September 12, 2019.
The next day at breakfast at Refugio Lagazuoi, I overheard an American professional tour guide tell his customers that the trail to Refugio Dibona was washed out and impassable. A few of his customers were asking questions and he was not being very responsive with details.
After he was done talking to his group and was leaving I attempted to ask him some questions since I was hiking to that refugio that day. He said he couldn’t talk to me about trail conditions due to liability issues with his company. This had me rattled since he was speaking so authoritatively yet there was something amiss about his speech. Seemed like a sales job; perhaps trying to dissuade his folks from going to save time? The short cut would be to take the tram straight down to the valley.
I lost my appetite over my nerves but ate some cured meat, fruit, and a couple of fresh croissants anyway. Comfort food. This was supposed to be a simple hike, not a treacherous washed out trail hiking day.
I went back to the dorm room to pack up and watched a female hiker treating her friend’s heel blisters on both feet. It was the the worst case of blisters I had ever seen. The woman must have not changed her socks last night because her friend was using a pocket knife to separate the dry sock material from her heel that had a open bleeding wound. By the time I was done packing the woman had some massive bandages on and was going to be hiking again. I hurt just think about it, not to mention the risk of infection.
I reviewed my map and made sure I was not taking the rough trail at the base of what I started calling “the skyscrapers.” There was too much risk of falling rock given the sub-freezing nights and thawing days I was experiencing. I was going to take the lower trail across decomposed rock but still above the tree line. If there were washouts, I felt comfortable enough crab walking across them if I took my time and carefully used my trekking poles and kicked out steps in the loose material.
The hike was 4.2 miles with an elevation loss of 2,300 feet. The only trail to and from Rifugio Lagazuoi was on the shady side of the mountain which meant I had to walk on slick, frozen ice. For about a hundred yards I had to pound my feet into the ice to get a grip and took only baby steps.
At the end of the first switch back there was information on the WWI Austrian tunnels used to defend their high ground. The Italians were on the other side of the canyon pounding the Austrians with artillery and occasionly rushing their position. Apparently, the Austrians would drop Rollbomben over the cliffs onto the charging Italians.
The tunnels must have been cold miserable places. War in such a majestic area.
During this segment of the trail I encountered a simple obelisk that appeared to memorialize the WWI battle that occured there. It had rusty barbed wire and chunks of metal around it. I remember reading in the guide book that occasionally one might find pieces of boot soles on the trail washed down off the hills every spring. It was true. As I was walking I came to an abupt halt and flipped over a black object on the trail. It was clear that it was a heel of a boot. I could almost hear the echos of some young man calling out for his mother as his leg was blown off in war. In all this majesty.
It reminded me of Lake Tenaya in Yosemite. In the majesty of Yosemite, some pretty awful things happened during the removal of Native Americans. Click below for more info.
The ability to walk and fill your lungs with cold clean air is a wonderful thing. I prayed that the young men who survived that war found peace as they finally hiked out for the last time to go home.
I did encounter washouts on the trail. They weren’t that bad and I was able to traverse them in a few minutes. I made it to Refugio Dibona with enough time to do some laundry and have my coffee and strudel. As usual, the Refugio offered no clothes lines for use by guests so I hung my clothes like others had done in public in front of the dormitory.
I was becoming a regretful connoisseur of bunk beds. I preferred the wooden ones because they didn’t creak as much as the metal ones. Two men ended up on the top ones and they flexed and creaked everytime they moved. Note there were no rails on the top bunk and the location of the ladder. Death trap I tell you! I positively hated being on the top bunks. Bad air and so tough to climb down at night if required.
This was my 3rd night in shared sleeping quarters. The room was mixed gender again. I was no longer thinking about it. (I was too tired to worry about it. Just keep your back turned to everyone while changing. Tomorrow was a climbing day and I needed sleep badly.