How To Tackle The Most Famous Via Ferrata In The Italian Dolomites – Ivano Dibona

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
Hike on the suspension bridge - the highlight of the via ferrata Ivano Dibona
The suspension bridge – the highlight of the via ferrata Ivano Dibona

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. 

the scree gully leading up to Forcella Staulanza
A downward view of the scree gully at dawn

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 grueling. 

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. 

The winter room of the Lorenzi hut built on the Forcella Staunies in the Cristallo Group

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 fresh water or use toilet facilities. 

I stayed in this winter room the previous year when tackling the nearby via ferrata Marino Bianchi. 

The first part of the cable protected section
Some tunnels along the via ferrata Ivano Dibona, dating back to World War I

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! 

Hiker on the suspension bridge along the via ferrata Ivano Dibona in the Italian Dolomites. Behind you can view the Lorenzi refuge and the Tre Cime peaks

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 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! 

The suspension bridge from the little summit
The ladder above the suspension bridge leading to a little summit where you can capture great photos.

From the little summit continue hiking along the ridgeline, where the cables stretch continuously. Thanks to the fantastic views this is my favorite 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. 

A person hiking along the ridgeline, part of the traverse of the via ferrata Ivano Dibona
Hiking along the ridgeline after the suspension bridge
The ridgeline after the suspension bridge

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.

The view of Croda Rossa along the via ferrata Ivano Dibona
Croda Rossa in the background

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. 

The signs on the Forcella Grande pointing in the right direction
The World War I barracks
The platforms built into the wall along the via ferrata Ivano Dibona
Hiking along the wooden platforms after the descent from Forcella Alta

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! 

Heading towards the second World War I barrack
the views towards Cortina D'Ampezzo and Tofane di Mezzo from the route
The descent and the last part of the cable section before reaching the forest
The descent and the last part of the cable section before reaching the forest

In total, you should expect to hike for at least 8-10 hours. Plan accordingly, and 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. 

A little outcrops from where you can scout the path down in the valley
A little private hut we passed along the way, around 45 minutes before reaching the Son forca hut

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 down the mountain. If it hits you on the head, it could have serious consequences. A helmet on your head (not inside your backpack) is necessary.

Shop on: Amazon (Worldwide) / Backcountry (US)

71gKk4U+f2S. AC SL1500

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 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.

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.

Shop on Amazon (Worldwide) / Backcountry (US)

91P0f6XnFML. AC SL1500

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.

Shop on: Amazon (Worldwide) / Backcountry (US)

salewa womens wildfire edge approach shoes detail 6

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.

Shop on: Amazon (Worldwide) / Backcountry (US)

reeloq

Reeloq Smartphone Securing System

If you want to take great photos on a via ferrata without worrying about losing your phone, Reeloq is the best tool for it. It’s a smartphone-securing system that allows you to use your phone on any adventure. This has been a great addition to my tool arsenal.

Shop on: REELOQ

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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.

21 Comments

  1. Hi Marta, ur site so cool and thanks for the info. I’ve seen maps with your route but in the other direction, trying to understand the difference… Going down the scree gully I would think is easier than going up.

    • Hi Chuck. Thanks for stopping by. Since it is a circuit you can go either way. I wanted to be at the bridge really early in the morning. As for the scree gully whether it is easier going down that’s debatable. The rocks are quiet large so running down that scree can be dangerous.

  2. Hello Marta,
    My name also is Marta. I stumbled across your website by chance, this particular piece of it. It seems you have a fascinating life and passion. Blessings to you, Marta

  3. We just returned from an attempt to do this VF. The chairlift to Son Forca is still not operating so we had to walk up there. However when we reached the top Forcela Staunies we found out that there was so much snow that we returned back. After much disappointment. So my question is- how one can check that the ferrata is passable and that the snow doesn’t cover the iron rope? Thanks

    • Hi Pavlos. Yes, I talk about it quite a lot that hiking in the Dolomites (or any mountains in the Southern Hemisphere) doesn’t properly kick off until the third week of June, and northern slopes even July. That’s when the chairlifts and huts open. Best way to know is to study maps. Southern slopes which are exposed to the sun are free of snow much sooner than the Northern slopes. You never however get a 100% guarantee.

      • Hi Marta,
        First of all, I did a trip to the Dolomites Sept 2023 using your blog and it was incredible, so thank you.
        I’m heading back this June, unfortunately quite early season (arriving there 16th) and would be hoping to do this VF probably around the 20th if it’s accessible then. Is June as bad for afternoon storms as July & August. We are trying to figure out if it’s even worth attempting it at this time of year. Thanks again!

        • Hi Paula. Thanks for visiting. Yes, the storms are already there in June. You have to check the weather the day before heading out anyway, so that’s your best bet. I stayed in Rifugio Son Forca the night before to be able to start really early (5AM) That way not only you get fantastic views, but also you will be done with the via ferrata sections by early afternoon.

          I hope that helps!

  4. Hello,
    I have a new question but it doesn’t concern the via ferrata. Do you know if the dismesso Lorenzi refuge, which is on the via ferrata, is open?
    Have a nice day.
    Thomas

    • Hi Thomas. I do talk about the decaying state of rifugio Lorenzi in the text;) No, the hut has been closed since 2016 and has been in a decaying state since.

  5. Hello, thank you for this article.

    I want to do a multi-day hike in the dolomites next summer with some friends. The bivuac buffa di ferrero would be our first stop. Do you know if it has been renovated? And is it possible to go there without all the necessary via ferrata gear (helmet, harness, …)?

    Thanks again for this article.

    • Hi Thomas. Thanks for visiting. After your comment, I did a quick check and yes it has been renovated and set up as a Bivouac. When I did the VF Ivano Dibona it was a place that was falling apart and was often used as a toilet (it stank of pee). I am glad to see it has been renovated and put to good use. It’s amazing. Now for your question. No, you should carry Via ferrata gear with you. Whilst I sometimes see some daredevils without the gear on via ferratas I have personally learned on my own skin that all it takes is one wrong step and the next thing you know there is a mountain rescue operation underway and someone has to risk their own lives to save yours. Insurance might not cover any accidents if they learn that you were not properly equipped. So with that said, have fun and stay safe! Let me know if you have more questions!

  6. Hello! I’m planning on doing this route in September. I’d like to do a link up of Cristallo and Ivano Dibona.
    A few questions:
    – Is there ANY other place I can park my car to start earlier without an overnight stay at the rifugio? ( For example, can I just park at San Forca, instead of the lift?)
    – If not, is my only choice to start really early, an overnight stay at the rifugio the night before? If so, what happens if I miss the cable car down?
    – During the decent of Ivano Dibona, would it be faster to turn around when the route gets boring (I’m guessing at the start of the forrest) and go down via the scree path to the rifugio?
    – alternatively, are there any intersections with a main road at which point I can get a taxi back to the car park?
    Thanks!!
    Amrutha

    • Hi Amrutha! Thanks for stopping by. September is when I did it too! As for your questions:
      1) No, I am afraid you can’t drive up to rifugio Son Forca.
      2) You can do via ferrata Ivano Dibona in a day, but not if you want to connect it wil via ferrata Marino Bianchi. However if you do Marino Bianchi only and then just a short trip to Dibona (for example to the bridge and back) you can do it all in a day which means taking the cable car up first thing in the morning, then hike/ferrata then back to the chairlift and ride it down to the car.
      3) I don’t exactly know what you mean with the route getting boring once you get down to the forest. Once you make it down to the forest you are pretty much 80% in and all you have left is to hike back to the refuge. If you mean to use the escape route after the bridge, then sure you can do that, but you will be missing out on seeing the mountain refuge dating back to WW1, which was built into the wall,
      4) no I am afraid not. You can hike to Hospitale but from there is quite the bus journey back to Cortina and then up to the parking for the chairlift.

      I hope that answers it for you. Let me know if you have more questions!

  7. Hallo,

    ich finde leider keine genauen Öffnungszeiten für den Lift zum Klettersteig. Ist dieser aktuell geöffnet? Haben Sie evtl. auch einen Link für mich mit weiteren Infos. Danke 🙂

    • Hallo. Die Rio Gere-Son Forca chairlift offnet am 18/06 und bleib offen bis 18/09 in diesem Sommer Saison. Dolomiti Superski is eine gute Webseite wo man alle offnungszeiten von chairlifts sehen kann.

  8. The guided time you gave is around 8 hours for the via ferrata, I take it this includes the hike from Rifugio Son forca up the screen gully or is the 8 hours starting from Refugio Lorenzi, ie, after the screech gully?

  9. Hi, if we just wanted to do the hike to the famous suspension bridge and head back – how long would that take?

    • Hi Shailesh! Thanks for stopping by. It takes around 2 hours from rifugio Son Forca to Forcella Staunies. Then from there to the bridge is another 30 mins (includes scrambling on cables so you will need the VF equipment). To get back down it will be ca. 90 mins. A total of around 4 hours. I hope that helps!

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