On a mission to soak in as much of the Cortina mountains, I did my best to explore all the different regions. If you use the main roads to divide Cortina and its mountains, you’ve got a region in 4 quadrants perfectly. Previously, I visited out Croda da Lago, the southwest region and the base of the northwest region of the Tofana group. And this trip, I had already checked off the northeast Cristallo and Pomagagnon group on the Ivano Dibona via ferrata, the far east Tre Cime National Park, and the southeast Sorapiss group. I’d even gone up further in the Tofana group, but my last area to hike through was the Nuvolau group. Only booking huts a month in advance, my options were limited, but at least easier since I was traveling solo. I was able to find space at Rifugio Averau, knowing that the area by Passo Falzarego and Cinque Torri would be an amazing view!
While I could have hiked from Rifugio Pomedes to Rifugio Averau if I had better planned, I walked nearly the same amount by going all the way down to Cortina to grab groceries and a bus ride to the pass. This allowed me to see more above treeline instead of hiking through the forest again. Taking Dolomiti bus 30/31west, I got at the touristy stop at Pass Falzarego where people were getting read to take the lift to Rifugio Lagazuoi, a highly sought after hut. I walked the other way, going southeast towards my hut. It was fun to pass by more lifts but seeing the fields dotted with wildflowers and the laughter of families enjoying a summer day outside. There’s several paths to get up to Forcella Averau, the pass to get around the main cliff band of the small peak. Surprisingly, the climbing spot was well labeled with a sign of all the sport climbing routes. How neat is that?
Coming over the ridge, I got a great view into the rest of the Dolomites outside of the Cortina region. THere’s still so much more to explore! This was a fairly leisurely hike with minimal gain, but getting to what would be considered at altitude. The first few huts I saw were beneath in the valley – I recommend booking huts that sit higher for better views, but there are plenty of huts if you look for them (on a map). Then I saw Rifugio Nuvolau which looked so impressive sitting on top of a sheer cliff to one side and a gently sloping ridge on the other. Rounding the corner, I eventually saw my home for the night and it was most impressive. The outside and inside were far more impressive than any of the other rifugios I’d been to. It also opens in the winter and is easily accessed by multiple lifts, so that probably why it was built to be more luxurious. It was so neat that it offered free wifi, hotel slippers, really clean rooms, and you had a huge selection of food. Since the room and board covered any meal, I naturally picked the more expensive offerings. It was the most expensive rifugio after all!
While we had dinner, the clouds quickly rolled in and my hopes for a spectacular sunset waned. I had a great time talking with another solo hiker who is a music producer in Sweden and takes lots of alp trips like this by himself and sometimes another friend who is more often tied down by family unlike this guy. We also had 3 other Germans in our little room and everyone was so nice! However, there were lots of teenagers running around the other rooms which felt a little chaotic. In the morning, I nearly didn’t wake up for sunrise because I thought I saw clouds outside, but I sprinted out the door and enjoyed the golden rays. I pushed forth for a brisk walk all the way up to Rifugio Nuvolau, the objectively better spot for seeing the sunrise, not blocked by any other peaks. This hut gets booked up much quicker and is a little smaller than Averau. Plenty of guests of this hut stepped out for sunrise.Eventually, I picked my way back down to my own rifugio, so as not to miss breakfast. It was still quite early and my bus out from Cortina wouldn’t be until the afternoon.
I decided to take a different hike down to enjoy the views and pass by Cinque Torri while also taking a morning nap after so many days of late nights and early mornings. It was cute to see groups of little kids being taken on a hike and also plenty of people watching as people passed near and far. I got to my bus stop early so I took a cappuccino at Rifugio Baita Bai de Dones. Lago Bain de Dones is not remarkable – I just had extra time to walk to it before my bus came. But seriously, what a lovely way to end my time in the Dolomites!
There’s many rifugios along the way. I stayed at Averau, but if you can get Nuvolau, it rivals in views. I was very impressed with Averau for how modern it was – it had a card reader unlike all the other rifugios I’d been to! There’s also 2 rifugios by Cinque Torri and a few nearby Passo Falzarego. Lagazuoi would be amazing. And the Starlight Room Dolomites 360 would be incredible for a much pricier stay.
If you’re traveling by public transportation in the summer, the Dolomiti Bus is reliable, but you’ll have to plan around their schedule. For most things out of Cortina, bus 30/31 is great for going between town and Tre Cime to the east or Passo Falzarego to the west. Take note of their weekend/holiday vs weekday schedule. I got off at Passo Falzarego but you could also get off earlier at Rifugio Baita Bai de Dones or any of the other many trailheads south of SR 48.
Photos shot on Canon 5D Mark IV and iPhone 13 mini