Exploring the Marmolada
The Queen of the Dolomites, steeped in history and cloaked in ice
The highest peak of the Dolomites, which at 3343 metres overlooks Val di Fassa, its largest glacier and one of the most atmospheric wall climbs: all this condensed into a single peak marking the border between Veneto and Trentino.
It is also of great historical interest: it was in fact a disputed territory in World War I, the scene of audacious clashes and a place where, in those years, miles and miles of tunnels were dug out in the ice and, as a matter of fact, it was called “the city of ice”. In these tunnels, more than two hundred Austro-Hungarian soldiers slept, ate, prayed… Wouldn’t you like to go and see for yourself what has remained of those clashes? Several routes allow you to admire caves, trenches, positions and look-outs on the Marmolada. Some are not difficult, while others should be attempted only if you are an expert climber and have the appropriate equipment (karabiners, crampons, sling, helmet…).
To reach this peak along the normal route start at passo Fedaia (pass) and walk among the roches moutonnées, a rock formation created by the passing of a glacier that has made the rocks extremely smooth and like a sheep’s back. You then arrive on the glacier on the north side. Walking with crampons on the blue, creaky ice, climbing over and skirting the crevasses that characterise this environment, tying yourself to your companion with a safety rope: all this is the normal route of the Marmolada! The environment is obviously very different from what you are used to seeing and it will amaze you.
Does its height and glacier scare you? Don’t worry, there are experts who can accompany you on this fantastic adventure: mountain guides (guida alpina)! Nobody better than these experienced professionals can guarantee your safety, joy and gratification during such a climb.
What is required of you? You must like walking, be prepared to put yourself on the line and discover an environment that is different from the usual ones because it is inhospitable and cold, however, it is also invigorating and exhilarating as nature expresses itself in all its beauty.
When you walk there, it is nice to think of the huge source of water that comes from this glacier, with tons of ice melting in summer and forming again in winter. In fact, an important river originates here: the Avisio, which crosses the Fassa, Fiemme and Cembra valleys and enters the Adige river.
But let’s go back to our normal route which, after a series of icy stretches, leads to a well-equipped rock section that will allow you to reach the top slopes and summit. It’s easy to tell people and write about it, but it takes some time and strenuous exertion to do it!
But how long and difficult is it? It entails a height difference of 1300 metres with an easy progression on the glacier, so it’s not impossible, you can do it too!
How’s the view from the top? Truly breathtaking! Just think, you can see almost all the Dolomites!
After having read about the Marmolada and seen many photos of it, it’s time you visited the area and tried to conquer the Queen of the Dolomites, don't you think so?! She is waiting for you. Just pluck up courage and go!
Written by Linda Grossi, a mountain climber and low-altitude mountain guide