We’d camped for the night between Cortina and the start of the hike at Rifugio Auronzo. I was extremely worried about being able to park our van, so to increase our chances, I set an alarm and set of at 7:30AM.
I knew that the road from Misurina to Rifugio Auronzo was a toll road, but I wasn’t sure just how expensive it was. To save the suspense, it was an eye-popping €40! Our other options were to catch a bus, which when parking in Misurina was included, worked out to be around the same price. The fee is for 24hrs, which if we’d known, I’d have tried to drive up here last night, allowing us to have a more relaxing start to the morning.
We came here for the views of Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the iconic spires of rock that jut out of the ground like fingers. Once we’d gotten to the top of road, we were equally amazed with the other mountains that were all around us. They were just as jagged and impossibly aggressive as those in Aiguilles du Midi in Chamonix. It felt like the kind of landscape you see in video games – which feel fantastical and unbelievable. I guess the designers had been (or at least seen) here before.
It was surprisingly quiet, too, with the car park mostly empty. By the time we’d prepared for the day, including eating breakfast, crowds were starting to gather and intensify. I’d heard that it can get quite unbearable at times, with large tour groups, as well as dogs, families and people with loud speakers. I love the serenity from solitude when hiking, so wanted to avoid the above at all costs.
The trail started quite easy, with a mostly flat and smooth path that followed the contours of the lower slopes of these giant spires of rock. It was actually a little telling once we saw a family walking back pushing a baby stroller…
The morning had been a little cloudy, with a forecast for rain in the afternoon. As the sun rose, the clouds that clung to the peaks of the mountains started to burn off, leaving us with stunning vivid blue skies
It took us a little over thirty minutes to be in a position to be able to clearly see the beautiful spires that make this walk to famous. They were truly monumental in scale, and the beauty really can’t be conveyed in words of images.
About half-way around the main trail, we decided to take a small deviation to something a little more remote – and to make the hike a little more substantial. We saw a trail snaking it’s way up a mountain far in the distance, assuming it to be a part of a completely unrelated climb – it wasn’t, this is where we were headed, and it was only a fraction of the way around the extra loop!
Thankfully this loop was far less popular, with only the occasional other hiker. This not only made the walking more enjoyable, it also gave us the chance to see some marmots! Risa was giddy with excitement – I was also more than chuffed to see these cute little creatures. They started so cautious, with just a fraction of a head poking out of their hole, slowly climbing out a little further, and eventually leaving the safety of their burrow, and running away into the distance, waggling their fat butts and cute tails. Risa was enamoured.
The marmots served as a brief distraction from the climbing we’d have to do. We’d reach one climb, only to realise that there was yet another hidden from view. And then again another, just around a corner. We’d had cool temperatures at the start of the hike, but the sun was as brutal as ever. There was no shade, and little respite from the rising temperatures. This, coupled with the steep climbs and high altitude made for slow going. It’s safe to say that this additional loop was far longer and more difficult than we’d anticipated. Not even the usual trick of ice into my cap could do much to add comfort.
The trail eventually flattened out, following the contours of a steep gravelly slope. There was a beautifully blue lake down below, which I’d wanted to get closer to when I’d looked at the map, but now that we were here, and it was far below the trail, there was pretty much no way that I was going to walk down there, knowing I’d have to walk back up again afterwards – regardless how alluring those blue waters looked.
We rejoined the main loop, and were shocked at how busy and noisy it was. There were far more people than when we’d left the trail, and they were far disruptive – both audibly, as well as blocking trails.
We were also shocked to learn that the Locatelli mountain hut we’d been walking towards was shut. It didn’t have any drinking water available – not even if we’d wanted to buy it. We’d been counting on this to refill our bottles for the final stretch back to the car. It was a surprisingly long walk back to the car park, with several short but steep climbs. It was made more difficult trying to ration our water to last to the end. There was occasional shade from the clouds in the skies, however, it didn’t feel like we were getting any respite from the heat. The views weren’t as spectacular as this morning, with a haze growing, as well as being in the shadows.
This was true until we were near the car park again, and the view to the jagged spires to our south were out of this world. They were now free of their clouds, and they truly appeared like something from a bad computer animation.
Getting closer to the Tre Cime we were amazed that it looked like a crude 3D printing.
We made it back to the car, and immediately consumed 2L of water between us. Our clothes and shoes were soaking wet from sweat, so we changed and left them out in the late afternoon sun to dry. While this was happening, Risa cooked up some amazing ramen that her parent’s had brought over from Japan when they visited last year. It was exactly what we wanted to eat after that hard day of hiking. It was incredible to enjoy the view from the comfort of our motorhome, with views far superior than just about any restaurant we’d been to.
The sun was now getting much lower in the horizon, and a small party was taking place in the motorhome car park. The peaks were starting to glow rose, and create dramatic shadows. Temperatures had dropped dramatically, so much so that after being outside in the wind for 15-minutes, I returned to the van a shivering mess.
The parking was for 24hr, and because I’d arrived a little after 7:30AM, we had to leave tonight – rather than face another ‘early’ morning.
I don’t know if I can convey with words or images just how spectacular this area was. Truly one of the most beautiful places we’d ever been. We were both a little worried that nothing would compare.