Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Trekking the Alta Via 1 with children

In late June 2016 we went for a hiking trip in the north of Italy doing a portion of the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites.

We landed in Milan and rented a Fiat 500L Trekking which we will throughout the trip refer to as "our monstrosity". Next came a long drive on the autostradas towards Cortina d'Ampezzo, including a 20 minute nap for me at an Autogrill near Venice. We got to Cortina d'Ampezzo successfully and started looking for the road towards Rifugio Dibona, where we'd spend the night and leave the car for a week. The initial attempt to follow Google Maps directions wasn't very successful as the road kept getting steeper and steeper and more and more rocky, until we agreed we should turn back. That we did, and managed to find the right road after making a detour.

The next morning we departed towards Rifugio Laguzoi. It was a nice hike until we got to Laguzoi where the snowy slopes started. They didn't seem that dangerous as they weren't very exposed, but the children found them quite difficult and were slipping on the snow, which they didn't find very amusing.

On the way from Rif. Dibona to Rif. Laguzoi
On the way to Rifugio Laguzoi

It took us nearly 5 hours to get up there and we were somewhat surprised to see the many other tourists who had also managed to do it. Turns out a cable car goes from the parking down below to the refuge, which had taken them all up!

Next morning I took a short morning hike to the nearby Piccolo Laguzoi, which afforded lovely views to the valley below and Rifugio Laguzoi.

From Piccolo Laguzoi
From Piccolo Laguzoi

Then the girls also got ready and we proceeded from Rifugio Laguzoi to Rifugio Scotoni, which was a relatively straightforward hike with Lake Laguzoi with "fishies" as an intermediate stop, and a long descent in the end. At Scotoni the girls were happy to see a dog and a few alpacas, we played cards and had a nice meal.

Leaving Rifugio Laguzoi
Towards Rifugio Scotoni
Dog & alpacas

The next day from Riguio Scotoni to Rifugio Fanes was the most challenging of them all, as there was a thunderstorm with plenty of rain and wind. Not all of us were sufficiently prepared with proper rain gear, and even those who were didn't enjoy the weather.

We made a detour to avoid a mountain pass which lost valuable altitude, and made an intermediate stop at refuge Gran Fanes where we had some pancakes and warmed up. In the end, we got to Rifugio Fanes successfully which reminded us more of a hotel than a refuge.

In the rain

The rain clouds had cleared the next morning and we went from Rifugio Fanes to Rifugio Pederu.

Towards Rifugio Pederu

The next day was one of the longest and we had to go from Rifugio Pederu to Rifugio Biella which is about 1.1km elevation gain in some 11km, but the girls were in good shape by then and coped easily.

Leaving Rifugio Pederu
Towards Rifugio Sennes

Rifugio Biella was the most rustic of the refuges we stayed in, but also felt the most authentic and served great pasta bolognese.

At Rifugio Biella three of us decided to go for a short walk up a nearby peak which was a nice evening walk. A local dog was leading the way and watched after the girls when I left them for a brief moment to scramble up the very top.

From Rifugio Biella
Dog leading the way
From a small peak near Rifugio Biella
View from Rifugio Biella
View from Rifugio Biella
View from Rifugio Biella
View from Rifugio Biella
View from Rifugio Biella
View from Rifugio Biella

The next day was our last day of hiking, going from Rifugio Biella to Lago di Braies (also called Pragser Wildsee), taking a bus from Lago di Braies to Dobbiaco, then another from Dobbiaco to Cortina d'Ampezzo, then another one to a bus stop relatively close to Rifugio Dibona. Due to partly luck and partly my good planning, we only had a few minutes between each bus and it all worked really well.

Departing Rifugio Biella
Towards Lago di Braies
Towards Lago di Braies
Approaching Lago di Braies
Approaching Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies
The last kilometers from the bus stop to Rifugio Dibona met quite a lot of resistance as some of us had assumed that the hiking had finished by this point. Still, staying at the forest was not an option, and when Rifugio Dibona was finally visible the attitude immediately changed from "I cannot walk any more, my legs are falling off" to "let's have a race!". We had a nice dinner at Rifugio Dibona and went for a short walk to shoot some pictures of the nearby mountains.
View from Rifugio Dibona
View from Rifugio Dibona
View from Rifugio Dibona

Overall, we had a lovely time on the Alta Via 1, it was very child friendly and we would certainly return there with children. If we were just adults, I'd probably prefer a less touristy long distance path, but with children this was perfect.

Thus having finished the hiking portion, we got in "our monstrosity" and drove to Lake Garda, where we visited Gardaland, which was really quite nice as much as such attraction parks can be.

The next days we stayed at an agriturismo not very far from Lago d'Iseo, where the Floating Piers exhibition had brought so many other tourists that while we managed to walk from Iseo to Sulzano, we didn't get to visit Monte Isola or enjoy the area much.

We stayed at Agriturismo Locanda Macina where the proprietor made us feel very welcome.

Next we spent a few days at Stresa, visiting the islands on Lago Maggiore, the bobsled at Alpyland and Orta town (where we had a long walk at Sacro Monte di Orta with more chapels in one place than I've ever seen).

Isola Bella on Lago di Maggiore
Isola Superiore della Pescatori at Lago Maggiore
Lago Maggiore
Orta main square
Lago d'Orta
L'isola di San Giulio

Overall, this was a very successful trip with everything going according to plan and the plan turning out to be a very good one.