Lagazuoi to Nuvolau

Yesterday it rained lightly as we hiked to Rifugio Lagazuoi. The rain was followed by an exciting afternoon and evening with dramatic light that probably contributed to a somewhat restless sleep. I was awake at 5:10 and snuck quietly out of our dorm room at 5:30. Everyone else appeared to be sound asleep. 

There was little I could see or do this time of morning. The dining room was locked so they could set up breakfast without folks disturbing them. It was dark and very foggy outside. Eventually I decided to go out on the deck anyway. To my amazement, shortly after I walked onto the deck, the fog cleared. At precisely 6 AM I got the photo below of Cime di Fanis (L) and Lagazuoi Grande  (R) which we had walked next to for much of the way up to Lagazuoi the day before.

Four minutes later I made this 5-photo panorama looking southwest. The sun was starting to come up behind me when I made this image. Five minutes later the fog rolled in and again I could see nothing. This whole early morning light show lasted barely 10 minutes. I think I was the only person at the hut who saw it.

Eventually the person in the dining room must have taken pity on me and unlocked the door. This gave me a chance to get some photos of the wonderful breakfast spread and to relax with a roll and coffee before the crowds came. Notice the blue fog outside in the dining room photo.

We were ready to head down shortly before 8 AM. A light snow had fallen over night. Here is part of our group. On the left is Young whom we met that morning, and who was with us most of the remainder of the trip. She is originally from South Korea and currently lives in Washington DC.

Jim Gold is in the red jacket and Violetta and Tim are the other pair. We would walk together most of the day until the last fateful hour.

Here is a slideshow of us heading down. This part of the trail is the same we ascended the previous day.


We reached a spot where we got a view to the south. I made a 4-photo panorama with two of the spots we were heading toward this day labeled. Down in the valley is Passo Falzarego.

We reached Forcella Lagazuoi and turned more to the south to continue downhill. The light was starting to get interesting. Here is a view of Cinque Torri and Rifugio Nuvolau

Here is a wider view of the scene taken a few minutes after the previous photo. Cinque Torri is now mostly hidden. Rifugio Nuvolau is near the top center of the image.

Rifugio Nuvolau can be seen in the distance in this image.


The fog and clouds moved in and out. Keeping my lens clear was a challenge.

As we approached an area called Rozes, the light and atmospheric conditions were getting quite interesting. The Rozes area can be seen in the lower center of this 13-photo Panorama.

I was somewhat uphill of three others when I shouted “deer”. It turned out what I was seeing in the distance were not deer but ibex.


The ibex can still be barely seen high on the hill to the left in the photo below.

The light and clouds continued to be interesting as we approached and reached Rozes.


This was the day we were doing two hard day hikes compressed into a single day. However, I had studied the routes in advance and noticed that for the first “day” we would turn left at Rozes, walk a considerable distance to Rifugio Dibona, and spend the night there. But of course we were not going to spend the night there. The next morning we would walk back to Rozes and continue with the second “day” of this compressed one day trip. So it was clear to me that what was intended in compressing two days into one was to turn right at Rozes rather than left toward Rifugio Dibona. This we did, leaving Rozes at about 9:18 AM.

This was the view back toward Tofana partway down from Rozes.

We were heading down toward an interesting tunnel carved in the side of the mountain.


Just before the tunnel Young turned to look back toward Rozes and Tofana.

Here is the tunnel with Stephen exiting it downhill.

After the tunnel I got a photo of what was clearly our intended path up to our next rifugio – Nuvolau. The building you see along the ridge line on the left is not Nuvolau but Rifugio Scoiattoli. Nuvolau is much higher up at the very top of the peak on the far right.

Below is a portion of the 6-photo panorama above showing Nuvolau and the trail up.

We got to the junction where our route card told us to turn right for 25m and then left downhill to the pass. But Tim and Violetta had different ideas. Violetta had been to the area before and she had remembered the path toward Rifugio Dibona was quite pleasant. They consulted with Jim Gold while Stephen chatted with a few folks who were heading up the trail toward Rozes.

A decision was reached to turn around, walk back to Rozes, and then continue toward Rifugio Dibona. I was not in favor of this as it clearly was going to add considerable time to our day.  I knew that we were compressing two days into a single day, and both days were rated as hard. But I decided to stay with the others.

Here we are part way back to Rozes with a view to the east to Cinque Torri near the top center of the photo.

We reached Rozes again at 10:28 AM, 50 minutes after we had left it earlier. Late in the day those 50 minutes and the extra time spent heading toward Rifugio Dibona were chunks of time we certainly wished we had back.

The views along this path toward Cinque Torri were very nice. The clouds contributed to the scene. Rifugio Nuvolau is at the very top of the mountain midway between Cinque Torri and the somewhat similar looking tower to its right. This tower is Averau.

We reached and crossed a large scree slope below Tofana.


Below is a 15-photo panorama looking in both directions along the trail. Near the top center is Cinque Torri.

Here is view of Cinque Torri with Rifugio Nuvolau at the very top of the higher mountain to the right.

We continued along the path and found an alpine salamander. We also got additional nice views across the pass to Cinque Torri.


We eventually turn downhill before reaching Rifugio Dibona, crossing a very pastoral meadow.

From this area we got a nice view back at Tofana Rozes.

It suddenly rained for about 5 or 10 minutes. We sheltered near the hut that was in the previous photo and as seen here.

But soon the sun was out again as we headed downhill toward the pass and road.  The weather can change quickly and dramatically in the Dolomites. But we didn’t think anything of it at the time. 

When we got down to the road it was around noon so we took a 30 minute break for lunch. There was a sign which I photographed and then added some circles, arrows, and names. 

The map below shows where we had hiked the previous day from Rifugio Fanes to Rifugio Lagazuoi. You can also see the route down from Lagazuoi to Rozes and at Rozes the right turn we took down to the junction where we almost met the red trail to Pian dei Menis and up to Rifugio Nuvolau. 

From the junction below Rozes we walked back up hill to Rozes and took the red path to the right to just short of Rifugio Dibona. And then we headed down hill to the road.

After we crossed the road, the trail up was mostly a paved road followed by a gravel road. It was fairly uninteresting walking until we got to the area around Cinque Torri. But there were a few nice views. The photo on the left shows Croda da Lago. And I got a photo of Violetta and Tim.

The 28-photo panorama below shows us approaching Cinque Torri with some of the other features labeled. Our intended destination for the night was Rifugio Nuvolau.

Below are two additional views of Rifugio Nuvolau taken along the road before Cinque Torri.

We stopped at Rifugio Cinque Torri because several of us wanted a snack and drink. It had been less than two hours since lunch so I was not hungry or thirsty. Rifugio Nuvolau was in view and it seemed like we had plenty of time even with this 30 minute stop.

I used this opportunity to make a 7-photo panorama of the area east of Cinque Torri. At the left you can see the jagged peaks of Croda da Lago, the plateau of the Lastoi de Formin mastiff and, just to the left of the furthest mountain peak, you can see a little bump that is Rifugio Nuvolau.

I used this opportunity to get a photo of Young and a photo of the window at Rifugio Cinque Torri. Notice the interesting way the shutters are held open.

About 15 minutes after we left Rifugio Cinque Torri, I made this 7-photo panorama. You can see that the sky to the south is beginning to look a little ominous.

Below is a photo taken along the path up to Nuvolau. At the very top above the trail you can see a bump which is the rifugio. The ominous sky to the south persists.

The sky was brighter looking back toward Cinque Torri from approximately the same spot.

A few minutes later I made this panorama looking back toward Cinque Torri.

Some bike riders past us heading downhill.

From along this trail I was able to get a photo back toward Rozes and the tunnel where we had traveled this morning. In the photo below I have labeled “The Junction” at Rozes where we turned down hill to reach the tunnel and travel well beyond it before turning back and returning to “The Junction”.

Here is another view of the trails around Rozes. The green trail shows our trail down from Lagazuoi to Rozes. The orange trail was the one we took and almost reached the pass and road before turning around and retracing our steps. The magenta trail to the right is where we eventually headed.

We reached a junction above Rifugio Scoiattoli. I made a 7-photo panorama which shows Rifugio Scoiattoli and to the left of it, across the pass, Rozes.

The following cropped version shows the path and Rifugio Scoiattoli better.

Farther up the trail we got this view. Tofana is at the upper right, Rozes is near the middle of the image, and Rifugio Lagazuoi is on the peak at the far left. The figures in the photo are, left to right, Stephen, Tim, Violetta, Young, and just behind Young you can see a bit of Jim.

I waited for them to catch up and walked for a while with Jim. We started to see lightning in the sky ahead of us. Jim commented that if he was in the White Mountains he would turn around. A few minutes later I looked back for him and he was long gone downhill toward Rifugio Scoiattoli.

The rest of us continued uphill. I was in the lead and Young was a bit behind me. The lightning was getting pretty intense. I got slightly off the trail and looked around to find Young. She had passed me and was already racing uphill ahead of me.

Here is the view back at Violetta, Tim, and Stephen trudging up the path.

A few minutes later Tim and Violetta had caught up to me as I slowed down to wait for them. It started to sleet. The lightning was getting intense. They consulted a guidebook and found that if they headed back down the hill and around a small butte there was another rifugio closer than Nuvolau. You can see them heading down to Rifugio Averau. At the bottom left corner of this panorama is a tip of my trekking pole. Tim and Violetta planned to shelter at Averau until the storm let up, but they wound up spending the night there.

The sky got darker. Stephen and I sheltered for a while against a small ledge with sleet falling on us and lightning flashing around us. The lightening was cloud-to-ground, not cloud-to-cloud. It was starting to get dark and the sleet let up a bit, so we decided to press on uphill. Young was a long way ahead of us, maybe already at Nuvolau.

As I neared Rifugio Nuvolau I saw a figure in the dim light and sleet coming down to me. I eventually recognized that it was Carmen. He offered to carry my backpack. I said I was fine, but Stephen behind me might like some help. So he headed down to meet Stephen. It was amazing that anybody came out of the rifugio under these conditions.

I eventually made it and was greeted warmly by Young and the Rifugio Nuvolau staff. Young was certainly worried about us. Somewhat later Stephen and Carmen arrived. I walked outside and got this photo as the sleet turned to snow. The photo makes it look brighter than it was.

By 6 PM that evening there were quite a few inches of snow on the ground.

Here are a few photos from inside the rifugio.


Dinner that night was very welcome and delicious. We were certainly happy to be warm, safe, and with friends. Martin was there, but Carmen actually spent the night at a different rifugio.

The storm had cleared, so after dinner I went outside and made a few photos. One shows the patio of Rifugio Nuvolau and the second shows Cortina in the distance to the northeast.

That evening I was visited by a cute kitten who snuggled in my pile of gear at the end of my bunk. Stephen and I had the room to ourselves as Jim was warm and happy down below at Rifugio Scoiattoli.

It was certainly an interesting several days. And it seemed like tomorrow morning might be a challenging descent in the snow. We certainly would not be attempting the shorter, more direct, via ferrata trail down.