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.
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.
Alta Via 1 online
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.
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.
- AV1 trip report: A Forcella a day keeps the doctor away
- Along the Alta Via 1 in six days: the route
- What to pack for the Alta Via 1
- The Alta Via 1 revisited: more trip reports
And now to you. Have you walked the AV1 or are you planning to do it? Leave a comment with any tips!