Ghiacciaio Fradusta

Ritonda – Pradidali – Ghiacciaio della Fradusta


Location Pale di San Martino
Features Dolomites, Val Canali
Track Condition Path visible, but be aware of the terrain features
Vertigo Level 2/5
Ground (Forest) 20%
Ground (Grass) -
Ground (Rock) 80%
Ground (Urban) -
Lenght 17.6 km
Duration 7h
Elev Gain 1,839 m
Elev Loss 1,839 m
Max Elevation 2,823 m
Min Elevation 1,191 m
Car Park 46.217333, 11.877667



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Being one of the last remaining glacier in the Dolomites, Ghiacciaio della Fradusta is as well, unfortunately, melting away very quickly due to the stress caused by global warming. For the records, the glacier can be mainly approached from two locations: the easier route is by walking from the mountain hut of Rifugio Pedrotti (a.k.a. Rifugio Rosetta), the other by hiking up directly from Val Canali. This trail is definitely more challenging, with a route facing a climb of more than 1,700 m of gained elevation.

The first section of this itinerary follows the main and most classic access point to Rifugio Pradidali.

The Signpost No. 709, extremely visible and well marked along the whole way, starts at La Ritonda (1,180 m a.s.l.), where it begins to climb in an environment surrounded by the forest and follows the course of the stream called Rio Pradidali. The valley of the Rio Pradidali (Val Pradidali) provides a natural amphitheater with a breathtaking view of the summits (from west to east) of Monte CimerloStangaMadonnaBallCanaliSasso delle Léde and Òstio.

In its first part, the path proceeds through the forest, until reaching the crossroads of Pedemonte (at about 1,670 mt of altitude). Pedemonte is located just at the bottom of the mountain called Cima Canali (2,859 m a.s.l.). From this point, the forest is left behind and the Signpost No. 709 begins to climb on a slightly more technical stretch, which offers the help of fixed ropes in some parts of it.

The second stretch of the path, leading directly to the hut, is not particularly dangerous. However, because of some exposed sections, we advise to proceed carefully while ascending.

Once the steepest section is past (after the double hairpin bend, also called the “M” of Pradidali), the plateau where Rifugio Pradidali is located opens up, surrounded by a stunning Dolomite landscape.

Once getting at Rifugio Pradidali (2,278 m a.s.l.), this itinerary continues towards north, along a wide gravel plateau among amazing peaks and a small lake called Lago Pradidali (2,241 m a.s.l.). After a first flat section, the trail start climbing again gaining elevation quickly towards the mountain pass called Passo Pradidali Basso. It is impossible to get lost, since there is just one path that climbs the gully.

Once reached Passo Pradidali Basso (2,658 m a.s.l.), you will be at the foot of Fradusta‘ glacier, visible on your right hand side below the peak of Cima Fradusta (2,939 m a.s.l.). Sadly, the glacier is most likely going to disappear in few years time. Thus, we strongly recommend to look for the many pictures showing its evolution and to take a look at that, until it is still surviving. Hurry up, it will not last forever!

The way back we are proposing here is along the same route. However, if you wish, you can continue across the plateau of Pale di San Martino towards Rifugio Pedrotti and descend until reaching San Martino di Castrozza, for a physically demanding, authentic and full experience in the Dolomites.




  • From Sabbionade / Ritonda (Val Canali), follow the Signpost No. 709 until reaching the crossroads of Pedemonte,
  • Keep following the Signpost No. 709 towards Rifugio Pradidali, until reaching the hut,
  • From Rifugio Pradidali (2,278 m a.s.l.), keep following the Signpost No.709, passing through Lago Pradidali (2,241 m a.s.l.) and leading towards Passo Pradidali Basso,
  • Right before Passo Pradidali Basso (2,658 m a.s.l.), follow the Signpost No. 709A towards Passo della Fradusta,
  • From Passo della Fradusta (2,716 m a.s.l.), the glacier will appear,
  • The way back follows the same route. ✓




  • The Fradusta glacier, located on the Pale di San Martino plateau, at an altitude of approximately 2,600 m a.s.l., at the end of the 1800s was ranked as the second biggest glacier of the Dolomites, after the one on the Marmolada.
  • The beginning of the glacier’ agony took place during the extraordinarily hot summer of 2003. In 2003, the mantle of the glacier broke down into two parts, showing both its precariousness and its weakness. At that time, the experts predicted that it would have been disappeared by 2015.
  • Not far from the glacier, it is located the famous Busa di Manna, a depression in the heart of the Pale di San Martino plateau. In the middle of the depression, the historically lowest temperature in Italy has been recorded: -49.6 Celsius degrees.




  • 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.