A decidedly damp Italy Part 1


"Check mate."

Jo had beaten me at chess for the first time. She didn't look as smug as I might have thought.  We'd been killing time in the Refugio Tosa mountain hut all morning. It was still raining.

Two days before we had arrived in a baking hot thirty-three degrees Italy and been cooped up in public transport to get to Molveno. We immediately went for a swim in the gorgeous lake. We'd eaten a great big pizza sat in a touristy restaurant with nice views of the Brenta range and gone for a lakeside stroll.  Then there'd been a day of walking uphill. It started raining just as we stopped for lunch at a Refugio half way.  It had then rained solidly over night and all morning.

The hut warden told us that the forecast was for the weather to improve in the afternoon. So following a break in the weather after lunch, we set off for our first Via Ferrata of the holiday.

We were now in high mountains equipped mentally (lakeside memories) and physically (trainers on our feet) for the sun drenched Alps. Instead we got drenched. And a bit terrified.

Huge limestone towers loomed out of the mist we tottered along connected safely to the fixed cables of the via ferrata. The path way seemed to be gauged out of the side of the cliff. As we rounded a corner the cable disappeared through a patch of snow that lingered in a gully. The only way to continue was to unclip and walk across the hard snow, kicking steps as well as possible in trainers.  A rope would have been lovely, crampons and an axe even better.

After more ledges and ladders, more scary snow and with the rain now returned, we reached the Alimonta hut.  We met some blokes from Yorkshire who taught us a card game (called Bonk, a bit like 7 card Whist but you have to make a bid on how many tricks you'll win).

The next day the weather was improved and we did the Ferrata Sosat. With sunshine and scenery out in force this was a big improvement.  We reached Rif. Tuckett and had to make a decision.

The Brenta range is incredibly beautiful, but in the conditions we were finding them in, the via errata routes were much more of a serious, mountaineering effort than we were prepared for.  We decided to head down to the valley and get a bus to Riva del Garda.

Riva proved to be a good base for several via ferratas. One, which started directly opposite our B&B, took in fantastic views of the lake and the city below.  Being in the town also gave us far more flexibility with the weather.  So we swam in the lake, went to watch a gypsy jazz band and ate in an amazing restaurants.

On Jo's last day before getting a flight home, and starting work as a doctor, we hired a car and had a packed day.  We started on an unusual canyon via ferrata near Drenna. The route was formed by stemples that were bolted into the sculpted canyon walls.  The effect was a climb with lots of cool waterfalls and with some interesting strenuous overhanging bits that were really fun.  The route continued following the river, across some wobbly wire bridges up to Drena Castle.

Back to the car, we realised we had loads of time to fit in another via ferrata. So we sped to Arco and set off up another one.  This was all a bit too easy but the views were terrific and at the top there was an incredible limestone pavement, a big iron cross and a fantastic view of Lago Garda.

Unfortunately there was also a great view of a big storm cloud coming our way accompanied with thunder and lightning.  Being stood by a big iron cross on the top of a mountain in a lightning storm didn't appeal so we descended quick.

Jo carefully explained that after a hot day, getting sweaty, climbing via ferratas, wouldn't it be a good idea to have a quick dip in the lake before we had to drive for hours? I knew she just wanted to go for one last swim.  All we saw of Torbole was the car park and the beach. We swam out, swam in, towelled off and got back in the car to drive to the airport.

We both were torn over that decision in the Tuckett hut, but it worked out well for us. Within a week we packed in two very different via ferrata holidays: a serene high mountain hut-to-hut walk and a lakeside luxury culture fest.

As Jo left, Conrad arrived.  And in the next week we had only one objective: Climb the Piz Badile.  Find out how we got on in Part 2.

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