The so called Valón de le Léde, known as well as Vallon delle Léde, is a wide mountain gully known for being physically though to ascend and for giving the hikers a feeling of simply being never ending. As a matter of fact, the long ascent leading to the mountain gap of Passo delle Léde (2,695 m a.s.l.) is a stretch of more than 4 km with more than 1,400 meters climb. Nevertheless, the effort is surely worth it; the sight is one of the most beautiful among the Pale di San Martino Dolomites group, offering views of the upper Val Canali, the Valle di Primiero, and the Dolomite blocks of Cima Canali and Sass d’Ortiga. As approaching Passo delle Léde, the Bivacco Carlo Minanzio (2,294 m a.s.l.) will be reached. Also, not far from the bivouac, it is possible to see several remains of the Neptune plane, tragically crashed on 19th of July 1957, causing 11 fatalities.
This trek starts from the location of La Ritonda (1,180 m a.s.l.), in Val Canali. The initial stretch follows a path that goes in the same direction of the Signpost No. 707 (which follows an asphalt road), but crosses a couple of nice pastures on its way to the hut of Malga Canali. After facing a short and steep hill through the forest, the path passes through the pastures named Prati Canali, Prà Ostio and Malga Canali. Along the path, is is also possible to have many nice views over the surrounding Dolomite peaks, with a major role played by Cima Canali, on the left side.
Once in Malga Canali, the hike proceeds along the gravel road, following the Signpost No. 707 towards Rifugio Treviso. The Signpost No. 707 must be followed until reaching the crossroads with the Signpost No. 711. From this point, at about 1,400 meters of altitude, the endless climb begins along the wide gully of Valón de le Léde.
At about 2,000 m a.s.l., as the vegetation starts disappearing, a breathtaking view opens up between the screes of the gully, with the closed peaks of Cima di Sédole (2,243 m a.s.l.) and Sasso delle Léde (2,255 m a.s.l.) on the southern side, Cima Canali (2,859 m a.s.l.) and Cima Wilma (2,774 m a.s.l.) on the western side, and Cima di Fradusta (2,939 m a.s.l.) on the northern side.
The route reaches the bivouac of Minanzio, belonging to the Padua Alpine Club, at an altitude of 2,294 meters, where there is also a commemorative plaque next to some remains of Neptune, picked by the rescue team of Alpini and by the hikers during the years. From this point, the climb becomes less steep, but technically more demanding. The path, in fact, starts cutting through a series of screes that will lead to the mountain gap of Passo delle Léde.
At Passo delle Léde (2,695 m a.s.l.), an amazing panorama opens up over the Val Pradidali, with the peaks of Pala di San Martino, Immink and Pradidali in the foreground to the west. From the gap, the hike starts descending on a fairly difficult stretch of the Signpost No. 711, which also has sections equipped with fixed ropes. In the presence of either snow or ice, we strongly recommend to be careful.
At the crossroads with the Signpost No. 709, the trail descends by following the latter, towards Rifugio Pradidali. The path develops on the bottom of a gully that acts as an impressive theater between majestic Dolomite peaks, on its west and east sides. After reaching the hut of Rifugio Pradidali (2.278 m a.s.l.), just a few hundred meters after the lake of Pradidali, continue downhill along the Signpost No. 709, which leads to the starting point, after a couple of hours of descent .
- From the location named Sabbionade / Ritonda (Val Canali), take the path climbing up through the forest, towards Malga Canali,
- From the hut of Malga Canali (1,307 m a.s.l.), follow the gravel road marked as Signpost No. 707 for approximately 1 km,
- Take the Signpost No. 711 towards Bivacco Minanzio/Passo delle Léde,
- From the mountain gap called Passo delle Léde (2,695 m a.s.l.), descend carefully along the Signpost No. 711, until reaching the crossroads with the Signpost No. 709,
- Descend by following the Signpost No. 709 until reaching the hut of Rifugio Pradidali,
- From Rifugio Pradidali (2,278 m a.s.l.), keep following the Signpost No. 709 until getting back to the starting point. ✓
The double US Navy Tragedy of 1957
- On July 19, 1957, a twin-engine aircraft belonging to the US Navy Reserve Patrol Squadron, the Lockheed P2-V6 “Neptune” VP-934, went off its route and crashed into the Pale di San Martino. The Neptune was flying from Port Lyautey (Morocco) to Istrana (Treviso).
- Due both to the weather conditions, which turned into a storm towards the end of the flight, and most likely to a defect in the equipment indicating the pilot’s position more than 60 km away from the actual one, the Neptune, after the permission to descend, struck the southern wall of Fradusta, at an altitude of 2,591 meters.
- All the 11 crew members died in the crash.
- The VP-934‘s rescue operation began immediately, initially focusing along the Po Valley and the Western Alps of Piemonte.
- On July 21, 1957, a second Neptune plane of the US Navy, the P2-V7 LJ-11 VP-23, coming from Malta and stationed in Aviano to support the rescue operation, hit a tree with a wing and crashed into Monte Granero, in Val Pellice (Turin). Miraculously, of this second tragic crash, one crew member, among 10, didn’t die.
- After extending the range of the research area for the VP-934, employing also the Italian troops, the VP-934‘s wreckage was finally found by the Alpini, on July 23, in the Dolomites of Primiero.
- The bad luck continued for the only survivor of the VP-23. Some years later, he will lose his sight in another plane crash.
- 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.
- Guide Dolomiti (Enrico Maioni from Cortina d’Ampezzo): https://www.guidedolomiti.com/
- U.S. Navy Patrol Squadrons: https://www.vpnavy.com/
- Rifugio Pradidali: http://www.rifugiopradidali.com/