Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

September 15, 2019

Dolomites Via Ferrata "Bolver Lugli"

After a day of rain, we were now treated to 3 stellar days of sunshine and high pressure.   Jim and I amused ourselves during the bad weather by driving down to see Verona and Lake Garda, where it wasn't raining and was in fact sunny.   Adrian and Andy had stayed back in the mountains and attempted another hike, resulting in a soaking even more cold and horrible than our previous one!   They are tougher than I will ever be, living in the UK.

We rearranged a night's stay in a high mountain refugio due to the weather, then set off to San Martino for a via ferrata which was highly rated by a local mountain guide.   A cable car up from town saved us a significant amount of hiking up to the approach, although we felt a little conspicuous...all the other people were wearing pants and the four of us shivered in our shorts and light sweaters.

The hike up to the start of the Ferrata was in the shade, but we were soon removing those sweaters anyway.  It was going to be an amazing day.  Adrian shot off ahead as usual and the rest of us started breathing hard on the approach to keep up with him!   A vertical cliff towered above us and we knew we would soon be flies on the wall.    The Via Ferrata cabling looked really new, was in great shape, and snaked its way around the rocks, through gullies and was fun without being too exposed.  Jim would later pronounce this one his favorite of the trip.

I choose to be the caboose in the chain this time, and took my time on the route.   Although it is possible to haul oneself up by gripping the metal cables and walking up, otherwise known as "wire-hanging", the rock on this route was really amazing.  I wanted to get the feel of the rock and use the natural holds in the stone.    Jim, Adrian and Andy disappeared above me as I slowly picked my way up the route, choosing my hand and footholds carefully.  There was just the faintest color on the good holds from the passage of many hands over time, but the rock wasn't getting slick or worn down.  With just the sound of the mountains in my ears, I made my way upwards.

Voices returned and the cliff ended abruptly at a jagged plateau.   Ahead of us was an emergency shelter, I looked inside to find 9 bunk beds crammed in 3 high, stacked with blankets and tiny mattresses.   Nobody would need it today, and we sat outside in the sunshine to each sandwiches we had packed for ourselves that morning.

The descent route wasn't nearly as nice.  It was a gully/glacier/scree slope which was about as steep as it could be.   A few pockets of snow remained in early September, and I could only imagine that for much of the summer season, crampons and an ice axe would be necessary on this section.

Trails in the high, rocky Dolomites are never easy, smooth, direct, or flat.  Near the bottom of the scree, we contoured around, climbed some more, got a little bothered by our path along sheer cliffs, and finally reached our second rest stop of the day, a gigantic refugio just down the hill from another cable car.   We had some well earned beers before heading up to the cable car building.   Cramming into the tram with 40 people and 4 dogs was surely better than killing our knees zigzagging down the trails we could see out the window!

Via Ferrata Bolver Lugli (translate from Italian)
Our route is up this cliff face somewhere!

Adrian and I happy to make it to the summit!

Can you spot the tram building?

There is a trail around the side of this rocks....somewhere!

View of our mountain from the bottom of the cable car

September 11, 2019

Dolomites Via Ferrata "Dino Buzzati"

The Via Ferrata in Europe have been calling our name for about 4 years.  We finally acquiesced.  This would be our first trip back to Europe since the X-Alps, and it was really nice to think about taking a stress-free vacation over there.  A few days in Rome got us our fill of ruins, churches, artwork, and city life, then it was off to the Dolomites to meet our friends Adrian and Andy from the UK.

After a pleasant stay in a B&B near a paragliding launch above the town of Fiera di Premiero (not tempted, really), we ignored the weather for the moment and set off on our first route.   The path went off up a really steep forested track, it was hot and humid, and I have to admit I actually sweated.  A lot.   Finally getting up to the rock and the climbing route was a relief.  The Via Ferrata route was pleasant, newly renovated with new clamps and wires, and led up to a nice little shoulder of high meadow.

Wondering what I'm talking about?  Here's a guide to Via Ferrata

Translate this page from Italian for the info on Via Ferreta Dino Buzzati

The first clap of lighting hit about then.   Uh-oh.  Our hike over the next mile of trail got quicker, and the sky grew increasingly darker.   I was desperately hungry (as usual), and as the descent of the via ferrata found me hanging on the wires with one hand and downing a sandwich with the other, unwilling to stop for even a few moments to eat.  Part way down what was a quite easy descent with cables, the rain drops started. We were treated to a display of thunder and lightening that would have been really amazing had we not been all hanging on to metal cables while clinging to a mountainside!

It really was amazing although we couldn't stop to admire it.  Getting soaked now, we could see the zigzag scars of our trail far below us.  The rain continued nonstop, and the rain added to our sweat to make us completely drenched.  We probably should have stopped to put on a warmer layer and our waterproof trousers, but couldn't be bothered.   The trail became part stream, part waterfall, part scree slope, and it was a relief to get down to the valley floor.  From there it was a few more miles on a gentle forest track back to the car.

By the time we arrived we were quite chilled to say the least.  The was the most walking in the rain Jim had ever done!  For my part, it reminded me of a few epic races in England, which gave me a little nostalgia and also a little relief that I didn't do such things as often anymore!   It was quite a change from the 50k I did in Corner Canyon near the house in Utah last weekend.  It was almost 90 degrees when I finished, I couldn't get cool even dunking my head at every tiny little stream crossing, and I came straight home afterward to sit in an ice bath!

Drying out our soaking clothes took some effort, but the next day we were ready to go again.  With rain still threatening we choose a shorter sport route, which of course meant that it really didn't rain at all, all day long!   We consoled ourselves with beer and hot chocolate at the conveniently located refuge at the foot of the Ferrata, then went and did it again!

Via Ferrata Canolone

Looking down at Fiera de Premiero from our B&
Andy gets dried off after a long day on the mountain

The first clap of thunder rolls in

There's a refugio up there somewhere but thankfully we are headed down, not up

The sport route Via Ferrata Canolone

August 23, 2019

Mt. Sneffels, 14,150 feet, and the Blue Lakes Trail, Colorado

Summer this year brought us to Colorado, and we spent a week exploring Ouray, nestled in the San Juan Mountains at 8000 feet in the southwest corner of the state.   It was high enough that the air was cool and the mosquitoes nonexistent, two factors which make for a nice vacation in my opinion!   Ouray also has a few hot springs spread around town, and it was cool enough in the evening to enjoy them. 

There more than a few nice hikes in the area, as well as at least three of Colorado's fourteeners, mountains over 14,000 feet of elevation.   Mt. Sneffels at 14,150 feet met that criteria.  Even better, the approach to the mountain involved access via a jeep road to within a few miles of the summit.  

The trail actually had two trailheads on opposing sides of the ridge, so we split the beautiful hike into two different days.  The first day, we started at the lower trailhead at about 9,000 feet, with the dog, and made our way up to the Blue Lakes at about 11,000 feet.  The trail was beautiful, the lakes were very blue and beautiful, and the wildflowers were at their peak.  There were also some new avalanche paths due to the extremely high snow year.   Aspen trunks were piled up like so many matchsticks at the bottom of the slides.  

Spot enjoyed the trail, loved going for a swim, and actually made it almost 10 miles without laying down or otherwise complaining.  That has to be a record.  

The lowest of the blue lakes was this amazing shade of teal. 
No photoshopping needed!

A couple days later, we drove up to the other trailhead in Yankee Boy Basin, allowing us to take the easy way up to over 11,000 feet.   From there it was a couple of miles further up a rutted jeep trail to Blue Lakes pass, where we could look down on the trail we had taken before.  Mt. Sneffels was still looking down on us, though.  

Mt. Sneffels, 14,150 ft.  We ascended the left ridge, and descended the gully on the right
There are two ways up to the summit, neither one of them actually much of a trail.  The slower but nicer way is up the NW ridge, where there is some rock scrambling involved, and some route finding.  Faint trail marks in the dirt and some common sense helped us along without too much trouble there.  Although we did pass a woman who was somewhat "frozen" with fear on a small class 3 scrambling section.  It's mind over matter, really, and she was able to overcome her mind and continue on.  

The view from the summit, as we desperately sucked in faint amounts of oxygen, was really amazing.  Telluride was just over the next ridge, and the San Juan range was jagged and rocky, with just enough snow left to accentuate the peaks.   We had the summit to ourselves for a minute, and then began picking our way back down the SE gully.  The way down was very steep scree, and not much fun at all.  It wasn't dangerous per se, just slow, as neither one of us wanted to take an embarrassing slide on our bums down the ball bearings that doubled as tiny gravel and rocks.   We narrowly avoided such a fate, and found ourselves at the bottom more quickly that we had gotten to the top.  The extra oxygen was a boon.   We were back at the car with less than 8 miles round trip in about 4 1/2 hours.  

My favorite trails meander through deep woods

Spot loved swimming, the colder the better 

The wildflowers were at their peak!

Looking down on 2 of the 3 Blue Lakes from the Pass

The beginning of the ridge scramble

Plenty of snow left in mid August in Colorado after a record snowfall

One of a million abandoned mines in Colorado