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
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 hours 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 sunscreen.
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.
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.
After a couple of hundred meters, the South face of the Tre Cime will slowly emerge from behind the spires (see photo above).
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 out for rock cairns guiding the way to the first cable.
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 good use of those cables!
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.
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 meters.
Give yourself a pat on the back, you just ticked off another one of the most exciting intermediate via ferrata in the Dolomites!
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 a 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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