Alta Via 1 – Day 1 – Lago di Braies to Lagazoui

I first want to start this off by apologizing to every running friend I know. Our recent trek through the Dolomites on Alta Via 1 may be the only running related topic I ever speak of again. This adventure was absolutely stunning and far exceeded any of my expectations. It may also facilitate my retirement of any sort of “competitive” running as I sincerely doubt anything will top the five days spent in those mountains. To say that I feel fortunate to take part in this with some great friends would be an understatement.

With that said, this is only my account of the trip. There were four other people there and they may have differing opinions on the events that transpired. I’ll keep my details to running related topics and such. The pre and post run activities will have to wait to be discussed over beers or limoncello shots. In my subsequent posts, I’ll group more days together… but this was all I could summarize for now…

So, here’s a quick rundown of how we got to Dobbiaco, Italy to start our Alta Via 1 journey.

07/31 – Travel through JFK to Milan.

08/01 – Arrive in Milan. Wait in insanely long line to validate rail passes. Hop the train to Verona. Tour city. Eat great food. Take photos next to sweet cat poster in restaurant. Take overnight train to Rome (just me).

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08/02 – Tour Rome while carrying around a 45 pound pack. Sweat profusely. Narrowly miss meeting the Pope. Meet up with other HUMRs and prep for the run.

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Day 1 – Lago di Braies to Lagazoui (19.4 Miles)

We traveled from Dobbiaco to Lago di Braies by bus. Due to us beginning our run on a Sunday, we weren’t able to exactly get an early start due to the late bus schedule. More on that later… To start this adventure we ran around this seriously beautiful lake and made our way up our first climb of the trip. Details are a bit hazy for this first day account as I left my journal in Switzerland and it is currently being mailed back to me by a very nice (yet oddly strict) B&B owner.

What I do know about day one (before the storm) is this…

–          I took a ton of pictures

–          Many expletives were used to describe the scenery

–          We had our first strudel and Coke fueling stop

–          Crucifixes and memorials were everywhere, which I found awesome and strangely comforting

–          Running with a 14 pound pack makes for slow running

–          The UltrAspire Fastpack was the perfect pack for this adventure

We made our way through the day admiring our surroundings and generally feeling euphoric. This is until the afternoon thunderstorm rolled in. Around the time we were supposed to cut up trail 20B to Lagazoui we encountered a serious storm. The rain and hail moved in quickly and soon we were soaked and freezing. We then found out that our route up to Lagazoui was closed due to a landslide last August.

Our only option was to descend down several thousand feet and try to come up route 20. At this point I was clearly in the worst shape of the group. I felt my speech slurring and I was way too cold too quickly. I took off my shirt and put my puffy on under my rain jacket. Thankfully I started to feel a little better as we descended down and re-grouped as to what we should do.

Once down three thousand feet, we faced a choice as to what to do. Either head up route 20 or bail to Cortina(?) and try to find a hotel for the night. With a few others also feeling seriously cold, we decided to bail. This turned out to be a wise decision as the trail off of route 20 was also closed due to the weather and we probably would have been in bad shape by that point had we headed up. (In all honestly I would have bailed even if the group wanted to head up. I wouldn’t have made it the estimated 3 hours back up to Lagazoui)

So with that, we were resigned to the fact that we would not make it to Lagazoui for the night. We made it to a restaurant after descending a bit more and had them call a cab for us. Inexplicably, the cab showed up minutes later. Someone in the group then had the idea to see if we could take the gondola up to Lagazoui. My mind was numb at that point, but what I do know is that we made the last gondola by a mere four minutes.

So with our Amazing Race type day complete, we arrived via gondola up to Lagazoui and our stop for night one. No pictures of this Refugio can do it justice. We settled in to our rooms and celebrated a successful first day.

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