Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dolomites Day 5: up to the Piz Boe

Another perfect-weather day. We start with the drive over the Sellajoch and down towards the next valley then back up to the Pordoijoch where we park in the mostly empty parking lot of the hotel and gondola station. We don't manage to find any signage for the trail at the parking lot, but there is a trail and the way to go is clear: up!

The path leads up and across the grass flanks of the Sella massif (no trees here, we're above the tree line) until reaching the scree, where the going get steeper and the day's climbing begins for real. Most people take the gondola up here, so aside from a few people in front of us in the last steep bit up to the col, we're pretty much alone. After the first 400m of climb, we turn off the main path to take the panorama path around the massif towards the Franz Kostner Hütte. This is a really nice path in the sun with panoramic views out over the Marmolata, the Fanes-Sennes Gruppe, etc. The path runs mostly right under the walls (except for one small diversion where we manage to lose the path and end up having to climb back to the wall) and is good going.
Past the start point for the Klettersteig up towards the Piz Boe (the beginning of which, at least, looks more serious than most of the other Klettersteigs we have seen), and further along. Around a corner we see the hut in front of us and enter a north facing bit of the trail; here in the shadow there is some old snow around, but the path is still no problem. Back in the sun we reach a fork that takes us either up through a steep chute or around to the hut. We're going, after a sandwich break, up through the chute. This is steep and at times scrambly, but no problem to get up through. The guy we see coming down looks like he's having a bit less fun, but it's always that way. On reaching the plateau we start a long gradual climb the last couple hundred meters to the Piz Boe. Above 2900m there is plenty of snow (some days old: it's had time to thaw and re-freeze a few times, so it's quite hard and sometimes icy). The last 100m or so are quite steep, so there's less snow and the going is easier.
The top of the Piz Boe has a hut (closed), a large billboard-looking structure that partially obstructs the view to the North, and lots of people. It's an easy >3000m peak with panoramic views that can be reached with ~300m of climb from a gondola station, so this is no surprise. It's hard to imagine what a zoo it must be in high season. We hang out for a while to rest, eat a sandwich, and appreciate the amazing views before continuing on towards the Bambergerhütte. This isn't the standard route down, so we're the only ones doing it. This is nice but it does mean that there's still plenty of snow/ice on the north-facing trail, so the footing at times leaves something to be desired. It's no problem until the hut comes into view below and we reach a sign pointing the way through a chute that is clearly all ice. That's not going to happen. Fortunately there's another option that leads around the corner a bit later. This one is also has a stretch that is quite narrow and covered with hard-packed snow and a bit of ice, but it's more or less level and secured with a cable, so though the footing is a bit dodgy, it's no problem to cross. We head down the rest of the way to the (closed) hut and wander around a bit to admire the canyon running to the southwest and the narrow valley towards the north (Val de Mesdi). That one provides a nice route down to the Grödnerjoch but it is at the moment full of snow and ice, so even with the cables it would be an adventure.
Our path leads us back towards the gondola station. Along the way we decide to avoid the crowds at the gondola and just walk down, so at the Forcella del Pordoi we enjoy a sandwich in the sun in front of the (closed) hut and then head steeply down to meet the path we came up in the morning.

From the track: 11.5 km, 1210m height change.

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