Home > Trip Reports > May 19, 2003, Italian Alps/Ortler Traverse

May 19, 2003, Italian Alps/Ortler Traverse

Posted by GregLange on 5/18/03 10:07pm
Let me preface this by saying that this trip was taken in April. However, due to a life beyond my control, I'm just now getting around to posting it. As well, being the computer illiterate person that I am, my pictures have not yet made it from my desktop to my trip reports.

Now that Martin Volken has let the secret out about the Ortler Traverse being a
paradise for the American BC skier, I'll need to echo his sentiments. You
can drive up to the first hut (Forni Hut), for God sakes! It lies at about
2100 meters, and has hot and cold running water, a full service restaurant
and bar (with about 80 types of grappa, for starters!), and some of the
finest coffee a Seattleite can find anywhere! The views begin, and never
end; there is a 3500 meter alp directly across the valley that you damn near
break your neck trying to see the top.  In true European fashion, the bunks
are semi-soft, and the service outstanding.

Next stop, the Branca Hut (or the Pizzini Hut, depending on your direction
of travel.) These huts are between 2500 and 2700 meters, which means your
base is higher than most of the summits in the Cascades. Again, fine
service, liquor, food and coffee. The bedding is a bit more rustic, but
still feels like a tent experience in one respect - the freakin' snoring and
farting! ("Take your earplugs", as someone kindly told me prior to leaving
the states.) But, enough of the accomodations; they are there for the END of
the day. The rest is filled with incredible skiing and climbing.

Martin assures me that ski mountaineering in the Ortles-Cevedale Range is
always 90% sunny days. That's how it was for us, anyway. And it was like
being in that Cascades,except that even the "tiny" climbs we did took us to
almost 11000 feet! Our group averaged 4000 vert every day, in terrain that
reminded me of climbing the volcanoes every step of the way. Glaciers,
couloirs, high summits, crevasses, and every type of snow condition
imaginable. (Wind pack, wind crust, powder, breakable ice crust, corn, oatmeal, and goulash, all on the same run!) It was an awe-inspiring trip every day, up the likes of Mts. San
Mateo, Pasquale, Vioz, and the crown jewel, the Gran Zebru. (I think they
call it that because because all of the fluting on the North Face, 5000 feet
of it, looks like a "Big Zebra", what with it's stripes.) Like I said,
nothing was lower than 11000 in altitude, and I believe that Gran Zebru is
about 13000. It's like touring in a range where every mountain is nearly as
tall as Rainier.

The travelling was very mellow, with a bit of "sporty" thrown in just to
reassure us that Martin and Scott Schell, our guides,  were planning each days activities. As
usual, they handled it with the professionalism that Pro Guiding is known
for: assessing their group, and helping each member attempt to exceed their
previous thresholds by a few degrees, within eyeshot of the guides' watchful

If I go again, I'd stay a little longer in the mountains, and then extend my
stay by a week in order to take in more of what Italy has to offer:
beautiful women, strong coffee, wonderful citizens, and a history that makes
the U.S. look as though we are just beginning to take our first steps.

YOU OUGHTTA GO!!!...Greg Lange

This is so cool!! I grew up in Austria and skied, but never got to do any of this kind of stuff (of course I was a kid, and it was WWII). Wish I could do it now!

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2003-05-19 05:07:59