6 days of wild camping on the Alta Via 2 [guest post]

A hiker takes a break on the Alta Via 2

A lunch with a view of the Marmolada

This guest post is from Pete, who hiked and wild camped the Alta Via 2 this summer. Pete’s interview style post will give you a good flavour of his trip and the mystery of camping in the Dolomites. Enjoy the read and many thanks to Pete! ^marketa

Where did you hike?

I went with one other friend, and hiked the first half of Alta Via 2. We thought Alta via 1 sounded ‘too touristy’, but didn’t want to dive straight into 3-6 having not done the others before!

We would have wanted to complete the whole of the Alta Via 2. However, we had planned to go down and explore the rest of Italy afterwards, so we walked from Bressanone to Passo San Pellegrino in six days.

When was your trip and how was the weather?

We did the trip in the middle of July 2015. The weather was generally very sunny without cloud during the morning and into the afternoon, then more overcast and occasional rain into the evening, with thunderstorms almost every night.

What was the best thing about your trip?

The beautiful scenery in the Dolomites that is found nowhere else in the world and getting to hike the Alta Via 2 trail with a friend through all of this, while having some great via ferrata sections with some nice exposure!

Also knowing that there are 5 other Alta Via routes (plus the second half of the AV2) that we still need to see!

At a summit in the Dolomites

A morning hike to a summit somewhere along the Alta Via 2

Is there anything others should know before setting off on the trek?

Definitely know your physical limitations and what you are capable of. While my friend and I wanted to wild camp the whole trail and experience more of the landscape instead of sleeping in rifugios every night, this did mean that we had to carry with us a tent / stove / food / water / water purification & filtration equipment (not to mention the clothes for the additional week of holidaying we were to do afterwards!).

This meant that we had significantly more weight to carry than the average AV hiker, who usually opts for a small day-pack.

While the two of us are used to the weight and had no issues carrying it the whole time, it does become a bit more dangerous along the via ferrata sections. I would say that for anyone who is a competent rock climber, there is no need for via ferrata gear on Alta Via 2. However when you include heavy weight this can be more of a concern and even then your gear is not really suitable for your body weight + large pack!

Further to this, I would say that the cicerone guide to hiking the Alta Via 2 came in handy more than once with some of the trails crossing one another, and I highly recommend it! But nothing beats a good scale map of the area (the best are available in Italian/German!).

However, take what is said with a pinch of salt from the guidebook. Some sections of the route allow quite a long time for the day’s hike, and we found we made a significant amount of extra distance than the guidebook said we would. Always work to your own speed and limitations.

The route:

Roughly broken up below as a start/end day from rifugio to rifugio for the distances we were walking – though we actually only stayed one night in a rifugio and camped the rest (technically not permitted, but our view was that we set up camp at the end of the day out of sight, and set off in the morning before anyone else is on the trail, leaving no trace that we were there – no issue!)

Day 1: Bressanone – R. Bressanone

Day 2: R. Bressanone – R. Genova

Day 3: R. Genova – R. Puez

Day 4: R. Puez – R. Piscadu

Day 5: R. Piscadu – R. Castiglioni

Day 6: R. Castiglioni – Passo San Pellegrino

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  1. Clement · · Reply

    Hello, i have the same question as Jonny.
    I planned on doing quite the same trip during the summer and i was wonder ing if finding suitable places to pitch up (not a freestanding tent) was a hard task? Did you find plenty of suitable places, or was it sometimes a struggle?


  2. Jonny · · Reply

    Hey Pete, great to read about your AV2 trip. I’m planning on doing the route this month with a friend, and would ideally like to wild camp in a tent, but am concerned about finding suitable places to pitch up (not a freestanding tent). Did you find plenty of suitable places, or was it sometimes a struggle? I am wondering if a bivvy bag might be a better option. Any thoughts would be hugely appreciated. Cheers!

    1. Chris · · Reply

      This may be a bit late, but perhaps useful for others thinking about similar trips.

      I’d try to dissuade you from bringing a tent – because the alpine environment is extremely fragile. In an alpine environment, any tent-suitable places you may find will likely be on patches of sparse vegetation (which is likely to include some protected species like the Edelweiß) and would require pounding stakes into soil containing permafrost (thereby contributing to erosion).
      “Leaving no trace” is more than just picking up your trash when you leave. It is also about minimizing your impact while in the wild. This is the logic behind having huts. They concentrate human impact to a spatially confined area and thereby giving the rest of the area a respite. This is also why volunteers on trail crews labor so hard to give you ONE trail to walk on, as opposed to everyone bushwhacking up and down the mountains trampling several trails.

      Now, I do understand the allure of “wild camping”. I have done it myself. But the proper way to go about it is to bring a bivy sack. It keeps you out of trouble with the law and you can sleep soundly under the stars, knowing you have minimized your impact. A bivy also minimizes your footprint (not just ecologically, but physically) providing more suitable sites. With a bivy, even spurs of trails can provide comfortable spots to rest.

      Enjoy the mountains. Please do so responsibly.

      1. Hi Chris! Thanks for your comment. A great contribution! marketa

  3. Samantha · · Reply

    AWESOME! Great hike!

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