Via Ferrata Poessnecker In The Sella Mountain Group In The Italian Dolomites

Via Ferrata Pössnecker, also known by its Italian name – Mesules, at 108 years old (as of 2020), is one of the oldest via ferratas in the Italian Dolomites. It scales the feature-rich western face of the Sella Massif.

The original wooden ladders and steps have long been replaced by modern cables and stemples, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a demanding and advanced route. 

Before you read or research any further about via ferrata Pössnecker, you need to know that it contains sections of unprotected grade 4 climbing.

For anyone who is a climber, grade 4 is nothing but a walk in the park, however, if you never experienced exposure on a rock wall, this via ferrata can give you some serious vertigo. 

Make sure to spend a few days tackling some of the beginner or intermediate via ferratas first, before moving on to harder ones. 

Via Ferrata Pössnecker – The Stats:

Distance: 18 km / 11.2 mi

Time required: 6-8 h

Elevation gain: 890 m / 2920 ft

Elevation loss: 1250 m / 4100 ft

Route difficulty: advanced

Approaching the Sella Towers - the start of the via ferrata Pössnecker
Approaching the Sella Towers

The start of the via ferrata Pössnecker – Mesules

The route starts at Passo Sella – one of the most photogenic mountain passes of the Dolomites, just a few meters away from Hotel Maria Flora on route SS242 coming from Canazei – the nearest town. 

There is free parking area right near the start of the path, but it does fill up quickly during the day so make sure to arrive early. 

The approach follows path nr 649 across undulating fields, in the early summer months, they are often strewn with wildflowers. Right ahead stretches the dramatic view of the Sella towers (see photo above). The path then navigates through a small boulder field before a short uphill burst takes you to the start of the cables. This is where you can gear up. 

This approach should take no longer than 30 minutes in total.

The klettersteig (via ferrata in German) plaque stands boldly against the light rock and boasts a construction date of 1912 making this one of the oldest via ferratas in the Dolomites, most notably predating WW1 when a large number of them were created.

The signs at the start of the ferrata marking 80 years of the route's establishment
The signs at the start of the ferrata marking 100 years of the route's establishment

Via ferrata Pössnecker – Mesules route description

The climbing is immediately of grade 4C and rises quickly offering fantastic views back toward Sassolungo, where another one of my favourite via ferratas runs – Oskar Schuster.

Most of the hand/foot positions are clearly indicated by yellow stains from over 100 years of leather climbing gloves and rubber-soled mountain boots. 

Climber on the via ferrata Pössnecker with Sassolungo mountain in the background
Me climbing the first section of the ferrata

Not before long you enter an unassuming gully and start to ascend unprotected. It’s the trickiest part of the route and a rope could be useful for extra security (see the photos below). 

Then by a series of unprotected staples with significant exposure, the route re-joins the cables and you can continue on feeling much safer. A couple of hundred meters later it changes to a shallower pitch and continues up on scree switchbacks.

The gully where you climb unprotected
Approaching the stemples at the top of the gully

The most scenic part of the route for me is on the first plateau on the Sella Massif, which marks the majority of the ascent. You will reach it after the first couple of hours. 

It’s a great place to snap incredible photos of the largest of the Sella Towers, Sassolungo, Sassopiatto, and over Val Gardena to Furchetta, Sass Rigais, and the rest of the Puez-Odle Range.

The plateau in the Sella Group after the first section of climbing along the via ferrata Pössnecker
The plateau after the first section of climbing
The views over Sassolungo covered in clouds
The views over Sassolungo covered in clouds

From the plateau, the path continues east northeastward to a scenic col. In case you are wondering how will you ever be able to follow all these directions, don’t worry, routes in the Dolomites are always marked with white and red markers. All you have to do is pay attention and follow them!   

After the col comes the next section of climbing. It is far simpler (and shorter) than the first one and ends at the small summit of Piz Selva (2941 meters / 9649 feet). 

The wide, open summit offers 360 vistas of the top plateau of the Sella Massif which feels like a completely different topography altogether. The disparity between the rich, green Passo Sella and the arid, grey rock on top of the Sella Massif is amazing.

The view of one of the sella towers around half way up the via ferrata Pössnecker / Mesules
One of the Sella towers around halfway up
Approaching the second section of the via ferrata
Approaching the second section of the via ferrata

That’s it for scrambling! Now it’s time to get back to Passo Sella where you started. There is a long descent ahead of you, but the views will make up for it. Take off your via ferrata gear, and store it in your backpack as you won’t need it on the descent. 

From the summit continue on path 649 for around 45 minutes. For a couple of hundred meters the descent follows the same route as Alta Via 2 – one of the multiday traverses across the Dolomites. In this section paths 649 and path 666 run concurrently for a short while, so don’t be alarmed when you see a sign saying you’re on path 666.

Eventually, the path splits and loops around back southward on path 647. I know remembering all these numbers might be overwhelming, so I highly recommend purchasing the Tabacco map no. 05 to visualize the route better. 

Via ferrata Pössnecker / Mesuler - the second section equipped with cables
Getting closer to the summit

Once you turn onto pathway 647, it runs across a large plateau and is marked with large yellow poles placed there for the numerous high alpine races. The track loses elevation quickly down Plan de Roces in Val Lasties and surrounds you with vertical walls on both sides. 

However, these vistas are tough to appreciate after the views of only a few hours ago on the ascent.

the last push before the summit
A little statue we came across on the ascent. It was very creepy

The final intersection gives you a choice of heading quickly to the road SS242 (the same one that runs through Passo Sella) on path number 656 which emerges out at an indistinct hairpin turn.

The downside of this route is that it drops down to 2050 meters and you will have to hike back up to Passo Sella. This might be a bit too tiring after an already long day. 

The more logical descent, albeit taking you further away from Passo Sella, continues all the way down path 647 and emerges a short walk away from two restaurants, Pian Schiavaneis, and Monti Pallidi. This is the perfect location to finish your day, sipping beer and stuffing your face with local cuisine.  

At the summit of Piz Selva which marks the end of the via ferrata Pössnecker
At the summit in the clouds

You are probably now wondering how to get back to Passo Sella? There’s a bus stop outside the two establishments which will run you back to your vehicle at the pass. No more hiking for today! 

The bus runs every 30 minutes in the summer season, at 16 and 46 past the hour (2019). Alternatively, hitchhiking is a great option as every car going passed you is definitely heading over Passo Sella. 

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! 

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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. 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.

Shop Women’s on Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

Shop Men’s on Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

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.

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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. Personally, 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.

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reeloq

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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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.

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