3244 m)
Neighboring Tofana di Mezzo offers a beautiful, long and difficult ridge climb with some alternatives. It basically starts at the Rifugio Pomedes hut, but it make sense to hike another 250 m of altutude from Rifugio Dibona.
The via ferrata leads along the south ridge of Tofana passing Punta Anna and Torre Aglio. There are some escape options from this long route. It is more than recomended to get informed before you start. Last of them leaves the trail at the large roc arch called Bus di Tofana. From here you can descent to Fontananegra pass.
The upper part of the ferrata stretches along the western side of the ridge. The summit view worths climbing. From the top you can descent to Bus de Tofana and Giussani hut, or use the cable car to get to the city.
There is an opfion for experienced athletes as well. Continue along the easy ferrata Formenton to the small summit cross at neighboring Tofana di Dentro (3238 m) and passing Forcella Formenton descent to Ra Vales station. The day is not over yet here. The descent to Pomedes hut is also equippeg with iron ropes.
Make sure you are in a perfect condition and the weather is very stable before you attempt this great loop.
Topo and more info in german:
This brief list can include every mountain and ferrata worth climbing. There are many more. For example:
Demandig Cezare Piazzeta to the top of Piz Boe (3 152 m) in the heart of Sella massif. It is considered to be one of the most difficult routes in Dolomites.
Other, technically pretty easy (B) ferrata Ivano Dibona is also called Panorama-Klettersteig. From Rifugio Son Forca (Passo di Tre Croci) climb a long ridge to Refugio Guido Lorenzi, alternatively to the summit of Cristallo di Mezzo. It was here, at the 27 long suspension bridge near the hut, where the Cliffhanger well-known scene was filmed.
Marmolada Westgrat Klettersteig (Hans-Seyffert-Weg) is a favorite way to get to the highest point of Dolomites Punta Penia (3343 m). You can make your ascent easier by using an airy cable car to the Pian dei Fiacconi hut. It is an attraction itself.
Than traverse to the western ridge and climb an easy via ferrata. Be equipped for a glacier hike on the way back.
Oposite ridge to the north from Lago di Fedaia (beautiful dam in the pass) can be reached by ferrata Delle Trincee (C/D) to the summit of La Mesola (2727 m). It is the best way to enjoy the panorama of Marmolada glacier
And what are your favorite ferratas ? :-)