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Tre Cime di Lavaredo - Italian Dolomites
(UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Northern face of the magestic Tre Cime (or Drei Zinnen) dolomite towers.
If you are heading to north-eastern Italy and would like to do a one-day hike in the Dolomites, the circular route around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo is possibly your best choice. The landscape is wonderful and access is easy with either private or public transportation. The largest town nearby is Cortina D’Ampezzo, which is approximately 150 km north of Venice. It takes approximately 2 hours to get there from Venice using private transport. The town has plenty of accommodation as well as supermarkets and restaurants.
This route partially follows the 'Alta Via delle Dolomiti'. According to my smartphone’s GPS, this circular hike is 10.8km long with an ascent/descent of roughly 300 meters, therefore by no means strenuous. If you leave Rifugio Auronzo in the late morning, you can take a break when you reach the northern face and munch your lunch while you enjoy the view of the 3 magnificent dolomite towers (there are actually 5 of them). However, if you want to see the northern face of the Tre Cime in the best possible light, you should leave Rifugio Auronzo early in the day as it will be in the shade for most of the day. It’s a fantastic sight even when it’s in the shade.
Trail 101 is pretty flat until Rifugio Lavaredo. If you have mobility problems, an option is to go as far as the point where the northern face of the towers is first visible (a bit passed Rifugio Lavaredo) and retrace your steps back to Rifugio Auronzo. Another option is to follow Trail 101 as far as Rifugio Locatelli and return the same way back to Rifugio Auronzo. The latter is about the same distance as the circular route but it is on flatter terrain and thus easier. Those wanting to do the circular route should get off the 'Alta Via delle Dolomiti' and take Trail 105 at a junction which is just before Rifugio Locatelli. The circular route takes about 3 hours at a leisure pace or 5 hours if like me, you have a lunch break and stop many times along the way to take photographs, to rest or simply to enjoy the fantastic views.
It seems that this trail is very busy during the summer and that the best time to do this hike is during autumn. We were lucky to be there in the middle of October on a gloriously mild day. It is wise to monitor the weather forecast; it snowed the week before we were there and there was some very slippery ice on the ground on the eastern part of the route. A weather forecast can be found here and a live webcam view here. The trail is very well marked. The GPS track recorded by my smartphone is available for download here.
These suggestions are based on my personal experience on this trail. The selection criteria are based on quality and weight. My assumption is that this will not be your last hike on a trip and that the lighter your backpack, the more you will enjoy hiking.
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Shoes/socks. Those doing the whole circular route are probably better off wearing hiking boots because of ankle protection; lightweight trail running shoe-inspired boots are a good compromise (see examples: male or female). A good quality light-weight hiking sock with extra padding is essential to avoid blisters (see examples: male or female).
Clothing. Zip-off water repellent stretch hiking trousers are a comfortable and convenient option (see examples: male or female). If the weather is warm and sunny, a thin long-sleeve base layer will help avoid getting burnt (see example: male or female). As a minimum, take a lightweight wind jacket (see examples: male or female). However, if it’s likely to be a bit cold, add a fleece (see examples: male or female) or replace the wind jacket and fleece with a lightly insulated softshell jacket (see examples: male or female). Also take waterproof gloves and a couple of Buffs (preferably a normal buff and a polar buff) to protect head and neck. If it’s likely to rain, a good (as opposed to high) quality waterproof jacket will suffice since low weight on the daypack won't cause a reasonably good jacket to leak in the shoulders (examples: male or female).
Hiking poles. I think that hiking poles are worth using if you follow the route on the clockwise direction.
Photographic equipment and power. An ideal hiking camera should be lightweight, have a large aperture for handling low light scenes and should have a wide angle lens with a minimum full-frame equivalent focal lens of 24 or 28 mm. If you opt for a heavy camera, there are camera straps combining neoprene and elastic to absorb the shock of movements. These straps are so comfortable that they actually make the camera’s weight seem much lower. If you want to record the track using your phone and plan to take photos with it as well, take a powerbank along to avoid running out of battery power.
Other supplies. A responsible hiker takes emergency equipment along. The bare minimum consists of a first aid kit, a headlamp capable of at least 150 lumens, a whistle, a compass (a global compass works in both hemispheres), a map and if cold temperatures are expected, an emergency blanket. Finally, protect your face and lips using sun cream lotion and chap stick.
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