We tried to do this tour before Christmas but the cable car was closed for strong winds. But today, all systems are go! Sun shining? Check. No wind? Check. Feeling better? Check.
To get to the Lagazuoi Pass requires taking a series of connected chairlifts from Passo Campolongo and then a small shuttle taxi from a little town called Armentarola. As with anything involving Italian driving, the shuttle bus was well and truly the most exhilarating part of the trip!
From Passo Falzarego you take a small (and a little rickety) cable car to the Lagazuoi at 2800m. We were treated to incredible views in every direction, with choughas flying gracefully in the skies. I love choughas.
There is a bit to do at the summit, but we were unsure how long it would take us to complete the run back to Armentarola. There is another huge refuge just below the summit and a walk along the ridge to the very top, for what we figure will be even more breathtaking views. There’s also a run down the south-east face of the mountain back to the cable car. But Gra wanted to just get going to make sure we didn’t run out of time. Just before leaving the cable car exit, we spotted a very distinctive pair of skis plastered in Treble Cone stickers. We immediately knew John was in the vicinity. We made a good search of the area but couldn’t locate him, hopefully he’d catch us up on the run.
Even though the track down was very narrow, it was a spectacular run through the steep sided canyon that runs NW down towards Armenterola.
As Graeme mentions in his little film, much of the landscape here was radically changed back in WW1 when the Italians attempted to take the Austrian held lands to the NW. They were halted here by the Austrians and the high peaks of the Dolomiti. Realising the futility of surface to surface attacks both armies began to excavate galleries and caverns in the mountain with the intent of blowing up their adversaries and fortifying their own positions. The Austrians let off their biggest bomb here, and pretty much destroyed a whole peak, with the aim to send rocks raining down on the Italians below. Apparently the Italians knew it was coming and got out of the way! Smart Italians. Actually if you read the history a bit more, the Italians had probably deserted their position in favour of finding some food and warmth miles away. This part of the Italian front line was severely under-provisioned and many troops actually starved or froze to death without firing a single shot. The futility of war indeed.
Back to the light & fluffy world of today…we’re off to find coffee. Along the way there is of course two places to stop for food or drink. Of course we stopped at both, I mean it would be rude not to!
First coffee stop was the charming Rifugio Scotoni. It was nearly midday but only -7C! Second coffee for the day. Outside the Russian contingency were keeping warm externally by the fire and internally with the local grappa!
Continuing further down the piste, we caught up with John at the next refuge and joined him, his son, Steve and grand-daughter Gracie for lunch. Following lunch we skied the last section of track to meet with the “Horselift”. For €2.50 pp, you get to hold a long rope with a knot handle and have a horse sleigh pull you along a gentle incline back to Armentarola. There were 2 ropes, with 10 handles on each side. These strong horses were pulling along 40 people. I wanted to film the experience but it was all a bit fraught with the number of people on the ropes behind. Apparently if you fall off, they don’t stop and wait for you. Before we started, John told us that he fell once and was literally skied over by the person behind him. Hmmm, comforting thought? So I decided discretion was the better part of valour in this instance. The reality was that the speed was fairly slow and provided I was careful I probably could have shot some footage. But I’m sure we’ll do this trip again and I’ll be ready.
What a fun day. Full of breathtaking scenery, history, cute refuges and a fun “horselift” to end the day. I think this is what our friends Jen & Stu were talking about when they were recommending we do a horse ride while skiing in the Dolomites. We were a little perplexed about what they were referring to and had envisaged trying to sit astride a horse with our ski boots on….but now we know!
Yesterday we found another ultra modern bar to lounge about in. It’s on the sunny side of the hill between Arabba & Corvara. It also has a fancy restaurant and a view over Corvara to die for. Just the place for an end of day Bombadino before we head back to the apartment and as Graeme has reminded me in a hushed and excited tone….”the new washing machine!” Gotta love that man.