Via ferrata Ivano Dibona used to be the ultimate experience for adventurers in the Italian Dolomites. Who wouldn’t want to walk on the same suspension bridge Sylvester Stalone himself did when shooting the Cliffhanger movie?
Back in 2016 the gondola, which was providing easy access to the start of the route closed down, significantly slowing down the traffic. Today only those who have enough stamina to face a full day and 1600 meters of elevation change venture onto the via ferrata Ivano Dibona.
In my previous season in the Dolomites I tackled the nearby via ferrata Marino Bianchi and I was in no rush to repeat the hike on the scree slope up to Forcella Staunies, where they both begin, any time soon.
However, I finally completed the whole route in September 2019 together with my friend Jimmy and today I will share with you my tips on how to tackle the most famous via ferrata in the Italian Dolomites.
Via Ferrata Ivano Dibona – The Stats
Distance: 25 km / 15.5 mi
Time required 8-10 h
Elevation gain: 1600 m / 6250 ft
Route difficulty: intermediate
Where does the via ferrata Ivano Dibona start?
To get to the start of the approach hike you will first need to take a chairlift.
The Rio Gere – Son Forca chairlift is located ca 15 min (8km) drive from Cortina D’Ampezzo towards Passo Tre Croci. During the summer season, the lift remains open from the third week of June until mid-September. This only gives a 12-week window for tackling this iron path.
The return ticket costs 17 Euros return (or 11.80 one way). Since this route can be turned into a loop I do recommend purchasing the return ticket in order to save money.
There is an ample parking area on the opposite side of the road from the chairlift. Follow the link for directions.
If you are looking to save money you can also start the hike directly from Passo Tre Croci along the path nr 203 to rifugio Son Forca. This will add another 300 meters of elevation gain and a couple of hours to an already long day. I only recommend this option if you plan an overnight stay in rifugio Son Forca.
Rifugio Son Forca is a privately operated hut located near the top of the Rio Gere – Son Forca chairlift station. It costs 65 Euros for the half board to stay there.
Booking an overnight stay in the hut is a great idea if you would like to start the via ferrata really early in the morning. This is what I did!
If you would like to know more about the whole hut business in the Dolomites, including information on making reservations, jump to my other article.
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 metal cable for half a day your hands will quickly become blistered. My recommendation is to go for full fingered gloves.
Developed specifically for via ferrata scrambling, the lanyard provides shock absorption in case of a fall.
Via ferrata Ivano Dibona route description
Brace yourself for a serious calf workout. There is one main reason why so few people nowadays choose via ferrata Ivano Dibona for their adventure. The approach is gruelling.
Start right near the Son Forca hut and follow the dirt road to the old gondola station. From here you will see a steep and narrow gully with old pylons where the old gondola used to run.
All you have to do is follow the gully all the way up to the saddle. Now I am making it sounds easier than it is. As you get higher the scree becomes looser and looser. That means for every two steps you take you slide one down.
After around 1,5 – 2 hours from leaving the Son Forca hut, you should make it to the forcella (saddle) Staunies. Slightly to the right you can see the remains of the Lorenzi refuge.
Be careful if you decide to explore the area. The terrace is in a decaying state and a few planks have become loose. It’s a long way down if you fall!
There is a little winter room (pictured above) adjacent to the refuge, where you can stay should you become stranded. However, there isn’t any place to get freshwater or use toilet facilities.
I stayed in this winter room the previous year when tackling the nearby via ferrata Marino Bianchi.
The saddle is the perfect place to put on your helmet & harness and attach your via ferrata lanyard. Soon the cables will begin.
From the saddle the path climbs along the metal stairs belonging to the upper gondola station. There is a spray-painted sign pointing towards the via ferrata Ivano Dibona.
The whole location is a bit eerie and I am not sure how much longer those stairs will be accessible to the public. The lack of maintenance in the last few years is definitely showing!
After a couple of minutes, you will reach a ladder which marks the start of the climbing section. Follow the cables and the red-painted marks, then pass some short tunnels dating back to World War I. After ca 15-20 minutes from leaving the Staunies saddle you will reach the iconic suspension bridge.
Cross it then climb the long ladder to a little summit. This is a perfect vantage point to snap some photos of the bridge. Here you will get a fantastic 360 view of your surroundings including the Tre Cime. Make sure to download the Peak Finder app. It’s an excellent tool if you want to know the peaks around you!
From the little summit continue hiking along the ridgeline, where the cables stretch continuously. Thanks to the fantastic views this is my favourite part of the ferrata (apart from the bridge of course)!
The summit of Cristallino D’Ampezzo, where you can get an excellent view of the scree gully, where you hiked before, is well worth the 15-minute detour.
Continue the hike down to Forcella Grande then straight towards the ruins of a World War I barrack. For the next couple of hours, you will be following the cables as they stretch intermittently along the route until you get to Forcella Alta.
This is where the signs stop and you have to pay attention to not miss the turn off as I did. Having a good map or GPS will certainly help. Unfortunately, my GPS went flying off into the gully as I was gearing up a few hours before. I call it a work hazard. Nowadays I just wear a GPS watch on my wrist.
From Forcella Alta you have to descend down a scree gully and for the next couple of hours, you’ll be following the route along ledges and platforms built into the rock wall. This is a deceptively easy part of the ferrata, but very exposed in places so make sure to always stay clipped in.
You will once again pass some World War I bunkers. Keep following the spray-painted arrows marking the route until eventually, you will begin a sharp descent along an unpleasant scree path. This is a real knee buster and after already having to walk for a few hours. Your legs will be tired.
Eventually, you will reach a forest. To the left, you will be able to spot the path leading back to rifugio Son Forca. From here it’s another 90 minutes to walk back, but at least the trees will provide some shade and cool air.
Make sure to save some energy as the last 30 minutes before reaching the Son Forca hut is once again leading sharply uphill. Think about the ice-cold beer you can have at the hut!
In total, you should expect to hike for at least 8-10 hours. Plan accordingly, pack enough water, hat and sunscreen. The route is quite exposed to the sun in a lot of places!
I also recommend bringing lightweight hiking poles which you can easily stow away. You will be thankful for them on all the scree slopes you will be tackling on the day.
Because it’s a full day excursion I cannot stress enough how important it is to leave early. September is the best month for undertaking this route as the chances of the afternoon storms are a lot lower than in July or August.
Accommodation in Cortina D’Ampezzo
Cortina D’Ampezzo is a small town located right in the centre of the Italian Dolomites and a perfect hub for exploring the mountain trails in the area. Some of my favourites are the day hike to Lake Sorapiss, Lagazuoi Tunnels or the via ferrata Michieli Strobel. All of which are nearby.
If you are looking for accommodation below are some of my recommendations! Please use the affiliate links below to support my website! Thanks!
Have you got any questions about the via ferrata Ivano Dibona? Post them in the comments below. I am always happy to help! You can find a lot more trail descriptions in my Italian Dolomites Guide.