Alta Via 1 - Day 4
The sun was out when we woke up. That was a good opportunity to dry our clothes. The first part of the day would all be downhill. Apparently, there was a climbing school nearby, and quite a few climbers were heading up the mountain. We decided to have breakfast at the first mountain hut we passed. We had another apfelstrudel and chocolate milk.
Our route description recommended taking a shortcut, but as we were a bit ahead of schedule, we decided to walk the original AV1. It was super warm and sunny, and we struggled not to get sunburned. It was also tough to carry sufficient water. The route was beautiful, though, as we gradually descended. We ended up on a gravel road after a few kilometers and quickly reached the bottom of the valley, where we had to cross a larger road. That was where we learned that I had been right half an hour earlier, and we had indeed taken a wrong turn. Fortunately, there were several ways to get back to the correct trail.
We crossed the large road and started another long climb uphill. It was so steep that stairs were cut out on the forest floor. We were sweating like crazy but were slowly getting used to the high altitude and the endless uphill walking. Closer to the summit, the route turned into a paved road, and we stopped for lunch.
Before we left, I had sent Koen a list of gear he was supposed to bring. I had already discovered he hadn't brought multiple things I had recommended, including sufficient food. Now I learned he had also brought many things I had told him to leave at home, such as a hair come, toilet paper, gloves, soap, shampoo, washing detergent, and milk powder. After carrying all of this uphill for four days, Koen discovered that the milk powder indeed made a huge mess and provided no calories. At least he had lots of soap to wash his clothes.
Closer to the top of the mountain were several mountain huts and many more people. Most seemed to have come up by car or ski lift. The view was great and, although there was some rain in the distance, it was supposed to stay sunny for the next few hours. We were getting pretty tired, so we decided to stop for second lunch at one of the mountain huts. We had a cola and nice dessert at a restaurant with huge glass windows looking out over the adjacent valley.
From there, we had two ways to continue. One was to descend back into the valley and take a safe but relatively dull trail around the mountain. The other was to climb to yet another mountain hut and descend over a steeper trail that involved some "Via Ferrata" sections. These were sections with cables and ladders. Koen really didn't like the idea of doing those, but he agreed to at least check it out as long as the weather predictions remained good. The predictions were still good, so we started climbing again. We arrived at the next hut after about 45 minutes. The views were really nice. While I was taking photos, Koen said he had found the Via Ferrata trail and that it was way too steep and unsafe, so we should turn around. I said I wanted to check it out first, as we would have to take a long detour.
It turned out the trail ran in a different direction than Koen thought, and the cabled section was only 100 meters long. Koen agreed to take it as long as I would carry his backpack. That meant I had to go down with my backpack and then up and down again to get Koen's. Fortunately, the cabled section wasn't very challenging and only took a few minutes. I had a nice chat with another hiker from Australia when I returned at the top, he was also hiking the AV1.
The next few kilometers were again super hot as we passed through barren rocky terrain. I was slowly running out of water. The map indicated another Via Ferrata section ahead, and I hoped it wouldn't be too dangerous for us to go down without climbing equipment, as in that case, we would have to backtrack all the way back to the mountain hut and then down into the valley.
When we arrived at the descent, it turned out to be longer and steeper than the first section. A couple at the bottom confirmed this was only cabled section left before the valley floor. They were discussing if it was safe to go up. We decided to try it, and it turned out not too bad. When I got down, Koen told the couple it was pretty safe, and I said, "Now I just have to do it another two times." After I explained that I had to go up to get Koen's backpack, the guy told the girl in German that I might be able to help them by carrying the girl's backpack uphill. They didn't realize I could understand everything, so I suggested I could help them by carrying the girl's backpack. They happily agreed, and soon we were at the top again, after which I headed back down. Only then did we realize that we didn't take any photos of the descent, so I climbed up again to get some nice shots.
After the Via Ferrata, we still had to descend much over a steep trail with loose rocks. We slipped a few times but eventually made it down safely. We decided to camp in a grassy area about a kilometer from the next rifugio. There was a huge thunderstorm starting in the distance, and we got our fair share of rain and thunder during the night.