This year’s trek: Alta Via 1

Monte Civetta

Monte Civetta: One of the main mountain ranges along the Alta Via 1

The planning of this year’s hiking trip to the Alps continues … Having done some research on the Dolomites, the Alta Via 1 sounds like the right option. It is a typical haute route style trek from hut to hut, without exposed via ferrata (those that are part of the trail can be avoided). With potentially no one in our currently fluid group with via ferrata experience, avoiding these sounds like the right thing to do.

I am currently working out our actual 6 day route, but here is more about the Alta Via 1 in general.

See also: Along the Alta Via 1 in six days: the route

Alta Via 1 Route

Alta Via 1: From Lago di Braies to Belluno in 150km

The basics

Alta Via 1, also known as Via Classico, is the original high altitude trail running through the Dolomites. It starts at Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) near Dobbiaco and goes all the way to Belluno. On its way, Alta Via 1 passes through the Braies, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Zoldo, Agordino and Belluno Dolomites. The route goes along some of Dolomites’ finest mountain ranges, so some spectacular views of the Tofane, Pelmo and Civetta should present themselves along the way.

The route is classed as easy . There are only two more technical sections – a secured section at Nuvolau and the Via Ferrata del Marmol, but both can be avoided. At the moment, I’m not sure how difficult the Nuvolau section is. The Cicerone guide does not refer to that part of the route as a via ferrata, neither does it specify that via ferrata equipment is required. However, there isn’t a clear statement that the section can be done without equipment either.

Update: the section at Nuvolau is indeed a via ferrata and requires a via ferrata set!

See also: What is a via ferrata aka Klettersteig?

Altogether the Alta Via 1 is about 150 km long and can usually be covered in 10 to 12 days. Gillian Price’s Cicerone guide splits the route into 11 stages. Kev Reynolds suggests a 9 day itinerary in his Hiking in the Alps. If this sounds long, runners cover the Alta Via 1 in 5 days. Topher Gaylord even managed it in 19hrs 44 minutes (mental!). … probably not the speed to base our trip planning on.

The highest point of the tour is rifugio Lagazuoi at 2,752 meters, the altitude minimum is reached in Belluno at 389 meters above sea level.

Plenty of alpine huts (rifugio in Italian) dot the entire route. The usual alpine hut is a small mountain cabin, run by a keeper and his family. Most beds are in dormitories and a sleeping bag liner is required in lieu of bed sheets. While hot showers aren’t necessarily the standard, food is nearly always cooked. As camping is prohibited along the AV1 these are, with the exception of a few bivouacs, the only overnight option.

As the route is fairly popular, everyone recommends booking early.

See also: The complete beginner’s guide to staying in an alpine hut

Alta Via 1 online

Cinque Torri

Cinque Torri: One of the peaks encountered on the Alta Via 1

I’ve found a number of useful websites with content related to the AV1 in the sea of travel agents’ sites. If you are planning to follow the original route, you might well be able to cover off the whole of your route planning online. Finding online information that will allow you to plan variants is a lot more difficult.

  • Easydestination: This site describes the original route in 12 days day by day, including daily walking times and hut contact information.
  • Rifugios.net: This is a perfect resource to find out more about the huts on the AV1. It includes all of them in a neat interactive map.
  • High Ways of the Dolomiti: The Belluno run site covers the main Alte Vie routes (Alta Via 1 to Alta Via 8). The Alta Via 1 section includes detailed long hand descriptions of each daily leg of the trek, including length, time needed for each stretch and difficulty. The site also includes details of relevant maps for the whole route.
  • Dolomiti Alta Via n.1: This is particularly useful if you are trying to shorten the duration of your trek and break-up the route in your own way, as it features route details with timing information for sections within the daily stages. Information about the main variants of the route via rifugio Venezia and avoiding the Via Ferrata del Marmol is also available here. Moreover, the site features detailed information, including telephone numbers, about the refugi and bivoucas along the way.
  • Dolomites sport: There are some good suggestions on how to shorten and cut the route if you don’t have 10+ days for the full Alta Via 1. Don’t be put off by the 5 day running variant right at the top of the page. There are longer variants further down the page.

On the very practical side, the Pragser Wildsee Hotel site contains information about getting to the starting point. Up to date bus timetables to Lago di Braies and around Bressanone (Brixen) and Cortina can be found on the Sii site.

For some first hand accounts of the AV1 read a post on walkopedia about a 6 day hike from Lago di Braies to rifugio Vazzoler or on runsuerun about a 5 day run of the entire Alta Via 1.

See also: My AV 1 trip report: A Forcella a day keeps the doctor away

Books

As we only have 6 days for our trek this year, I found Cicerone’s Trekking in the Dolomites immensely helpful in planning a shorter variant that covers more than just the 6 days of the original route.

The guide includes detailed descriptions with walking time breakdown within each daily stage, route variants avoiding via ferrata or exploring unusual vistas ( World War 1 tunnels, Sentiero Flaibani via rifugio Venezia), information about all huts accessible from the AV1 with contact information (not just those at the start and end of each stage of the traditional route), and descriptions of available exit paths into the valley throughout the route.

Our final Alta Via 1 itinerary is nearly finished. I am just waiting for two hut bookings to be confirmed. Fingers crossed they will come through and I won’t have to re-plan. Once all’s confirmed I’ll be posting the route details.

Related posts

And now to you. Have you walked the AV1 or are you planning to do it? Leave a comment with any tips!

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18 comments

  1. Ron J Mohn · · Reply

    Great comments! I will be doing the Alta VIa 1 in September and was wondering if anyone has the GPS coordinates of the Bus Stop @ La Pissa at the conclusion of the trek? That woulde be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Ron

  2. Paul Graham · · Reply

    Hi Marketa,

    I posted on your other post (Alta Via 1 revisited) but I cannot see it there so I’m not sure if it actually came through. Sorry if I’m doubling up!

    Firstly, this is the most comprehensive website I have found so thank you very much for that 🙂

    Just wanted some advice from someone who has done the AV1. I’m doing it in late June this year and I wanted to ask a question about the rifugios at the end.

    In your post you have a couple of guides; (http://www.easydestination.net/alta_via_1.html) goes from (and staying a night at each) Pian De Fontana to Bianchet to 7° Alpini and from 7° Alpini walk to Belluno. (http://www.alpineexploratory.com/walking-guides/alta-via-1.html) goes from Pian De Fontana bypasses Bianchet on the same day and straight out to the Agordo – Belluno road to a little bus stop called La Pissa (which I have tracked down on google maps).

    Which option would you recommend?

    Thanks in advance for your help 🙂

    Paul

    1. Hi Paul!

      Thanks again!

      Comments only appear on the blog after I approve them to weed out spam. Both of yours are now approved. Sorry it took a couple of days.

      My answer is in the comments section of the other post: https://marmotpost.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/alta-via-1-revisited-more-trip-reports/

      marketa

  3. Roseanne greenfield · · Reply

    Is it possible to pick 5 days of hiking in the Alta Via 1, as we only have 10 days, would like to do 5 on Altavia 1, 4 in St. Ulrich (one driving between). Where would we get off to head to St. Ulrich/Val Gardenia? Thanks kind.

    1. Hi Roseanne!

      Thanks for stopping by on the marmot post. Picking 5 days on the AV1 so that you finish somewhere where you can travel to St. Ulrich from is indeed not easy. I just had a look at a couple of options, but I think your best bet is to start at rifugio Pederu and walking from there as we did to Listolade. There you should be able to take bus up North and towards St. Ulrich.

      Alternatively you could walk from the start at Pragserwildsee to Palafavera and take the bus from there. The bus connections aren’t entirely obvious though. I hope this helps and good luck with the rest of the trip planning!

      marketa

  4. Johanne Toth Mouritzen · · Reply

    Hi Marketa,

    I am hoping to hike part of the Alta Via 1 for seven days in July. I am a beginner, and your blog has been a fantastic help to my planning. My plan is to go from Lagazoui to Sommariva al Pramperet, but I have a few questions for you:

    1) As I am planning a self-guided trip, I do not know where I can get access to a map of the route, can you help with this?
    2) I can see further down, that you carried your own lunch, my I ask what kind of things you brought? I imagine it must have taken up a minimum amount of space and been quite light!

    Regards,
    Johanne

    1. Hi Johanne,

      Glad to hear the blog is useful!

      You can find a list of the maps I used in my other AV1 post: Along the Alta Via 1 in six days: the route. I bought them at http://www.mapsworldwide.com. If you’ll have time before your hike, I’m sure they should be fairly easy to come by at tourist information or a book shop in Italy.

      I am starting to think that I should write a proper post about food for treks … this question keeps on popping up 🙂 I usually take rye brad with me, because it is pretty compact (though not light) and a dry sausage, cheese, peppers, sometimes hard boiled eggs (that only works for the first couple of days, though), apples, chocolate bars and dried fruit and nuts for snacks in between. In the end food and water end up being the heaviest item that goes in the backpack … the good thing is it gets less and less as the trip goes on.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with the rest of you trip planning!

      marketa

  5. Hello Marketa,

    I created an interactive map of all the refuges along the route on http://www.rifugios.net/alta-via-1.html , kindly include it at your post for the benefit of everyone planning to take the AV1 🙂

    Sincerely,
    Tom

    1. Hi Tom,

      Thanks for stopping by on my blog. I will definitely include it. Your map is a great resource! Looking forward to the next installment on TMB.

      marketa

  6. Deborah yates · · Reply

    Hi there! I am doing AV1 in a couple of weeks and am having trouble booking up refugios as they all seem to be full already! Does anyone know if there are likely to be cancellations on the day? Or if there are other options? Thanks debs

    1. Hi Debs,

      That is a tricky one. The rifugios do book up quickly. If you slightly re-cut your route and do slightly unusual day legs, you might be able to find free spaces at less popular huts.

      You could also gamble on cancelations. I am sure there will be some, but there is obviously no guarantee they will happen on the right day at the right hut. The good thing is that hut wardens do tend to cancel bookings for hikers that don’t turn up before 6pm. I would also think that if you are a small enough group, they would let you sleep in the dining room on the floor or on the benches.

      Either way you will need to be flexible and spend a lot of time on the phone calling up huts.

      I personally would re-plan the route so that I have max one night without a booking and then have a number of back-up options, including a retreat to the valley.

      I hope you’ll be able to figure something out!

      marketa

  7. Debbie · · Reply

    Hi Marketa
    thanks for all this information – it’s so useful. We are planning to do the full AV1 and was wondering what you did for lunches? It looks like there are no shopping opportunities en route, so did the rifugios sell picnic lunches , like paninis or something similar?

    thanks

    Debbie

    1. Hi Debbie!

      Glad you like the marmot post!

      We carried all our lunches with us. I don’t even remember stocking up on food on the trip. However, you can get lunch from the rifugios on the way. They usually sell simple sandwiches or bread rolls. Some also do soups and some simple dishes. You can usually also get a picnic lunch from your hut in the morning.

      Good luck with the rest of your trip planning and enjoy the trip!

      Best,

      marketa

  8. Natalie · · Reply

    Question: I want to do a 2-3 day dolomite treck. Any recommendations on where to begin and where to end?

    1. Hi Natalie,

      Good to hear from you. If you take the Alta Via 1 and walk a section of it in 2-3 days, then the best access points are at the beginning of the trek at Lago di Braise and then Cianzope and Passo Giau. All three are accessible by bus, the first one from Dobbiaco the other two from Cortina.

      Here are a couple of options you could consider:
      3 Days: Lago di Braise – Cianzope (nearly identical to the first 3 days of the trek I ended up doing. You can have a look at the trip report)
      3 Days: Cianzope – Palafavera (overnight at rifugios Nuvolau and Citta Di Fiume: via ferrata Nuvolau and the slightly challenging Sentiero Flaibani are optional)
      2 Days: Passo Giau – Palafavera (overnight at either Rifugio Citta di Fiume or Venezia, depending on whether you want a shorter day 1 or 2. I’d definitely go via the Sentiero Flaibani, otherwise the hike is a bit short for two days.)

      Good luck with the trip planning and enjoy your trek!

      Marketa

  9. Hello Marketa, thank you so much for posting this invaluable information. We hiked the haute route from Chamonix to Zermatt last year, about 14 days or so of hiking hut to village or hut to hut, and loved it so.

    I’m trying to plan a similar hike in the Dolomites and have not found the kind of information I need very easily: contact information for refugios, day to day hiking plans, etc. The Cicerone
    book didn’t look nearly as good as Kev Reynolds’ haute route book but perhaps it is–you say it was helpful to you—so I will explore in more.

    Anyway, you’ve provided me with the kind of contact information that with some work should allow me to plan an independent no agency self guided trip for me and my wife. By the way, after hiking the haute route and meeting many people, having a self guided trip didn’t look too bad. When I added up what we spent compared to what other self guided agency hikers had spent it wasn’t altogether that different—plus they had a lot more information and planning materials than we had. Still we had the seat of our pants and that proved sufficient.

    Kind regards, Rick

    1. Hi Rick,

      I’m glad you found the post useful.

      I’m all for self guided trips. I’d definitely recommend the Cicerone guide. It’s worth the money.

      Good luck with the rest of your planning!

      Marketa

      PS: the Haute Route is definitely on my list of treks to do

  10. I did the Alta Via 1 from Prags to Civetta in 1999. At some point I should like to get back and finish the route to Belluno. Our guide suggested it gets “wild and unruly” the rest of the way, especially in the Ferrata section, but that must have been hyperbole to excuse us from not hiking the entire route.

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