The cold has arrived, the thermometer is well below 0 (-16 degrees at the start). Today's companion in adventure is friend Tomaso, the goal is an unprecedented refuge for both: the Chiggiato in the heart of the Cadore Dolomites.
Departure from Calalzo at an unusual time, 10:30, to avoid too much ice and prohibitive temperatures. In recent days the snow has fallen abundantly in these parts and the temperature has remained stable below freezing. We take the road that leads to Val d'Oten, pass the Church of the Beata Vergine del Caravaggio and park at the crossroads of the Alpine Bar. On the left, the road continues to the Ristorante alla Pineta and the actual beginning of the Val d'Oten. We, on the other hand, prepare ourselves with boots and snow equipment to take the road on the right that forwards us into Val Vedessana.
Today, and in any case always at this time of the year, crampons are essential to be able to proceed safely on icy stretches. The valley is immediately whitewashed to perfection, all the fir trees are full of compact and heavy white blanket. We skirt the Ru de la Vedessana which runs through the entire valley and then enters the Molinà stream at the height of where we left the car. The noise of the river accompanies us in this first part of the route which turns out to be almost a fairy tale: the whiteness of the snow is the predominant color, only the base of some boulders and the beginning of the trunks allow for a detachment of color. Everything is white, pure, still. The frost does not allow even an ice crystal to detach from the single needles of the fir trees. The advancement in the valley has a gentle slope that makes you gain just over 350 meters in about an hour from the start.
We reach a sign that marks 2h for the Chiggiato refuge (in marker there is a correction with a nice 3h). Filled with doubts about what will be the veracity of the signs, we take the path to the left and begin a series of close hairpin bends that make us climb quickly in altitude. The first rays of the sun filter through the dense wood that hosts us. At an altitude of 1340m, in Costapiana, a series of really characteristic wooden huts await us. Here we find a CAI sign that invites us to go up on the right. Here begins a slightly more rugged stretch, although nothing difficult and tiring for average trained people. The CAI 261 path is well marked on many trees that line the track. The temperature rises slightly, but never exceeds freezing, some stronger rays of sunshine manage to melt a small part of snow on the highest branches creating a light fake snowfall that strengthens even more the idea of being in a fairy tale .
We reach a small votive capital to the Madonna in which we see a beautiful engraving that warns: " Here passed on 19.07.1988 K. Wojtyla Pope John Paul II ". It is well known that even St. John Paul II loved the Dolomites and especially these Cadore where, for several years, he spent his summer holidays.
Calalzo di Cadore, Veneto, Italy
The climb continues, we meet other guys who have equipped themselves with wooden cutting boards, freshly sliced salami, bread and drinks. There we overcome with the aim of reaching Chiggiato as soon as possible since the sun eats the hours ... We begin to see the Marmarole on our right in the middle of the trees, Mount Froppa stands out above all with its 2932mt. The route becomes increasingly narrow and less traveled, there are about 100m of altitude difference and we arrive on a plain with a couple of farmhouses and an immaculate mantle. The path would normally deviate to the right as you advance into a small depression and skirt a distant cabin. We instead undertake the "direct route" which allows us to cut considerably at the expense of the most tiring climb of the day. Last few meters with the sun peeking out behind the white dunes with the fir trees that seem arranged by expert gardeners to form a priceless view.
And finally, the ridge comes to an end, the snow gives way to a gradually wider view, the trees thin out, the mountains seem to emerge from below towards us: Antelao is the first peak that stands out, the King of the Dolomites it is majestic and calls the other peaks together. After just over 3 hours from the start (the sign with the 2h marked at the end of Val Vedessana was correct), a spectacular view awaits us: Sasso di Bosconero, Duranno, Cima dei Preti, Spalti di Toro, Cridola up to Crissin. At the bottom you can see the Friulian peaks towards Sauris. Below us you can clearly see the lake of Centro Cadore and the town of Calalzo. A few meters below, the coveted Chiggiato refuge appears, ready to await us. The temperature is polar, we order a couple of bombardini with cream (amazing) that allow us to regain some energy and warm up.
The Chiggiato refuge is in a strategic position with a truly breathtaking view of the Cadore Dolomites. The only flaw: no telephone signal is taken for the entire journey with the TIM network; I then asked the refuge if I could access the wi-fi network and was told no because it is a private line. A shame for any hikers who, alone, would like to notify their family members of the status of the excursion. In any case, I was told that an open wi-fi is planned for the refuge's consumers.
We take some pictures and the hands begin to become blocks of ice ... literally! So let's start the descent at breakneck speed a bit to save time and get to the car before dark but, above all, to warm up. We cut in the fresh snow without getting wet in the slightest, Tomaso dives into the snow a couple of times, returning a little child: this place actually takes us back in time. The return gives us glimpses and, above all, of the hidden huts that we had lost during the climb. Each change of perspective looks like a postcard photo. We return to the entrance of Val Vedessana and the sun has already disappeared behind the mountains. However, the sunset light allows us to return to the parking lot at 5pm with excellent visibility.
This concludes a truly magical excursion thanks to the abundant snow and the panorama that can be enjoyed at the top. A route suitable for moderately trained hikers that does not present technical difficulties. In this period you need to be equipped for snow and ice, but there are no other noteworthy problems. Those wishing to complete a ring, from the Chiggiato refuge can take the CAI 260 path that arrives at the Ristorante alla Pineta and from there it is necessary to travel the piece of paved road to return to the crossroads of the Alpine Bar.
A truly spectacular day that gave new fantastic emotions!
Hikers - Itineraries on paths or evident traces in various types of terrain (pastures, debris, stony ground ...). They are generally marked with paint or cairns (pyramid-shaped stacked stones that allow you to identify the route even from a distance). They can also take place in snowy but only slightly inclined environments. They require the equipment described in the part dedicated to hiking and sufficient orientation skills, walking training for a few hours.