Dancing the Dolomites: Rotwand to Grasleitenpass Hütte!

The clouds roll in as the sun begins to set and the pale crags stretch into rose and lilac and indigo and gone. It’s still and heavy outside, but I don’t know because I sleep like a log from the excitement of the day. Scrounging for an Euro, the shock of the three minute ice shower was not even enough to dissuade the best kind of dreamless stone sleep.

The brrring of the alarm rolls us out of bed. Inhaled rolls and coffee and brushed teeth later, we re-pack (for me, this means layer on most of the clothing I possess against the mountain morning crisp chill I love, but be sure all snacks are easily accessed and not smushed) and clomp out the door. We begin our second day on the 541 towards the Vaiolet Hut and then on to the Grasleitenpass.

The day before was stellar, if a bit too warm:

But replaced by clouds and an increasingly vocal hope of the rain holding back and an ever growing beauty still. Clouds rains snows white grey blue robin’s egg and so many greens, it wouldn’t have mattered–it still would have been the most beautiful place my eyes were allowed to see. Meanwhile, we were going to hike through that ridge, rather innocuous compared to what we would do, later.

A bit of steep was definitely involved, boulders like lazy turtles across the gaining incline and a few pauses to inhale, later. We love the pushing, the feeling of strain and tightness in the legs that comes from actually using them for what they are for.

The view back from where we came: clouds above and below and silver sunshine.

Drawing closer to the top and wrapping around the spines:

Well, we came a bit of a ways! From the bright, verdant green at the beginning of the morning, we soon felt somewhat like we were on a moon!

The top of the Zigolade Pass, signs signaling that we weren’t lost, and lunch at the Vaiolet Hütte just a short hour and a half away! Proof that we hiked hard: brisk weather, yet a sweat-strapped Jeremy.

The weather on the other side was a bit more dismal, but it’s a hiker’s Disney World, so who cares?

An hour later, with the weather declining, we saw the Vaiolet Hütte! (If you squint, it’s that tiny-looking white house at the edge of what seems like a cliff, slightly off middle the photograph.) The rumbling stomachs and impending strong winds persuaded us to hustle a bit. This part of the hike was a bit more populated due to a nearby gondola lift, and the noted family-friendliness of the area, especially on this side of the Vaiolet Hütte…between the Vaiolet and the Grasleitenpass, however, will be another story of sliding rocks and new friends…

Can you imagine running and living at the hut, in the midst of these?!

I can. Sounds like a great life!

As we neared the huts, the skys briskly opened up with almost opportune timing, hence the lack of photos. Every other soul had the same idea as we, namely squash ourselves into the houses to avoid a good drenching; the first was too packed, so we jogged over and into the second, finding a dry seat, table, and hearty food. I wrung my hair and we enjoyed our time in the warmth before heading off in the direction of the Grasleitenpasshütte, our more remote sleep plan for the evening.

Espresso and beer while drying off and warm lunch!

Looks green and flat-esque, rather unassuming. Our stomachs are full and the coffee was tasty and we have energy. But over the ridge and around the corner, we begin to descend a bit, steeply, on loose dirt and stone. Still doesn’t sound that bad, right? Then the, oh sh*!?, what happened to the trail moment–a decent chunk is washed out from the copious amounts of rain this month, a wetter one than usual. Hence the lack of photos. Those ski poles I sometimes think are useless? Great. Meanwhile, we made friends with an older couple, Sabine und Kristoff.

Quick aside: when in the Alps, there is absolutely no shame in being passed by sporty-looking 60-year-olds. They’re retired and do this all the time, while simultaneously being the sweetest, most interesting humans. In my experience, at least.

Anyhow, Sabine, Kristoff and I are trying to figure out how to descend without becoming human dirt balls — the landscape on this side has changed again, drastically — and Jeremy is thinking that our short month together has been nice, not the worst time to die. It really was not that bad. Being the youngest by far, I figure I am more elastic and scramble a bit up and down a dirt baby canyon, hoisting myself up with my twig arms to where the gravel stones were less unstable. We all helped one another, no huge stress, and gingerly continued our way down. The legs had something to say about this, later that night!

Headed bergauf again, we see this surprising and welcome sight: the Grasleitenpasshütte!! We celebrate with our new friends and a wine — they say it is mediocre, we think, this is great.

Our accommodations for the night: bunkbeds! Sabine has already warned us of the Kristoff snore-volume issue; according to Jeremy, I take it upon myself to have a sleep snore battle with Kristoff. Who knows? I sleep through it all later that night.

After checking in and relaxing a short bit, the desire for seeing and exploring hasn’t abated. We investigate the route for the next day:

And begin it ever so slightly, solely so I can touch the snow. Keep in mind, this is the middle of June! Ignore the crazy pants; but, if one must wear pants, bright colors are always better.

We then saw a trail up one of the massive stone teeth. This is where, during World War I, the Great War, Italians crept through the mountains, they say. There is a steel wire upon which you can attach yourself for safety; this is not gear that we have brought, so we climb what we can for incredible views! The smaller house to the side of the main hut is where our bunks were; there are also beds in the main house, and a chilly but quite functional shower. How did they manage to build this?!

A glance back at the trail from the Vaiolet Hütte.
Right above our hut!

Hi from what simultaneously feels like the top and bottom of the world!!

I am the happiest, all the time, in the mountains.