Soon after the world championships, we packed our multiple bags as well as we could in our very small rental car (Fiat Panda) and drove towards our next stop: Val Martello. A drive through Cortina, the “Whistler of the Dolomites” was necessary while making our way to our next destination. The area being really thinly covered by snow this year, we only stopped for lunch and for some really entertaining people (and pet) watching…also still recovering from a week of events, we stopped in Merano for a rejuvenating water therapy session. Relaxed but still tired, we made it to Martello where really comfy beds and amazing hospitality was awaiting.
We woke up to snow the following day. We slowly prepared our bags for our hut trip, waiting for our 4th friend to complete our happy group. As we took the twisty narrow road to get to the end of the valley, it was really clear that the “Panda” would not like the winter conditions. Chains on, we finally made it to the trail head where we found out that the cable cart that was going to carry our multi-day bags up to the hut was not working for the day and we would have to carry everything we needed with us. Reiner was going to bring his roller travel bag and we had pretty generous backpacks. No need to say that we revisited our packs and then undertook the 600m ascent to the hut in a whiteout.
The hut was amazing, big enough to accommodate 50 guests at the time, with 2 fulltime cooks getting dinner feasts together and light breakfasts. We did not sleep very well in our bunk-beds the first night but waking up to Italian powder and a blue bird skies made up for the lack of sleep. We were really glad to see James coming up to the hut early morning after having his own adventure trying to make his way to the hut the previous day. Our group completed, we were ready to start exploring the area.
We climbed a fairly flat glacier and got to one of the lower summits of the area. The bigger objectives were gettng hammered by strong wind, so we decided to take it easy. To our greatest surprise, there was an other really large hotel as we got to 3200m ?!? They are just about everywhere. We skied back down to the hut fairly early and enjoyed a siestas & cappuccinos.
The following day, the sun was shining again and the winds finally calmed down. We decided that it was prime time for some glacier walking and peak bagging. Funny enough, it seemed like pretty much everyone in the hut had a similar objective in mind and multiple groups ended up in the same area (through different routes). It was then a race to the summits! We walked cautiously on the glacier and the gained the ridge for a long bootpack to finally stand on the 3767m high Zuflaspitze . We quickly realized that you can’t really go to the top of this mountain without visiting its closest neighbor, the Cevedale which only required an additional 20 minutes walk on a dodgy glacier. After a long ski day, we all decided that the comfort of the “ Bengfrieden Hotel” the amazing hotel where we spent the first night was what we needed to fully recover before the next race. A full rest day later, fresh snow covered the entire valley and brought amazing condition for our course inspection on Friday. By then, familiar faces from the World Championships started to appear in projection of the upcoming Sunday event. We definitively treated ourselves during the days before the race (Physio therme, saunas, steams, hot tub, amazing food), for the first time in the trip, this really felt like a vacation. Then the day of the race came and it was really one of a kind event.
Race report to follow!