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Forcia Neigra

20020728a sasbianch.jpg (159831 bytes) 20020728b sasbianch.jpg (145723 bytes) 20020728c sasbianch.jpg (169497 bytes) 20020728d plant.jpg (145322 bytes)
Sas Brianch de Rosea ridge approaching Sas de Roces Looking back from half way along the ridge And along the ridge again Another alpine plant
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Marmolada looking almost benign The col at Forcia Negra Forcia Negra - the path goes between the pinnacle and the hill Wild horses near the San Nicolo pass
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Looking down the Contrin valley with Sassolungo on the skyline The base of the Contrin valley

This was my treat day. Beryl went off on the guided walk but said that if I wanted to go off on my own she didnít mind. What a woman she is. I jumped at this. The immediate thought was to go back up Piz Boe but, whilst I was a lot better, the cold hadnít cleared properly and I was still having a bit of a breathing problem. The booklet had one walk, Forcia Neigra, that has a section rated at 3 scary faces so I plumped for that.

This meant catching the bus to the Ciampec ski lift, the one weíd used to descend into Alba on our first walk. The description said get off after the first stage and climb out of the skiing area. However Iíd seen a way of going to the top of the second lift and then taking a traversing path. This lift was interesting. I spotted marmots but no sign of this traverse. What to do?

Well the first thing was to climb up beyond the skilift station. This was a continuation of the Sas de Adam ridge and Iíd been disappointed that we didnít do it on that walk so I wanted to put that right. At the top I got the map out. I realised then that this ridge went around the opposite side of Croda Negra to the Forcia Neigra path and would link up with it so I could do the rest of that walk. Also looking at both the map and the path ahead it promised to be an interesting route. The ridge was very narrow, it had plenty of up and down and there were rocky bits. My courage wavered for a moment but there were other people on the ridge including an elderly Italian couple. This gave me the confidence to go on.

A word about elderly Italian couples. You see them all over in the Dolomites. Your first reaction is that they are out for a quiet pootle. Then you realise that there isnít a car park (or even a skilift) just around the corner so they must have walked some way to the spot. Theyíve got all the gear too; perhaps not the latest high-tech version and they will undoubtedly have a proper wooden walking stick but respectable gear. I was full of admiration for them.

The ridge was a good bold walk - it reminded a bit of the Devilís Ridge in the Mamores Ė and it provided exhilerating walking. The character changed as it reached the main bulk of Croda Negra and it then clung to the side of the hill and worked its way around it. At this stage I was following a group of four people with a mountain guide. It seemed a good plan to stay just behind them. This was rewarded because the guide kept spotting marmots that I would probably have missed. There were lots of coughs round here. The path provided assistance in places in the form of metal ropes pegged into the hillside to give you confidence in narrow places and also to help you get over a couple of rocky spots. A lovely bit of walking (although hardly the real Via Ferrata of the Dolomites) and, as is the way of these things, it seemed to be over all too quickly.

The path emerged at the head of Ciamp de Mez. This was more meadow-like in appearance but there was still a steep drop down into the San Nicolo valley. The path was actually marked as being to the San Nicolo Pass. It was half way across the meadow that the Forcia Neigra path came in. Bright idea for the day: I could walk back up to the Forcia Neigra and have a look at the three scary faces bit. These involved a trudge up a fairly mucky path climbing three to four hundred feet. Forcia Neigra is actually a rock pillar just off the main hill and the path goes between the two. I had a rest and a drink by the pillar and I noticed that people coming the other way seemed to be feeling a sense of triumph as they completed the climb into the gap so I decided to investigate. This meant climbing down the three scary faces bit. This was too bad; there were cables all the way and a couple of sections would have been very difficult without them. There were also three pegs banged into the rock to form a bit of a ladder but you just climb down those, donít you.

Having got to the bottom there was another climb up to the true col, which I did. This looked down on the skilifts and the ridge Iíd done earlier.

Back the way Iíd come Ė much easier going up the metalwork Ė and on over another ridge to the refuge at the head of the pass where I had a rest.

Then the long but largely pleasant descent into the Contrin Valley. There was a group of wild horses near the top and I paused to photograph them. As I set of again they came charging down the path after me and I had to move a bit sharpish to get out of the way. They donít frighten as easily as cows.   

The Contrin valley runs down one side of Marmolada and I had wonderful views of it. However it is a long way back in hot sun. I was glad to find one of the many water fountains hereabouts as I had run out of water. Just before the valley dropped steeply into the Val di Fassa my route departed my paths that descended soemwhat more gently to Alba from where I followed the valley bottom path that we used the previous Sunday which went all the way to Campitello


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