Friday, October 15, 2010

Dolomites Day 6: in the Geislergruppe

What we saw of the Geislergruppe on Day Three made us really want to go back. Since the klettersteig to the top of Sas Rigais seemed to be above our level (i.e. it's a real klettersteig and not just a path with ladders and cables), we opted for a walking tour.
The day starts by repeating the end of Day Three backwards and climbing out of town past the Regensburgerhütte and into the valley at the foot of the Geisler peaks. The morning is cool (2-3 deg C) and the skies are cloudless and blue, hard to believe that a low pressure region is supposed to move in tomorrow and bring snow. At the fork we head left, up the Val da la Roa and through increasingly alpine terrain. Before leaving the last of the grass, we find a nice spot with a view in the sun for the day's first sandwich break. It's quiet and peaceful.

At the end of the valley the path lead us steeply up the last bit to the saddle (the Roascharte) where we meet the first hiker we've seen since we went by a couple of guys at the Juachütte. A quick break to appreciate the the views in both directions and then we head down the other side. Here on this north-facing slope the going isn't nearly as nice: the path down through the frozen scree is quite steep and narrow and the footing isn't everything one would hope for. We take things slowly and eventually get into something of a (slow) rhythm. Good thing Andrea talked Greg out of turning around after it became clear what the path was like. After 100m or so of descent, the path takes us to the left wall and around a corner a bit and becomes much more normal. At the corner we meet our second hiker of the day: she's getting ready to head up the slope we just came down.
After a bit more traversing the scree in shadow we reach the sun and, shortly after, turn left to head back up to the Wasserscharte. The path initially leads through rocks and some grass, so we do a sandwich break in the last of the sun and grass (a shortened break since the sun moves behind the wall while we're sitting there and leaves us in cold shadows) before continuing up, up, up. This trail is clearly not as heavily used and is in noticably worse condition: the markers are older and places where rock slides or erosion have taken out the path have often not been repaired. Still, our route is clear and it's no problem to proceed. The last bit of climbing to the Wasserscharte is somewhat scrambly, very steep with loose footing, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be at all fun to go down, but going up is doable.
As expected, the views are great in the saddle, but it's in shadow and windy, so we don't spend too much time up there before continuing on our way down into the high valley below (the Wassertal) and then down to the broad, grassy Plan Ciautier. It's our last day and we've still got some energy left in our legs, so rather than head straight back, we take the long way home: we continue on around the foot of the massif towards the Rif. Seceda, take a last sandwich break just past the Piera Longia, then head down past the Col Raiserhütte and the Sangonhütte before closing the loop at the Juachütte and the last stretch down to Wolkenstein.

From the track: 18.2 km, 1540m height change.

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