Alta Via 1 - Day 2
I woke up several times during the night. First, Koen was worried because he thought an animal was near his tent. As I was exhausted and dangerous animals (bears and wolves) are super rare in the Dolomites, I told him to go to sleep. Then he woke me up again because he thought a hiker was passing. The third time, he admitted he "really couldn't sleep on a slope" and went outside to repitch his tent on a more level area. Still, I felt much more rested than I did the night before.
We quickly packed our gear, descended back to the AV1, and continued climbing. It was really warm, and the route kept getting steeper and steeper. Some sections were again lined with cables. After those, we start a long climb through a valley, fully exposed to the sun. We hadn't expected the area to be this dry and warm and were slowly getting worried about our water supplies. I was having a hard time due to my jet lag and the very long previous day. Fortunately, we reached our first mountain pass after a few hours.
From there, it was only a short descent to a mountain hut, or "Refugio". I had hoped to find a fountain or tap there, but those were all shut off as all nearby streams had dried up. We could buy water, though, for 4,50 per bottle. Koen thought that was crazy expensive, but it was only slightly more than in the store on my corner in NYC. We also bought lemonade and ate lunch.
The next stretch of the AV1 went downhill over a dirt road, so within the next 30 minutes, we walked farther than during the entire morning. Then, followed more climbing over a smaller trail before we arrived at an enormous mountain hut. It was the first time I saw something like it. There was a restaurant, several bedrooms, multiple toilets, wifi, a small store, and electric outlets for people to charge their e-bikes. This would be a very different hike from my previous ones...
We passed some Alpine cows and great views. After a few miles of trails, we reached a long, steep descent over a dirt road. The descent went on forever, and we had to be careful not to slip. Then we arrived at yet another mountain hut. We had some soda and Koen spent a long time reassuring his girlfriend and mom that he was still OK. Since the thunderstorm of the previous night, Koen had also gotten obsessed with the weather predictions and kept checking his phone every 5 minutes. I told him that was useless, as the predictions were often wrong in the mountains, and we couldn't spend days waiting before every mountain pass until the conditions were perfect.
After the hut, we started another long climb. There would likely be lots of rain later that day, and after an hour or two, I saw some dark clouds forming behind us. A bit later, when we were in a forested area, the clouds caught up with us and it started to rain super hard instantly. We put our rain gear on as quickly as possible but still got quite wet. It also started to thunder. We could see a small cabin through the trees so ran there. Unfortunately, it was locked. Koen wasn't happy and wanted to head down to the mountain hut and take shelter. It had taken us three hours to get where we were, so I told him it would be better to keep going, as there was another cabin less than an hour away. We saw several other hikers running in that direction and decided to do the same. Even with our rain gear on, we quickly got drenched, partly from sweating and partly from the water running down our sleeves and faces. It was raining super hard and we heard thunder all around us. We were glad when we arrived at the cabin. There were several other people waiting out the rain as well, or reserving a bed for the night. We ordered a beer and waited for our clothes to dry.
After an hour or two we were somewhat dry, and the rain had largely stopped. We decided to continue walking, at least until the next cabin, another 45 minutes away. It started to drizzle just before we arrived. Koen was getting sick of the rain and wanted to eat a real dinner inside. When we tried to enter, I was shocked because the doors opened automatically. The "cabin" was actually an enormous mountain hotel, and it was clear we were the only hikers there (there was a paved leading up to the hut). Even though there was nothing else to do for miles around but walk in the mountains, there wasn't even a place to put our dirty shoes or wet backpacks. Everyone there just stayed in the hotel or did short day hikes when the weather was nice.
We were seated next to two other Dutch people. I didn't really like that, as that meant we couldn't gossip about the fake hikers. We got a three-course meal, and already during the appetizer, the other people complained that it was too much food and that they wouldn't be able to finish it. They clearly hadn't walked uphill through the rain for hours. The food was good, though, and we only paid 56 euros for two dinners and drinks. While we were eating, a lady asked us what we wanted for lunch the next day. Apparently, the hotel even prepared personalized and prepacked lunch packages. That was way too luxurious for us, so we headed out and continued our route. Fortunately, the rain had stopped again.
The following section was all uphill, but we quickly found a good place to camp with a nice view.