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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dolomite Mountains Snowshoe Trek in Northern Italy - Part 2

The clouds hid the top half of the mountains for the entire first two days of our snowshoe trip in the Dolomite Mountains of northern Italy.  When we arrived at the refuge at the end of our second day, the owner told us that the trail we planned on using the next morning hadn't been touched in three days.  On top of that, it was going to continue snowing all night.  So, for the person at the front of the group (Jiri), every step would sink deep into the snow.  It wouldn't be all that easy for the second in line either.  On top of that, tomorrow was going to be the longest day, in terms of distance and altitude change, of the whole trip.

So, as soon as we put our backpacks down, Jiri asked if we wanted to do more hiking.  We begged off since there wasn't much to see with all the clouds, and we'd had a wet and cold morning.   So, he took off hiking on the trail as fast as he could for a couple of hours, solely to give us (and himself) an easier start to the long hike the next day.

For the second night in a row, we were the only guests staying in the refuge.  Once Jiri got back from his hike, we all went down to the dining room and had drinks with the grandfather, while one granddaughter played in a crib, and the other, a four-year old, ran up and down the halls.  Three generations live and work in the refuge.  The father is also a mountain guide who Jiri has met before.

When I woke up before dawn on the third day, it was a relief to see clear skies out the window.   Fresh snow blanketed everything, and it all looked beautiful.  Here's the view from the refuge, before the direct sunlight came down into the valley.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

While we ate our breakfast in the dining room, the mother and father bundled up their little girl for her trip to school.  Since they're not on any road, her mother drives her to school on a snowmobile. After a nice big breakfast, we started the longest hike.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

The snow was pretty deep, as  expected. The first part of the trail still had the impression left from Jiri's pre-hike the day before, covered with a few new inches of snow.  From looking at their legs, you can see how the trail was a deep groove in the snow.

Outdoors hiking snowshoeing guided trek trip travel Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir

We finally started to get a better view of the mountain peaks.  We were the only people around - no skiers, no snowshoers, just us.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

If the photos won't fit on your screen, click on any one of them to get a slideshow view of the whole set.  

Climbing toward the pass in the next valley, we passed through a forest.  It was really quiet, except for the crunch of our snowshoes.  Every once in a while a light breeze would gently topple the precariously balanced bundles of snow on the pine branches.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

More than once, it came down on our heads.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

Here, we're leaving the first valley of the day, crossing the second valley ,where no one else has been for the last three days, and arriving at the Fodara refuge (closed for the winter).  It's not buried in snow, like it looks in the picture.   There's a steep dropoff down to the back of the refuge there.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

A few minutes after we sat down on the bench at the front of the refuge, the first other person we had seen all day came walking up from the other direction - a lone Italian snowboarder planning to do some snowboarding back down the path we were taking into the next valley.  After having a snack and soaking up the sun for a bit, we got back on the trail and started heading down to the floor of the next valley.  We walked under these cliff faces on the way down.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

Looking forward from the top of the descent, we got a preview of the valley we were hiking to the  bottom of.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

The trail was pretty steep on the way down.  You can see the far side of the valley on the left.  As usual, I'm getting left behind while I stop to take a photo.  Notice Jennifer is in the lower right corner.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

Looking straight across the valley to the other side.  Probably the most impressive rock face we saw on the trip.  Rising nearly vertical from the valley floor, thousands of feet high.  Jiri casually mentioned how some ridiculously steep chutes from the top to the bottom weren't deep enough in snow to ski down this year.  We were like, what?  You've skied down THAT?!?!

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley sunrise scenic landscape dawn conifer fir red rock cliffs

After lunch at another refuge at the bottom, it was time to climb out of this valley and into the third of the day.  All afternoon, the clouds were rolling by, their shadows passing over the mountains.  I was always trying to catch moments with sunlight on the rock.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees valley scenic landscape conifer fir red rock cliffs

After a steep climb up out of the third valley of the day, we emerged into the fourth, with more rugged, rust-colored, snow-dusted peaks.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees steep cliffs snow-covered chutes valley scenic landscape conifer fir red rock cliffs

After we'd made our way further up the valley, this is the view looking back, when the sun managed to break out.  I love the angular, wind-sculpted look of the pure white hillside in the foreground.

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees steep cliffs snow-covered chutes valley scenic landscape conifer fir red rock cliffs

This was the view when were nearing the end of the hike.  You can see the sun is lower in the sky, to the West now.  Yes, at this point we've hiked from sunrise to sunset, with a couple of breaks for food, or we probably wouldn't have made it!

Italy Northern Dolomites snow mountains trees steep cliffs snow-covered chutes valley scenic landscape conifer fir red rock cliffs

After all that, and despite all my stops for photos, we arrived right about when Jiri had estimated.  That's all the photos for this very long day.  I plan to put two more sets of photos up eventually.

To see the first photo set of this trip, follow this link showing the very snowy first couple of days.

Last year, we did a snowshoe trip in the  Haute Savoie, in the French Alps.  There's a photo set for each hike of the trip - Day 1, Day 2Day 3Day 4 - including some pretty crazy ones where the wind knocked us over.




























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