Alta Via 2, Day 2: A Taste of the Tyrol

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After a pleasant and full night of sleep in a relatively quiet dorm room, we wake at 6:30 to pack our bags and head down to breakfast. Though it must have rained over night, I am pleased at my first glance out the window as the range of jagged mountains that only slightly revealed itself through shifting clouds last night (and then disappeared entirely under a thick bank of clouds) is now fully visible. Breakfast is simple but adequate. The coffee is strong, and my three cups have me ready to hit the trail.

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We set off with the Odle di Eores (or needles) off to our right and the snow-covered mountains on the Italian/Austrian border far off to our left. We follow the contour of the hill for a ways and pass under a ski lift before descending into an Arolla pine forest. The foliage here is different than the Swiss alps, much moister in general.

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We wander past a few mountain homes and eventually onto the road. The trail is frequently intersected by other trails, all of which are numbered and well-signed, but this keeps us paying close attention. Eventually we start heading back uphill and start to cross rock slides and small streams. As we get closer to the face of the Odle di Eores, the verticality of the Dolomites becomes more apparent. Instead of pointing our cameras out at the horizon, we are aiming them up at the blue sky, capturing waterfalls and mountain peaks high above us.

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We stop for lunch before tackling the big climb of the day up to Forcella di Putia. The higher we climb the more striking the views become back down the valley.

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When we get to the pass we are joined by a good two dozen hikers, many of whom are day hiking up from either side of the pass. We are also treated to stunning views up to the Sass de Putia, a bald peak with 360 degree views on a clear day, off to the Sasso Della Croce and toward the Puez-Odle massif in the distance. The light is constantly changing as the clouds move across the sun, so the photography is tricky but hopefully rewarding.

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After a longish break, we make our way along a balcony trail, relatively flat, stopping often to photograph flowers and landscapes and catching sight of a family of marmots below.

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Soon we are turning downhill for a short walk to Rifugio Genova (aka Schlütterhütte). The atmosphere is lively as we arrive shortly before 4 pm. There are hikers and mountain bikers paused for a break, sunning themselves on the front lawn and enjoying cold beers. We check in and find out that we have lucked out: there are two beds available, not just one! We changed our reservation a few days ago to even out the stages and were told one of us might have to sleep on a mattress on the floor.

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We quickly take care of the usual chores and grab a seat at a picnic table outside and enjoy a tall, cool one while we work on photos. Inside, an impromptu group of musicians plays traditional South Tyrolian music and sings while a couple starts to dance.

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Dinner is a la carte in the Italian rifugios which gives us a chance to try some local specialties. Tonight it’s polenta with fresh mushrooms (chanterelles again!) as well as krapfen (mezzalune pasta filled with spinach in a butter and herb sauce). We are crammed into a large communal table with a couple who live in Oslo. He is British, she Italian, from a lake just east of Lake Garda. Both are academics and fun to chat with.

After dinner we take a brief stroll, but we can see a thunderstorm is rolling in and quickly duck back inside before the rain hits. Rifugio Genova is a pleasant, 120 year-old alpine oasis and a cozy place to call home for the night.

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