Via Ferrata In The Dolomites

by Zach & Kaitlan Bostock

Via Ferrata In The Dolomites

Jet-setting off from Brisbane, Australia, Zach and Kaitlan have made it their mission to find unique corners of the world. Heading to Europe there was no way they were coming home before seeing the Dolomites and exploring all it has to offer. They thought the best way to explore the alps would be to grab a car and drive around Austria, Switzerland and the Dolomites camping along the way. So they packed a Geo 3P tent and put it through the paces camping in the cold, heat and storms. The mountains in this area are spectacular and getting to experience them on a closer level is something we can only dream of in Australia - watch their video below and read on for their detailed account of this scenic place.


When the 'mountains are calling' there is one place that sure stands out to any outdoorsman, the Dolomites... Situated in north Italy they are an impressive mountain range made up of dolomitic limestone. This gives the Dolomites their pale colour that they are well known for and it also causes an alpenglow, creating soft shadows and a red glow off the rock. The impressive mountain ranges are characterised as sharp, jagged and steep. So naturally with much to explore in the area this was a non-negotiable stop for us while in Europe.

Not only are the Dolomites famous for many walks, snow fields and cycling, but they're also known to climbers and especially those daring to tackle some Via Ferrata's. Via Ferrata translates to 'Iron Path' in English. They date back to the nineteenth century however they are associated most with World War 1. These routes were constructed in the Dolomites to help move soldiers and supplies. They are a route up a mountain that is assisted by fixed cables, rungs and ladders. These routes are now used daily by people from all over the world. Some newer routes even include zip lines and tight ropes. The routes are rated for their difficulty from easy to hard, giving people with all experience levels an opportunity to try it out.


Via Ferrata - Michielli Strobel (Stobel)

I (Zach) have always enjoyed rock climbing, but it's been a little while since I last did it, so there was no better time to dust off my skills as there was no way I wouldn't be summiting at least one Via Ferrata on our trip. The weather unfortunately wasn't favourable to us while in the mountains, but one Sunday morning the rain held off and the clouds opened up for a few hours making it the perfect ascent opportunity.

So for my first Via Ferrata I chose to do a route called Michielli Strobel, with the summit called Punta Fiames. It's classified as an intermediate level, classic style and is a very popular route just outside the town centre of Cortina D'Ampezzo where we had set up camp for a couple of nights. For those with climbing experience under their belt this is a great place for your first route and after some research, I felt that it was well within my abilities.

View from our campsite of the Via Ferrata mountain
Arial shot of the intermediate Michielli Strobel route

View from our campsite of the mountain I was about to climb (left), and arial shot of the route (right). (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

Location: Cortina D'Ampezzo

Distance: 8km round trip

Time: 4-6 hours

Difficulty: Intermediate level, classic style.

Equipment: Harness, a ferrata set, helmet, gloves (optional, to protect your hands while handling the metal cables and ladders).

Climbing Strobel

As we were backpacking around Europe, I did not have any spare room in my bag to bring any of my climbing gear, so renting was the next best option. There are plenty of places in town and around the Alps to hire Via Ferrata gear, however I chose to hire from a shop 100m from the start of the route. It was €18 (about $30 AUD) and there was a car park out the front where the car could be left for the day. In order to do a Via Ferrata you need to make sure that you have the correct equipment. This includes a quality harness, Via Ferrata Set and helmet.

This route is approximately 10km return and can take anywhere between 4 to 6 hours. It can get quite busy with multiple groups ascending each day so sometimes there may be some mountain traffic on route. It took me about five hours with plenty of stops for photos, water and some snacks. The Strobel route starts along a main road that leads into Cortina D'Ampezzo, opposite the Hotel Fiames. There is a sign directing you to 'Ferrata Strobel'. From here you'll hike to the start of the Via Ferrata and climb over 1000m of elevation.

Main road towards Fiames Hotel opposite the trail head
Sign mounted on tree trunks pointing to ‘Ferrata Strobel’

Walking towards Fiames Hotel opposite the trail head (left), and sign pointing to 'Ferrata Strobel' (right). (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

The Ascent

Leaving my car at the gear hire place, I walked north along the road for approximately 100 metres. This is where I found the sign pointing up a trail labelled 'Ferrata Strobel'. The track starts through a wooded forest gradually climbing and crossing a fire road before popping out above the tree line. From here the approach gets steeper, winding up a rocky scree slope. Being a popular route, there were quite a number of other groups doing this route too.

View between the trees from the Ferrata Strobel trail

View from the trail as I came out of the trees. (Image courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

As it was quite busy, safety came first so I popped my helmet on while walking up the approach in case any loose rocks from the above climbers fell down. After slowly making my way up, breaking a sweat and having a few breathers I made it to the start of the climb, marked with a plaque. This is where I put on my harness and was ready for action.

Zach Bostock selfie on the trail
Zach Bostock wearing a blue helmet in case of loose rocks

Sweating it out as I head up there (left), and helmet on in case of loose rocks (right). (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

Once you pass the plaque and make your way up some rocks you reach the first cable where I clipped my Via Ferrata set carabiners onto the cable. When clipping onto the cable you want to make sure that each carabiner is clipped in the opposite way from each other for extra safety. As you move along the cable you'll reach the cable fixing rods, your carabiners won't pass through this so you will need to unclip one of the carabiners and reclip it onto the cable on the other side of the fixing rod then repeat with the second carabiner, making sure they still maintain their opposite clip position. This way you are always attached to the cable and secured to the rock. Note that there are some sections where the cable ends and you will need to detach completely - this will only happen when it is safe to do so.

Plaque at the start of the Via Ferrata
Close up of clipping Via Ferrata set carabiners onto the wire

Plaque at the start of the Via Ferrata (left), and clipping onto the wire, making sure the carabiner gates are opposing (right). (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

While the climbing is not overly technical with plenty of holds for your hands and feet, it was perfect for my first Via Ferrata and gave me a good sense of adventure while getting to experience the Dolomites closely. The views were magnificent, looking out over the town of Cortina D'Ampezzo and the surrounding mountain peaks. As always nature can change like the flick of a light switch. As it had been raining through the night and there was rain scheduled again for the next day I was prepared for anything (just in case). I could see the clouds darkening and some rain brewing over the opposite peak and through the valley and town. This was nerve-racking while ascending as you don't want to be on the cable climbing a mountain in the rain let alone a storm as both the wire and rock can get quite slippery when wet.

Zach cable climbing up the ascent
View back down on the cable climb

Moving along while clipped in (left), and the view back down (right). (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

Wide fisheye shot of Zach Bostock cable climbing up the ascent
Wide fisheye shot of Zach Bostock cable climbing up the ascent

Climbing up (left), and on the edge (right). (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

Zack Bostock walking on the trail
Zack Bostock on a rock ledge 3/4 of the way to the summit

Onwards and upwards (left), and exploring a rock ledge 3/4 of the way to the summit (right). (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

After many great views, cliff ledges and scrambling sections I came to the last stretch before the summit. At this point it started to rain, thankfully I had packed my Stratus Rain Jacket which I pulled out momentarily before realising the rain had stopped, thankfully. After pushing up through a bit of a slab and some scree I reached the top, known as Punta Fiames. What a view! It looked over the town, out to other mountains and I could even see our campground in the distance. The summit has a little cross, and a metal box to log your name in. Looking around you just see more and more jagged mountain peaks, you truly feel that you're in the mountains. At one point as the rain rolled away, white clouds rose up around the summit, making the landscape feel more mysterious before a complete white out for a couple of minutes before the cloud rose up further and I could see my way down the mountain.

Wide fisheye shot of Zach Bostock on steel ladders to the summit
Wide fisheye shot of Zach Bostock on steel ladders to the summit
View back down from the steel ladders
Zach Bostock selfie on steel ladders to the summit

Steel ladders to the summit. (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

Zack Bostock thumbs up at the summit

Thumbs-up at the summit. (Image courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

Arial shot of the summit and view of Cortina De’Ampezo below

Arial shot of the summit and view of Cortina De'Ampezo below. (Image courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

The Descent

From the top, I followed the track down the back of the mountain. There was one last cable to clip into along the way before arriving at a saddle with a sign pointing to 'Cortina, Fiames 202' leading me down a massive and steep scree valley. This is where it got a bit wild. Following pre-existing lines, the rocks rolled under my feet with each step making it feel like I was surfing down the mountain. Eventually, I got to the bottom and finally emptied my shoes of rocks. At the bottom of the valley, there were more signs to Fiames, so I knew I was still on route. There are many trails from here and from my research I read that if you head down any of them you will eventually make your way back to the fire road, so I followed my nose and headed down the hill on one of the trails. And what do you know, I popped out on the fire road that I started on and from there I was able to navigate my way back to the wooded trail and then back to the gear hire place and my car.

The descent trail down the steep scree valley
Signs back to Fiames

The descent trail (left), and the signs back to Fiames (right). (Images courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

The scree valley down to the bottom

The scree valley down to the bottom. (Image courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

What I Took with Me

What We Were Wearing

Notable Gear

The standout item for me was the Mountain Designs Mission Multi Shorts. They were lightweight, nice and stretchy and flexible for climbing. The perfect short! Even in the light rain they dry quickly. I have been wearing earlier versions of these shorts for years now, and they have always been great for every type of adventure. From climbing adventures and hiking to mountain biking and trail running, these shorts do it all!

One of the top features is the fact that the pockets have zips. This means that I can pop the essentials in there like my phone and keys and be confident that they aren't going to fall out while climbing the cliff. The thigh pocket is also super useful as the side pockets aren't the most user-friendly when wearing a harness. This is where I usually keep my phone so I can have quick access to take a ripper shot, check maps or let the wife know I'm ok.

One other feature that I like is the lightweight and low-profile belt that's included. It helps to keep my shorts up especially with the harness on.

Close up of Mountain Designs Mission Multi shorts

The reliable Mission Multi shorts. (Image courtesy of Zach & Kaitlan Bostock)

Last Word On The Dolomites

You could spend weeks in the Dolomites exploring and not even touch the surface of what's to see. There are plenty more Via Ferrata climbs to explore but I'm going to have to save them for another trip when the weather is better. Some other areas that we did get to see were Seceda Ridge, Tre Chime and Lake di Braies and these were well worth the visit and of course in true Zach and Kaitlan fashion ended in rain also. If you're thinking of heading to the Dolomites stop thinking and run. You're going to love it!

Video & Photo Credits

All video and imagery supplied by Zach & Kaitlan Bostock




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