If you are a beginner in the area of Via Ferratas and want to try them out at a starter level of difficulty then we would recommend Ra Gusela and Averau as your first destinations. So head out to the Dolomites in Northern Italy and get started!
Time: 8 hours (including breaks)
Distance: 8.3 kilometers
Vertical relief: +/- 700 meters
Difficulty: easy / medium – 2A (Smith and Fletcher)
Routes: 443 + 438 + VF Ra Gusela + unmarked+ 439 + VF Averau + 452
Route: GPS Track
Where is this?
There is no entrance fee or any special tax you need to pay for the tracks. The only money you need to pay is if you want to rent the a Via Ferrata equipment set.
We have finally made it to Cortina D'Ampezzo in Northern Italy. After a long summer during which our minds were only focusing on the big holiday we managed to pack half of our home and moved our base camp temporarily to the center of the wonderful Italian Dolomites.
We traveled on a Saturday and it was pouring outside. We knew from the get-go what was instored for us, rain, six degrees Celsius, what can you wish for more during your summer holiday?!? But when your going to the mountains in September you can expect such conditions too. At least it is going to be warm and cozy in our room… but yeah, we were going to sleep in our tent, so we were doomed :). When we reached the camping we had a small relief from the clouds and it stopped raining so we took advantage and quickly installed or tent.
The next morning we woke up at 6 AM and we left our tent with our eyes glued to our phones – 'weather in Cortina D'Ampezzo' … woohoo… the forecast was sun and clouds so we hightailed it to the starting point of the track!
For our first day we chose an easy track to get used to the ferratas and to the mountains. Currently we don't have a lot of experience with this type of hikes so we decided to take it one step at a time.
Our plan included two easy-medium difficulty Via Ferrata tracks that packed a little bit of hiking as well. We left Cortina in the direction of Passo Giau where we would ditch the car and as we were approaching our destination were surprised at the winter landscape that surrounded. We were expecting snow at 2236 m if at 1000 m we had only 6 degrees.
The mountain pass is wonderful – with free parking and a cozy chalet.
We managed to get lost right at the start as we chose the wrong track. It is not an easy feat but you can still manage to do it if you don't attention to the recommended direction. Long story short -we started the hike in the wrong direction and after 1 kilometer we turned back to start over. The good aspect is that we managed to do our warm up. We turned around and this time started our GPS tracker to make sure we are going in the correct direction. So far so good!
From the parking lot you will follow the wide and visible 443 path that takes you close to the chalet. On your right you will find a gate that restricts large animals to pass through it but you should have no problem going through it.
Even though Italians have a good markings system for their tracks – each path has its own number and intersections are really visible – when it snows it is hard to get your bearings and you can easily get lost. You need to pay close attention not to miss the main path. We had only 10-15 cm of snow but at times we had difficulties finding our way.
From Passo Giau we will follow track 443 that should take us to the intersection of track 438. We continued on 438 for a time after which we decided to take a straight but inclined route to the base of the ferrata.
The first ferrata you will encounter is called Ra Gusela and it has an easy difficulty rating. We don't even manage to warm up as we have already reached the end of it. Even as it is the via ferrata standard equipment is not optional.
When we reach the top we can see a big rock in the distance – Nuvolau Peak and on top if it a pretty big hut.
On our right side we have La Gusela peak with its 2595 m altitude and even though there is no visible path or markings because of the fresh snow we decide to climb it as it is in our reach.
We recommend not to skip it as it offers great views of Passo Giau and everything around.
From here we continue going right under the ridge in the direction of Nuvolau Peak and Chalet – 2574 m. Even though the path is covered in snow from up here we manage to get our bearings much better.
We reach the Chalet where we stop for a coffee and our lunch break. We have our own food packed but we enjoy the coffee along side the cat. The chalet is intimate and welcoming just the way a hut on the edge of a cliff should be.
From Nuvolau Hut we continue down on footpath 439 in the direction of Averau Hut (2413 m) with the general intention to reach Averau Peak. The road to the next chalet is a pleasant alpine walk but the way to the next peak takes us on another via ferrata, somewhat more challenging compared to the first.
On our way we meet up with a chick (we kept bumping into each other for most of the day) that decided to abandon the climb. The via ferrata was covered with ice on some sections and the start was challenging. We were thinking if we were going to be able to do it. We decided to continue onward and to hopefully reach the peak eventually.
After some struggle we managed to complete it. Basically the end section was more challenging than the start because it was exposed and covered in ice but we had our eyes open and it wasn't a problem to reach Averau Peak – 2648m.
When we reached the top the sun was getting ready to set. The clouds, sun rays and the surrounding mountains made for a extraordinary day and the fact we had snow all around only made it better in the end. Truly great sights! To top it all of when we were on the peak a random cloud started to release small snow flakes around us, what a bliss!
The descent is on the same track and via ferrata. Somewhere at mid point there is a fork-road, to the right (as you ascent) there is a visible over-hanged path and to the left there is a more obscure path with a ladder that goes through a cliff. We recommend you go up on the exposed path and descend on the ladder.
From Rifugio Averau we continued onward on track 452 back to Passo Giau. As a side note, path 452 is the footpath that goes beneath Nuvolau and La Gusela and not the wide bike road.
The hike was excellent and it cemented the Dolomites straight in our hearths. We now finally understand why people love these mountains more than any others! And we could't agree more!
Where do I sleep?
For this holiday the best option for us was to establish a base camp in Cortina d'Ampezzo. We chose Camping Rocchetta and it proved to be one of the cleanest, tidiest and best looking camping grounds where we have ever been (the only close contender would be Kamne Camping in Slovenia). The prices fluctuate based on season but are between 20 and 35 euros per night (2 persons, one small tent and one car).
When we will return in the area we are positive we will chose to stay here again. For your info the camping is open all year round.
What do I eat?
Almost all chalets / huts in the area serve drinks and food. For this particular hike you can find something to eat at Hotel Passo Giau, Rifugio Nuvolau and at Rifugio Averau. Other water sources we could not identify but the mountain was covered in snow so we couldn't really see all that well. As always if you want a cheaper experience you can pack your own food but you are not allowed to eat it inside the chalets.
Good to know!
The Dolomites are a top touristic destination that attract millions of people each season from all across the world. To avoid crowds especially on the via ferratas we recommend you start early in the morning.