Long and demanding loop starting and arriving in the village of San Martino di Castrozza. The hike touches the two main mountain huts of the southern part of the Pale di San Martino mountain range: Rifugio Velo della Madonna and Rifugio Pradidali. The itinerary takes well over eight hours and covers a significant shift in altitude, hence it is recommended only for expert hikers who want to have a long day immersed in the typical high altitude environment of the Dolomites.
Starting from the start of the Colverde cable car, located on the edge of the village of San Martino di Castrozza, the track heads towards Sopra Col, taking the Signpost No. 721. The path climbs rapidly through the forest of pine trees and scree. While getting higher in altitude, the vegetation becomes less dense and beautiful views open over San Martino di Castrozza and the peak of Cima della Madonna (2,803 m asl).
After a relatively easy stretch that runs along the eastern side of the peak of Cima Val di Roda (2,604 m asl), you arrive at the crossroads with the Signpost No. 713, called Sentiero Attrezzato della Lasta Moia and main access to the hut of Rifugio Velo della Madonna (starting at Malga Civertaghe). The route becomes more demanding; the stretch on Signpost No. 713 that precedes the arrival at the hut has some exposed sections, where you can secure yourself on the provided fixed ropes.
Once reached Rifugio Velo della Madonna (2,358 m asl) – the first of this long itinerary – the track continues along the Signpost No. 742 towards Sentiero del Cacciatore / Ferrata Dino Buzzati. In just under an hour, the ascent will take you to the mountain gap (2,420 m asl), located south of the peak of Stanga (2,547 m asl); once passed the gap, you will begin a long and technical descent along the Signpost No. 742, called Sentiero Attrezzato del Cacciatore. Although the most difficult and exposed parts do have support of fixed ropes, the descent, which has a vertical drop of about 1,000 m, must be carried out very carefully, especially if the ground is slippery. From the path, you can admire a sight to the wonderful Pradidali and Canali valleys, as well as on the peaks of Canali (2,859m s.l.m.), Madonna (2,803 m asl) and Sass Maór (2,551 m asl). Towards the end of the descent, in memory of the CAI Academician Giancarlo Biasin (stumbled during the descent on the path of Cacciatore in 1964), you will find a plaque dedicated to him.
Arrived at the end of the long descent, the itinerary begins to become challenging again, with a significant positive shift in altitude that from the location of Pedemonte (1,627 m asl) goes up the Val Pradidali along the Signspot No. 709, leading directly to the hut of Rifugio Pradidali, in about an hour. From Rifugio Pradidali (2,278 m asl), the itinerary continues to climb along Signpost No. 715, that leads to the gap called Passo di Ball (2,443 m asl), dedicated to the English explorer of the Pale di San Martino. After passing the gap, the path descends rapidly along an exposed but adequately equipped section and then continues on an easier descent towards the location of Col de le Féde. Right before Col de le Féde, you will meet the junction with the Signpost No. 702 which descends westwards from Rifugio Rosetta. On the crossroads, the way back to San Martino di Castrozza begins. The Signpost No. 702, called the path of the Baron von Lesser, descends along the valley of Ròda while presenting a long series of hairpin bends (approximately 240 in total), passing through the location of Col dei Béchi (2,048 m asl).
Once the hairpin bends are completed, the tracks enter the Val di Roda gravel road which, in a short time, takes back to the village San Martino di Castrozza.
- From the start of the Colverde cableway, in the village of San Martino di Castrozza, take the Signpost No. 721 towards Rifugio Velo della Madonna,
- Follow the signs pointing at Rifugio Velo della Madonna, while taking the Signpost No. 713,
- From the hut of Rifugio Velo della Madonna (2,358 m asl), follow the Signpost No. 742 towards Sentiero del Cacciatore / Ferrata Dino Buzzati,
- From the mountain gap (2,420 m asl), proceed downhill along the Signpost No. 742 (Sentiero del Cacciatore) to the location of Pedemonte,
- From Pedemonte (1,627 m asl), proceed along the Signpost No. Path No. 709 towards Rifugio Pradidali,
- From the hut of Rifugio Pradidali (2,278 m asl), follow the Signpost No. 715 towards Passo di Ball,
- From the mountain gap of Passo di Ball (2,443 m asl), start descending along the Signpost No. 715, then continue along the Signpost No. 702, and then on the Val di Roda gavel road towards San Martino di Castrozza, until reaching the starting point. ✓
RIFUGIO VELO DELLA MADONNA
- The Rifugio Velo della Madonna (also known as Rifugio del Velo) was inaugurated in September 1980. Standing closed and right at the bottom of Cima della Madonna (2,752 m a.s.l.), the hut is located at a crossroads, from where numerous Dolomites climbing route start, including the Spigolo del Velo and the Vie Normali, as well as several paths and Via Ferrata.
- The classic route of Spigolo del Velo gave the name to the hut.
- The famous Spigolo del Velo climbing route (known also by its German name “die Schleierkante“), is considered by many to be the most beautiful in the Eastern Alps. The route was opened on 19 July 1920 by the Austrian mountaineers Gunther Langes and Erwin Merlet, while the first winter ascent was completed on 21 January 1953 by the two climbers from Primiero Lero Gadenz and Giacomo “Meto” Scalet.
- Giacomo “Meto” Scalet, alpinist, Aquila (tr. eagle) of San Martino, Italian champion and Olympic athlete in cross-country skiing in 1936, holds the record of number of ascents on the Spigolo del Velo: 87 officially recorded, 100 according to him.
- The name of the Rifugio probably comes from “prati gialli” (tr. yellow meadows), due to the rich bloom of the alpine poppy growing downstream, which uses to color in yellow the screes of Val Pradidali.
- Rifugio Pradidali is a historic Dolomite’s Rifugio, built in 1896 by the DÖAV of Dresden. The hut is the starting point for several beautiful rock climbs of all kinds and difficulties, including the famous Buhl-Erwing Crack, frequented by mountaineers from all over the world, and other classic rock climbs named after the well-known alpinists Langes, Detassis, Castiglioni, Wiessner, Solleder, up to the great and world wide famous free-climber Maurizio “Manolo” Zanolla (a.k.a. “il mago“, the magician). In the early days of his brilliant climbing career, Manolo established his base camp right at the hut.