After the week and a half of racing I headed out with my cousin Graham Ereaux, who is also on the orienteering team, to do a backpacking trip in the famous Dolomites mountain range. We had 10 days before we flew home so we through-hiked the Alta Via 3 (about 100km). On the fourth day of our hike we had a short day finishing at a Rifugio (small hotels owned by the Italian Alpine club) which was located at the base of the massive Mt. Pelmo, which at 3169m (10,397 feet) is one of the highest peaks in the region. We had plenty of time left in the day and thought it might be a nice day hike.
We dropped our big packs off at the Rifugio and headed up to hike the mountain. According to the legend on the map, the route was for experienced hikers, a category which my cousin and I both definitely fall into. On the map it also appeared that the first past of the hike traversed an almost sheer cliff so we were a little scared that the trail could be sketchy and very exposed.
We sat down for a bit on the trail and ate some lunch while we weighed our options. We both saw that he wouldn’t be able to do it, but I couldn’t imagine missing a chance like this to climb an amazing mountain. We ended up deciding to split up - I would finish the mountain alone and he would go for a hike on a different nearby trail. He wished me luck and we headed off on our separate journeys.
The first parts after I left him were the sketchiest, and even though I had no trouble and felt very confident in my abilities, I still couldn’t help thinking I was being a little reckless heading up a huge mountain by myself. From then on though I just put those thoughts out of my head and focused on getting up and down safely.
After the cliff traverse the “trail” (more like scattered markers that you found your own way between) headed up a gully and then on to a fairly steep scree slope where it switchbacked up a long ways. After the scree slope the trail came to a section that was almost like steps, except they were cliffs, about head-height. You had to go back and forth and pick your own way up but it was pretty cool. I came over the top of this and headed into the bowl which I was a little surprised to see covered in snow.
I had a quick snack on the top and took some pictures, then headed back down quickly as I didn’t want more clouds to blow in as I descended. I got back to the bottom of the summit ridge and then ran and glissaded down the snow patches for a while (if you haven’t skied down snow patches in hiking boots, you should, it’s so much fun). On the rest of the descent I was very careful with my footing as I read in a book that most mountain accidents happen on the way down because people relax after summiting.
Right before I started on the sketchy cliff traverse I decided to have a snack to help me focus and stay safe. I whipped out my last trusty CLIF Shot and downed it, then began my slow traverse. I arrived safely back at the Rifugio sometime later and, though tired, I very happy and proud of my accomplishment. The next day as we hiked away, every time I looked back at the mountain I still couldn’t believe I had climbed it... by myself!