Via Ferrata Passo Santner – A Short Route With A Lot To Give

Via ferrata Passo Santner is a short but exhilarating route amongst the chimneys and gullies of the western part of the Rosengarten group in the Italian Dolomites. The ferrata leads to one of my favorite views in the Dolomites – the Vajolet Towers.

A climber’s playground and a landscape photographer’s dream, the Vajolet towers are proof that Mother Nature is the perfect sculptor. 

Everything to know about Via Ferrata Passo Santner

Via Ferrata Passo Santner – the stats:

  • Distance: 2.1 km / 1.3 mi
  • Elevation gain: 430 m / 1410 ft
  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Route difficulty: beginner
  • Start: Rifugio Fronza (Kölner huette)
  • End: Rifugio Passo Santner
  • Map required: Tabacco 029 (Schlern – Rosengarten) or Tabacco 06 (Val Di Fassa)

How to get to the trailhead

Via Ferrata Passo Santner
The deck of Rifugio Fronza. The old chairlift has been replaced with a gondola

Via Ferrata Passo Santner begins at the top of the Koenig Laurin II gondola next to the Fronza Alpine Hut (Kölner Huette) and the start is well-marked with signs.

By car

To get to the bottom of the gondola just search for the Albergo Frommeralm near Carezza in your GPS or Google Maps. There is a paid parking lot at the bottom of the gondola.

By bus

If you are traveling by bus the nearest bus stop is called Frommer. Look for connections on the Sued Tirol Mobil site.

Gondola tickets

During Summer and Autumn, the Koenig Laurin gondola operates from the end of May until the start of November. You can check the exact prices, times, and dates here (scroll down to number 403)

TIP: Koening Laurin is a two-tier gondola. You can take both Koenig Laurin I+II directly from Welschnofen (Nova Levante), the nearest town. This will save you some driving along windy roads, but the gondola ticket will be more expensive.

The map of the route

  • Yellow – Via Ferrata Passo Santner
  • Blue – Return from Passo Santner to Rifugio Fronza

Route description for Via Ferrata Passo Santner

Via Ferrata Passo Santner 2

Starting right behind the Fronza hut and after a short but intense scramble with some intermittent cables on path no. 542/550, you will reach a fork. Follow the signs left for Via Ferrata Passo Santner.

Soon you will emerge onto a path right underneath the western wall of the Rosengarten/Catinaccio group. From here you will get a clear view ahead of where the route is leading. After 15 minutes, of mostly flat walking, the path starts climbing again and the fun begins. 

Via Ferrata Passo Santner is a beginner route that is very well-marked and easy to follow. The cable protection is placed nicely in difficult sections. You will also come across ladders and bolts coming out of the wall. They help tremendously with tackling the tricky parts.  

The route isn’t as exposed as other iron paths I’ve done in the Dolomites, but still makes up for an exciting excursion in the mountains. 

Around two-thirds of the way along Via Ferrata Passo Santner, you will find yourself in a gully with a fantastic view of the spires, typical for the Dolomites. It will give you a great taste of what’s coming ahead – The Vajolet Towers.

After around 2-2,5 hours you will reach the end of the via ferrata and the objective for the day – The Santner Pass. There is a newly built mountain hut (Rifugio Passo Santner) right on the saddle with amazing views of the Vajolet towers.

Overnight stay possibilities along Via Ferrata Passo Santner

Rifugio Re Alberto Primero

Apart from the already mentioned Rifugio Passo Santner, you can also stay in Rifugio Re Alberto Primero. Both huts are within eyesight of one another and both have amazing views of Vajolet Towers.

The huts stay open from mid-June until mid-October. They are both privately owned, but typically for the huts in this area, the fees are reasonable and include food. That means fewer things to carry in your backpack.

TIP: If both huts are fully booked, there are two more along the exit route: Rifugio Vajolet and Preuss.  

Returning to the Fronza Hut from Rifugio Passo Santner

  • Distance: 5.8 km / 3.6 mi
  • Elevation gain: 445 m / 1460 ft
  • Elevation loss: 837 m / 2746 ft
  • Time required: 3-4 hours
Rifugio Fronza Passo Delle Coronelle Rifugio Re Alberto 1

To get back to the top of the gondola and to avoid going back the same way, which by the way I do not recommend, you can use path no. 542 down to the Vajolet hut. From there turn onto path 541, followed by no. 550 via Tschagerjoch (Passo Da La Colonelle). This should take you another 3-4 hours. 

TIP: If your base is in any town in Val Di Fassa and you traveled to the trailhead of Via Ferrata Passo Santner by bus, you can take the faster exit route to Ciampede. From here take the Vajolet gondola down to Pozza Di Fassa. You can find the description of this route in this article.

Via Ferrata Passo Santner as part of a multiday hut-t-hut traverse

Guide to Rosengarten 1

If you have a few days in the Dolomites and would like to spend them hiking between the Alpine Huts then consider following my 3-5 day Rosengarten Traverse. Via ferrata Passo Santner is crossed on the second day of this backpacking trip.

Other great via ferratas in the Rosengarten group

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

Support my website!

Hi Reader! If you found any of my articles about the Dolomites useful please consider using the affiliate links below (at no extra cost) when booking your holiday. Thank you

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!

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.

23 Comments

  1. Hello,
    we have planned a four-days trip in the Rosengarten group with our kids (13,11 and 8 years). Because of availability of the huts, we want to do the Via ferrata Passo Santer from Rifugio Re Alberto till Rifugio Kolner/Fronza. So it will be the opposite direction as you describe here. Do you think that will be possible?
    greetings,

    Lore & co

    • Hi Lore, Thanks for visiting. Via Ferrata Passo Santner is meant to be done from Kolner/Fronza hut up to Passo Santner. If you do it the other way around you will be downclimbing the whole route. It will also mean you will be going against traffic. Since you are a group of 5 that will make it very inconvenient for anyone going up and also for yourself. So while doable, I wouldn’t recommend it.

  2. Hi Marta,
    Thanks for all the descriptions and the pictures. My boyfriend and I are going to the Dolomites in September and would like to do a via ferrata. Do you recommend a guiding agency ? We find Pow Rock but there are not a lot reviews about that agency. Thanks in advance !

    • Hi Catherine. Thanks for visiting. Unfortunately I never did any guided via ferratas, so can’t recommend any, but there are plenty of guides living in the Dolomites, whose job is to take tourists on outings. Cortina has some guiding agencies and places in Val Gardena or Val Di Fassa too.

  3. Hi Marta!

    My husband and I completed this route yesterday (absolutely stunning and wonderful adventure, thank you for the route description!), and we found that the Laurin chairlift (now a gondola) has changed its pricing astronomically from what you had posted here a few years ago. We ended up hiking up from the bottom of the lift to Rosengarten Hut which tacked on another hour.

    Thanks again for this wonderful description that guided our great day!

    • Hi Rea! I am glad to hear you liked that ferrata. Thanks for the feedback! I am slowly updating the blog posts with new prices. This one is still on the to do list. You must be fast if it only took you an hour of walking up.

  4. Hi. Thanks for your posts. They are fantastic! I am going to the Dolomites with my family the first week of August. We have never done via Ferrata and I was wondering if we could reach the new hut just hiking. Thanks

    • Hi Veronica. You can hike to Rifugio Passo Santner along the trail via rifugio Vajolet. I am talking about it here.
      There is however a short chain protected section between rifugio Vajolet and Rifugio Re Alberto. It’s not a via ferrata section, but you should take care when hiking up and down along this section.

  5. Hi, Marta, I plan to go to Dolomites this September. I like to hike Via Ferrata Passo Santner. I am interest in take pictures in Sun rise and Sunset. I need to stay at least one night at Gartlhuette Rlfugio Re Alberto. Are there a lot of people? Do I need to make reservation?
    thanks, in advance.
    Jason Lee

    • Hi Jason. I would definitely recommend prebooking the hut as it is a popular one. September is quieter but after the pandemic things got a bit crazy so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  6. Hi Marta, thank you so much for the incredibly helpful information! My boyfriend and I will be staying at Santner pass hut in September, and would like to do the via ferrata to get there. Is there a place close by to the start near Carezza where you would recommend renting via ferrata gear?

    Thank you!
    Courtney

    • Hi Courtney. Thanks for stopping by. I am stoked to hear you are staying in the Santner Pass hut. You are up for a treat. As for your question try contacting Sport Laurin – Skiverleih & Bikeverleih Welschnofen. It’s a ski rental but they run summer rentals too. If not I know some shops in Campitello di Fassa rent out VF gear, but it’s a bit further into the valley. I hope that helps! Let me know if they do. I am sure other people can benefit from that information.

      • Thanks so much for all the recommendations Marta! Loved this via ferrata (especially the great cafe at Refugio Santner) as well as many of the other beginner ones you posted, a great starting spot for anyone doing there first ones in the Dolomites as I was. A note on timings, I was rushed to do this but did the full loop, including Vajalot, in 4hrs so it’s doable as a half day adventure for those with the legs! Thanks again for the recommendations.

        • Hi Kel! Thanks for the great feedback. Sounds like you really zoomed this route. I had others giving me feedback that they spend a half day going up to Passo Santner alone. Just goes to show it’s all down to individuals, their skills and fitness.

  7. Hi Marta,

    Love your photos! I’ve been reading a ton of your posts while planning our trip to the Dolomites.

    I’m interested in both the hike to Vajolet Towers and Via Ferrata Passo Santner. I’m wondering, is it possible to combine these two in one day? Or do you recommend doing one more than the other?

    • Hi Cassie. Thanks for stopping by. It absolutely is! My description of VF Passo Santner includes the hike to Vajolet towers. You just use it as the exit route after doing the VF. It will be a full day excursion but so worth it! Let me know if you have any more questions!

  8. Did the Passo Santner route at the weekend with my girlfriend, both totally new to Via Ferrata and it was excellent, suitably challenging and exhilarating and unbelievably picturesque.

    Just a quick note on the return time as article mentions 2-2.5hrs. We completed the actual Via Ferrata section up to the Santner Hutte in about 2hr40 expecting the 2.5hr walk down a trail back to Koln Hutte…realistically this walk is 3.5-4hrs as you drop down to Vajolet then have to go back up and over the Tschager Joch pass,, we found the sign at Vajolet stating a time of 2hr20 from that point to be pretty accurate and we were moving pretty quickly. Just something to bear in mind when doing what is a fantastic loop

    • Hi Tom! Thanks for stopping by and for your feedback. I usually give walking times in my posts, they never involve breaks/total elapsed time. It is also a very individual thing. I did however update the post to 3-3.5 hours because you are not the first person to provide me with that feedback. I appreciate your input very much! On another note, I am stoked to hear you had a great time!

  9. Hello
    The articles and pictures are amazing.
    My girlfriend and I are fit and want to do via ferrata
    We go in Val Gardena from Jun 2 to 12
    We do MTB and trail running
    When you say for beginners does it mean we can do on our own without guide?
    Thank you again

    • Hi Guillaume. Thanks for the compliments! All routes whether beginner, intermediate or advanced don’t require having a guide with you. Whether you hire a guide or not is entirely up to you. The important thing is that you know how to use the gear to ensure your own safety. Via Ferrata Oskar Schuster is one of my favourites in Val Gardena. Sass Rigais is a great beginner one so start with this one. A very easy one also close to Val Gardena is Gran Cir. This one would only have a few meters of cabled section. Brigata Tridentina is just on the opposite site to via Ferrata Gran Cir. I hope this will help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *