After a night of sleeping like stones, we woke up feeling refreshed in the morning. The sky was clear and the sun shining already. After a good breakfast, James and I took the time to slowly wander around a little and take in the views we had neglected when we had arrived utterly tired and exhausted the evening before.
After picking up our backpacks at Rifugio Vallandro again, we headed off for our hike of the day. On a wide, sandy path with a very moderate incline, we headed up to the Strudelsattel mountain saddle. On the way, we enjoyed some great views of surrounding mountains. Once we were up the mountain saddle, we could see the Strudelkopf peak. Since our planned route for the day was rather short, we decided to take the time and head up to the peak. It was only a walk of 20 more minutes with no serious ascent, and we reached the summit cross on the Strudelkopf peak.
It was a clear day, and the views of the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the Cristallo group and other mountains was spectacular. No matter to which side we turned, there was something breathtakingly beautiful to see. We explored every angle and just sat down in the grass, enjoying the sun. The tranquility of the moment almost made us forget how hard the previous day had been.
Taking the route we had come up, we made our way back down to the mountain saddle, before taking a turn and descending even further into the valley of Helltal. We had been walking downhill for quite a while, when we passed a small stream. After that, the path became rather even, leading around a steep rock face. With a 90° drop right where the narrow path ended on the left-hand side, the steel cable installed on the rock was actually very nice to hold on to. We also passed some wooden stairs leading to a little tunnel through the rock. This was a welcome break from the sun and concentration needed on the narrow path.
Shortly after the section equipped with steel cable had ended, the descent began once again. As we declined, we constantly zig-zagged through woodland along steep slopes. With the weight on our backs and the constant impact of descending, we really felt the strain put on our knees. All the way down, a variety of ants, bees and butterflies accompanied our hike.
We had started to think that the descent would never stop, when the path finally got a lot less steep in its decline. It was still quite a way down into the valley though. Along the way, we passed many bunkers built into the mountain, giving evidence of the role that South Tyrol had played during World War I.
As we slowly walked along a little river down in the valley, we could already see our hotel for the night. Unfortunately, it was on the other side of the river and the crossing was a few hundred metres away. With our knees tired, we sighingly sat down one last time on a bench. We made a final push, crossed the river and looped back to the Hotel Dreizinnenblick.
The rest for our knees was more than welcome. After a long bath, we took the time to re-evaluate our planned route for the rest of the holiday. Having seen the conditions on some paths in higher altitudes, we didn’t think it was a good idea to take even higher and more alpine paths that were marked as more difficult on the map. Instead, we looked out an alternative route on less challenging paths. We didn’t feel the need to put ourselves into a foreseeable danger. It was too early in the season for the most alpine paths without appropriate mountaineering equipment.
Once again, we finished another day of spectacular views with a delicious three course meal and some Italian wine. As we went to bed, we saw more stars in the sky above the mountains than we could ever see in the city.