Original Blog Post:
Gfrill and Villanders:
Hiking Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites:
Posts Tagged With: Dolomites
Original Blog Post:
“Francy, get out the van and look at this! You won’t believe it!” I hear Logan saying in the morning. I open the door and see a snow line in the trees only about 100m above us. Oh, so I guess there will be fresh snow on the Seiser Alm then?! Looks like our walk will rather be a short one today anyway after Logan ran up there yesterday and I’m still fighting off my light headache.
The Seiser Alm, or in Italian: Alpe di Siusi, is Europe’s highest alpine pasture at 1680 – 2350m above sea level. It is very big at about 57km² and surrounded by mountains like the Schlern and the Langkofelgruppe (long-peak-group).
We drive up the serpentine mountain road to Compatsch, the only village where cars are still allowed on the Alm and discover that much of the snow is already melting due to the warm sun. Looking at the tourist map, we realize there are literally hundreds of different routes to choose from, some of them particularly designed for hiking, some for cycling and some for running. We choose a 1-2hour round trip and start our easy walk:
The Langkofelgruppe with Logan looking at the Plattkofel (flat-peak) 2969m:
Within 10 minutes we lost the orange track we wanted to follow and find ourselves getting further and further away from the van. What started off as a slow walk turns into a hike, then a power hike, up and down hills and soon steep up towards the Langkofelgruppe. After 5(!!!) hours of hiking I’m suddenly being screamed at. I have no idea what it is or where it’s coming from and start screaming myself. Then I see it! A groundhog! I’m so excited, I can hardly get a word out to explain Logan what I see. A very confident ground hog is standing up right in front of me, trying to scare me off. We slowly get closer and sit down on a rock. After a few seconds we see another one, and another one, and another one… The whole groundhog family is coming out from it’s den to check us out too. I really love watching animals, especially in the wild. We stay for a while, watching them play, feed and ring the shrill alarm whistle another time, when a large bird flies past.
Finally we arrive at the Plattkofel hut. My feet are wet from the melting snow and I’m exhausted from the long hike. We are looking forward to a drink and some warm food in the hut when soon it dawns on us: The hut is closed. We already expected it as we haven’t seen any hikers for a long time and there were no tracks in the snow either.
Plattkofel (flat peak) See the ground hog?
So instead of sitting down for a nice warm lunch, we get out our emergency cookies and some water and sit down in the grass. A black bird joins us, being quite pushy about getting his share of our lunch.
Plattkofel hut Black bird and Plattkofel in the background
The tracks up the Plattkofel weren’t open yet due to the snow and quite frankly we didn’t feel like hiking/climbing any higher. We had a long way back to our van and didn’t want to arrive back in Compatsch after dark.
Fortunately going down works out to be quite fast, especially slipping and sliding down the melting snow.
Soon we arrive in a valley and realize that we need to walk back up again. There are no buses going, so we have no choice but to keep going!
Here you can see the Plattkofel (the snowy flat peak on the right), the mountain we walked down all the way into the valley and then back up to where I took this photo. Only about 20min to Compatsch (and our van) from here!
The sun is standing low when we see the first houses of Compatsch. It has been 7.5 hours since we left for the walk.
Absolutely exhausted but happy about this amazing hike, we fall into the door of our camper van and have a decent portion of Spaghetti to fill up our hungry bellies.
After a nutritious breakfast…
… we leave beautiful Villanders to drive further into the Dolomites, hoping to start a 5 day trek.
Here’s a photo of where about the Dolomites are (the lower white end in Northern Italy).
And our Camping spot with beautiful views over the Dolomites…
On our discovery route, we drive through Kastelruth (or Castelrotto) and get to enjoy fantastic views at the Alpe di Siusi (or Seiser Alm). Kastelruth is a lovely Tyrollean village with mural art on the buildings. During winter this is a snow resort town and during summer the gateway to an adventure land full of activities like mountain climbing, hiking, running or cycling.
Driving up to the Seiser Alm, an amazing plateau, we have to discover that there is no way we can possibly spend the night here. Cars are only allowed to a certain point and there is only one car park which is monitored by rangers regularly. We return to the village “Seis” at the bottom of the Seiser Alm and try to gather some information on possible hiking trails for the next days. Here we find out that the refuge huts are still closed and that there is still snow in the higher parts of the hiking trails. Our planned 5-Day walking track will not happen but we are still quite happy to go for a day-trek tomorrow.
For today we decide to just go for a walk from our campsite in Seis to a lake we found on the map.
It is a rather cool but sunny day (with clouds) and I’m struggling with a light headache caused by the cold winds, so I end up wearing a beanie.
We first walk through dense forest and just when I’m reminded of my childhood stories of witches and dwarfs, I discover a large rock in the middle of the woods with a sign telling a myth about a pastor who was once killed here by witches. Soon after, we come to an open alpine pasture with dozens of cows and bulls roaming freely. The cow bells are ringing everywhere and one cow curiously walks right up to me, smelling me and my hand. I think I have never been so close and vulnerable to a cow before but even though we were both slightly afraid of each other, I felt very close to this lovely creature. The soft nose touched my hand and the big eyes looked at me with curiosity. I think I really fell in love with cows and I’m glad that these ones here have such a wonderful live. They all were very active, running around, jumping and moo-ing loudly.
Not far and we arrive at a lake surrounded by forest. We walk around it once and then return to Seis via a different route.
This different route leads us past a restaurant and we can’t resist but follow our noses…
So after having filled our stomachs with Schnitzel and fries, Logan got stylish for his run.
Here, a photo of the 2012 sport’s outfit:
Logan actually ended up running all the way up to the Seiser Alm and back, he’s just that crazy guy from Down Under who can’t get enough!
After going for a walk in Gfrill, the town we stayed at last night, our way finally leads us into the Dolomites. Later in the afternoon we are driving up to Villanders, tonight’s camping spot. The drive to the top is rewarding us with spectacular views!
Upon arrival at the campsite we are being told that they have lost their licence but hesitantly they allow us to stay the night on their property for free. We couldn’t have been luckier: the view is magic and we enjoy the sunset from the top of a plateau looking down on the mountains. A couple of the sharp Dolomite peaks are lit up in the red sunlight.
Having done a lot of sightseeing, Logan and I want to return to the mountains and do some hiking in the picturesque Dolomite Mountains.
Once we drove past the Garda lake (lago di Garda) I look up camping sites in the Dolomites in my Bordatlas. The only free one nearby is in Gfrill. Well it is free when you have dinner in the restaurant of the “Fichtenhof” and since we feel like a good South-Tyrolean meal, we are glad to have an excuse. I have never heard of Gfrill before and upon arrival I realise why! Only about 40 people live here and it is quite hidden up high on a hill. The drive is rather exciting with our Campervan, but it is do-able.
The owner of the Fichtenhof tells us where we can park for the night and supplies us with electricity from the wooden shed. Since the temperature still drops down to zero degrees at night, I’m relieved we are able to heat!
The restaurant is furnished in typical Austrian style and everyone speaks German, even though we are still in Italy. German seems to be the main language here and after some research we find out, that the borders had been moved years ago after the war. Even the town and street names are in German, I’m feeling quite at home here!
Our meals are just delicious and while feasting we are enjoying a stunning view down the valley from the restaurant window.
I just finished my meal as suddenly I hear my name: Frau Koennecke!? I’m thinking, there’s gotta be someone else here named Koennecke, how would she know my name?? She is looking at me and says: “Telefon! Ihre Mama ist am Telefon!” …My mum is on the phone? I had just sent them a message letting them know we had safely arrived in Gfrill. How would they know that we’re sitting in the Fichtenhof?? I guess I just have smart parents.
After a nice chat to my mum, Logan and I are about to leave the restaurant to return to our Globetrotter van when one of the friendly staff is starting to talk to us, questioning especially Logan about Australia. Then the owner comes back with some photos of himself in Australia a few years ago. Very nice and welcoming people here in Gfrill!
Finally we are off to our van and after a game of chess we are falling asleep in a warm and cosy campervan.