Alta Via 2, Day 7: Losing Our Way

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It’s hard to believe that one could wake up hungry after last night’s meal, but such is our metabolism after a solid month of hiking that it is true. And, when we go down to breakfast, we are pleased to find all of our dining mates from last night already there, as well as a full spread of breakfast pastries. We are treated to all the usuals as well as homemade bread and butter and even a giant honeycomb. 

We are all extremely pleased, still raving about dinner from last night and not wanting to leave this morning, but, with the amount of calories consumed between the two meals, we have no other choice. We need to do some walking!

We are all headed in opposite directions this morning. The German family is spending their last night together at Passo San Pellegrino, which is about an hour down the road, and is deciding on the best option for a day hike from here. Sebastian, Miriam, Janca and Julia are continuing on the official route of the AV2 to Rifugio Mulaz.

We needed to buy a day when we planned this hike, and the AV2 route to Mulaz and then from there to Rifugio Rosetta is rated as a 3+ in difficulty. There is an alternate, easier route directly to Rosetta that we are doing in one day instead. It could involve a bus ride and a gondola ride or two depending on our energy level, so we will just have to see how the day goes.

We say goodbye to our dinner party friends from last night and hit the trail around 8:30. The day starts with a pleasant stroll down the road to San Pellegrino. There are lots of little, wooden barns around Fuchiade that have been converted into artist’s studios, and they are busy setting up for the day. The road winds down through the forest at a gentle grade, and we enjoy the opportunity to take it easy for a rare moment on this challenging trail.

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Just before reaching Passo San Pellegrino, we come across Rifugio Miralago which is situated right on a manmade lake. We head up to check it out to see if there are any good reflections, but there aren’t any views with big mountains without any manmade structures, so it’s a bit of a strikeout. We head further down the road for about five minutes before coming to the road and parking lot of the pass and are a little shocked to find hundreds of cars and people everywhere.

We have to cross the road immediately because there are bus loads of at least 40 people at a time who appear to be heading toward Fuchiade. Many are families with strollers and crying babies and all that entails. Perhaps they are here to visit the artist studios and to have a delicious lunch at the rifugio before heading back to wherever they came from. Who knows?

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We head in the opposite direction across the parking lot and into a marshy field that is pocked from hoof prints of various farm animals that must use this field for grazing. We cross a few wooden bridges over some really swampy parts and then pick up a better hiking trail that takes us through a pretty forest up toward a ski run.

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There the trail starts to really climb, and we zig zag steeply up the treeless slope until we run into a huge mound of uprooted trees that most likely have been bulldozed. Now we have to make our own way straight up the slope, and it is steep going. If we weren’t sweating before, it’s definitely a full-on shvitz now.

Eventually we come to a trail on the left slide of the slope that carries us further away from the chairlift that we could have taken up but opted not to, figuring we will be most likely getting some rides later on in the day. The trail takes us further south away from where there are a few bulldozers doing some work on the ski slope.

As we are walking, we suddenly hear a loud boom that makes both of us practically jump out of our boots. We turn around to see a large plume of dirt and smoke lifting up into the air, and now we are both a little jumpy. Are they going to do that again? Where? Do they know we are the only two crazy people hiking here instead of taking the cable car?

We come to a small marshy area where there is a tiny pond that offers a refection. From above, we can hear the sound of bells on sheep and a young shepherd boy calling his sheepdog from above. We continue hiking up to a nice viewpoint and take some shots of the Val Fredda where we stayed last night.

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We can still hear the shepherd boy calling, when, all of the sudden, there are sheep coming at us from everywhere, and they seem like they are on a mission. The sheep march right up to us and start drinking from the small pools of water in front of us. We, of course, never miss the opportunity for a photo shoot and take tons of photos of the large herd of sheep that just landed on our doorstep.

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We leave them and continue climbing up with another quick stop by a small pond before coming to the Corda degli Zingari at 2297 meters (7536 feet). From there, we walk amongst large boulders set on a grassy hill before reaching a wide gravel road that eventually weaves its way down to Passo Valles.

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We arrive at the pass around noon, which is perfect because there is a rifugio here that is supposed to offer great food. We stop in and ask whether we can catch a bus to San Martino from here, and are told that we have to hike further on over the neighboring mountain to get to Paso Valles to catch any transport options.

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We order lunch and are happily surprised to get our order of smoked ricotta dumplings and cheese and spinach canederli within minutes of ordering them, which is a good thing if we are going to have a chance of making a bus today. We eat quickly and then hit the trail up to the Forcella Venegia (2217 m/7273 ft) with bellies full of dumplings—not exactly the best conditions for a quick 600+ foot gain, but we make do.

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At the pass, we are leaving the AV2 for the rest of the day and will rejoin it at Rifugio Rosetta later this afternoon. We find the sign that points us to Val Venegia and start heading downhill, but there’s another trail junction a little further down that doesn’t correspond to what our book says we should see.

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We take our best guess and start contouring the hillside on a shepherd’s path. The trail seems to disappear right from underneath us, so Matt checks our location against maps.me on his phone and finds that we are off trail. We see a trail below us and head down to it cross-country-style, thinking that it must be the right trail. Again, the map app tells us we are wrong, so this time we backtrack to the trail junction and try yet another way.

Nothing seems to be working, and we are losing valuable time we need in order to make the bus (which we have no idea when or how often it will come, but we do know we have a 4:30ish deadline to make the gondola). We both get incredibly frustrated, and, to make matters worse, it is really difficult to see the map on Matt’s phone in the bright, hot sun, which, of course, makes matters all the worse.

We decide that the only right choice can be the second trail we took that leads us down to a building and a road of some sort. At least there will be people there who may be able to point us in the right direction. We head down the ravine and through the forest to arrive at the farmhouse/restaurant Malga Venegia. A nice woman there informs us that there is a bus to San Martino di Castrozza that leaves from the parking lot down the hill! The only bad news is that it doesn’t leave until 4:40, about two hours from now and definitely too late to catch the funivia (cable car) up to Rosetta.

We weigh our options and decide that it is too late to walk to the funivia and too far to walk all the way to the rifugio. We decide to chill out and wait for the bus. Hopefully, we can find a place in San Martino without too much trouble, even though we will be arriving at 5:30 on a Friday night. We head down to the parking lot and find a nice rock near a trailhead to rest on while we wait.

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The time goes by quickly enough, and by the time 4:40 rolls around, there are quite a few people waiting to catch the bus. We get on board, grab a seat and enjoy the beautiful drive through the lush forest to San Martino. We aren’t too sure where we should get off and decide to press our luck and see if the bus gets close to the centro where there will most likely be more hotel options.

All of the sudden, it looks like we are heading out of town, so Matt hops up to ask the driver if we can get off, which apparently makes him angry, for some reason or another. He is very unfriendly as he kicks us both to the curb, but it turns out that we ended up almost exactly where we wanted to be, so there’s that.

We are right in front of a hotel that seemed to have reasonable rates on our map. We stop in to see if they have a room available for the night. We are out of luck, but they point us in the direction of Hotel Europa where we do get a nice room with breakfast for 120 Euro, not too bad for a mountain resort town during high season.

We shower up and head out on the town for dinner. San Martino is small, and there are lots of Italian tourists taking their evening passegiata. It appears that most of the restaurants are inside the quaint little hotels, but we find a birreria for a cold beer and a bruschetta appetizer right by the main church before heading to a pizzeria, where we share a pizza and a salad. It’s a nice stroll back to the hotel, where we promptly pass out.

It’s a short, impromptu night off the trail, but we made the most of it!

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