Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dolomites Day 1: to the Puez Hütte

We wake up to a mostly cloudless blue sky, which was a great relief after driving up through clouds to get to Wolkenstein on Saturday. Today we can actually see something and appreciate the views from the flat.

We start by walking a bit along the road to get out of town, past the ruins of the Wolkenstein fort, to a big parking lot (still almost empty except for a couple of RVs) at the end of the road. From here we follow a couple of people along the well-trod path across a meadow until our route leads on a less-used path across a stream and up through the woods. Now we climb and climb through the woods. We're under mostly evergreens with some larches mixed in that have already changed color. We climb out of the woods and the Chedultal opens in front of us: steep cliffs to either side with scree at the bottom and a bit of green valley between, typical Dolomite valley. The path leads us along the valley floor and climbs to the Crespeinajoch at the end. We see a couple of groups of chamoix up in the screes. We also start seeing more people here: there's a path coming through the right-hand wall (the Cirjoch) that seems to be more popular than ours, on that side you can do the vertical meters with a gondola. :-)

From the Crespeinajoch we have great views to both sides, including the Langental and the Puez Hütte, which we enjoy for a bit while having a quick snack before continuing with a bit of descent to the Crespeinasee (pretty dry and sad at this time of year). There are clouds threatening a bit, coming over the mountains to the right... no good for the views! The path leads us around the end of the valley, in and out of cloud, to the Ciampei Joch, a thin bit of land that serves as the end of the Langental and the valley leading down to Corvara. Then up again a bit to the plateau and along to the Puezhütte. The hut itself is closed, but it's still a popular stopping point and the sun is shining at this point.
We do another quick food break while soaking up the amazing views and then head off in search of the Col de Montijela, which should have another great set of views. There's no signage, so we had off on a path that goes in the right general direction for a bit before heading off across country for a rise that is topped with a bunch of stonemen. Our route leads across a landscape of crazily eroded rocks to the rise, which gives us nice views to the North down into the XXX tal. Theoretically we could see much more, but the clouds prevent that today. We head back towards the Puezhütte and then continue along the side of the valley, in and out of clouds, before descending steeply to the floor of the Langental. This is clearly a very popular daytrip destination: we're definitely not lonely as we follow the broad path out to the parking lot (now full) and then the road back into town.

From the track: 19.0 km, 1300m height change.

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