Dolomites Diary Day 2
28,193 steps

After our walk from our first day in the Dolomites, I knew I needed to rethink my breakfast strategy. The previous day, I had breakfasted like it was any other day - and barely made it up the mountain behind my goat-like companions as a result. This time, I matched them bite for bite, with a huge feast of yoghurt, muesli and fruit followed by giant slabs of bread slathered in Nutella (which became our saviour throughout the week). This time, there was no way I was going to fall behind.

From Teodone, we drove for about 40 minutes along roads framed with mountains until we reached our starting point. The view was already impressive enough from the car park, which reminded me of a spot we'd stopped off at in Yosemite on the Trek America trip Michele and I met on all those years ago.

The walk began with a moderately steep incline up from the valley floor, along dry and dusty footpaths. Beneath our feet, the bushes that clung to the sparse ground sent out dry roots that curled snakelike among the stones. We clambered up and up, our starting point diminishing in size behind us until it finally disappeared behind a lip of rock, and we trekked on into the valley.

Goodbye car park!!

The path rose and dipped until we emerged onto a steady plateau that coasted a river. Here, cows grazed and lowed beside the banks, the bells around their necks sending the sound of wind chimes out into the air. We stopped for Nutella and bread sticks (which is just about the best hiking snack ever), scrambling across some odd almost volcanic-looking rock formations to find a seat. From where we sat, a herd of young cows frolicked (quite literally if you get my meaning) in the shallow river beneath us.

From here, the hard part really began. We approached the Rifugio Lavarella, which was already chucking out extremely tempting lunch smells, and then took a footpath immediately to the right of the hut. We had seen a distant footpath from our Nutella break, one that cut across the shingle in the side of a mountain. One that seemed to be impossibly far and high. This, of course, turned out to be our path.

Once we had reached the foot of the shingle path, I could see that it was much steeper than it had seemed from the valley floor. Anticipating the fact that I would probably take at least 15 minutes longer to complete it than my fellow goats, I headed off in front of them whilst they stopped to admire the view.

It felt like walking through an alien landscape. All around, the pale rock burned in the bright sun. Colours unfurled in the stones beneath my feet as I passed; peach and cream and rose. No plants had managed to grow here except for the sparsest smattering of green at the side of the path.

Once we had reached the mountain pass, the landscape bowed beneath us in every direction, stretching across mountaintops all the way to a snow-capped horizon.

The view ahead of us:

And the view behind:

We met a couple at the San Antonio pass who originally came from Austria and Australia respectively. They urged us to take a final 200m climb from the dip of the pass, up to the peak of one of the mountains that soared up above us to our right. Whilst we rested and exchanged tips with them, marmots darted and scurried across the rocks around us.

And so, despite having reached the planned peak of our walk, we found ourselves punishing our legs further in a final scramble to the top. Lizzie and Haico made it all the way up but Michele and I stopped about halfway and tucked ourselves beneath a rock that curled over like the tip of a half moon. There, we absorbed the vast silence. A bird ripped through the air overhead, breaking the quiet with the sound of air pouring beneath its wings, and dived streamlined back towards from where we had come.

After a good long while sitting on the narrow ridge of the mountain, we started to make our way back down again. The shingle was incredibly steep and its a wonder that not one of us toppled over as we slipped and slid our way back down. (Although Haico did succumb to a particularly juicy cow pat a bit further on which is possibly just as tragic).

Back at the Rifugio Lavarella, we settled in for a very well-earned lunch. We ordered cheese gnocchi (which were more like the canederli we'd eaten the day before than the kind of gnocchi you might get elsewhere) with a light and refreshing cabbage slaw alongside huge glasses of beer. As we ate, we were serenaded by a rowdy bunch of drunken German cyclists, who got such a song going that the entire rifugio burst into applause once they'd finished! And never one to skimp on dessert, we also ordered a kaiserschmarrn - essentially lots of bits of eggy pancake rolled in sugar and covered in reducrrant jam. Absolutely delicious. Michele and Haico mistakenly left Lizzie and I alone with it and, um, it kind of disappeared.

From there, we bid the rifugio goodbye and continued to retrace our steps back to our original starting point. Normally, I don't really like walks that require you to double back on yourself (loops are often much more fun) but this time, seeing the landscape from a different angle (and with a different level of sobriety) whilst the sun shifted over the peaks was glorious.

The paths were much emptier now; unlike earlier in the day, we practically had the entire place to ourselves and only saw the occasional hiker perhaps every half hour. Meanwhile, the tinge of gold thrown out by the beginnings of the sunset brought out veins of copper and rose gold in the otherwise steely grey mountains around us.

And so, we found ourselves back at the very start, with a glow of satisfaction and aching legs which we tried to soothe with an impromptu spot of roadside yoga. Then off back home, to cook up a storm and get some rest for another day of hiking!

If you're interested in any of the Dolomites hikes shown on this blog, I've included the link to each one at the top of the post. We stayed in the Brunico area and used the Sentres app (free) to choose hikes each day.