Adventure, new experiences and discovering more about my personal limits and the world we live in is what keeps me ticking. Whether it’s battling the cold under the Northern Lights or climbing a mountain in the dark to reach the summit before sunrise, I always aim to squeeze out the most of every circumstance and leave no stone unturned. So when the opportunity for a three-day trip to the Italian Alps presented itself, I jumped at it immediately, commencing the usual research process of finding landmarks, locations and must-dos.
They say seeing is believing, and that old cliché perfectly encapsulates the beauty of the Dolomites. The sheer scale of the vertical rock, rugged cliffs and deep valleys are so unique to the area, with nowhere better to immerse yourself in the landscape than Tre Cime di Lavaredo. My adventure began here, as I pulled up into the carpark of the Refugio a little after midnight and set out into the darkness. Masked by the nighttime shadows, you can feel the enormous presence of the towering peaks around you, but their true splendor can only be witnessed when morning rolls around.
After almost an hour of hiking, I stumbled across my accommodation for the night – caves dug into the rock face that were used by soldiers during the war. Despite the uneven floor and the odd drip from the low ceiling, the raw feeling of adventure from sleeping in a cave 2,000m deep into the mountains was a once-in-a-life-time experience. As the sun began to cast its light into the mouth of the cave at around 4.30am, I summoned the strength to get up for one of the best sunrises I’ve ever witnessed. Cold and calm colours interjected with vibrant orange rays bathed the land as the sun burst through gaps in the horizon during blue hour. After only half an hour of walking through the mountain range I was convinced that this must be one of the most incredible landscapes in the Alps, and definitely worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage status.
After making my way back down the mountain from Tre Cime and having lunch at one of the quaint and beautiful alpine villages, it was time for the next step of the adventure, starting in the town of Ortisei. From here you can ride the cable car 2,500m up the mountain to Seceda and save yourself a 4-hour hike on a steep ski slope. I managed a relaxing beer at a restaurant ten minutes prior to closing time before heading out to explore the surrounding scenery and finding somewhere to sleep for the night.
Surrounded by the dramatic cliffs, mountains and alpine pastures synonymous with the Dolomite and South Tyrol region, Seceda was one of the most photogenic locations I’ve visited. The imposing clouds robbed me of a good sunset, so the next two hours before nightfall were spent walking the ridgeline scouting for photo opportunities and resting spots. Once I had found my ideal camping location and decided on the morning plans, it was time for some much-needed sleep.
To keep things light I slept on the grass in just my sleeping bag. The chills woke me up at sporadic intervals, but the special sight of the mountains silhouetted against the starry sky were comforting. The clear skies held up until sunrise, and I was pumping with adrenaline, frantically running back and forth holding my camera. With the excitement of sunrise over and the sun getting higher and warmer, I started the hike back down to Ortisei, teeming with satisfaction from two of my most magical and life-changing experiences. The Dolomites for me have been the highlight of the year, and I’m definitely looking forward to my next visit.