Road cycling – the Sellaronda

As road cycling day tours go, the Sellaronda is pretty famous; and for good reason as it passes through some of the finest mountain scenery in the world, climbing some of the most coveted passes. And it’s achievable by cyclists with a modest amount of fitness; 1845m of climbing along just over 50km of high mountain roads reaching just shy of 2300m ASL. Encircling the Sella massif, it visits Arabba, Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, Val Gardena and Passo Gardena, Alta Badia and Passo Campolongo. I’ll split the clockwise route into 4 segments and make some suggestions on how best to approach the ride.

The route

Distance: 50.2km

Total elevation gain: 1845m

sellaronda road map

You can complete the circuit in either direction of course. Here I’ve described starting at Arabba and cycling in a clockwise direction. From Casa Alfredino this is probably the most logical place to start without adding extra miles in the car or on the bike as it is directly on the route. As you can see from the height profile, there are four distinct climbs to each of the passes, and starting at Arabba gets the largest two out of the way at the start of the day when temperatures are a little cooler and the roads less busy. If you would like to use this information, feel free to use my Strava route:

Arabba to Passo Pordoi

Distance elapsed: 9.2km catagory 1 climb

Total elevation gain: 657m

Average Gradient: 7%   Max Gradient: 9%

There is plenty of parking in and around Arabba. It’s an ideal spot to start as this small town best known for it’s skiing hosts a large number of restaurants, cafes, and shops – including a bike shop where you can pick up gas canisters and inner tubes should you need them. There is also a waterfountain near the church where you can top up bideons. The climb towards Passo Pordoi is quite long, 9.2km with an average gradient of 7% with few flat sections and 33 hairpin bends. This said, nowhere is it particularly steep, this being reflected by the max gradient of 9%. Although reasonably enclosed, the views are splendid with at first Piz Boe and then Piz Pordoi coming into view. You pass a WW1 Monument high on your right as you approach the pass where you will find some hotels and the base station of the Piz Pordoi cable car lift. The trip to the summit of the Pordoi is well worth the 14 euro ticket if you have time spare or come back another day.

One of our guests reaches Passo Pordoi.
One of our guests reaches Passo Pordoi.

Passo Pordoi to Passo Sella

Distance elapsed: 6.3km descent + 5.5km catagory 2 climb

Total elevation gain: 417m

Average Gradient: 8%  Max Gradient: 12%

Long hairpin bends take you down the Val di Fassa side of the pass towards a junction known as Bivio Sella. This route can be quite busy with tour bus’ which sometimes due to their length get a bit stuck around bends – so make sure you hover over your brakes so that you can anchor on in a hurry if you need to! You never know what is lurking around the next corner. You reach the junction and turn right and after a couple of short bends you reach the flat of Pian Schiavenais from where you get wild views of the 800 metre high NW face of Piz Pordoi and equally impressive Piz Civazes. They will be your companions for this climb, which is shorter and sharper than Passo Pordoi, with more respite during the bends, but steeper sections mixed in up to 12%. There however are never long and the views help take your mind off them, especially once you approach the pass and it opens up to Val Gardena when you get one ofthe most awe inspiring 360 panorama’s I’ve seen in any mountains. Now Piz Pordoi is accompanied by Marmolada, Sassolungo, Torre Innerkofler, Sass dei Meisules, the Odle range, the Cantenaccio and many others. It also is a good place to look for food – descending a km down the other side you will find some excellent restaurants and huts, my favourite of which is Malga Sella, a small farm sted hut serving excellent local dishes with a sun terrace to the front. It is down a small dirt track to the left after the larger huts.

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.
Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.

Passo Sella to Passo Gardena

Distance elapsed: 5.2km descent + 5.8km catagory 3 climb

Total elevation gain: 237m

Average Gradient: 4%  Max Gradient: 7%

Open views, long straights and few hairpins characterise the fast descent to the next junction. The sweeping views are as ever, breathtaking. In only a few minutes it’s over and you start the third climb to Passo Gardena. It’s less steep and intense but by now you’ll be feeling it a bit. Half way through there is a long flat traverse beneath the ramparts of the Sella massif which allows you to catch your breath before a final push up to the pass. It’s all change as as you leave behind Sassolungo and Alta Badia with it’s striking walls either side of the valley come into view.

Passo Gardena to Passo Campolongo and a return to Arabba

Distance elapsed: 9.2km descent + 5.4km catagory 3 climb + 4.6km descent

Total elevation gain: 330m

Average Gradient: 6%  Max Gradient: 11%

You’re now faced with the longest descent of the day. Hairpins stretchout before you for as far as the eye can see and it’s a great descent with long straights between corners. Indeed you hardly need to pedal until you get to Corvara when a short flat brings you into this Ski town. You take a right onto the main road through the town and it immediately starts to climb again. This pass is characterised by a steep section to start with, the gradient gradually picking up as you leave the hotels and bars behind, with numerous short corners. At least it eases again, with long straights until you reach your final summit of the day. The descent to Arabba is quick, letting you enjoy a celebratory beer!

The Giro d'Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.
The Giro d’Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.


Bike hire: If you are only visiting for a few days, you will most likely want to hire a bike rather than transporting your own. There are a number of shops who rent road bikes.

Breakout Sport in La Villa and Corvara

Sport Kostner Rent in Corvara

Ski Service Reba in Arabba have a few road bikes. Unfortunately I can’t find a website.

Of course if you plan on bringing your own bike, most airlines will carry bikes at cost.


A road bike, as light as you can afford is the name of the game. The roads here abouts are in good condition, many stretches having been recently resurfaced and with quite modest maximum gradients, a double chainset is perfectly adequate. Most people carry two bideons and refill at intervals along the route. You should of course carry a multitool, a spare inner tube and some gas cartridges which you can get at the bike shops mentioned above. Helmets are essential as the roads here are busy, although drivers are usually courteous and give cyclists space. If you have clipless shoes, it’s worth bringing pedals with you just incase they don’t have your cleat style.


The best seasons for cyclining in the Dolomites are late May to mid July, and September until mid October, when temperatures are cooler and there are fewer thunderstorms. Temperatures at the passes at the start and end of these seasons can be decidedly chilly at the top of the passes so carrying a windshirt is recommended and possibly knee length bib shorts. But mostly it is warm and dry during these times. One thing to mention is that there are several organised Sellarona Bike Day events every year when th roads are closed for the day to motorised traffic. This sees mass starts with thousands of cyclist completing the route.

Where to stay

At we offer apartments. We are situated close to the start of the tour at Arabba as well as some of the other famous routes – particularly Passo Giau and Passo Fedaia, two of the most coveted climbs in the region. Why not drop us a line at

The Dolomites – 10 things to do to make your holiday special!

You probably already have some ideas about what to do on your trip to the Dolomites, but the area has so much to offer which you might not know about, so let me give you some ideas!

 1) Ride a bike

The Dolomites has some of the best road cycling and mountain biking in the world. There are many hard climbs over beautiful passes, many of which are included in the Giro d’Italia, the second most famous bike race in he world after the Tour de France. The area around Casa Alfredino is used every year; Passo Giau, Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Fedaia – they are climbs synonymous with the event. The famous Sellaronda for example can be completed as a road bike trip or on a mountain bike. With 1800m of height gain it’s a serious undertaking and you need good fitness to complete it. You can rent bikes in La Villa, Corvara, Arabba, or Alleghe. For more detail take a read of our article specifically about the route!

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.
Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.



The Giro d'Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.
The Giro d’Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.

If you are more into mountain biking, the tour is no less excellent, with the route well waymarked. You can either cycle up, or during the high season, use the lift system to transport your bike up leaving you to enjoy the long downhills. There are Enduro sections if you choose and an All Mountain set-up is recommended.

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2) Go for a walk away from the crowds

Casa Alfredino is located on the southern fringe of the most well known area of the Dolomites, which can be especially packed during August when literally the whole of Italy is on holiday. If you want to get away from the madding crowds then head to the south of the range. It’s much less developed and quieter and even in high season you can find quiet forests and high mountain walks on which you will find greater tranquility. Here are three of my favourites.

Cascata del Inferno: great for an off day, head to Valle San Lucano where you will drive beneath the enormous 1600m North Face of Monte Agner, worth the drive in itself. If you drive all the way to the end of the road, you can park, head up a mettled road and after 200 yards take the small track to the right waymarked to the cascades. The deepening gorge is home to some beautiful waterfalls, each one more impressive than the last.

Cavallaza from Passo Rolle: few people know of the Lagorai and its igneous mountains. Starting from Passo Rolle, head over the summit of Tognazza, then onwards to Cavalazza, before dropping to Lahgi di Colabricon. This stunning area is reminiscent of the Scottish or Welsh mountains, with hidden tarns, lush green vegetation and stunning views of the entirely different Pale di San Martino over the valley. There are the remains of some of the Austrian trenches in the mountains too, and the return to Passo Rolle is through dense coniferous forest. Again the drive over Passo Valles to get there is utterly stunning.

Looking across a high mountain tarn opposite the Pale di San Martino
Looking across a high mountain tarn opposite the Pale di San Martino near Passo Valles

Passo Staulanza to Passo giau: Park up at the Rifugio Citta dei Fiumi carpark, not far from Passo Staulanza. The walk up to the hut is a short 40 minute trek up a wide easy track affording views of Marmolada, Pelmo and Civetta. Continue up behind the hut and this leads you to a ridgeline from which you can see Antelao and Sorapiss aswell. The track leads easily over several minor passes through high alpine meadows and some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of the Dolomites. By doing it in the direction suggested and starting early, you complete the route as a 500m climb and thus go in the opposite direction to most people, so for most of the day you will have the mountains to yourself. When you get to Passo Giau, hitch a lift back to the car park

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Rifugio Citta dei Fiumi with Marmolada in the background.
Alpine cows showing us some love

3) Visit Bolzano

Bolzano, the regional capital of Alto Adige/Sud Tirol has a beautiful old town well worth spending a day on – ideal for a rest day or if the rain comes in. It’s a 1hr 40 min drive from the house over Passo Fedaia and Passo Carezza where you will pass the UNESCO world Heritage site, Lago di Carreza beneath the Latemar towers. It has a splendid cathedral with a multi-coloured tiled roof, arched colonnades with lots of boutique shops, a street market, excellent restaurants (I can heartily recommend the Hopfen & Co Brewery), a museum dedicated to Otzi a prehistoric man who was found buried in a glacier not far away, Mountain Spirit and Sportler, two excellent climbing shops, and Salewa Head Quarters with a fantastic indoor climbing wall.

4) Wine tours

The Adige, Friuli and Prosecco regions are world famous for their wines. Indeed the Adige promotes a wine road and they have many excellent varieties, including Blauburgender/Pinot Nero, Grauvernatsch, Lagrein, Pinot Grigio of course and Eisacktaller. To the south and east of the house, you’ll find the Friuli wines like Riballo Giallo, and Proseccos in Valldobiadene and Conegliano amongst many many others, but also Grappa’s of all types.

5) Medieval castles and history

If you like historical sites you will be interested to know that during the middle ages the entire region as far as Milan was part of Bavaria. As a result it has a great number of beautiful castles, like Castello Andraz. Over the years it changed hands, ceeding to the Holy Roman Empire (indeed Merano, just 30 minutes from Bolzano was the regional capital for a very long time indeed and a papal seat – Castle Tyrol is worth a look if you are in the area) and then the Hapsburg Empire and Veneto, before finally becoming wholly Italian after the brutal battles fought here during the First World War. There are war forts and open air museums at Passo Valparola and high on the flanks of Marmolada which you can visit using the cable car.

Castello Andraz - a small medieval castle in a stunning mountain setting
Castello Andraz – a small medieval castle in a stunning mountain setting

6) Ice skating, swimming and fishing in Alleghe

If it’s so miserable you can’t get out into the mountains, then maybe indoor skating might pass some time; or on a sunny rest day you might want to unwind at the mountain beach set beneath the towering Civetta. You can rent pedallo’s, go fishing, walk by the lake and generally unwind.

Pedallo fun on Lago di Alleghe with the mighty Civetta NW wall above.
Pedallo fun on Lago di Alleghe with the mighty Civetta NW wall above.

7) The Civetta Zipline and the Civetta adventure park

For those of you who have no issues with throwing yourself of a perfectly good mountainside, the Civetta Zipline is a huge 1600m 2 stage line in San Tomaso Agordino, just south of Alleghe. Reaching speeds of up to 80kmh, it crosses a huge ravine twice up to 160m above the ground and descends 260m!

Meanwhile for kids there is a treetop adventure park; take the first stage of the Alleghe cable car up to Pian di Pezze where you will find quite a few different activities for children and this excellent high rise obstacle course!

8) Go sport climbing

If you are a climber you’ll most likely know lots about the famous alpine and trad climbing in the area. But most will not know that we have some superb sport climbing in our area: the best are Sass di Roccia at Laste, Val di Gares, Castello Andraz, Sass di Dlacia and Cinque Torri. All you need is a single rope, some quickdraws, a harness and some climbing shoes. Val di Gares and Andraz in particular are in ideal family friendly settings, in the woods with shade and a beautiful setting. If you would like a taster, we can arrange for a qualified guide to lead you for a day!

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One of our local sport climbing crags at Malga Ciapela. A lovely spot although a bit tough, with rough, steep, pocketed limestone and routes from 6a+

9) Stay at a hut for a night

There is absolutely nothing like hiking up to a hut and settling down with a glass of wine to watch the sun set over the mountains, and then the excitement of waking up to an equally glorious sunrise; I find it hard to sleep! We are surrounded by great places to stay – just ring up before you set off to book a spot. You can expect to pay around 45-50 euro per person including dinner and a basic breakfast. Here are some of the best:

Rifugio Falier 1hr45 walk from the trailhead, or 2hr15 from Malga Ciapela campsite when the road above this is closed during August.

Rifugio Citta di Fiume 1hr walk from the car park

Rifugio Viel dal Pan 1hr10 walk from Passo Fedaia – quite steep but with excellent views

Rifugio Cappana Piz Fassa 1hr30 walk from Piz Pordoi, which you can access using a cable car. This is a tiny hut, at the very top of the Sella Massif with only 20 sleeping spaces, so bookings are non refundable.

Rifugio des Alpes Accessible by cable car from Campitello di Fassa, or by a 1 hour walk from Passo Sella

Tierser Alpl Hutte a 2hr 30 walk from Campitello di Fassa, or 2hr 30 from Passo Sella – either version is delightful, although the latter has more spectacular views. Or walkin from Sella pass, then walk down to Campitello the next day and catch a lift back up to return to Passo Sella

Rifugio Fronza alla Coronelle A 15 minute lift ride from Via Nigra below the Cantenaccio

10) Eat, drink and be merry

Italian food is renowned the world over and the Dolomites is no exception. With a superb mix of traditional local Tyrolian, Fodom and Ladin dishes and of course pastas and pizzas, you can dine in style. Add in the great wines mentioned above and you have a winning mix. Even food at huts is usually of excellent quality and very reasonably priced, so don’t worry about your lunch time sarnies and get stuck in. Speck, canederli, roe deer and venison stews, goulash, casunsiei and porcini mushrooms are delicacies not to be missed and feature on most menus in our area.

A spot of lunch at the excellent Rifugio Castiglioni situated beneath the ramparts of Sassolungo. A fantastic hour long walk to a lunchspot with a kids play area and superb food.
A spot of lunch at the excellent Rifugio Castiglioni situated beneath the ramparts of Sassolungo. A fantastic hour long walk to a lunchspot with a kids play area and superb food.

The Sellaronda Ski Tour – Orange.

The Sellaronda is world famous – in the summer as a fabulous road and mountain biking tour, or in winter as an on piste, whole day excursion. You can do it in either direction, without using any other mode of transport than the ski lifts and the planks on your feet. It’s a wonderful thing to do and can be accomplished by any intermediate skier – if you can ski any red, it’s on. Indeed you shouldn’t be put off when looking at the map as this trip is more about the volume of skiing than the difficulty – bar a couple of slopes in the Arabba area, both directions generally follow the line of least resistance! Personally I prefer the Orange route but theres really not much in it. Of course if you are a strong skier, you can add detours for added excitement and I will detail some of these below.

The lay of the land

The Sellaronda encircles the Sella massif; a square chunk of Dolomite which was uplifted by the underlying igneous layer of rock in one piece. It’s a magnificent, apparently flat topped range, with only the occasional breech in its vertical walls through which a valley pours. Surrounded by the Ladin speaking valleys of Val di Fassa (Val de Fascia), Val Gardena (Val Gherdëina), Val Badia and Val Cordevole. Each valley has its main village from which the tour can start, or if you are in one of the outlying villages you can join it with a variation. From Casa Alfredino you have to do just this, starting in Malga Ciapela where you take a lift to Monte Padon which allows you to descend in a couple of runs to Arabba. You could also either drive to Arabba or Canazei in about half an hour. But for now I will describe the tour from Malga Ciapela. If you are not coming from there then ignore the next section.


This route takes most people a whole day, especially if you add in some detours for lunch etc. You must be able to sustain a good fluid pace for the day to complete it. If you are a speed freak and straight line off the top of every lift and don’t stop it can be completed by the shortest route in about 3 hours 30 minutes – this should give you some understanding for the amount of skiing involved.

There are frequent huts all around the route – it’s not really worth carrying a packed lunch with you as inevitably you will want to stop for a drink, and wolfing down some chips won’t cost much at all. Skiing unencumbered with either no pack or only a small one, is much nicer.

You will need a Dolomiti Superski pass which covers all the areas of the Dolomites. If you have a choice, avoid the end of the week and Sunday’s as these are the busiest days. Saturday (changeover day) can work well and also early in the week when people are still warming up a little.

Accessing Arabba

From Casa Alfredino drive or take the ski bus up to Malga Ciapela. If you have a car, there is a small carpark at the lift to Monte Padon which is further up the hill than the main Marmolada lift – if you reach the s-bends on the way up to Passo Fedaia you’ve gone to far.

Jump on the lift which takes about 15 minutes. The red run down from here is quite intimidating, although it’s not as bad as it looks as it’s usually uncrowded and first thing in the morning will be perfectly groomed. It widens and becomes easier as you descend. when you get to the bottom, there is a small 2 seat chair which takes you to the middle of the Arabba range, again a 10 minute ride. This takes you in total maybe 40 minutes if you take it steady, and it’s a good warm up for the day.


Orange, clockwise route

From here on I’ll describe the route in the Orange direction. I say Orange because the route is signposted with Orange arrows for clockwise and Green for anti-clockwise. Both are roughly the same difficulty – some people enjoy one direction so much they do it in the other the next day!

So having skied down a blue run from the Malga Ciapela link, you will come to the mid-station of the bubble car lift to Portovescovo. Get on this and then ski down the short access run which links the to Portovescovo lift houses to one another. Coming around the corner you will find probably the hardest run of the day – handy whilst you’re fresh. It’s a steep and often very bumpy run which gets carved up by intimidated skiers. If you are lucky, keeping to skiers left and skiing the powder swept to the outside edge of the piste can give you a good run – keep left and you will inevitably get mixed up in the mayhem. However it is steeper on this side.

Once down this slope, runs lead off leftwards – keep take the left most alternative which traverses the mountainside towards Passo Pordoi. Initially they are wide slopes with some steep pitches which can be crowded, so be careful – rolling into them at speed is asking for trouble – again the outside of the piste is your friend if you are. Then it transitions into a track which curls around the until you reach the long chair up to Passo Pordoi.

Passo Pordoi to Sella Pass

To get to the Val di Fassa slopes, ski down under the lift and then take the chair on your left – it goes quite steeply up to a summit in a col. This marks the end of one of the less interesting sections. The next run which is long and goes all the way to Lupo Bianco is excellent at the start. For side country skiers, duck under the ropes I front of you and there is an excellent area down between some rocks. On piste, the run which leads right is my preferred way, although either is good – down left there is a small boarder cross run which can be fun! The whole area funnels down towards a bowl just above the trees – lots of skiers congregate here as its a natural meeting spot. This then takes you down into a long valley run which is narrow with quite a few hairpins. It’s fun although often busy.

Rifugio des alpes
The view at the top of Col Rodella across to Piz Civazes


After a few minutes there is a run to the right which you must take – not to do so will lead you down to Canazei which will mean walking back to the lift house, catching a ride back up to the bowl you’ve just come from and starting again – it is an easy mistake to make and if you do so towards the end of the day could be costly too if you end up in the wrong valley! Instead, you will go through a tunnel under a road and then arrive at bubble cars to Sella Pass. Here either schuss down to a short chairlift on skiers right, or for a small excursion, go left to a 2 man chair to the top of Col Rodella which affords a fantastic view. You have to return to the same lift, but it’s a worthwhile run, especially for the side country on skiers right. Finally you are set up for a run down to Selva Gardena.


Sella Pass to Selva Gardena

This section allows for the most deviation from the standard run. For the easiest run (although bad for boarders due to a number of flat sections), you can follow initially the red to Hotel Passo Sella, and then the blue all the way to Pian di Gralba. Alternatively, pull up at a 3 man chair on your left about half way down to Piz Seteur. If you ski towards where came from you will find a great red run, called Falk which takes you Plan do Grabla. Or you can take on of the runs over the other side of Piz Seteur which are directly infront of you when you demount the lift. This allows you to reach Rifugio Comici, a nice sport for a break in stunning surroundings. You need to take a couple of ski tows to do this. You can also reach this point from Pian di Gralba by taking the large cable car to Piz Sella. From Rifugio Comici either ski the eastern slopes down to Plan di Grabla, or better take runs westward beneath Sassolungo down to lift 21 – it’s a secret back run which is quiet and beautiful. Lift 21 then allows you to access Ciampinoi by way of another lift, 22 from where you can ski either the excellent black or red down into Selva di Gardena.

Should you descend from Plan di Gralba, the run is a long easy red with a couple of short obvious lifts to gain you a little altitude in flat spots. All the described runs lead to a car park in the centre of Selva where you have to take your skis, go over an overpass and onto the next section.

Looking out from Dantercepies towards Sassolungo and Val Gardena


Selva up to Passo Gardena and on to Corvara

At the end of the overpass catch a lift, and then ski down to the Dantercepies bubble cars. This takes you to the pass in one fell swoop. Although this marks geographically the halfway point, in reality completing the route is now not far off and you can take you foot off the gas a bit. With one long red, you will descend to Colfusco beneath mighty north facing cliffs. Perpetually in shade, the runs are cold. On the right you will see ice falls through the trees, and it’s worth stopping to stare up at this massive cathedral of rock. If you fancy a detour, when you get to Colfosco, go up lift 46 (Cofosco) and then 50 (Forcelles). There’s a well positioned hut here which affords expansive views across the Sella – it’s worthwhile if you have time as you get a much better idea of this side of the Sella from here.

To get down to Corvara you have to take a lift – there are no runs. This is a pretty flat lift and it delivers you right to the lift house which accesses the next leg.


Corvara to Arabba

The last leg is really nice again. Back in the sun, with some excellent runs and some opportunities for deviation. Lift 19 takes you up to the Boe ski area. Here you can either continue or take a lift to catch a steep black run, Vallon nestled in a bowl to your right. In years gone by the area just outside the lift station was a bind as it was flat to mildly uphill so pushing or walking was required but they now install a small conveyor lift to help – infinitely better! The run down to Passo Campolongo is good, although can get badly bumped at the end of the day as it’s in direct sunshine so the snow piles up progressively until it’s sometimes a real challenge. This happens on a slope about halfway down to the pass. Luckily the worst is not very long and you can usually ride them out by taking long diagonal runs across the slope. Or draw your knees together, ready your poles and imagine you’re on an Olympic Mogul run. Just don’t come crying to me when it goes wrong.

After the moguls bear right at the next junction to catch the last lift you need to get to Arabba, Bec de Roces. If you have time, you can cross the road on lift 31 for a run down from Cherz – there a really nice sweeping red run which comes down through the trees – lots of fun for a quick blast.

From Bec de Roces Arabba is one run away. The reds are all a blast here although late season they will be pretty slushy by the time you get there as they are plumb south facing and exposed. But, all things equal in a few minutes you will be at the new Arabba Fly lift which will transport you back to near the base Portovescovo lift. Here we recommend taking the DMC Europa 1 lift. The Cable car to Portovescovo is always jam packed whilst the DMC bubble cars seem to be missed by many who just pile onto the cable car as it’s the first option available. At any rate, in a few minutes you are back to where you started on the Sellaronda, all you must do is retrace your steps to Monte Padon and collapse in a heap!

Guest Blog: Pete comes ice climbing

Last year at the end of January, I hosted a weeks ice climbing at Casa Alfredino. Amongst the guests was Pete Derrett who some of you may know from Dicks Climbing in Bristol. It was his first time in the Dolomites and I asked him to write a guest blog about his experience.

Months back we at Dick’s Climbing ran a promotion with Casa Alfredino in the Dolomites and at the time it was mused that we should head over and check it out ourselves, with promise of roadside Ice climbs and long mountain routes the seeds were definitely sown for me. I finally had a chance to head out and see for myself.

The mighty Excalibur. Falling 3 pitches from the South side of the gorge, this famous route is one of the plum lines of the gorge. Floodlit by night, this route is as spectacular by day!

Casa Alfredino is located in Col di Rocca, a couple of hours drive from Venice Marco Polo airport and consists of three floors all fashioned into their own individual lodges with their own community areas and bedrooms coupled with a shared, attic drying room. Fifteen minutes walk or two minutes drive away is Italy’s hidden Ice Climbing gem, Serrai di Sottoguda, a monstrous cleft with water ice routes pouring down along it’s whole length. It had been a funny winter in the Dolomites, no snow meant that several routes which look monstrous in the guidebook simply weren’t there, yet others forming on natural, high volume watercourses were fully formed and ready to go. What this meant in practice was that we had plenty to go at, with plenty more to look forward to next year. There will definitely be a return visit in order!

Catedrale Centrale is a line through the wide expanse of ice you find halfway up the gorge. It has no less than 4 main lines on it with a great number of variations on it and is over 100m in length!
Catedrale Centrale is a line through the wide expanse of ice you find halfway up the gorge. It has no less than 4 main lines on it with a great number of variations on it and is over 100m in length!


Jason Bailey starting up Excalibur. Vertical for 40m, 2 different lines and fantastically mushroomed ice characterise this climb.
Jason Bailey starting up Excalibur. Vertical for 40m, 2 different lines and fantastically mushroomed ice characterise this climb.


Equipment-wise, it’s your standard ice rack; pair of technical tools, nice stiff pair of  boots and crampons, monopoints were popular amongst our party, and finally as many screws as you can muster, don’t worry too much about the stubbies, you’ll be sinking 22cm screws full depth most of the time, the ice is that fat – I took thirteen screws and was finishing some forty to fifty metre pitches with just one left! Whilst I did sling a V-Threader and cord in my pack, it was soon clear that bolts and tat tied off around trees were de rigueur.

Cascata del Gelato, a short WI3 perfect for warming up or indeed your first cascade ice lead.
Cascata del Gelato, a short WI3 perfect for warming up or indeed your first cascade ice lead.

If you’ve got a mixed bunch of abilities Sottoguda is the perfect location to start; short WI2 ramp routes lead into two of three pitches of WI3 to the top. These give a great introduction to ice and by the end of a week trip I imagine many first-timers will be happy to have a go leading these given the large volume of training they will have been able to pack in. Talking of training do what the Italians do and set up top-ropes and run laps on the routes if you  really want some mileage!

The first WI5 in Italy, Spada is one of the most striking lines you could imagine. 45m and plumbline vertical.
The first WI5 in Italy, Spada is one of the most striking lines you could imagine. 45m and plumbline vertical.

Once feeling a bit more confident there’s several routes of WI5/5+ routes to get your teeth into. Long routes …
Some times though, 100m multi pitch routes just won’t cut it, it’s then time to head out into the mountains.

Jason Bailey high on Cascata Nevere in Val Corpassa on the flanks of Moiazza, a 5mm WI3+
Jason Bailey high on Cascata Nevere in Val Corpassa on the flanks of Moiazza, a 5mm WI3+

Less than an hour hour away, my final day was spent in Val Corpassa heading up hundreds of metres of outrageous virgin ice (be aware that ascent lines are marked in dotted red lines, with descent routes in solid green …) On these routes all the alpine tricks should come out; get ready for some healthy walking in and out, simul-climbing and soloing and an early start to get back before nightfall and into the pub in time for last orders. A real full value day out was had and the views from the top as dusk set in were magnificent, again full marks to Mike from Casa Alfredino for suggesting a top class day out.

Searching out the route.
Searching out the route.
View 1
Looking out towards Sass Bianch after a long day climbing the casacades.
View 2
Approaching the foot of Moiazza after out ascent.

With copious Pizza and Italian wine consumed sadly the trip drew to a close and I took up Mike’s kindly offer of a drive across Western Europe home, Vodafone welcoming me to Austria, Germany France and finally back in the UK. Recharged by time spent amongst the snow and ice, it’s now back to relative normality.

So who would enjoy a winter trip to Casa Alfredino?


– Pete –

Flower Power, Tognaza, 6b 7L

UkClimbing logbooks

The Dolomites are made of Dolomite right? Any idiot knows that – the clues in the name. Only it’s not necessarily – Marmolada the highest mountain hereabouts is Calcarious Limestone, a cousin of Dolomite, but a fundamentally different beast. There’s agglomerate like that seen on Via Ferrata delle Trincee. But what many don’t know is that there is a whole region in the south west of the range which is entirely Porphyry and Granite – two igneous rocks which are utterly different to the surrounding areas.

Two summers ago whilst driving over Passo Rolle my eyes almost fell out of my head. Not at the stunningly impressive Pale di San Martino (which at the time was shrouded in a cloak of mist) but at the crag on the other side of the road. Unable to stop I resolved to return the following day which we did and together we roamed through the  Scottish Highland-esque landscape. With stunning views over the valley we enjoyed the stark differences in vegetation and the way in which the topology leant itself to small ponds and lakes in contrast to the often bleak arid Dolomite altiplanes we were used to. Of course I wanted to find out more – surely the cliff I’d seen must have rock climbing on it? Indeed we passed a fantastic looking mountain called Colbricon which looked equally stunning.

Mike surveying the crag from the road - 250m of solid igneous. BOOM.
Mike surveying the crag from the road – 250m of solid igneous. BOOM.

Recently returning to the mountains after a month in the UK, I found myself climbing with my good friend Mike Stoger, trying to showcase some of the best crags that surround the house. On the last day, wondering what to do to provide some adventure and finding myself in a bookshop, I came across a copy of the 2011 edition of “Lagorai, Cima d’Asti” by Versante Sud. For anyone familiar with these guidebooks, it is of the normal excellent standard and covers the Lagorai region, of which Passo Rolle is the North-Easternmost corner. I purchased it for 25.50 Euro and off we set.

One of the most attractive things about going to the Lagorai from Alleghe is the stunning drive. First Falcade, an attractive traditional village with old Feniles which soon give way to thick forests and then Passo Valles. Here the landscape changes – a river bubbles down by the side of the road and the woods open out a little. The mountains become a little more rolling and the bare earth of landslips becomes a rich dark brown. Climbing to Passo Rolle the road winds out of the woods across alpine pastures with little sign of anything vertiginous – then you crest the pass and that all changes. First the huge steep walls of the Pale come into view, pale and unforgiving and then seconds later the object of our desires Tognazza, a broad 250m high cliff of Porphyry. The Pale dwarfs this cliff but what is striking about it is it’s obvious quality when compared with what you would find only 1km across the valley.

Parking at the ruined Malga Fosse 1km below the pass, the walk-in is a brief although brutal affair. It starts easily enough with a walk down through a meadow until you have to go back up the otherside, up a steep boulderfield. Still, 15-20 minutes will see you at the base of the cliff. Clearly not as steep as the limestone cliffs or the rest of the Dolomites, Tognazza is delightfully faceted, with cracks, slabs ribs and aretes and deep, perfectly formed diedres.

Pitch 2 - this is what dreams are made of.
Pitch 2 – this is what dreams are made of.


We picked our way to our chosen route Flower Power, a 7 pitch 6b, one of 9 recorded routes on the cliff. The start is well marked – a small stainless steel plaque has been screwed to the rock. Although the topo says small to medium friends are required, in the 5 pitches we climbed, we never needed to place any – the route is well bolted with high quality stainless expansion bolts. I could not vouch for any of the other routes, but this certainly sets a precedent. The pitches are long and varied and the climbing quite sustained.

I set off up the first pitch which starts steadily and builds to a steep, balancy couple of 6a moves through an overlap and steep narrow slab above. With your gear below your feet, just take a deep breath and make the move. Up and right across some grass, a few more moderate moves bring you to a belay.

The second pitch is spectacular, first weaving through a short dihedral and then following a blunt rib and crack with some extremely fine positions and fantastic climbing. Hidden from the belay it’s airy, delicate, powerful, and just plain fun in equal measures.

The subsequent pitch is again totally different, climbing a thin slab (not correctly marked on the topo, but 6a according to another I’ve found). It’s delicate  to start with and then, whilst pulling further right it becomes very well exposed as it reaches a tall arete for the second half. The last few moves before the belay are exquisite as you balance your way up, shifting your weight to take advantage of the small dishes and edges.

The view to the Pale di San Martino - you can just make out Mike climbing the 6a slab pitch at the bottom!
The view to the Pale di San Martino – you can just make out Mike climbing the 6a slab pitch at the bottom!

A quick 5b pitch leads to a soaring crack line graded 6b. To my mind this was not really very hard, certainly not 6b if you’ve climbed a crack or two in your life – maybe if you’re crimping your way around the main event it is? Certainly there was chalf on the small edges either side of the crack when we did it. However that aside, what a phenomenal pitch – if it were gear protected it would be a fantastic HVS/E1 pitch with bomber gear all the way, but as a bolted outing its just plain fun.

And alas that is where the daily rain stopped play – we scampered back down the abseil piste, getting hit by heavy rain as we got to the penultimate station. Down we went, and off to Malga Rolle for a well earned Weiss beer. I can’t wait to go back – the routes on Colbricon look utterly fantastic!

Comici Route, Falzarego Towers, V-

The Comici Route on the Torre Piccolo di Falzarego is a great route with a short 45 minute approach and the grade V- climbing concentrated in the first pitch and which if you like can be bypassed. Otherwise it is mostly IV and is ideal for those looking for the next step up from Sass di Stria.



The walk in is easy – leave the car at the Lagozuoi cable car lift station. From the back of the carpark a path winds first through a boulderfield, then through the stunted pines of the tree line towards the ruins of a World War 1 Field hospital, well worth a look. The Falzarego towers are two modest but satisfying looking peaks, the Picolo being a fine pointed summit, separated from the Grande by a deep cleft, some 4-8 metres wide. To reach the base of the route, walk steeply up and left behind the hospital to reach more or less the lowest point of the buttress where you will find some earthy ledges to gear up, although it might be easier to do so at the hospital where there is flat ground.


What to take:

Gearwise, you can afford a slim rack; there are so many pegs, that I rarely found myself reaching for nuts. Indeed, we had one small set and Camalots 0.4 – 1 (grey – red) and never felt the need for more. Slings are useful for the numerous threads as the insitue tat although frequent is usually faded and untrustworthy.

Standing in the ruins of the field hospital one gets a sense for the isolation and desperation the men must have felt in a sport like this.
Standing in the ruins of the field hospital one gets a sense for the isolation and desperation the men must have felt in a sport like this.

The Climb:

Comici, one of the great pioneers of the Dolomites lends his name to a vast number of routes on an equally vast number of peaks – it’s rare to find his routes disappointing and he is renowned for his bold, aethetically pleasing lines, not to mention their difficulty with many still presenting a serious challange for the aspiring alpine rock athelete. The line on the Falzarego towers does not disappoint, which after a couple of pitches gains the arete of the tower providing great positions. The start seems to have a number of variations at differing grades; we spotted at least 3 different ways to reach the first belay. But as this is a practice area, the route is often marked with red or green way markers, and is very extensively equipped with pitons and cemented in bolts. The third pitch is no less than spectacular, leaving a niche and climbing briefly and steeply up a corner one reaches the top of a flake – step out across air to continue up the arete, which after another 2 pitches leads to the small summit of the tower.

Attacking the first grade V- pitch. The difficulties are not sustained and are found in the groove seen here.
Attacking the first grade V- pitch. The difficulties are not sustained and are found in the groove seen here.

With excellent rock through out, bar the odd loose flake, this is a great introduction to the area. If there is a chance you might feel the need to retreat, or weather is looking a little less than optimal, the belays are mostly bolted, some with new glue-ins, some with cemented rings. Route finding is mostly very straight forwards with waymarkers helping frequently when you are unsure, as does the fixed protection. I would say that a UK leader comfortable leading a multipitch HS would not struggle unduely with this route.

From the top of the third pitch should it be needed, abseiling to the western side of the ridge should see you to an escape route.

Felix Idiens climbing high on the arête with Autumn snows on Averau and Nuvolau behind him.
Felix Idiens climbing high on the arête with Autumn snows on Averau and Nuvolau behind him.


The descent is worth mentioning – once you reach the summit climb quite steeply down the far side of the tower – rings and gear are easy to find so it’s easily protected to a shoulder where you will find three curled steel staples. We used the largest and highest as this was the easiest to access and a 25m abseil landed you at the top of the gully descending between the two towers. This gully is a little tricky in places with two down climbing sections, but could be abseiled with sufficiently long ropes should there still be winter snows in the gully from a ring in the side wall of the gully. Once out of the gully there are two further down climbing sections but they are straight forwards if a little exposed.