Preparation for the Alta Via 1

Greetings everyone!  For some time I’ve been wanting to add these posts that reflect the journal I kept during our hike through the Italian Dolomites in 2010.  I know it’s a bit annoying to read out-of-date posts, but this was a great trip and I want to remember it someday!

After 2 years of dating, David and I decided we wanted to do a big trip together in the Fall of 2010 that involved travel abroad and hiking.  I had lived in Germany during high school, and one summer while I was working at the Base shopping center and didn’t have leave, my family took a trip to the Italian Dolomites without me.  At the time I was ecstatic about being home alone, but later I really regretted not going.  So that was my request – to go hut to hut hiking in the Italian Dolomites (Alps).  David thought it sounded great and wanted to add a trip to Switzerland to show me Lauterbrunnen and do a glacier hike. We were pumped!


I have to admit, we’re pretty detailed people (engi nerds neers), so we plan out everything.  We quickly realized this trip was going to require a lot of logistics and were a little excited because of it. So one night in my old apartment, we got out maps, two laptops and any books we could find to work out our hiking route and general plan.

The main 4-day hike would be hut to hut hiking, meaning hiking with packs during the day, then staying in a hut or hostel like accommodation at night. The Italian huts are great; they serve dinner and wine. It really beats camping, plus camping isn’t permitted along the route anyway.


While the Italian Dolomites have many hiking routes, we chose the most popular Alta Via 1.   A map of the hike with our stops pinned I red is below; the hike goes on for many more days, but we just didn’t have the vacation available to do it all. 



A really neat aspect of the Alta Via 1 is that there are Via Ferrata along the way. Via Ferrata means “iron way”, and are remnants of cables, chains, ladders and bridges from WWI. There is a range of difficulties of Via Ferrata, and we only planned to do the easiest ones that didn’t require assistance, though you can get guides to take you on difficult ones.

What made things more challenging during our planning, yet fun, was that we were visiting an area where Americans don’t often travel. I had to learn some short Italian phrases to make reservations and keep my fingers crossed that our rooms were booked. Our trip, which took place in September, was planned as follows:

  • Day 1: Land in Zurich, Switzerland and drive to Innsbruck, Austria.
  • Day 2: Day hike in Innsbruck, drive 2.5 hours to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
  • Days 3 – 6: Hike the Alta Via 1.  Take train to Lago di Braies, hike to Rifugio Biella (3.5 hrs hike), hike to Rifugio Lavarella (4-5 hrs hike), hike to Rifugio Lagazuoi (5 hrs hike), hike to Rifugio Dibona for lunch & catch bus back to Cortina (4-5 hrs hike)
  • Day 7: Drive 7 hours to Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Day 8: Glacier hike Mt. Breithorn, 3.5 hour drive to Lauterbrunnen
  • Day 9: Day hike in Lauterbrunnen
  • Day 10: Drive 1.5 hours back to Zurich

In retrospect, our trip was WAY too aggressive and involved both too much hiking and driving. But that is kind of our style – overly ambitious!  Still, it turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip I’ll never forget. Day-by-day posts to follow!

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