Once again, the sun shining through my window woke me up early in the morning. Before breakfast, I sat down on a bench just outside the rifugio and took in the views. The clouds were hanging low and some of the peaks around were hidden in them. When I headed off, the first part of the way was a steady descent. On the way, I had to cross a few trees that had fallen across the path, a tiny stream and a little mountain road, before reaching the main road.
From then on, I steadily ascended again through forest. It seemed that in winter many trees had fallen down, as I was repeatedly climbing over tree trunks. A lot sooner than expected, the path became even and then met a gravel road, that led to the Rifugio Dibona a few hundred metres further along. I had only put my stuff into the room for the night and sat down on the sun deck, when James arrived. His knee was fine again and we wanted to enjoy our last day up in the mountains together. We had planned to climb a via ferrata, a protected climbing route with installed steel cables. Unfortunately the route we originally had intended to do was closed due to rockfall. Luckily, the staff at the rifugio recommended a rather new route close by, the Via Ferrata Maria e Andrea Ferrari – Ra Bujela.
Soon after James had arrived, we put on our gear and started to hike up a narrow path covered with scree. Slowly we zig-zagged up to another closed rifugio, before taking a wide gravel road. This led us down to the start of our via ferrata. For a few minutes, we rested in the shade of some rocks and double-checked all our gear. We made sure our harnesses were tight, the via ferrata rope attached to it correctly and the helmets not moving around on our heads.
We put on protective gloves, walked to the start of the route and hooked ourselves onto the steel cable. The via ferrata began with a steep climb straight upwards with the aid of the steel cable and some pegs. At first, I was a bit scared of the height. I had been bouldering indoors plenty of times, but it was different to constantly go upwards and have these wide views around. When I broke down what I was doing, I realized it wasn’t scary at all. The climb was a lot less technically challenging than what I had done before. I was secured with a double rope clipped to a steel cable. The views had nothing to do with the difficulty. As soon as I realized these things, I was a lot less anxious and started to fully enjoy the climb and the views.
After a while we got to a wooden bridge. It was the first flat bit of the via ferrata so far and I looked around. I could see miles and miles into the distance, one peak after the other. The accomplishment of having climbed a steep rock face made the views so much more rewarding. After the bridge the climb got a bit easier, until we reached a second wooden bridge connecting two parts of the rock formation we were on. From then on, we basically walked along the ridge line of the rocks. I thoroughly enjoyed the adrenaline rushing through my veins. This was the most amazing thing I have ever done so far.
When the descent started, I hit one more spot that was making me a little insecure. After that spot, it was easy to get down to the end of the steel cable. From there on, it was just a short stretch uphill to the finishing point. We took the same route back to the Rifugio Dibona that we had taken to get to the via ferrata. On the way down, we heard some rocks falling down in the area where we originally wanted to hike. Lucky we checked with the rifugio staff first and took their advice!
After a refreshing shower, we treated ourselves to apple strudel, Sachertorte and wheat beer. While enjoying the views on the sun deck of the rifugio, we had some catching up to do from the days I had spent alone in the mountains. The via ferrata had definitely been the highlight of the trip and we were hooked. We will definitely be doing more of those! Our last day in the mountains was rounded off with another delicious three course meal, before we got some much needed sleep.