In the footsteps of WWI
The day we realized we should always listen to local advice.
Cortina d’Ampezzo gained its popularity from the many winter ski events that take place there. But it is also an excellent summer holiday location if you are into hiking and exploring some pure nature. If you want to find a good hike, one of the biggest challenges will be to conquer Monte Cristallo. With an altitude of 3231 meters, one of the highest peaks in the Dolomites. In particular, we will describe our 12-hour hike over the via ferrata Ivano Dibona.
To get to the top of this mountain, you can take the Via Ferrata Ivano Dibona. Named after Mr. Dibona, who explored the route and perished in 1968 on the mountain. Ivano Dibona is a restored route that lets you feel as if you were part of the Italian troops. They were conquering the mountains in an attempt to obtain a strategic advantage in the first world war. This route was a busy and important one for the Italian troops during WWI, especially between 1915 and 1917. You can still see the remains at the old pass which makes it an interesting historical site.
There are numerous little hiding places, leftovers from bunkers, and iron climbing equipment that is still visible for the whole length of the trail. When you see this steep and strenuous path, you will be surprised by what these soldiers had to overcome to defend their country. These historical elements give a special atmosphere to this route and give you more insight into how the army used the mountains to their advantage during the first world war.
As to the level of difficulty, this via ferrata is quite an easy route to climb. Which makes it perfect for a nice family day trip, provided you have some experience with mountain hiking and you are well equipped. That’s why it was one of the most popular Via ferrata in the Dolomites. Yes, I said ‘was’ for a reason… The popularity of this track changed the moment they closed the 2nd cable lift to get to the top. From that day on, it’s more difficult to reach the start of the via ferrata.
There are 2 ways to get started: first of all, in both cases, you’ll start at the bottom (obviously) and take the first cable lift up. You’ll end up in the middle of the mountain where you will have to choose between the left track or the track straight up the mountain.
We did ask for some advice at the local information point, but for some reason, we didn’t follow the advice (God knows why). The advice, and the smartest way, is to start by going left when you get out of the cable lift. From here, you’ll need to follow the path that seems to go a bit downwards. You’ll have to walk around 1 hour and a half in the woods before starting the via ferrata. From this point, the start of the route may be challenging, because the slope is quite steep at the beginning. Luckily, this will get better after a few meters, and it’s definitely worth continuing.
Via ferrata Ivano Dibona
The actual via ferrata will take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours of your time, but every minute is worth it. At the end of the ferrata, you will arrive at the mountain hut ‘Piccolo rifugio Livrio’ (3174m)’. It is always recommended to keep your eyes on the trail and see where you put your feet. As the paths can become small and (when wet) slippery in places. But we do suggest you take a rest from time to time to enjoy the stunning views you will see when climbing this trail. Take some time at the rifugio and enjoy the views with a little picnic. Because you will need the energy to head back down.
To descend, you can follow the route of the old cable lift, going straight (VERY STRAIGHT) down. The trail might be a little dangerous because it is full of loose rocks which makes it difficult to have a good grip. Therefore we strongly suggest to keep your helmet and security gear on at all times. Continue this track until you arrive at the middle cable lift station again. If you’re lucky and on time (before 15.30) you can continue the way down with the cable lift. But the path to the foot of the mountain is also a nice and relaxing way to finish the day.
If you want to go for the difficult option, then there is our story. You could’ve guessed it, we took the “shortcut” to the peak. Starting off straight ahead when getting off the lift, we climbed the steep and dangerous path up (right underneath the old cable lift). To clarify, this ‘shortcut’ took us almost 3 hours to get up to the rifugio. As a result, we could only start the actual via ferrata at 13.00.
The sign up there saying “start ferrata before 12h” made us a little bit suspicious… But we were too stubborn to turn back at this point after such a long and exhausting climb. To be clear, this route is not a great idea with kids, when you’re not in great shape or in case of a thunderstorm. We were well trained before we headed to the Dolomites, but during our 3-hour ascent, we asked ourselves many times why on earth we were doing this…
From this point, you’ll take the via ferrata in the opposite direction. You start with the most beautiful part and end up with the 1 hour and a half walk in the forest. To clarify, the rookie mistake we made was not to check the cable lift timetable, which left us with no other option but to walk the entire way down. Now we understood why we had to start the ferrata before 12h. Luckily the hut next to the cable station was still open to serve us a refreshing drink so we could gather our courage to finish our way down.
We can assure you that this was not planned after such a long climb, but it turned out to be a nice walk. As a result, we had an amazing but exhausting day at Monte Cristallo. We started at 08.30 at the cable station and ended up back there around 20.15. Despite the fact that the via ferrata as such is easy, one should not underestimate the road back and forth to it, because it might take up 7-8 hours in total (even more when you start off the wrong way).
The Via ferrata Ivano Dibona is only accessible during summer (starting the third week of June until mid-September), only these 12 weeks the cable lift is open. The cable lift which you need to take is the Rio Gere -Son Forco chairlift, which is located 8km outside Cortina. There is a big parking, so it’s easily accessible by car.
The lift starts at the dal station at 1688 meters and brings you up to 2220 meters.
8h30 – 16u30.
The return ticket for the lift costs about € 17, where a one-way ticket is € 11,80. If you’re sure you are going to be on time, it’s best to buy a return ticket immediately.
Still some energy left? Read our other via ferrata blog posts here.