If you type in “The Dolomites” into googles image search engine, the famous Seceda ridgeline will be one of the first photos to pop up in the results.
This iconic photography spot attracts many visitors throughout the year. As intimidating as it seems to a regular hiker, one of its summits – the Sass Rigais, is accessible along a relatively easy via ferrata of the same name.
Via Ferrata Sass Rigais: The Stats
Time required: 6-8 hours
Elevation gain: ca. 920 m / 3020 ft
Route difficulty: beginner
Where to start?
To get to the beginning of the route you will need to ride a Col Raiser Gondola first.
The gondola is located in the small town of Santa Cristina in Val Gardena. There are signs all over town directing you to it. There is a big parking lot right at the bottom of the gondola alternatively you can also just walk from the town centre.
The gondola stays open throughout the summer season from the start of June until mid October. The return ticket costs 20 Euros. For current lift times and prices go directly to the website.
It’s also possible to hike directly from Santa Cristina, but that means adding another 3 hours and over 600 meters elevation to an already long day, so unless you are planning an overnight stay in one of the backcountry huts, take the gondola.
Make sure to get the first lift of the day to take advantage of the best weather. Afternoon summer storms are consistent in the Dolomites especially between June and August.
Via Ferrata Sass Rigais: Route Description
From the Col Raiser upper gondola station follow the signs for Malga Pieralongia (a Malga is a high altitude restaurant). It’s a steady upward path with a gentle incline.
You should reach it in under an hour. Make sure to stop a few times and take in the views of Sassolungo behind you.
Next take the path nr 2B signed for Sass Rigais until you reach a fork with a sign. One pointing to Sass Rigais Est (East) and the other to Sass Rigais Sud (South).
It’s possible to reach the summit of Sass Rigais along both paths, but after talking with the owners of the nearby hut where I stayed the night before, I decided to go counterclockwise and take the Eastern route up, followed by the Southern route coming back down.
The Eastern route takes you first on a zigzag scree path in a wide gulley – Val D’la Salieries. After around 1 hour you will reach an airy col between the summits. La Furcheta to your right and Sass Rigais to your left.
This is where you should put on your harness and helmet. Follow the red paint marks for another 45 minutes, along the cable section all the way to the summit. The climbing is pretty straightforward and not too challenging. This is one of the best beginner via ferratas after all!
To best visualise the route I recommend to equip yourself with Tobacco map nr 05.
Via Ferrata Gear Essentials
To protect your head from any potential rockfall set off by climbing groups above you, or any other head injuries.
Aim for a lightweight harness, which will be comfy to wear between the cable protected sections when you are hiking.
When you haul yourself on a metal cable for half a day your hands will quickly become blistered. My advice is to go for full fingered gloves.
Developed specifically for via ferrata scrambling, the lanyard provides shock absorption in case of a fall.
The summit is quite small but spacious enough to hold a massive cross right on the top. A constant reminder that you are in Italy where the Catholic religion has a strong presence.
From the top you can look down to Val di Funes and even spot the tiny Saint Giovanni church – one of the iconic photography spots in the Dolomites.
To your East is the summit of La Furcheta. At 3025 metres it’s as tall as Sass Rigais. Far in the valley below you will be able to see the Col Raiser gondola where you started.
In order to avoid repeating the same route you can descend along the Southern route. This part is easier, albeit quite steep and unpleasant at times, due to loose rock. You might not need your lanyard as often but I would still recommend keeping your helmet on in case some hikers behind you set some rocks loose.
You should reach the fork dividing the route to East and South after 1,5 hour from leaving the summit.
Now you will stand in front of another choice. You can take the same path back to the gondola or follow the path nr 13 to rifugio Firenze for some well earned food and a glass of cold beer! You will need ca. 30-45 minutes to reach it.
I stayed three nights in this rifugio back in October when exploring the area and it quickly became one of my favourites! The owners are friendly and the food delicious! From rifugio Firenze it takes 30 minutes to walk back to the gondola.
If you have any questions about the via ferrata Sass Rigais make sure to post it in the comments below! For more articles about photography spots, via ferratas and hikes visit my Italian Dolomites Guide