"Sobriety saves lives. I should know, it saved mine."
Each day our team will hike from four to six hours, climbing up to ridges and passes for spellbinding views of huge peaks and pinnacles, seemingly architecturally inspired, and then descending to lush green valleys where wildflowers bloom in pastoral meadows and storybook villages hug the valley floor. The Dolomites are a stunning mountain Valhalla, including the majestic Sella Massif and the striking, often-photographed pillars of Tre Cime di Lavaredo, arguably the best-known landmark in the Dolomites. For those who attempt the Summit for Danny ultimate challenge, the climb will culminate at the summit of Sasso Piatto—9,724 feet above sea level.
Today the team arrives in Venice, and then travels together to Cortina d'Ampezzo (4,016'), which will be their base for the next three nights. Nestled in the heart of the Dolomites, Cortina is a charming alpine resort surrounded by stunning peaks.
This morning the team will travel to Rifugio Malga Ra Stua (5,472'), a cozy hut-cum-dairy farm set in a valley lying between the Croda Rossa (northeast) and Lavinores (west) Dolomite groups. After a 20-minute walk along a Jeep track, they'll arrive at Campo Croce (5,814'), a wide, sunny and silent meadow. Here, team members have the option of a strenuous climb to Lago di Fosses and then the Fodara Vedla, offering panoramic views of the Croda del Becco, Croda Rossa and Cristallo—rare sedimentary rock, typical of the Veneto region.
Today our climbers will hike around the stunning Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks in English)—probably the most famous landmark in all the Dolomites, and known around the world. A wonderful way to appreciate the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in summer is by hiking a loop around these mountains, during which their usual shapes mutate from sharp points to soft corners, the three sections of the mountain apparently merging into one. The area is a sort of "open air museum," as there are lots of reminders of the First World War—tunnels, bunkers, and old barracks. Tre Cime is also part of the world history of mountaineering. The first routes were climbed in the 1930s.
This morning the team will travel to Passo Giau (7,336'), a high mountain pass in the province of Belluno. From Passo Giau they will hike up to the bare broad rock crest of Monte Nuvolau, with breathtaking views in every direction. It's a mere 500-foot ascent to the next stop, the marvelous Rifugio Nuvolau (8,448'). The first building dates back to the late 1800s, and was once the property of the Alpine Club of Cortina. On the days when the mountain is clear of its name ("nuvola" means cloud in Italian), there are views of the graceful shape of Averau, the Tofane Massif, Cristallo to the east over Cortina d'Ampezzo, and as far west as the snow-capped Ortles and the Austrian Alps. They'll also hike around the famous Cinque Torri peaks (five towers) before continuing along the trail to the Rifugio Bai de Dones at Passo Falzarego, where they will have a transfer to Alta Badia.
Today the climbers will hike to the Santa Croce Sanctuary at the base of the Sasso della Croce, a calcareous massif that traces millions of years back. The hike passes through a number of closely-knit hamlets and clusters of ancient shingle-roofed timber farmhouses and barns known as viles. We'll continue walking through a pine forest, with great views of the Santa Croce, Conturines, and Sella mountain groups as well as the towns of La Villa, San Cassiano, Corvara, Pedraces, and San Leonardo—all part of the Val Badia. Along the way there are a couple of steep ascents. It will take about two hours to get to the church and sanctuary of Ospizio S. Croce (6,709'). From their our hikers have the option of following a trail under the majestic Santa Croce, culminating in fairytale views of the Fanes- Sennes-Braies Nature Park. They'll ascend to the peak of Il Cavallo (9,537'), which means "the horse," and enjoy more spectacular views of the Dolomites.
Today the climbers will hike from their hotel towards Armentarola—the most famous ski slope in the Dolomites— through an enchanting valley. They'll reach the Capanna Alpina (5,663'), a restaurant built at the edge of the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park, in an incredible setting. From their, our hikers have the option of a strenuous hike through a fairytale valley with green pastures in the midst of the mountains with numerous ups and downs. Others may choose to hike on to a lake called Lago di Lagazuoi, whose green waters are framed by pines with a backdrop of the sheer walls of the Cima del Lago and the Cima Scotoni.
This morning the team will travel together to the trail head at Colfosco/Kolfuschg (5,380'), a mountain village in South Tyrol, and the highest village with permanent residents in the Val Badia. From here, hiking options include trails through rocky terrain up to the Forcella Ciampai Pass (7,760'), passing by Lago Ciampai, a picturesque lake. Others may follow an easier trail towards Fontane Costa Bozora, arriving at the Jimmy Hutte (7,290'), a perfect spot for lunch with a breathtaking mountain backdrop and views of the Sella Massif, Langkofel and Cir peaks. Then both groups will take the cable car down to Selva di Val Gardena and travel on to Ortisei.
From the town of Ortisei, our climbers will take the cable car together to Rifugio Malga Saltner (6,926'), the starting point of their hike. They'll stop for a rest at the Rifugio Brogles (6,709') and admire the jagged north faces of the dramatic Odle Group. From there, they will climb up through the steep and beautiful Forcella Pana (8,028'), an enormous scree slope that cuts right through the dramatic Odle spires. Soon they will emerge from a rocky landscape onto lush grassy slopes in sight of the Baita Sofie (7,913'), a comfortable hut located in a remote and scenic setting. After a well-deserved rest, they'll descend back to town via gondola.
This morning the group will travel together to the Sella Pass (7,152'), and begin their hike under Sassolungo and Sassopiatto along the famous Friedrich-August-Weg (Federico Augusto Trail), a trail that meanders through alpine pastures and steep grassy slopes. Those who want to attempt the Summit for Danny ultimate challenge will have the option to hike up to the summit Sasso Piatto (9,724'). Others may choose a hike that winds through an otherworldly landscape of tumbled boulders—Cittá dei Sassi ("city of stones").
After all of their hard work and effort to reach their personal summits, our hikers will be rewarded with a day of well-deserved leisure! After breakfast, they'll transfer to Follina, a picturesque village in the heart of the Prosecco region. Follina is a small community of ancient origins, dating from before 1000 AD. The town is situated in the foothills of the Treviagian Alps, halfway between Valdobbiadene and Vittorio Veneto. The community was developed in the 12th century by a group of Cistercian monks, who used the abundant water supply of the area to establish a flourishing industry in woolen goods.
Today our hikers bid each other farewell, and transfer to Venice's Marco Polo Airport for departure flights home.