A coral reef you can climb

Via delle Normali, crossing the Brenta Dolomites from peak to peak

Thanks to the invaluable work of the Association of Mountain Guides of Trentino, it is now possible to climb the main peaks of the Brenta Dolomites via a completely restored route, mixed with climbing and trekking, which connects 10 of the Brenta Dolomites peaks in 6 stages, linking existing and re-equipped normal routes. You can follow the footsteps of the great Alpine explorers: Tuckett, Holtzmann, Loss, Nicolussi, Mertzbacher, Falkner, and many other pioneers of the highest points of the Brenta group.

Experience the freedom, relish the challenge, and revel in the satisfaction of conquering the peaks one after another, with each step bringing you closer to a mountain lodge where you can enjoy a well-earned rest. The Via delle Normali is like a love letter to these great historic climbs.

The difficulty never gets above level three, with some stretches following parts of the via ferrata, while it never takes too long to get onto the route when setting out from the lodges. All of this means that you can experience mountaineering in a highly focused way, linking up trails to get from peak to peak, day after day.

The result is a comprehensive experience of mountaineering in the Alps, bringing you close to the heart of the Brenta Dolomites and discovering their landscapes, ancient origins and history.

Before setting out on an excursion at altitude, plan your trip with care. If you are inexperienced or you intend to tackle a route graded as technically difficult, then consult an alpine or mountain guide. You should also contact the refuge warden in the area you’ll be visiting for the latest weather information and to discuss whether your route is advisable. Take prudent precautions, wear suitable clothing for your route, and remember to act responsibly in the mountains at all times.

Mountaineering in the Dolomites: the Via delle Normali

#1 The Via delle Normali

Imagine taking a map, drawing a line along the entire crest of the Brenta group from South to North, and then throwing yourself into trekking it with all your might. You will find yourself linking up the historic pathways of the main and most important peaks of these Dolomites. Today, these pathways have all been restored with new belay anchors and protections at the trickiest points, thanks to the patient work of the mountain guides.

The Via delle Normali offers a way to climb the most important peaks (or “cime”) of the Brenta group, like Cima Tosa, Cima Brenta, Cima Falkner and the Campanile Alto; as well as letting climbers put their mountaineering skills to the test on less renowned summits like the Cima d'Ambiez, Cima di Pietra Grande and Cima Vagliana. 

Despite being easier than the more famous classic routes, the trails of the Via delle Normali are no less interesting: indeed, they open up a side of the Brentas that previously existed only as a memory, in the records of the mountaineers who first conquered this towering skyline.

Mountaineering in the Dolomites: the Via delle Normali

#2 The Brenta Dolomites

Your adventure begins in San Lorenzo in Banale and leads you across Val d'Ambiez, spending the night at the S. Agostini or XII Apostoli mountain lodge. You can also set out from Pinzolo, spending the first night at the XII Apostoli lodge.

The Via delle Normali brings you to the top of 10 peaks, all over 2,900 m in altitude, with a difficulty level that never exceeds III+ .

There are 8 mountain lodges that you can stay at along the way, in addition to the Castiglioni hut on the top of Crozzon di Brenta. By the time you reach the last stage of your itinerary, at the Graffer al Grostè lodge above Madonna di Campiglio, you’ll have covered more than 45 km amid bell towers, walls, and canals, including 15 km of climbing. It may not reach the status of a high-level performance, but it certainly allows you to put your endurance, organisational abilities and motivation to the test. Your mountain experience will take about 60 hours, over seven days of adventure.

Pack your rucksack: you’ll need a harness, a helmet, a descender, locking carabiners, quickdrawers, small-medium cams, nuts, ropes, single rope, a Via Ferrata kit, crampons and a classic ice axe... not to mention lots of enthusiasm for your trip to what’s left of an ancient reef that rose out of a long-ago sea after 200 million years.

Dolomiti Paganella - Dolomiti di Brenta

#3 An ancient reef

Climbing the peaks of the Brenta Dolomites will give you an insight into the massive tectonic shifts that made these mountains such an important and symbolic element of our geological heritage.

The layers of rock that you will scale between breaks actually consist of the sediment produced by animals from 200 million years ago. These long-ago corals, molluscs, fish and marine plants may still be visible below your very hands in the form of fossils. Travelling from the oldest to the youngest rock, at the very top, is nothing short of a journey back in time through the history of the Earth.

Madonna di Campiglio - Pian del Graffer - Rifugio Graffer al Groste

#4 Life in the lodges

On hand to support your conquest of the Via delle Normali are 8 Alpine lodges, conveniently positioned for access to the peaks. For those tackling a trail like this, life in the lodges forms an essential part of their memories. Every evening you will be able to meet other climbers like yourself, swap stories about the paths you took to get there, and learn more about the conditions on those that still lie ahead. After all, climbing in the Alps is not just about sweat and toil: it’s also about socialising and a sense of belonging, of being part of a club whose members have touched the sky.


#5 Let us guide your way

Embark on your Via delle Normali adventure in total safety by relying on the expertise of local Mountain Guides. They will provide you with all the vital instructions you need and accompany you along the entire route. You won’t need to worry about ropes and knots, or which paths and trails to take: just concentrate on the beauty of the environment and the thrill of the climb!

Just like the original pioneers of the mountains, the Guides will stay by your side at all times to lead you on your discovery of the mountain: safety and satisfaction guaranteed!

Mountaineering in the Dolomites: the Via delle Normali

#6 The Garden of Fossils

If you are climbing from Val D'Ambiez on foot, you will come across the “Garden of Fossils” just below the Agostini lodge. This field of rock, cut through by karren — karstic cracks — is nothing short of an open-air geology museum. Keep your eyes peeled, because among all these random forms you may spot what looks like a large shell: a megalodon, a bivalve mollusc which lived between 200 and 410 million years ago, when the Alps had not even been formed yet. Reflect for a moment on the fact that the first peak you are about to climb, Cima d’Ambiez, like the other Brenta peaks, is nothing other than what is left of the shallowest part of the long-ago basin, thrust to a height of 3,000 m by the tectonic forces that generated the Alps over a period of around 200 million years.

Mountaineering in the Dolomites: the Via delle Normali

Choose the right path

You’ll often find yourself hunting for the way onto the Via itself, and might have doubts about which path to take. The Via delle Normali has been detailed well in a guide book produced by the alpine guide Gianni Canale, which not only provides you with descriptions and drawings of the route, but also shows all the access points, lodges, huts, and alternative itineraries if you only want to try a part of the route or finish early.

This booklet allows you to organise your expedition as you see fit, but if you need any more help you can always turn to one of the Mountain Guides of the Trentino Association.

All you need to do is use your imagination to plan and pursue your own mountain adventure.

Dolomiti di Brenta - Rifugio Tuckett Quintino Sella

The Via delle Normali

Published on 06/06/2023