The Dolomite High-Altitude Trail Number 2
the Way of Legends

Alta Via Two – ITALY – SUMMER 2013

11 Days of Hiking / 83 Hours of Walking / 95 Miles ~ 150KM covered / 15 Peaks / 33 Piccola Birras / 28 Cappuccinos

The Dolomite High-Altitude Trail Number 2, also known as the Way of Legends leads from the Eisack Valley (i.e. from the extreme northwestern edge of the Dolomites where the town of Brixen is situated. Brixen itself is more than one thousand years old and is the place where German and Latin cultures merged) to the ancient town of Feltre. Through the centuries, Feltre became the core of Venetian culture on the border of the alpine mountains. It is precisely here on the green hills near to the River Piave and the Plain of Veneto that the Dolomite High-Altitude Trail Number 2 reaches its end.

The mountain range crossed by the High-Altitude Trail is one of the most famous in the Dolomites. Some peaks appear soft and inviting while others are dignified, haughty and as sharp as the turrets of old medieval castles. This long route is divided into 13 stages. The Plose, Peiterkofel, Púez, Sella, Marmolada Geisler mountain groups are good examples of the former while the Pale di San and the Feltriner Alps are typical of the latter, with their arching peaks.

This route offers a variety of different landscapes and geological features. The scenery alternates between mountains made of Dolomite rock such as the Peiterkofel, the Geisler, Sella, Pale and Cimònega to limestone mountains such as the Marmolada. Some regions, like the Plose, Púez, Padon, Bocche and Vette are made of a completely different type of rock and have therefore a completely different appearance, offering a strong and picturesque contrast to the Dolomite mountains.

The path leads through slopes, pastures and forests across rocky terrain. The ice masses may have shrunk significantly in the last couple of years, but the glacier on the Marmolada remains large, becoming a bit smaller on the Fradusta. Although today rare, it is still possible to see hanging glaciers here and there on the San Martino.

It is however, the large plateaus make this route so special and unique. These plateaus lie between 2000m and 2500m above sea level and the Pale di San Martino measures around 50 km_. The plateaus of the Sella, Púez, Zingari and the Vette Feltrine are smaller.

The suggested route stays generally at an altitude of 2100m with summits at nearly 3000m and is only moderately difficult. Some of the easier sections of the route are secured with wire cables (stages: two, three, four, five, seven, eight, eleven and twelve), which are fixed to the rock and although some parts are exposed, they are not dangerous. This makes the path one of the easiest sections of the High- Altitude Trail, as it is well marked and clearly signposted. Hikers should however be aware that some gullies can remain covered in snow until the early summer and that they should therefore exercise caution when negotiating these areas.

Thanks to the numerous places to stop and rest along this High- Altitude Trail this path can be described as relatively easy. Yet, as one of the most fascinating paths in the western Dolomites, it most certainly represents an enchanting mountain hike.

Along this route, it is possible to see how the different ages have left their mark on the region – walking along the High-Altitude Trail Number 2 is like hiking through time. One can see fossils, imprints, the remains of animals and plants and many different layers of rock, which together reconstruct the history of living creatures in this country during prehistoric times.

The climate around Brixen is mild and moderate. In the sections between 2000m and 3000m, the meteorological conditions correspond however to typical mountain weather and this applies to the Dolomites as a whole at this altitude. The influence of a humid alternating atmosphere and winds from the plain can be felt on the Pale di San Martino. These are sometime diverted by strong breezes and cause condensation, which are the cause of the fog, and rain, which are frequently affect the Vette Feltrine. In Feltre itself, the climate is better and rather more temperate.

The flora is very diverse and varied depending on the altitude of the path (i.e. between 325m from Feltre and 3343m to the Marmolada). In fact, you could say that in just a few days one gains such an insight in to the plant world it is as if one had been on an imaginary trip to Greenland.

The fauna is typical of the Western Alps, deer, chamois, squirrel, marmot, alpine hare, viper, eagle, partridge, black grouse, western capercaillie, common raven, alpine chough, chaffinch and a variety of other animals, large and small which can be encountered along the way and will brighten the day immensely.

An article from Mario Brovelli was published in the magazine of the Italian Alpine Association CAI “Lo scarpone” on 16th March and 1st September 1966. Brovelli was the first person to suggest the idea of a long and exceptionally interesting route through the Dolomites that connected the towns of Brixen and Feltre. This idea proved to be a huge success and was named the Dolomite High-Altitude Trail No. 2 or the Way of Legends which describes the High-Altitude Trail in the Dolomites and distinguishes it from the High-Altitude Trail Number 1.

In the years to follow, Sigi Lechner systematically explored the path, paying particular attention to the sections that were still relatively unfamiliar. Even back in 1967 he was well known within the circle of passionate, German-speaking hikers for his articles and lectures. Together with Mario Brovelli he wrote a small Italian guide that was published by EPT Belluno and later translated into four different languages.

Abroad, primarily in Germany, the Norwegian-Bavarian photographer Olaf Beer contributed to the recognition of the High-Altitude Trail. On top of that he also described and signposted several new stretches of the path. For this, he received the „Pelmo d’Oro” award given by the province of Belluno.

Ivano Tisot and Luis Pillon from Feltre were the first to complete the entire stretch of the High-Altitude Trail Number 2 in July 1969. The first woman to achieve this feat was Hildegard Buser from

Switzerland who also completed the path in 1969, accompanied by her husband Otto.

But just why is this route known as the “Way of Legends”? The entire path runs through a world full of ancient legends, Heathen and Christian histories and through the world of enigmatic creatures that appear dressed only in leaves. In addition, some gentle giants or the mythic Conturina and the nimble Crodères, the sweet daughter of the sun Soreghina, the voluptuous fairies or the witches who escaped from the council of Trient could be met along the way. The fauns with goat’s legs and horns, the half-naked, treacherous nymphs, but also some scary monsters and divinities always appeared along the entire way to Dantes with its “Piazza Del Diavolo” (Devil’s Square). This square has the appearance of an enormous tomb buried in a rift situated in the heart of the Vette Feltrine’s basin. It is said that all sources of evil come together here.

The path indeed deserves its name, the “Way of Legends”.