Editor’s note: Shari Hogshead and Paul Gauthier are preparing to lead another of their CONC trips to Europe – this time hiking in Italy’s Dolomites for nearly three weeks in late July and early August. Below is a report from Shari about this summer’s adventure, including details to sign up.
By Shari Hogshead
The Dolomites of northern Italy, known as the “pale mounts” and renowned for their enrosadira sunsets with the mountains turning spectacular hues of pink and gold, encompass some of the most beautiful hiking areas in the world. Green alpine meadows, stretching between charming village-studded valleys and craggy, awe-inspiring karst mountains, provide visual feasts in every direction. Mountain walkers trod an extensive network of well-maintained and interconnecting footpaths, and visit interesting villages and well-placed rifugi (high-altitude mountain huts). Our hiking and touring days are spent in areas devoted to protecting and preserving the unique alpine areas of the Sesto Dolomites, the Puez-Odle, and the Schlern/Sciliar, one of the largest upland alpine areas in Europe. Our villages are friendly and walkable and our bus and lift passes enable us to visit nearby villages and mountain restaurants easily.
Our three-week adventure begins with flights to Munich, leaving the U.S. no later than Saturday, 21 July 2018. Following our first night in Munich, we take land transport to the charming village of Kastelruth/Castelrotto. Here we stay five nights in a five-century-old hotel, impeccably modernized. This hotel has been in the owner’s family for many generations and it is located right on the village square. Here we are served a delicious buffet breakfast each morning (included in trip price), but our dinners will be in various restaurants around the village (NOT included). Our bus and lift passes will enable us to access the Seiser Alm/l’Alpe di Suisi, the largest alpine grazing area in Europe. We will often take the gondola to the alp for walks and to enjoy the many alpine restaurants there. One of our days here will be spent in the town of Bolzano/Bozen, where we will visit the Archeological Museum of the South Tirol and see Oetzi, the 5,300-year-old ice man discovered on the Italian/Austrian border.
Moving north to the Pustertal/Val Pustaria, the northernmost valley in Italy, very near the Austrian border and just north of the Olympic venue of Cortina, we spend a week at a family owned and operated villa hotel in the village of Toblach/Dobbiaco. Here we will enjoy more of those lovely breakfasts, along with mouth-watering multi-course evening meals, with salad bar, included in your trip price. Again, our bus passes will enable us to visit nearby villages, as well as to penetrate radiating valleys to sample short hikes and a wide variety of scenery, including the famous Drei Zinnen/Tre Cime di Lavaredo. All of our hotels incorporate wellness areas for guests, with saunas, aroma therapy, solarium, etc. for relaxing on your return from a day’s outing.
Our final stay is in the scenic village of Selva/Wolkenstein in the upper reaches of the Val Gardena, where we are housed for five nights in a flower-bedecked, family-owned/operated hotel on a quiet street, and served bountiful buffet breakfasts and delectable multi-course dinners, which are all included in your trip price. The Val Gardena contains three villages – Ortisei/St. Ulrich, St. Christina, and our village of Selva/Wolkenstein. All are lovely places to visit. From our hotel, you can walk anywhere in the village and you will view the huge mountain massifs of the Sella and the Sassolungo/Sassopiatta. Our lift and bus passes will enable you to visit the nearby high ridges with magnificent views, and other villages in the valley, as well as the possibility of a day-long bus ride around the Sella massif.
The South Tyrol was the scene of vicious World War I mountaintop battles which preceded the formerly German-speaking area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire being ceded to Italy as the region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The German language survives as the area’s first language to this day, along with the ancient Romansch Ladin language, and Italian. We will have opportunity to visit the mountaintop trenches of some of these battle sites during our travels.
Trip classification is easy walking, with sightseeing opportunities every day. Our lift passes enable us to use local cable cars, gondolas, and chairlifts to reach high alpine areas for views and short walks. Our bus passes cover all local bus routes, so we can access nearby villages and walking destinations. Individual rest days are not a problem, but a simple walk or hike will be offered each day. Lunches are generally eaten at private or Alpine Club high mountain huts (rifugi), in simple farmers’ alm huts on summer alpine grazing pastures, or in villages or on scenic lake shores.
Trip dates are as follows: Depart the U.S. no later than Saturday, 21 July. We meet and spend the night in Munich on 22 July, spend five nights (23 to 28 July) in Kastelruth/Castelrotto; spend the week of Saturday, 28 July, to Saturday, 04 August, in the High Pustertal village of Toblach/Dobbiaco; spend the next five nights in Selva/Wolkenstein in the Val Gardena (04 to 09 August); and return to Munich for one additional night on Thursday, 09 August. The group may return to the U.S. on 10 August.
Trip price is $3,350, covering nearly three weeks with all nightly accommodations in 3*-4* hotels, generous buffet breakfasts at all locations, multi-course dinners nightly (except for five nights in Castelrotto and two nights in Munich), all group ground transportation in private buses, plus all lifts, maps, donation to CONC and leader fee, administrative and other miscellaneous fees. Not included are lunches, beverages, five dinners in Castelrotto and two dinners in Munich, basic travel/evacuation insurance (required), airfare to/from Munich (estimated at $1,200), and any diversions from the group itinerary. A deposit of $2,000 is required to reserve a spot after obtaining leader approval. Final payment of $1,350 is due on April 1, 2018.
Sign up with the leaders, Shari Hogshead and Paul Gauthier, directly by calling 425-260-9316 or 541-389-9110, or by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign-up opens once the trips has been advertised on the CONC website, and deposit must be received to secure your placement on the trip roster. Shari and Paul resided a few hours from this area for several years and have traveled extensively in the Dolomites. This is their seventh European adventure for CONC. Shari has also organized and led over 40 Seattle Mountaineer foreign outings to Europe, including eight Mountaineer winter ski outings and four summer outings to the same areas of the Dolomiti/Sudtirol.