Friday, April 25, 2014

Hiking to the Rifugio Alpe di Tires (2,440 meters)—Dolomites



That little white house in the distance is called the Schutzhaus Tierser Alpl (Rifugio Alpe di Tires in Italian), and it’s our home for the night on Day #3 or our Italian Dolomites hiking tour. 

Here’s a closer look.


Many guests have gazed upon that tiny red roof, excited about the promise of a hearty meal, refreshing drink and comfortable lodgings after a long day on the trail. 


The day begins with a short transfer by van and cable car. This is the view as we hike past Tyrolean farmhouses and into the Sciliar-Catinaccio Nature Park. The big mountain in the photo is called the Sciliar (2,563 meters) (Schlern in German). The snow-capped peaks of Austria stand to the north, while the tallest peaks of Switzerland occupy the horizon in the northwest.


The trail continues through flower-filled meadows and passes a Tyrolean chalet that serves delicious coffee, schnapps and home-cooked snacks. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. The coffee and Apfelstrudel top off the tank before we switch on our climbing legs and spend the next few hours switchbacking above tree line. Here’s a view from the top of the hill.


Again, those peaks in the distance lie in Austria. You can also see where we started in the morning. There’s a small village called Compatsch about two-thirds of the way up the photo.

From this vantage point, it’s a rather quick jaunt to the Rifugio Bolzano (Schlernhaus), a veritable castle in the sky and our lunch stop for the day.




The interior feels like a German beer hall meets Italian climber’s hut. It’s comfortably rugged, the food is delicious, and the beer comes in tall steins. It would be very easy to settle into this place and have one beer after another. 

The trail calls, however, so we eventually leave the Bolzano Hut and spend the afternoon with views like this:




The jagged peaks in the left side of the photo are part of the Rosengarten Group (Catinaccio in Italian).  This region is called the “Rose Garden” because the limestone formations glow with a pretty rose color in the evening light. The pinkish hue is one of the defining characteristics of the Italian Dolomites.


Finally, we arrive at the Rifugio Alpe di Tires (2,440 meters), grab some hot showers, drink a few schnapps, and find a cozy table reserved especially for us. It’s worth noting that the Rifugio Alpe di Tires is a sophisticated mountain hut. The sound of the espresso machine greets hikers as they stroll through the door. Wind and solar energy provide power for the hut, while books, games, and a fully stocked bar ensure a comfortable stay. Guests can also purchase homemade cookies and cakes, postcards, and souvenirs. They even sell rain ponchos in case your outerwear unexpectedly dies. 

Here’s another shot of the hut.  


The hut owners, Stefan and Judith take awesome care of us! They've become family.


And finally, a view that many people will never see. RW guide Ken Fuhrer shot this image while climbing above the Rifugio Alpe di Tires. 


We don’t climb up here during our regular hiking tours, though it’s something we can do upon special request. Rather, the normal hiking route follows the winding dirt road on the left side of the hut. Next stop, the village of Selva—“The Jewel at the Foot of the Dolomites”—Day 4 of our Italian Dolomites hiking tour. 

Images:
Bolzano hut by Porter Teegarden. 
#1-5, 7 and 11 by Chris Pranskatis
#8-10, 12-14 by Ken Fuhrer

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