Via Ferrata Degli Alleghesi To The Top Of Mount Civetta – In A Faraway Land

When I first lied my eyes upon the western face of Mount Civetta, whilst standing on the terrace of Rifugio Lagazuoi,

I thought its summit to only be attainable to professional climbers. 

A few months later I learned about an existing via ferrata to its peak and immediately added it to my list. After tackling many beginner and intermediate routes, I felt ready for a challenge. 

Via ferrata Degli Alleghesi is one of the most demanding ferratas I have done, requiring not only experience but also organizational skills.

It involves an overnight hut stay and awkward gondola times but I will get to that in a minute.  

Whilst the scrambling isn’t overly technical or demanding, the sheer length and elevation gain along this route make this a serious excursion for serious adventurers.

Via ferrata Degli Alleghesi – The Stats

Distance: 16 km / 10 miles from the Coldai hut

Time required: 8-10 hours

Elevation gain: 1150 m / 3770 ft

Route difficulty: advanced

Enroute to rifugio Coldai along the path nr 556. Mount Pelmo can be seen in the Italian Dolomites.  Via ferrata Degli Alleghesi
Enroute to rifugio Coldai along the path no. 556. Mount Pelmo can be seen ahead of me

How to reach the start of the via ferrata Degli Alleghesi?

When researching this ferrata, all the material I found described the route as being very unprotected with path-finding skills necessary, however recent improvements changed all this. Today the route is really well protected in all situations, and the path is clear with obvious markings. 

This article describes the loop from Rifugio Coldai up via ferrata Degli Alleghesi and down via ferrata Normale.  To begin with, you can get to Rifugio Coldai in two main ways:

1. Take the two-tiered-gondola Pian di Pezzè – Col Dei Baldi from Alleghe, then follow the signs for rifugio Coldai. The hike starts downhill on the access road, turning onto Path 561 and then switchbacking uphill on Path 556. You will reach the hut after 60-90 minutes.

Both gondolas operate from 08:30 to 16:30. This 8-hour gap generally does not leave you enough time to complete this route unless you are incredibly fast. Even if you hike and scramble at lightning speed this allows for no contingency. This is why I strongly recommend an overnight stay along the route in Rifugio Coldai or Rifugio Torrani (or both). 

Approaching the start of the cable section
The ledges along the via ferrata Degli Alleghesi

2. The second way to get to Rifugio Coldai is to hike in from Malga Vescova. This small malga is reached by road SS251 from Passo Staulanza.

Overnight parking is prohibited, but there are plenty of pullouts just before it. Similarly, to the top of the Col del Baldi gondola you hike on Path 561 then switch back uphill on Path 556.

This approach also takes 1- 1.5 hours and the main advantage of this approach is that it isn’t limited to gondola times.

The cables and stemples at the start of the via ferrata Degli Alleghesi
The cables and stemples at the start of the via ferrata section
Stemples along the via ferrata Degli Alleghesi
Crossing the gully

Via ferrata Degli Alleghesi – route description

looking up on one of the section along the via ferrata
Around half way up the via ferrata Degli Alleghesi

From Rifugio Coldai, the path to the start via ferrata Alleghesi is well sign posted. It begins just behind the refuge. The path number is 557, also called Sentiero Tivan. 

For the first 30 minutes, it undulates showing off the striking faces of Monte Pelmo and other dramatic peaks to the southeast.

Not before long the route steepens and crosses a few short sections protected with cables, before it gradually eases again. 

Whilst gearing up for these small sections isn’t necessary, you have the equipment so you might as well use it. I am always a big advocate for being safe rather than sorry.

Things can go wrong quickly in the mountains and I have unfortunately learned it the hard way. 

Circa 1 hour after leaving Rifugio Coldai the path branches off from Sentiero Tivan and a spray-painted sign on a rock points to the direction of the via ferrata Degli Alleghesi.

After another 15-20 minutes you will reach the cables and ladders where the real fun begins. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time to gear up now!

The views along the via ferrata Degli Alleghesi towards the summit of Mount Civetta
The views along the way

The climbing now is tougher and steeper, but the introduction of staples and ladders makes it uncomplicated and enjoyable.

The route rises quickly between intermittent sections of cable-secured scrambling and hiking along narrow ledges. The red spray-painted route markers are found close together and make it almost impossible to lose the route (unless you are not paying attention to where you are going). 

After around 2.5 hours from the start of the climbing, the view westward becomes visible for the first time. 

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Once you reach this viewpoint the rest of the way to the summit follows the eastern side of the ridgeline. At an average speed, you can reach the top in 4 – 5 hours from Rifugio Coldai. 

The summit is wide, open, and a great place for a snack. If you have good views take photos immediately because clouds can build up rapidly at this elevation.

Try to locate Lake Alleghe from the top. It’s almost 2000 meters (or 6500 feet) lower and it looks minuscule from the summit, I honestly couldn’t believe it was the same lake! 

Getting close to the ridgeline
the views around 3 quarters of the way up
Me standing on the summit of Mount Civetta
Beginning the descent to rifugio Torrani

The descent follows a different route and it begins with a well-marked scree slope to Rifugio Torrani.

It’s not a pleasant gradient and your tired knees will definitely notice it. After around 30 minutes, you’ll veer leftward and will be able to spot the refuge. You will probably hear its loud generator first! 

The Torrani mountain hut located at 2984 meters is not only one of the highest mountain huts in the Dolomites, it’s also one of the quirkiest! It stays open for only 3 months of the year, usually between July and September when the route is clear of snow.

It’s run by a music-loving Italian man who does everything from cooking through cleaning, maintenance, and of course, entertaining his guests! I must say his cake-baking skills aren’t too bad either, considering the limited resources he has at this altitude. 

Be it for better or for worse, it’s not like any other refuge I’ve stayed in, and although I thoroughly enjoyed my experience I can understand that it’s not to everyone’s taste. Seemingly very unorganized, quintessentially Italian.

early morning views from rifugio Torrani
Rifugio Torrani above the clouds

To continue your descent from rifugio Torrani follow the markings for Via Normale, which is a via ferrata in its own right. Firstly, it heads down a scree slope before more complicated down-climbing sections become apparent.

The down-climbing here is arguably the hardest part of the entire circuit but again the insertion of pegs and staples make it achievable.

After around 2 hours and a short crossing of a snowfield, the route rejoins Sentiero Tivan (path 557) and undulates back to Rifugio Coldai. The total descent time from the summit to Rifugio Coldai takes around 4 to 4,5 hours and it doesn’t include stopping for the cake!

From Rifugio Coldai it’s another hour to reach the gondola or the car parked near Malga Vescova.

Descending from rifugio Torrani towards via ferrata Normale.  Mount Pelmo can be seen peaking above the clouds
Descending from rifugio Torrani towards via ferrata Normale. Mount Pelmo can be seen peaking above the clouds

As I said previously, considering the length of this route, tackling it in a day is only recommended to those who are super fit and can absolutely crush average times. 

Otherwise getting back to the gondola in time for the last lift is a tough call, even if you stay in Rifugio Coldai the night before.

What I suggest is taking the first gondola of the day, then tackling the route and staying overnight in Rifugio Torrani or Coldai before returning to your car or hotel the following day.

You could even drop your overnight gear at the Coldai hut first to make your backpack lighter and subsequently the route easier.

If you have the luxury of time, then stay in both and experience what the Italian huts are all about! I have also put together an article about everything you need to know before staying in a mountain hut in the Dolomites. 

Alternatively, if you aren’t sure you’ll make it back to the gondola station in time then park at Malga Vescova (refer to ‘getting to the start of via Ferrata Degli Alleghesi section of this post). 

Me downlimbing along the via ferrata Normale
the slabs along the via ferrata Normale
Returning to rifugio Coldai

If there is anything unclear about this route or you need more information to safely plan your adventure, don’t be shy and let me know your questions in the comments section below! I respond to all comments personally and none of them are left unanswered. 

Shop my via ferrata gear essentials

Black Diamond Helmet

Rockfall is a major concern on via ferrata routes. Unbeknownst to you, other climbing groups above you may accidentally dislodge a small rock and send it hurtling down the mountain. If it hits you on the head it could have serious consequences. A helmet placed on your head (not inside your backpack) is a must! 

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Black Diamond Momentum Harness

Another must-have on a via ferrata route is a climbing harness. A harness works as an anchor point for your via ferrata lanyard. Try it on before your trip to ensure it fits snugly without limiting your movements. Aim for a lightweight harness, that will be comfortable to wear between the cable-protected sections when hiking.

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Edelrid, Camp or Black Diamond Via Ferrata Lanyard

A via ferrata lanyard connects the climber and their harness to the cables along the route. Its two arms and a hidden extra coil work as an energy absorption system in case of a fall, by reducing the stress on the climber. The two carabiners at the end of the lanyard are used to clip into the cable. Make sure the carabiners are equipped with the palm squeeze mechanism. It’s the safest and most comfortable.

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Black Diamond Crag Gloves

The gloves are meant to protect your hands from any cuts and scratches you may otherwise get if you haul yourself on the cable without them. I prefer full-fingered gloves for extra protection against blisters.

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Salewa Wildfire Edge Approach Shoes

My go-to pair of hiking shoes for easier trails or via ferrata, where I don’t need extra ankle support. They provide excellent grip on the rock and are very durable.

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Reeloq Smartphone Securing System

If you want to take great photos on a via ferrata and not worry about losing your phone, Reeloq is the best tool for it. It’s a smartphone-securing system, that will allow you to use your phone on any of your adventures. This has been a great addition to my tool arsenal.

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Marta
Marta

Hi! I am the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Marta,

    Thank you so much for creating the above blog! It really got us inspired to go via feratta in Dolomites. Just have one question – any idea how busy it gets in Dolomites (Cortina area) in the middle of July? Someone has mentioned it gets unbearable in the summer. We’re looking mainly at intermediate and possibly one or two advanced ferattas. What is your experience? Many thanks. Radka

    • Hi Radka. Thanks for visiting. It is busy but not unberable. If you decide to hike a trail like Lake Sorapiss or Lagazuoi in the middle of July then yes you won’t find solitude that people search for in the mountains, but via ferratas are significantly quieter than hiking trails.

  2. Thanks for the great write up – your photos inspired us and the description was excellent. We completed the route walking in from Malga Vescova at 06.50 and returned back to the car at 5pm – exhausted but accomplished. We allowed time for a snack on the ascent and a long break for lunch at the summit.
    It is certainly a big day and a good weather window is essential. The route Ferrata was also quite busy with other people, there are some points to safely pass but I can imagine elsewhere it could be difficult. I think it would be helpful to factor in additional time to safeguard against being potentially caught behind another group(s).

    Thanks again for your write up. It wasn’t in our guide book so without seeing your post we would have missed out on an excellent adventure.
    Jacki

    • Hi Jacki. Thanks so much for taking the time to write a feedback. I am sure it will be helpful for others. 10 hours is a very good time for going up and back. It’s a heck of an elevation gain. I was happy to have a night in the hut in between. I am glad my website contributed to another great adventure. I hope this was not your last time in the Dolomites.

  3. Hi Marta,

    Thanks for the write up and all the nice photos.

    Another option for starting and finishing is the campground at Palafavera. This was my first via ferrata in Italy, and it took 9h15m from the campground and back using the same route you took (plus the walk up and down from Coldai — the gondolas weren’t running (maybe they start in July?)). Two other more experienced via ferrata climbers went up the same day I did, and they were faster — 8h30m.

    It’s a long day but no so long, and you don’t need to worry about reservations since you’re not using the huts. Maybe that helps someone.

    A warning for bicyclists: there’s a 5km section of road between Igne and Mezzocanale that is closed to cyclists. We had to ride illegally to reach Palafavera from Longarone. 🙁

    Bryan

    • Hi Bryan! Thanks for visiting. Yes, I hiked from Palafavera to Coldai when doing the AV1 traverse. It’s definitely more elevation gain comparing to taking the gondola, but as you said, one isn’t pressed for time with the gondola schedule. Leaving very early is essential though! 9h15 min is a fantastic time! Well done! Thanks for your input. I am sure it will come in handy for others.

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