Grasleitenpass to Tierser Alpl to Schlernhaus!
(and 10 reasons why the Dolomites are the best place, ever.)
Sadly, our final full day wandering the Dolomites… I wish I could return in all the summers with a backpack and month’s worth of time and great weather on my hands. The eye-exploding views will always be new, the people along the trail fun and charismatic, the food and sleeping accomodations unique.
Why the Dolomites are the Best #1: The best sleeps of your life.
Every night, it truly feels like you’ve earned your snooze, and every night is black black with a smattering of stars across the sky. So I imagine, at least–our nights were vastly cloudy.
After a fitful sleep snore-battling with Kristoff (I blame a growing sinus infection), we snarf down some breakfast and eagerly begin on our way, our last full day. Well, maybe slightly trepidatiously. You see this thing? After hiking down, it is a sharp, zig-zagging ascent with plenty of loose stones. My boyfriend of a month may or may not have thought my ultimate goal was to kill him during this trip, but he also loved most minutes of it.
Why the Dolomites are the Best #2: You will become a human onion!
Now, we are professional wardrobe changers. With the changes in elevation and exertion, we must have stripped and re-clothed ourselves at least seven times a day. Pack clothing that is easily layered!!
When we aren’t panting for breath, we laugh for the pure beauty…or at each other’s faces. Hiking down the Grasleitenpass, we also laugh at ourselves. It is a bit like wandering a rollercoaster, but the way up is exciting. To the left, we also see the Grasleitenhütte, looking like an ant below us. Our hiking sticks prove themselves once again as saviors to our shins and knees on the way down. Then, the scramble! A multitude of loose stones add a bit of challenge, but we go at a brisk pace–I’ve always operated on the assumption that, if I test the stones a bit and then move quickly, they won’t have time to move too much under my feet. It’s worked pretty well, so far. Anyhow, here is an extremely unprofessional-looking map of the last day and a half of our trip, which I borrowed from Dallying the Dolomites and modified, the star denoting our sleeping spot at the end of day three. Because, have I mentioned, sleeping is the most amazing thing at the end of these days.
#4: Semi-always knowing what’s coming next, but not really.
Communication with hikers along the route is a beautifully essential part of the adventure, something far more friendly and personable than I’ve encountered in America. Different cultures, a large Mischung of different nationalities, and nature and weather’s variations to account for this, I suppose. We learned and shared a great deal, from washed out trail sections to life stories to the best wine at the next hut.
#5: The views, if I haven’t mentioned them often enough.
It’s the chill of realizing how tiny we specks are, and magnificent the world that reaches these peaks into the crisp brisk sky.
Check out this view from atop the Grasleitenpass! We though we were such badasses, but then, once we reached the top, we ran into families with their middle-school-aged children, tumbling around like lithe mountain goats.
In the distance: the Tierser Alpl! Feeling successful after our climb, we followed the red-white-red spray-painted rocks toward the hut. Along the way, there were chains built into a rock involved, but nothing too technical. Then….lunch and beer!
This hut is in one of the most picturesque locations in the Dolomites, especially on a sunny day, and that’s saying something! We follow the trail you see along the sheer rock faces, running into some friendly marmosets along the way. They’re pretty much big fuzzy groundhogs, and I love them. While our day isn’t quite as sunny as the photo, we still vastly enjoy clambering over things.
Speaking of clambering…rocks can be incredibly photogenic, as it turns out.
#6: Accidental discoveries
We had no idea this lookout existed, just that we were ahead of schedule. We also had no idea that Murmeltiere would be wandering around all cute-like, and I had to learn the English word for them. Much learning and gawking along the way!
Then, onward! We backtrack to the Tierser Hütte and continue straight-esque to our final destination.
#7 Constant change.
The landscape varies every 45 steps, it seems…
As does the weather! Suddenly, we seem to be in Ireland, with thunder booming in the distance. Do not get caught here in a thunderstorm. Do not get caught here in a thunderstorm.
But…..check out these clouds pretending to be geysers!
The sheer variation makes the Dolomites one of the most spectacular hiking destinations on Earth. That being said, always communicate with hut owners and other hikers in regards to what the weather may or may not be deciding to do!
As the rumbling draws nearer, we hasten towards the Schlernhaus, a hut that looks more like it belongs in Scotland, maybe. My legs were sleeps, and I may or may not have stumbled over some of those white rocks, but that is normal. I’m an athletic klutz, somehow.
Then, a sight for tired bodies!
#8 New friends, and a restoration of the perception of kindness in the world.
It’s quite common, it seems, to run into people you then continuously see at later huts and paths along your traversed trail. Sharing tables during meals happens most always, and is a fantastic way to experience other cultures and generations.
Our favorites were Sabine and Kristoff, a retired German couple who do such wander trips fairly frequently. They are in their sixties, and ran into us the first day, then again yesterday when we ran into the absence of path on a descent. While much slower, they were technically much more intelligent than we, as well as hilarious. Sabine was an English teacher, I a German teacher, so between the four of us, we got on quite well…story time in the evening was the best.
Also, every hut owner was wonderful, patient with any cultural missteps (our greatest being not packing our own house shoes…yes, you do have a designated pair of slippers that you wear indoors, and never shoes!), and exceedingly knowledgeable. Most were fluent in at least four languages, two of them always being German and Italian, of course.
#9: A humbling.
The mountains are bigger and stronger and older than you. Same goes for some of the hikers…well, the older and stronger part, at least. Never be surprised, or feel bad about your own physical fitness, when some 62-year-old breezes by. They are retired; this is what they do. Low key, this is also what I want to do when I am retired. It’s the life.
Our very final day: the descent. Definitely feeling it in the legs, we see my future farmhouse and future cow friends. Despite the low ceiling cloud, the way down is still lovely, with an unexpected tree friend staring us down. Hi there!
He watches over us as we walk over the creek. There are not many pictures of this day; as bittersweet as leaving is, the cold rain that drenches your bones and the idea of a real bed and doctor’s care for my sinus infection were powerful speed motivators. Note to self: every year, at the end of the semester, your body gives up its immune system. Do not leave for a trip right when classes are over. Don’t worry, I never listen to myself.
Anyhow, to descend from Schlernhaus: follow the path down. There will, after a couple of hours, be a country road and town at the bottom. Confused? Ask the friendly people. A bus will come through the town and take you back to Bolzano, if you would like. Personally, I am terrible at going back home, unless there is a person to miss.
WHY THE DOLOMITES ARE THE BEST #10: memories.
Self explanatory: experiences are always better than things. You lose things or find better things or they become outdated or ugly. The Dolomites, or, really, any adventure pushing a bit out of the comfort zone, are forever something to remember ❤