One thing that helps immerse you in the local culture is to crash local events. In this case it was very easy. There were flyers up all over Cortina, Italy advertising a speed climbing competition at the dam. We’ve never seen speed climbing in person before so we figured we’d go check it out. We were definitely the only non Italians there but it was fun to see what the locals do with their time. Plus, watching the speed climbers was amazing. These guys climbed up the side of the damn faster than I can run on flat ground.
Remember the climbing we did on the via ferrata? I mentioned in that post that even local kids climb on the via ferrata routes. This proved it. These kids could barely walk and they were climbing with no fear!!
Local kids practicing how to climb the via ferrata
Kid zip lining down off the dam
Here is some video of these guys flying up the side of the damn.
Travel Tip: Look in local magazines, look out for posters, talk with the concierge, find a local event and just show up. Who cares if you can’t speak the language. The poster we found for this event were in Italian but it had a picture of a climber, a time and a date. That was enough to figure out what was happening.
The VIA FERRATA!! This is what brought us to the Dolomites in northern Italy. I read about this in some travel book (can’t remember anymore which one) that this was one of the top adventures in the world. After doing it I can say it was a blast and an amazing adventure but one of the top adventures in the world??… maybe a little bit a stretch. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Our route on the via ferrata
We hired Marcello via www.dolomitemountains.com to guide us up the mountain. We started off roped up to Marcello even though the whole point of the via ferrata is that you don’t have to use ropes. The via ferrata or iron road provides the necessary safety measures for you to get to the top. All you really need is a helmet, harness, and 2 carabiners attached to you harness. The 2 carabiners are there so you always have at least one clipped into the cable just in case.
Nathan bringing up the rear on the via ferrata
After a little bit of climbing Marcello decided we were ready to go on our own. He took the rope off of us. There would be nobody to blame but ourselves if we fell to our death. Our lives were in our own hands. Actually, it wasn’t that scary. The iron cable is firmly bolted into the mountain and you always have one clip into the cable. You would have to do something very stupid to get hurt. Even the local kids do this with their families. It’s like taking a walk in the park for them.
We did make it to the top and both of us wanted to do it again right away. It was great fun that was very safe. I would want to hire Marcello to do it a few more times but then we would be fine going out on our own. Most of these routes are well documented and well marked. During the peak seasons you can even get traffic jams on some of them because there are so many people.
Miki standing in front of our via ferrata climb
Travel Tip: If you want help with a complete travel package to the Dolomites contact www.dolomitemountains.com. They can help with hotels, transportation and hiring a guide. If all you need is a guide for a few days then contact Marcello directly. You’ll probably be able to work out a better deal.
Check out this video compilation of our climb up the via ferrata.