One of the first via ferratas that was appended onto my Italian Dolomites bucket list, because of a photograph I saw on the Internet, was the via ferrata Oskar Schuster. It leads to the top of Sassopiato Peak in the Sassolungo group.
After a week-long marathon of iron paths in the Rosengarten mountain group, I gathered whatever strength and determination I had left in me and tackled the via ferrata Oskar Schuster before the fast-approaching winter would disable access to it.
Via Ferrata Oskar Schuster: The Stats
Time required: 6-8 h
Route difficulty: intermediate
Elevation gain: ca. 850 m / 2790 ft
Elevation loss: ca. 1200 m / 3900 ft
The start of the via ferrata Oskar Schuster
Passo Sella is a high mountain pass connecting two little towns in the Italian Dolomites: Selva di Val Gardena and Canazei in Val di Fassa. You can reach the pass from either town, the driving time will be similar (between 20-30 minutes).
The funny-looking and slightly old Sassolungo Gondola, right near the top of Sella Pass, marks the official start of the via ferrata. I had some difficulties finding it at first but it is there I promise.
It’s best to type in the Passo Sella Dolomiti Mountain Resort into your GPS. The hotel stands right next to the gondola station. If you are traveling by car, there is a decent size parking lot right near the lift.
In the summer you can also take a public bus from Selva di Val Gardena. This might be a good option for those who don’t feel too comfortable driving on the windy and narrow mountain roads common in the Dolomites. I smashed the left wing mirror of my van along this road.
Ask for bus schedules in the local visitor center as they change with the seasons.
The route summary
Once you make it to the bottom of the Gondola station you have two choices. One is to walk along path nr 525 reserved for the purists.
The other is to jump onto the lift and let yourself be taken up to the Forcella Sassolungo. If you go with the first you will easily add 1,5 to 2 hours and extra 500 meters of elevation gain to an already long day.
I’d recommend going with the latter and saving your energy for the fun parts. In the summer season, the gondola is open between mid-June and the first week of October. You will only need a one-way ticket and the cost is 14 Euros.
On the top of the Forcella (saddle), Sassolungo stands the Toni Demetz hut (2685 meters), where you will start your hike. You have just gained 500 meters of elevation from the bottom of the gondola and I am afraid I don’t have great news for you. You will now lose most of it.
From the hut follow path no 525 through a scree valley, signed for the Rifugio Vicenza (2253 meters). You should reach it in 45 minutes to an hour.
At the Vicenza hut, the path splits. Follow the signs for via ferrata Oskar Schuster up another scree valley, parallel to the one you have just descended. You have now a little over 700 meters of elevation to gain to the top of the Sassopiatto – the objective for today.
At first, you will be going up an unpleasant scree path until you reach the first cables on your right-hand side. This shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes. Once you do, it’s time for some fun.
Make sure to look out for the red paint marks along the route. They will keep you right on track. Although the ferrata can be exposed in some places, the cable protection is excellent. As long as you always stay clipped in and watch your steps, you have nothing to worry about.
In some sections, you will also come across ladders and stemples. They help tremendously with tackling the almost vertical walls. The whole scramble/climb takes around 2,5 hours, excluding the initial approach to the base of the via ferrata.
Make sure to stop from time to time and look at the views! You will be often surrounded by dramatic spires, common for this group.
From the top of Sassopiato, you can look down toward Alpi Di Siusi, the famous and iconic photo spot in the Italian Dolomites.
To descend from the peak follow path nr 527. To better visualize the whole route from start to finish I recommend purchasing a map. The Tabacco map no 5 will be perfect for it, especially if you plan on exploring more of the area.
The scree path no 527 zig-zags down for around 1 hour to Rifugio Sassopiatto. This is the perfect place to grab lunch and take a rest before returning to Passo Sella. From the hut take the straightforward and gently undulating path no 557. In circa 1,5 hours, you should make it back to where you started.
The total time to complete the via ferrata is around 6 hours. If you decide to walk to Forcella Sassolungo at the start, instead of taking the gondola, then you should anticipate finishing it in 8 hours. Make sure to leave as early as possible to avoid the afternoon storms common in the Dolomites, especially between June and August.
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. When you order Reeloq through my link you will receive 10% discount.
Shop on: REELOQ (Europe only)
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