Cortina d’Ampezzo – a short hike that could have gone very bad…


Cortina d’Ampezzo is located in the Dolomites in the north eastern corner of Italy only a short drive from the Austrian border.  It is a very popular ski destination in the winter and a climbing destination in the summer.  We were there to do some hiking, climbing and enjoying the great Italian food.

We hired a climbing guide for a three days but the first day we arrived we didn’t have a guide but still wanted to do a short hike.  We visited the Cortina information center and got some hiking maps and they gave us some recommended short hikes.  The chosen hike was route 224 to the west of Lake Misurina.  According to the information center this was an “easy 2 hour hike”.  The truth was this was neither “easy” nor a “2 hour” hike.

Cortina Hiking Map

Here was the challenge.  The trailhead started at the lake just off the right of the picture below.  It continued up the right side of the mountain range, around the backside, popped out somewhere on the left down the rock face, then traversed back across to the start of the trail.  Sounds simple enough but the trail wasn’t well marked, it took a lot longer than we expected and the clouds started to roll in and it started to get very cold.

Mountains around Lake Misurina

We started the hike on the well marked trail and we having a good time.  The clouds were just coming in but we weren’t worried yet.

Beginning of the Lake Misurina Hike

Clouds rolling in over Lake Misurina

The backside of the mountain opened up into a stunning valley.  Nobody was around except for a few cows.  It was all still very beautiful because we though the end was just around the corner.

Valley in the Dolomites

Then things started to get worrisome.  The trail forked off in a couple different directions and wasn’t well marked.  The map looked very clear but when we got there is wasn’t clear at all.  We were hiking next to a very big rock face that had lots of small rocks rolling down the steep slopes.  We were anxiously waiting for one of those large boulders to let loose… luckily it never happened.

Back of the mountain... things starting to get scary

At least we would have had some shelter but I’m not sure how much it would have helped without all the walls and a roof…

At least we will have some shelter... sort of.

We finally found a make shift ladder built into the side of the mountain that helped us get down the sheer cliff face.  This put us back on the trail and we could see lake Misurina again… we were safe.  We were so worried I didn’t even take pictures during the period we were trying to find our way out.  I wish i would have take a picture of our escape route so I could ask the information center how they classify this as “easy”.

However, we made it and just as we saw Lake Misurina we saw some local wildlife… a very nice treat.

Our only company on the hike

We made it back to our car about 4 hours after we started.  Double the amount of time quoted by the information center.  Next time we will do more research and plan our hikes much better or hire a guide.

We did make it back to Cortina and started to prepare for our real climbing adventure of the next 3 days…

Mountains around Cortina

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