On an early summer morning, we are driving along the Isarco Valley road, which connects Bolzano and Brixen, and in our minds the choice between two destinations is developing. The day is promising, we set off very early, the sun is shining in the sky. A few clouds only hint at a harmless change of course, that may materialise in the course of the day. We are thus torn between two destinations in the Dolomites, still undecided as to where to put down our trekking poles.
The urge to put one foot in front of the other along a path that crosses scree and rocky landscapes is great, and it is fuelled week by week by the various excursions that follow one another. It is a moment, an instant in which our mind makes a decision almost unconsciously, the hand inserts the arrow, and the car mechanically turns towards the entrance of Val Gardena, thus finding us climbing towards the Dolomite passes.
We reach Passo Sella, where starts a path that we find unusually isolated and unfrequented. It may be the time of day, it may be the early season: in any case, the intuition turns out to be right, and climbing up in silence the path that zig-zags across the scree at the foot of the Dolomites walls is something thrilling. The pale rocks dot the green meadows, at that altitude where every step is marked by renewed wonder.
The climb is steep, the mind flies, our gaze always fixed upwards towards the pass to be reached, while behind us the Dolomites of the Sella group and Marmolada peep through the clouds. Forcella Sassolungo awaits us at the end of this ascent, in a rocky saddle guarded by Rifugio Toni Demetz. A few residual late spring snowfields serve as an introduction to what now awaits us, the most sensational section of this itinerary.
We are at the mouth of a gorge that winds its way between dolomite walls, always jagged, broken up by sharp towers, pinnacles and finally scree at their end. A scenario that is repeated in our hikes, but which always has the power to amaze us each time.
The descent from the fork is steep, the path is rocky, and in some places we find a metal safety cord: however, the route is never characterised by excessively exposed sections. In any case, the use of trekking poles proves to be of fundamental importance at this juncture: since the descent has several rocky steps from which to descend, it is advisable to use poles to take the weight off our joints. In the final stretch we cross, a last, still fairly extensive snowfield, before turning our gaze to our backs.
We find ourselves in the Dantersasc valley, in the middle of a wide debris clearing, where the sharp points of the Cinque Dita rock formation loom in the centre of this immense amphitheatre.
The Rifugio Vicenza is located at the end of this descent, nestled between the wonderful peaks and spurs of Sassolungo and Sassopiatto. From here onwards, we leave the rocky valley and head back to the altitude where the path stands at the edge of the vegetation, keeping to the side of scenic rock faces.
There is no shortage of vantage points in this section either, with the view opening up towards the Puez-Odle Dolomites group. Rifugio Comici awaits us as the last stage of the loop, where we detour for a short additional ascent to the Piz Sella to enjoy a solitary stop for our packed lunch.
The final return to Piz Sella thus takes us back in our minds to what we have just experienced, with the walls of the Sassolungo still at our side, and our continued immersion in awe of nature, in a Dolomites experience to be repeated again and again.