Via Ferrata Giro Del Sorapiss – A Loop Around The Sorapiss Range In The Italian Dolomites

Not an easy feat at all, via ferrata Giro del Sorapiss, will not only test your endurance but also the ability to navigate on not always obvious paths. Good planning ahead is essential for an enjoyable full-day excursion.

The reward will come in solitude, wildlife viewing possibilities, and some of the best views in the Italian Dolomites!  

Giro Del Sorapiss – The Stats

  • Distance: 26 km / 16 miles (excluding hut approach)
  • Elevation gain: 1800 m / 5900 ft
  • Time required: 8-12 hours
  • Route difficulty: intermediate
Guide to the via ferrata Giro del Sorapiss in the Italian Dolomites

Getting to rifugio Vandelli – the start of Giro del Sorapiss

Rifugio Vandelli, where the Sorapiss Circuit starts, lies right near Lago di Sorapiss – one of the most popular day hikes in the Dolomites. 

From Passo Tre Croci, a mountain pass connecting two towns: Misurina and Cortina D’ampezzo, take path no 215. The hike takes around 1,5 to 2 hours and the distance is 7 kilometers one way (this distance is not included in the Sorapiss circuit) 

You can park along the side of the road at Tre Croci pass, but bear in mind that the spaces are limited and it gets really busy during the summer, especially on the weekends. 

You could (and should) plan an overnight stay in Rifugio Vandelli before tackling via ferrata Giro del Sorapiss, leaving from Passo Tre Croci in the late afternoon. By then some parking will be vacated.

Climbing along the via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli - the fist part of the Sorapiss Circuit

Part 1: Rifugio Vandelli to Bivacco Comici along via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli

Via ferrata Giro del Sorapiss consists of three separate ferratas: Alfonso Vandelli, Sentiero Carlo Minazio and Francesco Berti. 

Since “giro” means “circuit” it can be walked in either direction. After consulting with the local and very friendly owners of the Rifugio Vandelli, where I stayed the night before, I decided to tackle the route clockwise. 

First light on the mountains and the Sorapiss Lake
Climbing up Croda del Fogo along the via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli
Stunning vistas along the via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli part of the Giro del Sorapiss

Staying the night before in the hut meant that you can leave most of your equipment behind and take only what was necessary, making your backpack lighter. 

From Rifugio Vandelli follow the signs for path nr 243. Soon you will reach the western side of Croda del Fogo, where the climb along a series of ladders begins. 

You will gain elevation quickly and your head might spin from exposure. Luckily the cables are present most of the way giving excellent protection! A quick reminder! They only work if you clip in! A harness, helmet, and lanyard are necessities.   

The steep walls along the via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli
The steep walls along the via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli

Two hours of fun climbing and jaw-dropping vistas later, with Monte Cristallo in the far background, you will reach Col del Fogo at 2562 metres. You can exhale deeply now and take your helmet off for a bit. 

I don’t have good news for you. After gaining over 500 metres of elevation you will now lose most of it when following path nr 234 further to Bivacco Comici – the next landmark along the route. 

Monte Cristallo seen from the via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli part of the Giro del Sorapiss
Monte Cristallo seen from the via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli
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Col del Fogo - end of the via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli

Make sure you are equipped with a good map and know how to use it. In this case, Tabacco No 03 will do the job. 

Although there is only one trail you can follow, I still managed to get lost, because I had a crappy map with no details. The fact that the trail drops down a few hundred meters confused me. We followed the red markings, but never saw any direct signs for Bivacco Comici. 

Information about the via ferrata Giro del Sorapiss in the Italian Dolomites
The path down to Bivacco Comici from Col del Fogo

We walked down for an hour before deciding to go back up again to Col del Fogo, losing around 2 hours and draining our water supply along the way, only to realize that we were actually following the right path.

So down we went again. 

I admit, that it was my own fault and a good reminder that you should never get too comfortable in the mountains, because they will quickly give you a slap in the face telling you otherwise. 

After around 1,5 hours from Col del Fogo, we finally reached Bivacco Comici. 2 hours later than scheduled. 

Part 2: Bivacco Comici to Bivacco Slataper along via ferrata Sentiero Carlo Minazio

Via ferrata Sentiero Carlo Minazio
Via ferrata Sentiero Carlo Minazio
Via ferrata Sentiero Carlo Minazio
Grassy plateau with a sign for Bivacco Slataper. Visible in the far distance Forcella Grande (saddle Grande)

Take a good rest at Bivacco Comici and get ready for the second, slightly easier part. From the shelter, you will see a saddle and a zig-zag path going right up to it. Follow it for around 30 minutes until you reach the saddle. 

From here for the next 2-3 hours you will be following a series of ledges and later grassy slopes along the undulating path nr 243. This part is known as the via ferrata Sentiero Carlo Minazio.

In some spots, the exposure is pretty decent with a few hundred-meter drop to your left. Again cables are installed in the most difficult sections, so you can (and should) clip in for peace of mind. 

Hiking up to Bivacco Slataper
Ibex spotted along the way

Eventually, the valley opens up and the path leads to a junction. So far the Sorapiss Circuit was intersecting with Alta Via 4, the multiday backpacking trip through the Dolomites. Path no. 243 which you have been following goes all the way to Rifugio San Marco. 

It’s time to turn right at the junction and hike up a large scree bowl along path no. 247 to Bivaco Slataper. You should reach it in around 1 hour. 

A couple of hundred meters earlier, you will come across a little stream, where you will be able to fill up your water. Don’t rely on it 100% though.

Not bringing enough water was one of the few mistakes I committed on the trail. By the end of the summer, the stream was nothing else than a little trickle and having run out of water already an hour earlier, I was desperate to drink something.

I filled up my camelback with muddy water hoping I won’t catch any waterborne disease while drinking it. A LifeStraw or iodine tablets would have come in handy. 

A male ibex in the italian Dolomites.
A male ibex hanging out near Bivacco Slataper

Part 3: Bivacco Slataper to Rifugio Vandelli along via ferrata Francesco Berti

Bivacco Slataper is an option for those who are planning to split the circuit in two days as it lies, more or less, halfway along the circuit. It’s a tiny shelter with basic amenities.

The downside of overnighting here is having to carry all your equipment with you: stove, sleeping bag, change of clothes, and extra food and water. The weight quickly adds up. 

Personally, I prefer to go as light as possible so I opted for staying in the Rifugio Vandelli instead. This meant I had a few more hours to go, before completing the circuit and a proper meal and a bed waiting for me at the end. 

Bivacco Slataper along the via ferrata giro del sorapiss in the Italian Dolomites
An ibex, Jack and Slataper Shelter

From Bivacco Slataper continue up on the path toward the saddle – Forcella del Bivacco. This is the highest point along the Sorapiss circuit. By looking left down into the valley you will be able to see the little town of San Vito Di Cadore. 

The challenging descent along the via Ferrata Francesco Berti is coming up. The cables and ladders are placed nicely, so by taking it easy, you shouldn’t face any real problems, apart from, at times, very scary exposure.  

Once again you will lose most of the elevation you have just gained from hiking up to the saddle. 

Via ferrata Francesco Berti. The last via ferrata along the circuit
Via ferrata Francesco Berti.
Approaching storm

Continue right on an undulating scree path nr 242 high above the valley to another saddle – Forcella Cengia di Banco this is the last real obstacle on an already excruciatingly long day.

I remember my heart sank along the way when exhausted from the long day of hiking, I came across a sign for Rifugio Vandelli stating it’s still 3 hours away.

Having no choice but to keep going I started imagining all the food I was going to order once I got there. Praying to a higher power the kitchen will be still open. It was already 4 o’clock, some scary clouds were building up on the horizon and I was only hoping we won’t be caught up in the middle of a lightning storm. 

San Vito Di Cadore visible from Forcella Bivaco
The last strecht of Giro del Sorapiss, past Forcella Cengia di Banco

From Forcella (saddle) Cengia di Banco is smooth sailing, well almost. After already 9 hours on foot (should have been 7, had we not lost 2 hours in the beginning) it was now mostly downhill along path nr 215 all the way to Rifugio Vandelli. The clouds that were chasing us had slowly dispersed.

The landscape now is really barren, almost moonlike, until eventually, you will emerge onto a small plateau high above Lake Sorapiss and a small forest surrounding it.

Rifugio Vandelli, a small dot from where you are standing, will be visible from afar. The last bit is an unpleasant downhill walk on a scree slope and will take around 1 hour. To your right, you will see the remnants of the glacier responsible for Lake Sorapiss’ turquoise colors. 

5 tips for planning ahead

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1. The weather

Giro del Sorapiss should not be attempted unless the weather forecast is good for the whole day. During summer the afternoon storms are really frequent. September, when the storms subside, is the best month for it.

2. Staying hydrated

Take enough food and water. Although there are 2 places along the way where we could fill up the water (the second one near Forcella Cengia Di Banco), both times the water was murky and rather questionable.   

3. Endurance

Prepare for a long and difficult day. It took us 11 hours to complete the loop, but we did lose 2 hours questioning whether we were on the right path only to learn that we were indeed. The total elevation gain/loss counting from Rifugio Vandelli is 1800 meters or almost 6000 feet! 

4. Navigation

Take a map with you and study the path numbers as well as landmarks, which you will pass along the way. The path is marked, but sometimes the signs aren’t entirely clear and the markings are faded. 

5. Accommodation

Plan an overnight stay in Rifugio Vandelli. Ideally before and after the circuit so you can ensure an early start and don’t have to hike back from Lake Sorapiss to Passo tre Croci after completing the circuit, adding a couple more hours to an already long day.  

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! 

Shop on: Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

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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. Make sure to try it on first before your trip to ensure it fits snugly without limiting your movements. Aim for a lightweight harness, that will be comfy to wear between the cable-protected sections when you are hiking.

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Shop Men’s on Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

edelrid basis cable kit special via ferrata set

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. Personally, 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 be able 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.

Shop on: REELOQ (Europe only)

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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.

14 Comments

  1. Hey Marta, thanks for a very descriptive guide, it cleared up a lot. I have a question regarding the 2- climbing part. I used to climb outdoor on ferrata at 1- and indoor top rope at UIAA 5+. But have no idea what a 2- can be on rocks especially with a heavier backpack (for bivouacing) and after a long day of climbing the ferrata. Did you notice the 2- climb? Lot of guides and books skip describing this part. What is it like? Where is it located? Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Hi Ester. Thanks for visiting. Via ferratas are NOT climbing routes, there are scrambling routes which are protected with cables. Any climbing route will be more difficult than a via ferrata. I don’t really understand what you mean outdoor ferrata 1-. I don’t know this rating. My experience is that anyone who is a climber can tackle a via ferrata without an issue.

  2. Hi Marta!
    Thank you for sharing all this valuable information. It has made our trip planning so much less overwhelming and more fun.
    We are planning to follow your AV4 itinerary and wanted to clarify something: does the trail from Rifugio Vandelli to Rifugio San Marco actually include the VF Alfonso Vandelli? Or do you take an alternate trail to get onto the VF?
    Thank you for the help!

    • Hi Carmella. Thanks for visiting. Yes, the trail includes VF Vandelli. There is an alternative trail that you can take to San Marco and it leads through Via ferrata Berti, but both ways include via ferratas. I think taking Vandelli is way more scenic.

      I will also add that you have two additional via ferrata on AV4: Bonacossa between rifugio Auronzo and Rifugio Fonda Savio and then another one between rifugo San Marco and Antelao.

  3. Thanks Marta for the excellent description! Planning to do this one over two days in late August. Do you know anything about how busy the bivouac huts might be? Would I need to bring a tent just in case or do they fit a fair number of people in a pinch?

    • Hi Kat. Thanks for visiting. When I did this route in 2019 the bivouacs were empty, but tourism in the area exploded. The thing is if you get there early you should not have any problem securing a spot, however, those bivouacs are tiny and very very basic. They fit around 6-8 people. Carrying a tent and the rest of the camping equipment along via ferratas will be annoying to you because it will limit your movement a lot. Whilst I cannot promise you you will get a spot, I can say that this isn’t a busy route. Most people who do a part of it, do it when following Alta Via 4. They do not cross Bivacco Slapater.

  4. Hi Marta! Thank you for the detailed hiking guide! Where do you recommend searching for places to stay while doing these day hikes? We are planning a trip in September.

  5. Hi Marta,
    Thanks a lot for your guide, the Via Ferrata looks amazing!
    A couple of friends and I are planning a hiking trip to the dolomites here in late May (May 20th). We have no Via Ferrata experience, but we are good hikers and would love to try some via ferratas out (Including this one). So 2 questions: Is this trek too hard, even if we start with some easier via ferratas? And secondly, would it be possible to do this via ferrata in late may/early June and in general go hiking in the dolomites in that timeframe? Thanks in advance!
    Kindest regards, Gustav

    • Hi Gustav. Thanks for visiting. I can tell your right away that via ferrata Giro del Sorapiss won’t be accessible on May 20th. I hiked to Lake Sorapiss last year at the start of May and the last part of the hike plus the lake were all covered in snow and frozen. It was still a winter scenery. This Ferrata is mostly accessible from the end of June or early July. Hikes that are on the South/east facing slopes should be accessible by then, but for anything that faces north and above 2000 meters, I would steer away until late June. I hope that helps!

  6. Hi Marta! Thanks for the fascinating story. The Via Ferrata looks impressive! Do you think this Via Ferrata is doable in early July in terms of weather (snow conditions etc.)? Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Lorenz. I have done this Ferrata twice. The second time was actually at the start of July, so yes it should be fine, especially since this year there was a lot less snow than during the year I’ve done it for the second time.

  7. Hey mate

    Via ferrata trips look epic. Which one do you recommend for adventure, challenge, history and beauty

    Heard via ferrata 1 is pretty epic

    Tim

    • Hi Tim. Thanks for the great feedback! I think via ferrata Torre Di Toblin or Via ferrata Giovanni Lipella will cover adventure, challenge, history and beauty! You can find a description for both in my via ferrata guide to the Dolomites.

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