If you are currently wondering what on earth are the ‘Pale Alps’, then it will ease your mind when I tell you that this is the nickname that the Dolomites go by. Hopefully, most of you reading are now aware of the incredible rock faces that I am referring to and for those of you who don’t… well let’s just say you are in for a real treat.
Placed in Northern Italy, the Dolomites offer one of the most diverse climbing destinations for all mountaineers and rock climbers to enjoy. More specifically, the eye-catching limestone spires of the Dolomites can be found south of the Austrian/Italian border. Characteristically, the Dolomites feature steep inclines with ever-lasting peaks that stretch over 3000m in altitude, in some locations. Around 80km of mountainous environment provides a vast range of varied routes, climbing destinations and challenges for all climbers to take on.
Those of you who fancy taking on the Dolomites will not be the first of course, with there being plenty of historical mountaineering figures who have done so in the past. To give you some examples of these; Emilio Comici, Angelo Dimai, Lacedelli, Piaz, Huber, Messner and Vinatzer are just some of the names to have ventured up the Pale Alps.
One of the mitigating factors that lead to the immense popularity shown by today’s modern people and historical figures for climbing the Dolomites is the challenges they present and the varied climbing destinations. Below we take a look at some of these options.
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For those of you who are not fluent in Italian ‘Tre Cime di Lavaredo’ translates to Three Peaks of Lavardeo and this simply refers to the location in which you can find the Comici-Dimai Route. This route is certainly not one that should be attempted by beginners with it presenting a number of challenges. The classic route can be found to the north face of the Cima Grande which was put up by some of the historical figures in 1933 that were mentioned earlier, including; Emilio Comici, Angelo Dimai and Giuseppe. As you probably already noticed, the Comici-Dimai Route gained its name from two of the three famous climbers.
To have success on this route that presents a grade of around VII, we recommend an early start, expert efficiency in climbing skills and experienced route-finding skills.
For more experienced climbers We sugesst Constantini-Apollonio VII+.
Once again, for the readers who are inexperienced with the Italian language, Via Ferrata translates to ‘Iron Path’ and this refers to the steps, ladders and iron cables you can find scattered across mountain ranges. Without this ‘Via Ferrata’, many mountains like the Dolomites would be impenetrable. The via ferrata that you can find in the Dolomites have been in place since World War I, where they originally helped soldiers pass the tough rock formations during the fight between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Fortunately, the very same ‘iron paths’ remain in place and offer exciting routes for all climbers to enjoy - professional and rookies. Even those of you who are considered non-climbers, but perhaps fall into the category of a hiker, will feel right at home on these history-filled routes.
If you would like some extra guidance before taking on the ferratas, then we advise reading Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites Vol 1, by Josh Rushforth.
Despite lacking on the history side of things, the Fedele Route with a Dibona finish is one of the best in its grade that's for sure. With over 20 pitches available and a grade of 5.7 (5.6 on the lower section), the Fedele Route has plenty of fixed-gear available to take advantage of. This challenging but fun route is perfect for all climbers, offering the chance to grab a tan and a pizza on the way down too.
Our Dolomite Need-To-Knows
Before you set your aim on the wonderful Dolomites in Italy, we advise that you take a brief look at our suggested ‘Need-To-Knows’ which will help you make the most of your time spent here.
Accessing the Dolomites
Being such a popular location, we expect many enthusiasts will be flying from abroad to arrive at the Dolomites. In these instances, the best airports to access the Pale Alps are most definitely Venice and Innsbruck. If you are struggling to book flights to either of these locations, then Munich and Milan will both work as substitutes.
If you managed to get to either Innsbruck or Venice, then driving is 100% the easiest approach but you can also make the most of several bus services in the larger towns that will drop you in the Dolomites.
With this being said, we have to mention that public transport is not a great service in the Dolomites. As mentioned before, the larger towns and cities offer adequate bus services but once you enter the mountains you will find yourself stranded without a car.
When is Climbing Season?
The best time to visit the Dolomites is between June and October (mid-October if you’re lucky). Fortunately, the Dolomites are positioned on the warmer, more sunny side of the Alps which means it gets much better weather than other regions. Also, with the Dolomites peaks sitting lower than that found in the Western Alps and Chamonix, you can expect warmer weather and less snow.
However, on the expectancy of snow, adventurers can head to Croatia, Austria or Acro in a few hours.
Places To Stay
Fortunately, the Dolomites is not the only scenic place in the area and Italy has a handful of serene villages dotted around. If you are the type of person who wants to get involved with the community then Cortina is a great option. The mountain town hosted Italy’s first Winter Olympics in 1956 and has won the bid to hold it once more in 2026. You can also find AirBnB’s available in quieter locations Ortisei and Alleghe.
If, on the other hand, you want a location that is closer to where you will be climbing then you may want to find a spot in the hills. You can find several mountain huts available for hire in the Dolomites, making for great short stay spots.
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