Via Ferrata Marino Bianchi To The Summit Of Cristallo Di Mezzo

I am a strong believer that the more work you are willing to put into something the greater the reward. 

This couldn’t be more true with via ferrata Marino Bianchi. The initial approach through a scree-filled valley will not only test your patience but also your calf strength! 

The reward comes in 360-degree views over the Dolomites and an off-the-beaten-path experience, far from the tourist crowds! 

Via Ferrata Marino Bianchi – The Stats

Time required: 6-7 hours

Elevation gain: 920 m / 3020 ft

Route difficulty: intermediate

Information about the via ferrata Marino Bianchi in the Italian Dolomites

Part 1: Getting to Rifugio Son Forca

Via ferrata Marino Bianchi Information
On the hike from the base of the chairlift Rio Gere Son Forca to Rifugio Son Forca

The fastest way to reach the Son Forca hut is by using the Rio Gere-Son Forca chairlift. The chairlift is located around

1 kilometer from Tre Croci mountain pass coming from Cortina d’ Ampezzo – the nearest town.  The cost is 17 Euro round trip. 

There is a big gravel parking lot on the opposite side of the road from the gondola station.

You can also choose to walk to Rifugio Son Forca directly from Passo Tre Croci using path nr 203. This will add another 2 hours to an already long day. My advice is to take the chairlift. Trust me, you will need the extra energy for what’s coming! 

Part 2: Rifugio Son Forca to Rifugio Lorenzi

the scree gully leading to rifugio Lorenzi
the scree gully leading to rifugio Lorenzi

From rifugio Son Forca you will have to follow the signs for rifugio Lorenzi & via ferrata Marino Bianchi. The path leads through a scree gully with dramatic views of the spires all around. 

Up until 2016, this part of the approach could be bypassed by another lift, however, it has been closed for a few years now, and there is no prospect of it reopening in the near future. 

If it wasn’t for the views reminding me every step of the way why I am putting myself through this torture, I would have probably given up.

The scree becomes looser as you go higher, setting you back one step for every two steps you take forward. In other words, it’s an arduous work. After 2 hours you should reach Rifugio Lorenzi. 

Rifugio Lorenzi marks the start of the via ferrata Marino Bianchi
Rifugio Lorenzi marks the start of the via ferrata Marino Bianchi

Rifugio Lorenzi and Forcella (saddle) Staunies, it was built on, make it one of the most photogenic huts in the Dolomites. Unfortunately, the hut doesn’t operate anymore and it’s slowly decaying.

There are signs surrounding it to remind you to be careful when walking on its terrace as some planks have become loose and the whole construction doesn’t feel sturdy. 

should you choose to break the journey down into two days, there is still a tiny winter room left open where you can spend the night. This is especially useful if you are planning to tackle the nearby via ferrata Ivano Dibona as well. 

It has two beds, and a few blankets, but no electricity or any other amenities. We ended up sharing it with another couple, which made for a really interesting night. 

Part 3: Rifugio Lorenzi to Cristallo di Mezzo Summit

Via ferrata Marino Bianchi in the Italian Dolomites
The iron ladder along the route

I hope you are ready for some serious exposure. You will be thankful for all the cable protection which is present along the way. 

Remember it only works if you clip in, so make sure to use your via ferrata equipment. Too often I have seen people along these crazy routes with their helmets and harnesses in their backpacks. 

The cross above rifugio Lorenzi is visible along the way
The weather rocks typical for the Dolomites landscape

The route is very straightforward and on occasion also uses ladders. The cross above the Lorenzi hut will be visible most of the way up. 

If you look back and squint your eyes you will also be able to see the famous suspension bridge of the nearby via ferrata Ivano Dibona (photo below). It’s known from the movie Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stalone, which I am still yet to watch! 

the suspension bridge along the via ferrata Ivano Dibona as seen from Cristallo di Mezzo
The suspension bridge visible in the distance
views along the Via ferrata Marino Bianchi

From Rifugio Lorenzi, it takes around 1,5-2 hours to get to the summit. From the top, you get 360 degrees views toward the Sorapiss group to the south where the via ferrata Giro del Sorapiss runs. 

To the north you can see Lago di Landro (Dürrensee) and slightly to the east the famous Tre Cime. If you look west you will see the Tofane group standing proudly above the town of Cortina D’Ampezzo. Make sure to bring a map with you (Tabacco 03) to be able to distinguish all the peaks around you. 

Being able to look at it all from above 3000 meters is a great reward for the effort you have put in to get here. 

Via ferrata Marino Bianchi summit views
Via ferrata Marino Bianchi summit views
Via ferrata Marino Bianchi summit views
Via ferrata Marino Bianchi summit views

The descent starts near the summit cross and for the first 15 minutes follows an alternative route. Since Marino Bianchi is a popular ferrata in this area (less since the Staunies gondola closed) it helps with traffic decongestion. However, it quickly gets you back on the same route.

To have the best chances for good weather make sure to start as early as possible. The weather in the Dolomites often follows the same pattern with crystal clear blue skies in the morning, and cloud build-up during the day, turning into storms by the afternoon. 

The round trip from Rifugio Lorenzi to the summit of Cristallo di Mezzo takes between 3-4 hours. 

Everything you need to know about the via ferrata Marino Bianchi

Extension to via ferrata Ivano Dibona

Are you an ultra marathon trail runner who hits the gym after running up a mountain? Was the fix of the good views not enough so far? Or do you want to stand in the exact spot where Sylvester Stalone stood fighting some badass villain in a Hollywood movie? 

Once you make it back down from the summit of Cristallo di Mezzo to Rifugio Lorenzi, you can head across to the other side of the saddle and hike to the famous suspension bridge along the via ferrata Ivano Dibona.

Suspension bridge along the via ferrata Ivano Dibona
via ferrata Ivano Dibona
via ferrata Ivano Dibona

The short detour is well worth it. It will only take 45 minutes to an hour there and back.  Walking along the bridge and looking down will make your heart beat faster. You will also get the perfect view of the ridgeline where you were climbing earlier along the via ferrata Marino Bianchi. 

The suspension bridge along the via ferrata Ivano Dibona in the Italian Dolomites

If you are not up for it or like me, plan to come back another time, just retrace your journey down the scree gully between Rifugio Lorenzi and Rifugio Son Forca. The good news is, the way down will be a lot swifter than the way up. 

I made good use of my hiking poles and decided to run back down, taking big steps. I was back in Son Forca hut within 45 minutes, where a glass of beer and obligatory strudel waited for me! 

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.

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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.

10 Comments

  1. Hi, Marta! I am planning a quick detour to around the Dolomites region first week of June, and was wondering if any of the via ferrata mentioned above is doable between June 3-5th? And if so do you know of any guide or groups available since I’m flying solo?

    Oh, and thank you for sharing inspiring adventures. They are all noted down on my bucket list!

    • Hi Kristina, Thanks for visiting. I can’t predict the snow conditions I am afraid. Generally anything that is South Facing should be doable at this time. Via ferrata Degli Alpini Al Col Dei Bos near Cortina should be. Marino Bianchi is very high so I wouldn’t bet on that one. Especially due to a very long approach.
      Another one you should look into near Cortina is Ra Bujela. It’s a short one, but it faces South so there will be no snow on it.

      I hope that helps!

  2. I just came across your page and I love all of the information. I will be going to the Dolomite region for the first time on 8 November (13 days!!!!). I am not going to do any strenuous climbing, unfortunately, but I will be doing a lot of photography. I am a large format photographer and work with 4×5 inch sheet film. I will be bringing my camera and lots of black and white film with me to shoot as much as I can. I’ve been looking at various areas and the more I look, the more new areas I find. If you only had 1 week and wanted as many beautiful views of the amazing mountains as well as the clouds (to prevent boring skys in photos and to make the images more dramatic) what would you recommend? I will be flying in from Boston in the US into Venice and then renting a car. Would a small rental car be ok? Or should I get something more mid size or larger like SUV?

    • Hey Michael. Thanks for stopping by on my site. We had some fresh snow on the peaks in recent days and the conditions are amazing. If I only had a week and was looking for places that are easy accessible I think I would head to a town in Val Pusteria (San Candido, Sesto, Dobiacco, Monguelfo). It has access to many amazing spots and a lot of other lovely valleys branch off of it. My second choice would be Val Gardena (great access to Seceda, Alpe Di Siusi or Santa Maddalena – the 3 most beloved locations for photographers). Yes a small car will be ok, as long as it has enough horsepower otherwise you might struggle with driving up the mountain passes. Make sure the car is equipped with a set of snow chains. Carrying snow chains is required from the first week of November until April in the Alpine regions. I hope that helps!

  3. Hi Marta. Back to Cortina again shortly with plans for Marino Bianci, Ivano Dibona and Giovani di Lipella. Returning to your website pretty much daily now in anticipation of the trip. Huge thanks again for all the great info and images. We plan on a bivvy at Rf Lorenzi which should be interesting considering the recent weather but will let you know how we get on! Best wishes. Tom

    • I am so glad to hear it Tom. Stay safe at rifugio Lorenzi. The last time I was there was almost 4 years ago and the terrace was already in a pretty bad shape. I imagine it has gotten a lot worse since then.

  4. Hi
    I used your website to plan a trip to the dolomites a couple of years ago – Giro del Sorapiss in a day (good advice on water!) – and it is great to return to it now to plan for 2023 Great articles and incredible photos – keep up the awesome work.
    Best wishes

    • Hi Tom! Thanks so much for coming back to my site! I will be returning to the Dolomites many times next year as I now am based in Tirol! I can’t wait to explore even more of these ranges.

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