Catching Sunrise On The Summit Of Ra Gusela In The Italian Dolomites – Via Ferrata Ra Gusela

Every year thousands of photographers flock to Passo Giau to capture the insanely photogenic Mount Ra Gusela and the curvy road running right at its foot.

Few realize that the summit of Ra Gusela is relatively easily accessible thanks to the beginner via ferrata bearing the same name.

So put your helmet on, tighten your harness, clip on your lanyard, and get ready for some of the best sunrise views in the Dolomites! 

Via Ferrata Ra Gusela: The Stats

Time required: 3-4 hours

Elevation gain: 360 m / 1200 ft

Route difficulty: beginner

Ra Gusela and Passo Giau in the Italian Dolomites
Ra Gusela as seen from Passo Giau

Getting to the start

Via ferrata Ra Gusela starts at Passo Giau. It can be turned into a loop and walked either clockwise or counterclockwise. In this post, I will cover the latter. 

The Giau mountain pass can be reached within 30 minutes by car from Cortina D’Ampezzo – the nearest town. Before you set off though, make sure you are a confident driver.

The mountain roads in the Dolomites are very narrow and full of hairpin bends. I have already smashed a side mirror in my van once.

On the weekends the roads fill up with death-wishing motorcyclists who are very keen to overtake you before the crests of hills, turning round blind corners or sometimes both. You know, as if it wasn’t already difficult enough. 

Cotton candy skies at dawn with Mount Averau and Rifugio Nuvolau in the Italian Dolomites
Cotton candy skies at dawn
Col Di Lana at sunrise
Sasso di Stria in the morning light

Via Ferrata Ra Gusela: Route Description

From Passo Giau take the prominent cobblestone path toward Mount Ra Gusela. After ca. 100 meters, you will get to a sign pointing right toward Via Ferrata “Nuvolau” (path no. 438).

This is another name the ferrata Ra Gusela is known for and it takes its name from Nuvolau – the second summit the ferrata leads to.

On its top stands one of the oldest and most photogenic mountain huts in the Dolomites. The rifugio bears the same name as the summit it stands on – Nuvolau. 

The ferrata initially scales the eastern side of Ra Gusela and it’s really straightforward. As per usual, it’s marked with red/white paint marks. The cable protection is intermittent. After around 40 minutes of scrambling you will reach a fork.

The summit of Ra Gusela will be to your left and Nuvolau to your right.

Mount Averau and Rifugio Nuvolau in the first morning light. Guide to via ferrata Ra Gusela
Mount Averau and Rifugio Nuvolau in the first morning light.

I recommend that you first tick off the summit of Ra Gusela. Although two summits in one day may sound like a lot, don’t worry, it isn’t. The elevation changes aren’t too great.

Between Passo Giau and the highest point, it’s a meager 360 meters difference in elevation, so it’s not like you will be climbing Everest and Lhotse in one day.

Brace yourself for some jaw-dropping views upon reaching the summit. It’s a 360-degree panorama including Tofane, Cristallo, and Sorapiss groups. Mount Pelmo, Mount Civetta.  Even Marmolada – Dolomite’s highest peak can also be seen in the distance. Passo Giau, where you started will be visible down below. 

early morning light rays across the Cristallo and Sorapiss ranges. Cortina D'Ampezzo can be seen in the far distance. Via ferrata Ra Gusela
Early morning light rays across the Cristallo and Sorapiss ranges. Cortina D’Ampezzo can be seen in the far distance.

After a break at the summit it’s time to descend along the same path you just came up on, then head over to the other side to the Nuvolau summit and check out the rifugio.

From the summit of Ra Gusela you will be able to spot the path leading to Nuvolau. You will first drop down around 100 meters before climbing up again along a series of ladders and a few cable-protected sections. 

The hut is a perfect place for lunch before you continue on with your day. 

Who needs a fancy top-floor bar in some overpopulated city when, for a fraction of the price, you can sip your beer on an outdoor terrace looking at beautiful views and breathing the crispy mountain air? 

Passo Giau as seen from Ra Gusela summit
Passo Giau as seen from Ra Gusela summit

A pint or two later it’s time to descend. From rifugio Nuvolau continue along path nr 438. This time marked for Rifugio Averau. It’s a quick 30-minute hike down to the hut. Short and painless.

Feeling energetic? You have a chance to extend your day. By adding only 2 hours to the itinerary you can get to the summit of Mount Averau along the via ferrata of the same name

If however, you are ready to call it a day, from Rifugio Averau follow path no. 452 towards Passo Giau. You should reach your car after 1,5 hours of mostly downhill hiking along a well-maintained path.

I recommend getting Tabacco map no. 03 and studying the map before setting off to better visualize the whole route. 

The views along the descent
Cinque Torre and Tofana Di Rozes in the background.
Everything you need to know about via ferrata Ra Gusela/Nuvolau in the Italian Dolomites
Descending to Passo Giau with Ra Gusela behind me

Are you planning a trip to the Dolomites and would like to know more about via ferrata Ra Gusela or anything else? Post your questions in the comments. I will be happy to answer them!

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. Try it on 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.

Shop Women’s on Amazon (Worldwide) / Backcountry (US)

Shop Men’s on Amazon (Worldwide) / Backcountry (US)

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. 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 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

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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.

19 Comments

  1. Hi Marta,

    Planning a trip to the dolomites and your website has been very helpful! Thank you!

    So far, we have the condensed 3 days hut to hut Tre Cime planned. We are trying to do the Lagazuoi Tunnels in half a day (looks like 4 hours maybe with an hour lunch or break) – Is there an option to take the gondola down? Even if we didn’t take the gondola down, if we started at 8 we could be at the Giau Pass to start the Ra Rugsela and Nuvolau combo at around worst case 3 or 4pm. That should leave us enough time (2 hr it appears) to get to Nuvolau rifugio hut before sunset. (~ 7:30 early september). Does that all seem reasonable to you? As well we have another 2 days to play with is there anything else you would suggest?

    Thanks 🙂 🙂

    We are doing the 3 – Day

    • Hi Brian. Thanks for stopping by on my site. Now for your questions. Yes you can take the cable car one way from Mount Lagazuoi down to Passo Falzarego. If you are planning to stay in Nuvolau that it makes more sense that you first hike from Passo Falzarego to Rifugio Averau (ca. 2 h) (you can follow the trail I describe in my alta via 1 guide, path 441 from Falzarego Pass to Averau hut), then do via ferrata Averau (2-3 h). After that hike up to Rif. Nuvolau (45min from Averau hut), stay the night and the next day descent down to Passo Giau ticking off the summit of Ra Gusela along the way. That way you will get to Nuvolau in time for dinner. if you get there by 7:30 the dinner will be probably already finished. If you plan on arriving at the hut later than 5PM then let them know in advance, otherwise they might give away your reservation and count you as no-show. Let me know if that helps.

      • Amazing thank you so much! One last questions – Do all the huts serve lunch?
        With that information, I think we will make it easier and do the following!
        8-12 Lagazuoi tunnels and piccollo Lagazuoi, then take the gondola down and then drive to take the gondola up 5 torri
        12-1330 lunch at Scoiattoli
        1330-6 Ferrata and will let the refugio we may arrive around 6pm

        • Hi Brian. Yes you can have lunch at any of the huts. Scoiatolli is quite busy, because it is right at the top of the chairlift station. I had lunch there once and there were a lot of people. I would recommend Averau for lunch. The huts usually stop serving lunch at 4PM so they can prepare dinner for the overnight guests. Sounds like you have a plan.

  2. My daughter and I will stay in San Candido for 4 nights. My daughter studies in Bolzano and I’m from the Western Cape. We would love to do a few beginner’s routes around San Candido and maybe towards Cortina too. What can you suggest please? A
    +-10 -15 km per day but no hard climbing🫣please. I plan to hike around Mont Blanc next year. I have been following your amazing pists very closely. Thank you kindly!

  3. Hi Marta, Wondering on your recommendation if we would like to stay at Rifugio Nuvolau, and also do both via ferrata averau as well as ra gusela. Would you recommend starting at passo giau as in the post above, stop and stay the night at Nuvolau, then do VF averau the following day and exit from there?Or coming from the Averau direction and staying at Nuvolau then doing sunrise to Ra Gusela from Rif Nuvolau? Thanks!

    • Hi Paula. Strong hikers can easily do both ferratas in one day and then exit down to either Passo Falzarego or hike down to Cinque Torri chairlift and take the chairlift down.
      If you really want to stay in the hut then yes you can start at Passo Giau go up Ra Gusela then go to the hut and then rest for the rest of the day. The next day you do via ferrata Averau and either return back to Passo Giau or keep hiking to Passo Falzarego. I hope that helps!

      • Thanks so much. We only wanted to stay at the hut from a photogenic perspective based on one of your other blogs. Do you think it’s worth staying there or should be nice enough to see it during the day? We are strong hikers and could otherwise do it all in one day I’m sure if it wasn’t particularly special to stay at Rif Nuvolau. Thanks again!

        • Yes Nuvolau has fantastic views. Another great one to stay up is Lagazuoi. You can view some photos from it here. If you did the traverse from Passo Giau to Passo Falzarego then in the afternoon you could catch the cable car up to the Lagazuoi refuge. I hope that helps!

  4. Hi Marta,

    I’m planning a Via Ferrata trip to Cortina in the summer so was very excited to find your amazing guide. Just looking at the Via Ferrate Ra Gisela and Averau combo. Could you clarify if the starting and end point are in the same place as planning to go by car. Also any tips on best location and not too expensive accommodation near to majority Via Ferratas would be also really appreciated. We can tackle most via ferrets, including advanced. Many thanks!

    • Hi Radka. You can start at Passo Giau with Ra Gusela first then from Rif Nuvolau walk down to RIf. Averau. From here you can do via ferrata Averau which will take you back to rif Averau. From the hut you can hike back to Passo Giau on a route parallel to VF Ra Gusela. Get a map of the area then it will make more sense for you.

  5. Your excellent information has motivated me to try a via ferrata on my upcoming visit. Can I rent equipment in Cortina?

    • Hi Ronnie. I am so happy to hear that. Yes you can rent the gear in Cortina. There are also stores in Cortina that sell them. Have lots of fun and stay safe!

  6. Hi Marta. Your tips and information have been so helpful in planning our upcoming trip to the Dolomites! My husband and I have 1 day in the Cortina area and the top two areas we’re considering hiking is the Cinque Torri or the Tre Cime di Lavaredo areas. Between the two, we’d like to complete at least one Via Ferrata route. As beginners to via Ferrata (but experienced hikers), what is the #1 Via Ferrata you would recommend to us in either of those two areas, that will be the most efficient with our time in also seeing these popular sites of the region. Can’t wait to experience just a small taste of all the Dolomites has to offer. Thanks in advance.

  7. I usually run and hike in the mountains with trailrunning shoes. Do you think I can use trailrunners also for via ferrata, or is hiking boots recommended?
    Also, I would like to thank you for an amazing guide, which I use a lot for my trips to the Dolomites.

    • Hi Linda. Thanks for stopping by. I noticed that trail running shoes are really popular in the Dolomites, however, do bear in mind that A lot of the trails are very rocky so good toe protection is a must. If that’s what you are most comfortable wearing then go for it. Approach shoes are also a good alternative to heavy hiking boots. Check approach shoes from La Sportiva for example. I hope that helps!

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