romping around tofana | rifugio pomedes, ferrata ra bujela, sentiero astaldi
January 1, 2024
9.5 mi . 1800 ft gain . 7480 ft high
After my long day on the Ivano Dibona via ferrata and a hike to Lago di Sorapis, I was quite tired and didn’t want to push my physical limits after being quite exhausted, especially while adventuring solo. There’s risks I’m willing to take by myself and ones I feel more confident pushing further when I’m with other people. And while I originally intended an ambitious back-to-back major via ferrata trip, the Punta Anna seemed a bit too daunting when I wasn’t in the right mental headspace for it. Obviously I knew I had the skills and strength, but it’s another aspect to think about if you’re mentally ready to tackle something on your own. Luckily, the maps for Cortina are well marked and I soon discovered a short via ferrata that would take me to my next hut, Rifugio Pomedes. Upon research, I found two different routes but decided on the Via Ferrata Ra Bujela because it was more popular and seemed fun. The other route, Ra Pegna can be tagged along with it for a slightly easier climb as a warm up or cool down.
Taking yet another lazy day (seems like an every-other-day thing for this trip), I opted to take two lifts up to the base of via ferrata instead of hiking. It was worth the fairly low price cost and I felt no need to hike extra for similar views. No need to push my body too much and work out a specific amount. I walked over from the bus station to the base of the Col Drusciè gondola, riding above all the green larches. For just 12€, I would skip 1850 ft of gain, of trail I had done before a few years back, checking out Ghedina and Fiames. Descending half a mile and 300 ft, I was quickly at the base of the next lift from Piè Tofana to Luca d’Aosta. If you want a quick snack break, stay longer at Col Drusciè! This time 10.5€ saved 1400 ft of gain! Worth it for these tired legs of mine. This lift puts you right at the base of either climb. The climb looker’s left of the next lift to Pomedes is Ra Pegna. And the cliff band to the right is Ra Bujela. Take your pick!
It took a little bit of effort to realize I needed to walk right and around to the base of the cliff. I hear that there are guided trips to do this half day (or shorter) via ferrata for those who are new or wanting more guidance. I thought this would be so easy but I was pretty wrong. If you’re taking it properly, you’ll be doing some 4th class moves – good thing you won’t fall too far when you’re clipped up with your harness. I felt like a lot of the early moves felt like sport climbing. If you fell, you wouldn’t fall too far, but you’d far as far as your via ferrata lanyard stretches plus how far you are from the previous anchor. So, it’s kind of important not to lose your grip. I still had my heavy pack on, so I powered through the sections rather quickly. Once I got above the steepest parts, I could enjoy the views and the route better. Two people were just ahead of me and I took my time (although taking your time as a solo climber is still relatively speedy). There were two fun bridges that rivaled the one I did the day before on Ivano Dibona, although short it still had a lot of empty air beneath you. I would’ve loved to have done this with someone else for more pictures showing the scale. But it was still super fun alone.
Eventually I caught up to the American couple and we had a good chat and relaxed break just as we were topping out the end of the via ferrata. They were to head down, but I had gotten to my next stop rather early. I enjoyed reading up routes and chatting with both the couple and some Germans on vacation. It was nice sharing stories and simply seeing what life is like for other people. I was so thirsty, I ordered an orange carrot juice, which was so delicious – you must try it! Eventually the day hikers left and my Rifugio Pomedes roommates started arriving. It’s often a bit awkward sitting by yourself at a table for one when they assign you seats. It’s as if they assume you wouldn’t want to talk to anyone else. Thankfully at dinner, I was able to chat more with a Swiss couple who I ran into the next day in town! Super fun!
Rifugio Pomedes is right under the Punta Anna via ferrata (I really wished I did this one!!) and overlooks Cortina and the valley across to my next stay. Sunset and sunrise were quite enjoyable with the spired peaks poking in and through the clouds. I had the worst sleep here only because the crew was ignorant of me trying to sleep and kept talking quite loud with lights on for a long time, then lots of snoring. So remember to bring eye cover and ear plugs because you never know who’s gonna stay at your rifugio! My theory, however is that lift-accessed rifugios can have worse behaved guests, rather than those who hike a bit further to one. But I’m sure it’s not always the case.
The next morning, I still felt Punta Anna too daunting to do by myself when I was second guessing so much and even though I thought it was within my abilities. I think the lesson is to trust your instincts because they’re likely trying to protect you more than anything. If anything went wrong, if I misstepped and incorrectly clipped up, it could have been a pretty bad situation! Overall, though via ferratas are fairly safe.I decided to do a near by Sentiero Astaldi. It was short and easy to get to. What I didn’t realize is that routes labeled “sentiero” are even less technical than “via ferrata” routes. It still held some spice with loose gravel in parts. The path down to Rifugio Angelo Dibona was rather steep and I would’ve loved poles. I passed lots of people headed up to start the Punta Anna and I did my best not to feel FOMO. I had a bus to catch to the next Rifugio and I wouldn’t know how long to the Punta Anna would take me. No more rushing to dinner like to Rifugio Vandelli.
Plenty of people were starting their morning hike up to Rifugio Giussani. I peeled off and headed towards the sentiero and enjoyed rainbow views and a bit of solitude amidst the dozens of other people I could see off in the distance. Going clockwise from Pomedes, there’s only a very short uphill at the end after the technical walk, which is very nice to get the uphill out of the way. Some people crossing the sentiero didn’t use via ferrata gear and most of the time, I found myself not needing it, but used it anyway since I had it with me.
Once I got back to Rifugio Pomedes, it was time to head back into town and restock on some groceries before my next hike. The downhill definitely took a toll on my legs with 3500 ft of descending without poles and a fairly heavy pack. I took some trails down and some roads all the way back, avoiding the busiest roads. Each day my via ferrata ambitions seemed to decay, but I was ready for a more relaxed mode! There’s still so much more to discover in just this area, not to mention all the other areas of the Italian Dolomites and beyond!
Rifugio Pomedes has a variety of dorm rooms and privates. They have a free shower too! It cost 90€ for room and board and I had to wire half to them to secure a spot.
Getting around: I relied heavily on the local Cortina hiking map which shows bus stops and both hiking trails and via ferrata. If marked as a via ferrata (+ sign) but labeled as a sentiero, it probably doesn’t require via ferrata gear. Otherwise, be sure to have the gear with you!
Getting there: For the Ferrata Ra Bujela, you can hike from town all the way up or take a series of lifts from Col Drusciè to the Duca d’Aosta. Alternatively, if you have a car, drive to Rifugio Angelo Dibona and hike a short distance to Rifugio Pomedes and back to the base at Rifugio Dura d’Aosta. For the Sentiero Astaldi, begin at Rifugio Angelo Dibona. I started from Rifugio Pomedes since I was already there and linked the two trails.
Ferrata Ra Bujela: rated 3C, has up to 4th class (or some call low 5th class) technique, but otherwise suitable for the fit beginner. 500 ft gain over one mile.
Sentiero Astaldi: rated 1A, likely the easiest via ferrata in the Cortina region, basically a hiking trail that gets narrow at times, but essentially no climbing involved. The loop including Rifugio Pomedes is 800 ft gain and 3.5 miles (a little less starting from Rifugio A Dibona)
Other nearby via ferrata: The long, well-known via ferrata is the Punta Anna 5C. There’s also a few around Tofana Di Roses (Ferrata Lipella 4C) that is somewhat technical but only medium length.
Gear: It is generally advisable to use via ferrata gear on these routes, but they are otherwise simply a scramble if you were in the States. Personally I would be okay with no gear on the Sentiero Astaldi, but for the more technical Ra Bujela, it is quite helpful. I rented gear the evening before for the same price as a single day. The more days you link up the cheaper the cost per day. All the shops have a similar pricing and you can pick and choose what gear to use. It’s advisable to take the helmet, harness, and via ferrata lanyard. Make sure you have good shoes too! I ended up going to Snow Service 1 store across the bus station. They were lovely and provided free local trail maps as well! I ended up paying for 3 days of gear, totaling 65€.