The trail we chose for our first day in this summer Dolomites trip starts from Monte Pana parking area (approx. 1600 meters above sea level), which is easily reachable from Santa Cristina di Val Gardena via car, bus or gondola. A few hundred meters from the beginning the trail brings you in a nice forest, with a gentle slope that seems too easy to be true, especially considering that our destination is Rifugio Vicenza (aka Langkofelhütte), at 2253 meters above sea level, for an overall altitude difference of approx. 650mt.
However, the easy start is a good warm up, as this is our first Dolomites trail on our first day…we definitely needed a warm welcome, which is even warmer thanks to the nice weather and temperature. This goes on for a couple of kilometers, which allows us to enjoy the quiet and the green all around us.
There are other people around, but there is room for everyone, especially because mountain trails attract people that love nature, therefore there is a deep respect for everything around you.
What was initially a wide trail, turns left in a smaller, steeper trail that climbs the side of Mount Pana in a denser forest. This is the beginning of the real climb to Rifugio Vicenza.
The slope is steeper and the presence of mud slows us down a bit, even though we see other people around going at Flash Gordon speed compared to us… It’s not the slope, it’s not the mud…It’s just us, dealing with our first dolomitic trail (and we’re still in the forest).
At the end of the ascent to monte pana (we could have used the gondola to reach a higher altitude and then take the final hike) the forest ends and we can clearly see that the remaining portion of the trail is going to be harder.
We can clearly see Rifugio Vicenza, right below the spectacular Sassolungo, and we can clearly see that the trail will get us there under the sun, with narrow rocky turns and a steep slope. It’s going to be a good test for our legs which are used to different hikes.
Despite the slope, the view is simply spectacular, and there is a great sense of achievement in getting to our first destination, our first mountain hoot. It’s time for lunch, a well deserved sandwich, some rest and a coffee (I need coffee after lunch, its almost mandatory!).
On the left of Rifugio Vicenza there is a trail, probably harder, that leads to another mountain hoot, called Rifugio Toni Demetz. We have to decide if we want to get there, or if it would be better to call it a day, get back to our car and save energy for the following days.
Weather forecast calls for rain showers in the late afternoon, and considering that it is probably too late to be able to get to next hoot in time to return to our car before sunset, we decide not to go any further.
We relax on a grass spot, and then we take our way back to the car. We decide to follow almost the same path used to get up here, because all the other options don’t seem to offer (on paper) a particular reason to take them and prolong our descent time. On the way back, the steep, rocky path starts to hurt our knees. Even though we are used to walking long trails, we’re just not used to absorb this rocky surface and our knees are letting us know. Nothing to worry about of course, but it’s a weird feeling.
We decide to skip part of the forest and take a shorter way to go down. We did not take this road on our way up because we thought it would be easier to keep going in the forest as much as we could to get some shade from the sun.
While getting back to the starting point, we receive a greatly appreciated gift from the mountain. A bunch of horses of different shapes and age crosses our road, and we get to enjoy their presence for a good 10 minutes. It’s the perfect excuse to slow down, get some rest, and watch them wander around the area.
It is now time to wrap up all of our stuff, and to finally get to our car. The remaining part of the trail is easy, perfectly fine for our legs and for our minds.
This first day couldn’t have been better. We got to see one of the most iconic mountains of the dolomites, the Sassolungo (it means “the long rock”), and its different twin, the Sassopiatto (the flat rock), a beautiful forest and horses. Everything worked fine for us and, even if our legs hurt a bit… Who cares? It was exactly what we were looking for. Hiking, nature, mountains, fresh air and relax.
We finally get back home, have a refreshing shower and cook our dinner… Can it get better than that? Stay tuned for the next posts to find out!
Note: Some of the places shown in the posts from our Dolomites trip were dramatically hit by unexpected severe weather conditions at the end of October 2018. Strong winds and heavy rains damaged several woodland, villages and hiking trails. Images and descriptions on my blog refer to a trip we had almost 3 months before (beginning to mid August 2018). What shown in this blog may differ from what is the current status. I’m not aware of all the damages created by the weather, therefore this general note will be inserted in all the following posts. For those areas that I know for sure were damaged, I will point it out in the description.