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Bikepacking in the Dolomites

March 02, 2017

Bikepacking in the Dolomites

The Fed by Wild team ventured on a bikepacking and via ferrata climbing trip in the Dolomites. They shared with us their impressions and pictures from this magical place in Italy:

As we enter the streets of Cortina d'Ampezzo, we set one eye on the traffic and the other, hypnotized, on the vertical walls and rough peaks of the Dolomites. Fully confident that none of us will even attempt riding to the very top. However, looking at the thin wheels of our XC bikes, at the rocky walls, ridges and stones, we unwillingly started to sing the song '…no-one living will get out from here' by the band Perfect.

The sole staring at the Dolomites is enough a reward for the struggle of many-hour night drive.

We hastily assembled the bikes and packed for the few-days' bikepacking mountain ride combined with climbing on via ferratas. Yes, we were properly prepared for any potential 'entertainment' awaiting us in this fabulous place: we had fast bikes to ride our asses off; harnesses, lanyards for the via ferratas’ vertical walls; credit cards for the bar and culinary tour de shelter; and helmets for happy living ever after! The helmets which we do not normally pamper with, were pedantically adjusted on our heads, as if to prove that caution and responsibility were well part of our itinerary. Right... There was no plan.

We had to take the road up to Cortina d'Ampezzo to acquire a map (always looks good in pictures) and ask around how to get on the trail. It must have been the third or fourth bike shop where we managed to get some detailed info, and the geeza who looked like a pro bike team member grabbed a thick marker and drew a loop, some crosses and circles on the map of the Dolomites range. Apart from the big loop, it were the crosses that worried us. Anyhow, now we knew what to do in order to say later: Yes, we did it!

Forcella Ambizzola
The Dolomites ride began with a steep ascend, which at 2000 m above sea level. gave us some hard time. The reason was simple: down at the camp in Cortina we had met a pack of compatriots from Ireland. And when two compatriots meet in an alien land, for Polish nationals it basically comes down to two possible scenarios: love or hate. Both end the same way, which is a terrible headache the next day as well as rather late waking times. This time, it was love that connected us so, fully focused and among alcoholic vapours and with smiles on our faces, we creeped up the asphalt and gravel road.

The sun was setting when we reached the shelter house at the monumental east wall of Cima Ambrizzola. There, a dramatic twist: uno litro di vino rosso and amazing ragu pasta healed all our physical suffering. An hour later, at the Ambrizzola pass, lit by headlights and accompanied by gusty wind, we set up the camp.


The morning view of pale-pink peaks was a true surprise. Holding steaming cups of coffee, we wondered how we had managed to enter the world of Lord of the Rings. However beautiful and sunny the day was, the omnipresent humidity of morning dew and low temperature proved once again that camping on the North slope is no business for couch potatoes. This quickly made us set off and into the valley.

A little climb-out didn't spoil the fun and with smiles on our faces, we manuvered a single track among wardrobe-sized boulders all around us. The blind luck had finally put us where we belonged. As it turned out, blind luck kept pushing and it was only a matter of time that one of us collapsed. Once the path reached the next pass, it rapidly went downhill. And we followed it, striving for life while our bikes and luggage duly adhered to gravity laws.

Passo di Giau
The next goal must be achieved! Must! Silently, catching our last breath we lean against the bikes, preventing us from falling down. Our faces tell it all. The goal is before us and, what's worse, above is, too. It's called Passo di Giau. Obviously, we weren't only interested in the pass itself but rather the refuge located there. As it would turn out, the refuge also wasn’t the final goal, only the essential condition for reaching the absolute goal, that is pasta ragu and uno litro di vino rosso. It was our newly acquired tradition and tradition is not up to dispute.

No doubt, that day more than ever before, we had deserved an Italian culinary treat. No matter the day hadn’t finished yet. Actually, the day was only half way through. The latter half comprised descends, ascends, rising and falling, running up and walking down, which eventually led us up to spectacular rock formation of five towers, Cinque Torri. The day culminated with pasta, etc., at Angelo Dibona refuge and a great camp at the majestic wall of Tofana de Pomedes.

Punta Anna
The chilly morning and the cold dew encourages us to early activity. Hot porridge comes to rescue, while the big ol' hot coffee harmonizes our bodily functions. Fully awaken by such a perfect combination, we quickly pack our stuff, grab our cross bikes and off we ride.

A gravel road leads us to the first shelter – Angelo Dibona. Today, we want to leave our bikes there and bite into the rocky wall. In pursue of a perfect anchorage for the realisation of the plan, we order espresso and panini speck con fromaggio – the essence of perfect Italian cuisine embedded into crunchy roll with butter, cheese and ham. As decided, we enter upon one of the most interesting, exposed and difficult via ferratas in the area.

At its start, the Ferrata has a cableway station and follows down into a nice exposed traverse, which further evolves into a nice exposed climbing wall. We are all alone and nothing interrupts us savouring the fresh air and perfect weather. Or temporarily perfect weather, since charcoal clouds over the horizon signal a due change.

We escaped the ridge with the first lightning and didn't want to wait until one of us compares the security cable to a lightning conductor.

The thunders forced us to go downhill faster and running on the screes we reached the Camillo Giussani shelter right before first droplets fell down. How else do you celebrate the sole fact of remaining alive if not with a jug of vino rosso and fantastic spaghetti. All in good shape and a couple of hours later, and couple of hundred meters lower, we reclaim our bikes from Angelo Dibona shelter garage.

Back from the shelter and with our bikes again, we were joined by Natalie and her friend, and asked where we had made a photo of theirs back on the ridge in the sunset. They thought I was pointing the camera in their direction. So, we skimmed through the material in camera and it turned out the two silhouettes on the ridge are in fact them.

Natalie turned out to be an alpinist from Torino, which whom we immediately got along and spent the rest of the evening talking about climbing, ferratas, bikes, work, philosophy and whatever came up. And Paul is a typical Italian… quiet, modest sailor, first time climbing. The evening was crowned Paul’s face as Natalie typed her phone number and email in my iPhone ;) Poland 1:0 Italy.

Via Alta 1
We wake up at a camping site in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Slightly irritated that we had descended to the same point we started the trip from, which we didn’t consider the perfect style. Unfortunately, the short nightly descend to the camping site was so interesting that in merely 90 minutes we wasted nearly 1000 meters of altitude and ended up in Cortina. It was our last day and this unfortunate moment of weakness forced us to scrap the sleeping bags, tent and climbing gear and climb up the many-hour ascend back upon the big loop. With twenty hours left, tempted by tales of waterfalls, we headed North by North-West...


words: Łukasz Piątek / photos: Adam Klimek

More about the Fed by Wild team.

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