Via Ferrata Merlone To The Summit Of Cima Cadin Near The Tre Cime National Park

Cima Cadin has gained a lot of fame on instagram. It serves as the dramatic backdrop for many adventurers who want to recreate the same photograph as they saw on another popular account. 

Few realize that one of its summits, Cima del Cadin NE is relatively easily accessible thanks to a network of ladders installed along one of its faces.

Via Ferrata Merlone: The Stats

Time required: 3-4 h from the Fonda Savio hut

Elevation gain: 421 m / 1390 ft

Route difficulty: intermediate

Cima Cadin, Tre Cime National Park, Italian Dolomites
Cima Cadin makes for a perfect instagram background

Getting to the Start of the Via Ferrata Merlone

The ferrata starts at rifugio Fonda Savio. To reach the rifugio, when driving from Misurina (the nearest town) follow the road to Lake Antorno.

Before reaching the lake, you will see a sign for rifugio Fonda Savio leading onto an unpaved forest road. There is an ample free parking area where you can leave your car. 

From the parking lot follow the hiking path nr 115 for about 1,5 hour to reach the rifugio. It’s very well maintained and signposted, so getting lost is almost impossible.

Around two thirds of the way up you will be able to see the hut. It’s a steep hike so be prepared with plenty of water and sun screen.

rifugio fonda savio and cima cadin in Tre Cime National Park.
The first stretch of the path past rifugio Fonda Savio.

Accommodation in Misurina Or Cortina D’Ampezzo

Although Misurina is the closest town, it’s tiny and the hotels here book out well in advance. If you want to be as close as possible, make sure to make a reservation early.  

Alternatively you can book a hotel in Cortina D’Ampezzo, the next biggest town and a great hub to base yourself in if you plan on exploring the Dolomites. It takes around 30 mins to drive from Cortina to the Fonda Savio car park.

Below are a few of my recommendations for hotels in Cortina.

Budget

International Camping Olympia

Via Ferrata Merlone: Route Description

From rifugio Fonda Savio you will need to follow the signs for via ferrata Merlone. Start walking up along a scree path away from the hut.

Make sure to look back. Fonda Savio is one of the most photogenic mountain huts I have stayed at when researching for my guide to the Italian Dolomites.

After a couple of hundred meters the South face of the Tre Cime will slowly emerge from behind the spires (see photo above). 

The views along the via ferrata Merlone
The views along the via ferrata Merlone. Rifugio Fonda Savio in the far distance

The path eventually comes to an abrupt stop and the markings aren’t clearly visible. The route is there, you will just have to pay attention not to veer off it.  

Up until now you were walking on the right side of the gully, but you will have to cross to the other side and keep your eyes peeled for the ladders and cables attached to the face of Cima Cadin – your objective for today. 

Hint: Keep a look our for rock cairns guiding the way to the first cable. 

The start of the cable section on the via ferrata Merlone
The start of the cable section on the via ferrata Merlone

Once you get to the cable you will start gaining elevation quickly. It’s like climbing on huge scaffolding.

The wall of Cima del Cadin looks intimidating, but in comparison to via ferrata Torre Di Toblin, which I completed only a few days before, I found via ferrata Merlone to be very straightforward.

The only real obstacle may be in your head. If you are scared of heights, then being on a ladder attached to a wall, hanging a couple of hundred meters above the nearest flat area, may not be for you.

The exposure is real! Make a good use of those cables! 

Shop My Via Ferrata Gear

Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet

To protect your head from any potential rockfall set off by climbing groups above you, or any other head injuries. 

Black Diamond Momentum Harness 

Aim for a lightweight harness, which will be comfy to wear between the cable protected sections when you are hiking. 

Black Diamond Crag Gloves

When you haul yourself on a metal cable for half a day your hands will quickly become blistered. My advice is to go for full fingered gloves. 

Camp Kinetic Rewind Pro Via Ferrata Lanyard

Developed specifically for via ferrata scrambling, the lanyard provides shock absorption  in case of a fall.

views along the via ferrata Merlone in Tre Cime National park
Views along the way

Eventually the seemingly endless ladders and cables come to an end. Ca. 30 minutes away from the summit you will come across an airy pathway (photo below). Enjoy a few minutes of rest from climbing and a great view of Cadin di San Lucano to your right. 

Continue following the red paint marks before you reach the last section of cables and ladders leading right to the top. 

Via ferrata Merlone information
A short break from the cables and ladders. Cadin di San Lucano in the back

As per usual, the views from the top are nothing short of spectacular. The Fonda Savio hut, where you set off from, is a tiny dot far below. The famous three peaks are visible straight ahead. To your left and right, a sheer drop a few hundred metres. 

Give yourself a pat on the back, you just ticked off another one of the most exciting intermediate via ferrata in the Dolomites! 

At the top of Cima Cadin
At the top of Cima Cadin
Views from the top of Cima Cadina looking toward Tre Cime National Park. Via Ferrata Merlone
Views from the top looking toward Tre Cime

Now it’s time to retrace your steps. The way down follows exactly the same path. Make sure to be aware of what’s happening below. Via ferrata Merlone is quite popular, so don’t expect to be alone.

If you see other people ascending make sure to give each other space, use the ladders only one at the time and if you happen to set off any rocks flying, shout “below” loudly to give a proper warning.

If you hear someone shouting “below”, “achtung” or “attenzione”, be aware that some rocks might be falling down.

To ensure an early start I highly recommend an overnight stay in the Fonda Savio hut. The total time, including the ascent and descent to and from Fonda Savio Hut will take 5-6 hours.

As always if you have any questions about this via ferrata or travelling in the Dolomites make sure to write them in the comments below! 

4 Comments

  1. hola voy a hacer esta via ferrata, pero es mi ultimo dia en dolomitas y el dia de la ferrata parto desde el refugio auronzo que hasta el incio de la ferrata seran 3 horas andando, mas las 5 o 6 de ferrata. crees que sera posible hacerlo todo en un dia?

    muchas gracias

    saludos

    • Hi Roberto, Whilst I did understand your question I feel more comfortable answering in English. Yes it is possible to do via ferrata Merlone leaving from rifugio Auronzo. You will first need to traverse via ferrata Sentiero Bonacossa. I did that when doing Alta Via 4 and you can view pics from this section in my article about alta via 4 (day 2) which you can find in the category” hut to hut treks in the Dolomites’. This will take 2.5-3 hours. Via ferrata Merlone takes around 3-4 hours from rifugio Fonda Savio depending on your speed. Then descending down from rifugio Fonda Savio to Lake Antorno is another 1hour to 90 mins. All in all you are looking at 7-8 hour day but if the weather is in your favour this is definitely doable. The second time I did via ferrata Merlone I first hiked all the way from rifugio Locatelli around Tre Cime then to Fonda Savio. Then in the afternoon we did the via ferrata Merlone. I hope that helps!

  2. Hi Marta,
    Thank you for the excellent information and amazing photographs! When you mention these free parking lots. Can you leave a rental car there for multiple days while going hut-to-hut? Would you recommend a rental car or bus for the area? Rental car was my first thought, but parking seems to be 30 euros per day in some places. I’m planning to go climbing with a guide near Cortina and then do hut-to-hut VF. Either AV4, or use your four day example and add a few extra days on that.

    Hoping to be there for 2-3 weeks starting in mid-June. Do you bring microspikes that early in the season? Really appreciate your website. So helpful for planning and breathtaking photographs!

    Thanks,
    David

    • Hi David. Thanks for your visit. I hiked AV1 starting mid-June and did not bring microspikes with me and was totally fine. Gaiters did come in handy in places though. The remaining snow was very slushy and wet.
      As for your other question. It really depends on the parking lot. To give you an example when I did AV2 I left my van parked at a hotel in Bressanone, where I paid 5 Euro/night for the possibility. I thought it was money well spent as I didn’t have to worry about the car. I have contacted the hotel first prior to my trip to make sure this will be possible. I have noticed that parking lots that were free of charge just a couple of years ago are now collecting fees, but they are usually 5-10 euros a day. The most expensive one is near rifugio Auronzo which is indeed 30 euros a day, but that is an exemption. Generally, it’s ok to leave them overnight, but that really depends on parking lots and I don’t know the rules for them all. I reckon contacting a hotel is your best bet.

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