Via ferrata Giovanni Lipella circumnavigates the distinct peak – Tofana di Rozes. It belongs to the Tofane group and stands proudly above the town of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
It’s a long day and whilst the cable time is decent, both the approach and descent are lengthy. Thankfully though, there is no shortage of good views rewarding your each step.
The main highlights of this route include, a 500m World War 1 tunnel, a series of exciting ledges, a huge amphitheatre of rock, the summit of Tofana di Rozes (3225m) and the Fontananegra saddle with the Giusanni mountain hut built right on top of it.
Giovanni Lipella is classed as one of the advanced via ferratas so before adding it to your Dolomiti bucket list, make sure you have proper experience and equipment to tackle it!
Via Ferrata Giovanni Lipella – The Stats:
Distance: 16.5 km / 10.25 mi
Time required: 6-8 h
Elevation gain: 1300 m / 4265 ft
Route difficulty: advanced
Where does the via ferrata Giovanni Lipella start?
This article describes the loop from rifugio Angelo Dibona. From Cortina, the drive should take no longer than 30 minutes.
Rifugio Dibona can be driven to down a small and gravel private access road, providing your vehicle is no higher than 2.45m (there is a barrier at the turn off from the main road). There is an ample gravel parking next to the hut where you can leave your car for the day.
If you have the luxury of having a friend who can relocate your vehicle, or you plan on using the public transport, then you can summit Tofana di Rozes as part of a traverse from Rifugio Lagazoui to Rifugio Pomedes. I’ve outlined a brief description of this alternative route at the end of this post.
Bring the Tabacco Map nr 03 with you for either of these routes and study them beforehand. I always do that to ensure my own safety in the mountains.
Accommodation in Cortina D’Ampezzo
Cortina D’ampezzo is a fantastic little town located in the heart of the Italian Dolomites and the best hub to base yourself in if you plan on exploring the area for a few days. Below are a few of my recommendations for where to book an overnight stay.
Via Ferrata Gear Essentials
To protect your head from any potential rockfall set off by climbing groups above you, or any other head injuries.
Aim for a lightweight harness, which will be comfy to wear between the cable protected sections when you are hiking.
When you haul yourself on a cable for half a day your hands will quickly become blistered. My advice is to go for full fingered gloves.
Developed specifically for via ferrata scrambling, the lanyard provides shock absorption in case of a fall.
This via ferrata has some underground sections. You will need a head torch to guide you through.
Via ferrata Giovanni Lipella route description
The approach leaves behind Rifugio Dibona hut on a wide track and slowly gains elevation before reaching a small hut where path nr 404 seemingly begins.
With Monte Antelao to your back, be careful not to break your neck straining for a good view as you pass sections of huge rock that make up the base of Tofana di Rozes.
The path undulates and meanders for around an hour and a half. It’s not often I say this as generally I find the routes in the Dolomites to be very well marked, but somehow I did manage to miss the start of the cables. Luckily I had my GPS with me, which brought me back on the right path.
Learn from my mistake. Look out for the two memorial plaques pictured above. They mark the start of the via ferrata and the tunnel entry.
Whilst initially it is unnecessary to fully kit up, as you will be going into the tunnels, the wide base below the first ladder provides plenty of room for it. At the very least put on your helmet and the head torch. You will definitely need them!
Two ladders mark the tunnel entry. From here you will continue a 500 meter long subterranean tunnel ascent up a long straight staircase.
It is damp and dark inside so make sure to put another layer on before entering the tunnels. Bringing gloves isn’t a bad idea either (I always bring my climbing gloves with me).
Upon emerging back into sunlight, it’s still another 15 minutes to the start of the real scrambling. After the tunnels the path loses a lot of elevation so it may be a bit counter intuitive to be walking down when the target is the summit high above you.
A lot of desire lines can be seen venturing off to indistinct rock faces in search of the route, but if you stay on the main path, the start will be soon visible on the right hand side.
The climbing is of decent grade but not strenuous to begin with, there are many areas where melt water pours over black rock that create slippery, but always well protected, traverses.
On a hot day, you’ll be welcome of the quick shower.
As the pathway widens, you pass under a thick overhang, round a scenic corner and begin to climb more steeply. The climbing is still not too strenuous.
WARNING. Because of the aforementioned wet conditions and due to the route being North facing, it’s not uncommon for some sections to be icy, especially in the early season, when there is still a lot of snow present, or late in the season when the temperatures at night plummet below freezing.
Eventually you’ll reach a fork marked with “Cima” to the right and “Cantore” to the left. The latter makes for a handy escape route if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
“Cantore” refers to rifugio Cantore which lies just below Rifugio Guissani but has not been operational for many years. “Cima”, which translates to summit from Italian, is your route and refers to the peak of Tofana di Rozes.
The path then heads diagonally up a section known as the ‘amphitheatre’ and contains some short vertical ascents. This is certainly the hardest part of the climb.
Above these, the route plateaus and combines with the hiking route along a scree slope up to the summit of Tofana. From Rifugio Dibona to the summit, it should take around 4 to 5 hours (3 if you are a mountain goat).
Although this last part of the ascent up to the summit isn’t exciting, the views from the top of Tofana are phenomenal so the scree ridden switchbacks are somewhat of a necessary evil.
Around 10 minutes away from the summit you will be able to spot the massive iron cross.
Once you’ve had your fill of summit vistas begin the walk down. Initially the descent retraces your previous steps before it continues on equally as horrendous scree switchbacks to Fortananegra saddle. Trust me when I say this, your legs will burn.
Rifugio Giusanni is a beautifully located mountain hut built right on the saddle. You will be able to spot it on the descent from the summit. Bring some cash and enjoy a cold pint or proper warm meals from the hut’s restaurant. You gotta love the Dolomites for their hut system!
From here take the very wide, well trodden path nr 403, all the way back down to Rifugio Dibona, where you started. You should reach it within 60-90 minutes of leaving the Giusanni hut.
Via Ferrata Giovanni Lipella as part of a traverse
If you don’t have a car to get to rifugio Dibona you can change the route slightly and start the hike from rifugio Lagazuoi – one of my favourite Dolomiti huts!
There is a public bus from Cortina to Passo Falzarego, where you can either catch the gondola up to the refuge or hike up via the Lagazuoi tunnels.
I’d recommend that you stay overnight at the Lagazuoi hut to ensure an early start the next day. Breakfast at the hut is usually served around 7am.
From the hut head east on paths 401, followed by 402 then 404 to the start of Via Ferrata Lipella, complete the ferrata with the summit extension. As you head down on path 403 from Rifugio Giusanni, keep left and venture onto Sentiero Astaldi, a protected walk with a Smith/Fletcher rating of 1A.
Afterward a quick 5 minute walk takes you to Rifugio Pomedes where you can get the chairlift down straight to Rifugio Pie Tofana and a bus back to Cortina.
This route is slightly longer and involves an overnight stay in the hut, meaning you might have to carry a few extra things with you.
If you are thinking about this via ferrata and still have questions to which you can’t find answers in this article. Make sure to post them in the comments below. I answer all questions personally!
If you are looking for more ideas to spend your holiday in this region make sure to check out my Italian Dolomites Guide!