Hiking Trails: Tre Cime di Lavaredo in Italy
There is no better symbol of the Italian Dolomites than the Tre Cime which is a UN World Heritage Site. These three peaks of Lavaredo stand like monoliths jutting out into the sky at 2,999 meters above sea level in the middle of a rock-strewn landscape. There are many hiking trails at the foot of this mountain range and we set off to try one of them.
From our hotel by the shore of Lake Misurina which is 14 kms. from Cortina d’ Ampezzo (the main heartland of the Italian Alps), we drove 7 kms. north to the staging point through a beautiful winding road up to Rifugio Aurenzo, paying a quite-hefty toll of 25 Euros to get there.
The Dolomites are dotted with rifugios or mountain refuges ranging from simple and rugged huts to structures with more comfortable amenities. They are welcome shelters for walkers and mountaineers alike offering food and sometimes accommodation for the night. You could call them hostels in the mountains with basic amenites where a weary traveler could rest.
The Rifugio Aurenzo (2,320m asl) had a huge parking lot and this is where we started our trek. The four-meter wide compacted stone trail skirted the craggy massif on our left with magnificent views on the right of other peaks as well as the stunning valley way down below. Most of it was fairly level as it wended its way up to the next rifugio some 1 ½ kms. away.
We passed by a small chapel which had stone markers nearby marking the names of mountaineers who dared climb the rock faces but didn’t make it. Some dated back to the 1800s. A couple of meters away and a bit below the trail was a green meadow where alpine horses fed on the abundant grass. This made for a great photo op!
When we reached Refugio Lavaredo, we were famished and the small restaurant there was a welcome sight. We immediately dug into a steaming hot bowl of soup and a plate of pasta with the ubiquitous thick bread washed down with beer. Sitting in the outdoor terrace under the warm early autumn sun surrounded by the beautiful mountains, I wondered if paradise could be better than this!
There were many trekkers lounging around wondering where to head to next. I noted that we were a motley group of various nationalities bound by the same passion to admire and enjoy the great outdoors. The roundabout trail around the Tre Cime was about 10 kms. and it would take you from 3-4 hours to complete the whole circuit. Since every step was picture-perfect, I guess it would be a lot longer because there were many places to stop, take in the breath-taking views and shoot pictures!
Just as we were about to head for the next leg, dark storm clouds began to gather ominously. Weather can be quite unstable in the Dolomites and since we were equipped with nothing but our light parkas, I was afraid that the camera – and of course us! – would be drenched to the bone in case of a sudden downpour or snowstorm. And we remembered the advice given by a wizened mountaineer whom we encountered on the trail who said: Do not let the ease of approach lull you into false security – you can die of exposure within sight of the parking lot!
Since the wind had picked up speed and the temperature had dipped instantly to near-freezing levels, we thought it best to heed his words and so made our way quickly to where we came from. We got back to our car just in the nick of time as the hard-driving rain came pouring down. Suddenly the cold made us shiver uncontrollably while we slowly drove the snaking road down the mountainside. But then the warm memories of that beautiful hike made us smile and we got loads of lovely pictures to remember it by.