The Dolomites are birthplace of the via ferrata and Cortina D'Ampezzo is the adventure capital of the Dolomites. If you extrapolate these two statements, you could reach the conclusion that Cortina is an awesome place for via ferratas, if you did so you would be 100% correct!!!
There are numerous via ferrata here all with varying lengths and difficulties. From the toughest Punta Anna, to the shortest Ra Bujela, coincidentally both of which start at the same location
If you haven't done a via ferrata before or would like to learn more, then consider reading my beginners guide to via ferratas (coming soon).
The routes in this article are in difficulty ascending order, starting with the easiest and ending with the toughest.
I have done most of them myself and I've provided links to separate articles where you will find more detailed descriptions of the routes.
Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Via Ferratas Around Cortina D'Ampezzo In The Italian Dolomites
Beginner Via Ferratas Around Cortina D'Ampezzo
Before I tell you which via ferratas around Cortina are great for beginners I would like to touch shortly on the topic of what a beginner via ferrata really entails?
A beginner via ferrata is a scramble that can be done without any prior experience. However, steady feet and a head for heights is a must! The cable protected section on a beginner route is usually very short (100 meters or less). Many people often don't even bother taking ferrata equipment on this type of route.
Not taking equipment is something I am strongly against! Do not underestimate the exposure you will encounter. Even though the steep sections on the beginner routes are short, it only takes a few seconds for a tragedy to happen.
Fatalities often happen on the easiest of routes (there are plenty of memorial plaques to prove it) and remember if you come unprepared and get into trouble, your insurance might not cover the cost of a possible mountain rescue if you didn't have the right equipment. Not to mention someone also might have to risk their live to save yours.
I have written an article about the ins and outs of via ferrata climbing in the Italian Dolomites which covers all the necessary information to tackle your first route!
1. Via Ferrata Ra Gusela
Technically quite simple yet one of the most rewarding iron paths you can find around Cortina.
Via ferrata Ra Gusela starts at Passo Giau and summits mount Ra Gusela, the most prominent mountain seen from the pass.
It then traverses across to rifugio Nuvolau, one of the oldest and in my opinion most photogenic huts in the Dolomites, before descending to forcella Nuvolau.
This ferrata can be connected with via ferrata Averau (number 3 on the list) making for a great day in the mountains!
2. Via Ferrata Scala Del Meninghel
Via ferrata Scala Del Meninghel circumnavigates Tofana di Rozes, one of the distinct 3000m+ peaks surrounding Cortina. It starts and finishes at rifugio Dibona, ca. 20 minute drive from the town's centre.
It's a long day (roughly 6 hours) and although it only includes a very short 10 minute section of stemples, there is no shortage of great views along the way. A great and lesser known route that will help you avoid the bulk of the summer crowds.
One of the highlights of this ferrata is the view from forcella (saddle) Fortananegra towards the jagged peaks of Croda da Lago. Make sure to grab a beer at the rustic rifugio Giusanni (built right on the saddle), to celebrate a great day in the mountains!
3. Via Ferrata Lamon and Formenton
This climb takes you to the dizzying height of 3244m atop Tofana di Mezzo.
The route starts at the mid-upper gondola station on eastern side of Tofana which is accessible by either the cable car or by an approach via a via ferrata called Guiseppe Oliveri. The latter option will significantly extend your day though!
The route heads over the Tofana plateau before an uphill burst gets you to the Bivuoac Barraca Degli Alpini.
From there you'll follow a ridgeline southward to the summit of Tofana di Dentro before heading over to the higher summit of Tofana di Mezzo. Jaw dropping vistas are guaranteed.
This ferrata still remains high on my to do lists. Both times when I tried to squeeze it into my busy schedule whilst doing research for my Italian Dolomites Guide, bad weather stood in the way. Because of the exposure you want to ensure you choose a perfect day for it!
4. Via Ferrata Averau
Via Ferrata Averau is approached from either Passo Falzarego or Passo Giau and it's one of the most rewarding iron paths in the immediate vicinity of Cortina. It's the combination of length, difficulty and views that make it so special.
The fairly straightforward route offers amazing views of rifugio Nuvalou, Monte Pelmo and the jagged Croda da Lago.
Make sure to jump to my other article, where I posted loads of photographs from a sunset shoot on the summit of Mount Averau, the climax of this via ferrata.
Intermediate Via Ferratas Around Cortina D'Ampezzo
You may first wonder how an intermediate via ferrata differs to the beginner one. The cable time significantly extends on the intermediate routes often stretching for dozens of meters at a time with potentially several hundred metres of total wire length.
You can also find that exposure in some places along the intermediate routes becomes more serious, with some sections stretching directly above steep cliffs.
With that said, there are always great footholds and excellent protection on these routes, so as long as you use your equipment properly you will be safe.
1. Via Ferrata Ra Bujela
A quick experienced climber, who uses the luxury of the nearby chairlift, can do this route in less than an hour. But why would they want to?
Lounging around at either rifugio Pomedes afterward or rifugio Duca d'Aosta beforehand, having your photo taken on the two suspension bridges along the way or enjoying a cereal bar at the summit will drastically add on time. Especially if you plan on hiking up instead of taking the chairlift.
The route on via ferrata Ra Bujela is of a decent grade but it's impeccably thought out and positioned. The trailhead is only about a 10 minute drive from the centre of Cortina.
2. Via Ferrata Ivano Dibona
The first of the via ferratas in this list that I truly consider to be of intermediate difficulty. Via Ferrata Dibona was made famous by the 1993 thriller Cliffhanger starring Sylvester Stallone.
Even though it got a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, the famous suspension bridge used in the production actually exists and it's on this via ferrata!!!
At roughly 8-10 hours long, it's not an easy day out, but it does offer a fantastic combination of rewarding climbing, awesome views and heaps of WW1 history.
3. Via Ferrata Michielli Strobel
The trailhead of the via ferrata Michielli Strobel is only around 5 minutes drive outside of Cortina. The route heads up the western side of the Pomagagnon range to Punta Fiames.
The climbing is very enjoyable and the splendour of the views keeps increasing the higher you get. Including an awesome panoramic view of Cortina D'Ampezzo.
At regular intervals throughout the climb, there are rocky outcrops, perfect for admiring the township far below.
4. Via Ferrata Marino Bianchi
Starting with the same tiring scree gully up to forcella Staunies, where the previously mentioned via ferrata Ivano Dibona begins, via ferrata Marino Bianchi heads up to the summit of Cristallo di Mezzo.
Prepare for lots of jaw dropping views over to Lago di Landro, Monte Sorapiss and Tre Cime along with some heart stopping exposed sections.
This ferrata is one of my personal favourites thanks to the combination of the views, difficulty and remoteness.
5. Via Ferrata Alfonso Vandelli
The intermediate via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli starts with the hike to the famous Lake Sorapiss.
It's also a part of the complete Sorapiss circuit, known as the Giro Del Sorapiss in Italian. The ferrata can however be done on its own, taking the same way up and down.
This route offers a great choice to view the turquoise Sorapiss lake from a completely different vantage point, whilst being attached to the rocky cliffs, hundreds metres above the lake.
You will also get amazing views of Monte Cristallo, where the previously mentioned via ferrata Marino Bianchi runs.
6. Via Ferrata Degli Alpini Al Col Dei Bos
This is a popular choice for guided tours leaving from Cortina D'Ampezzo. If you would like to have a go at a via ferrata accompanied by an experienced guide, chances are you'll be offered the opportunity to tackle via ferrata Degli Alpini Al Col Dei Bos.
There is plenty of history behind this route which is why its chosen for tour groups. It starts near Passo Falzarego, a very strategic point during the World War I at the start of the 20th century.
Famous peaks such as Antelao and Marmolada, two of the highest mountains in the Dolomites, can be seen along this ferrata.
What's also great about it is the short approach, within half hour from the carpark you'll already find yourself attached to a cable, scrambling towards the summit.
Advanced Via Ferratas Around Cortina D'Ampezzo
Below you can find the toughest of the routes which you can find around Cortina D'Ampezzo.
With long exposed sections, some unprotected scrambling and vertical cliff drops. Expect full day outings and lots of adrenaline spikes in your body on any of these routes.
If you have never done a via ferrata and come with zero experience, then first aim at the beginner and intermediate ones before raising the bar to this level.
So far I have only done one of the three advanced via ferratas on this list but I am definitely returning to tackle the other two.
1. Via Ferrata Giovanni Lipella
The first advanced via ferrata on this list, via ferrata Giovanni Lipella, like via ferrata Scala Del Meninghel circumnavigates Tofana di Rozes.
Instead of staying in the shallower valleys however, this ferrata tackles the steep western slopes of this 3000m+ peak.
Again it's a long day, but the combination of subterranean tunnels, steep rock amphitheatres and the allure of the Tofana di Rozes summit, keep it continually exciting and moreish.
2. Via Ferrata Cesco Tomaselli
Via Ferrata Cesco Tomaselli starts at rifugio Lagazoui, it's accessible by either cable car from Passo Falzarego, around 25 minute drive from the centre of Cortina, or a hike via the Lagazuoi Tunnels.
The main objective of the route is Cima Fanis Sud (pictured above left) at just under 3000m. It's a tough ascent, on a Fletcher/Smith via ferrata rating of 5C, the hardest, most serious of all routes.
Both physically and mentally demanding, this route epitomises an introduction to serious mountaineering in the Dolomites.
3. Via Ferrata Punta Ana
Another via ferrata on this list with a Smith/Fletcher grade of 5C. Via Ferrata Punta Anna closes this list as the toughest one, mainly due to its length. It will take an entire day of scrambling with extreme exposure in places, so make sure you get an early start and come with plenty of experience.
I personally haven't built up the courage yet for this ferrata, but It's my objective for my next visit to the area! Just thinking about it raises my blood pressure.
The route up, which starts at Rifugio Pomedes (reached via the two-tiered chairlift from restaurant Piè Tofana), heads steeply up to Punta Anna and then further to the summit of Tofana di Mezzo.
To descend you can either take the famous Frecia nel Cielo (arrow in the sky) cable car down to Col Drusciè then walk over to Ristorante Piè Tofana, or head westward to rifugio Guissani and then rifugio Dibona.
You can also kill two birds with one stone and connect the via ferrata Punta Anna with the previously mentioned via ferratas Lamon and Formenton for a roughly 10-12 hour outing.
Accommodation Around Cortina D'Ampezzo
With so many option to choose from Cortina should definitely be one of your longer stop during your road trip around the Dolomites. Below you will find some of my personal recommendations for hotels in Cortina.
These are affiliate links which means I receive a small commission when you book something using them. If you found this article useful please consider supporting my website!
Shop My Via Ferrata Gear
To protect your head from any potential rockfall set off by climbing groups above you, or any other head injuries.
Aim for a lightweight harness, which will be comfy to wear between the cable protected sections when you are hiking.
When you haul yourself on a cable for half a day your hands will quickly become blistered. My recommendation is to go for full fingered gloves.
Developed specifically for via ferrata scrambling, the lanyard provides shock absorption in case of a fall.
If you have any questions about these via ferratas, check the individual articles I have linked to above. However you are always welcomed to post your questions in the comments below.
If you need help planning your holidays in the Italian Dolomites visit my personal guide, where you will find tons of recommendations on where to photograph, hike or scramble.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am Marta Kulesza - the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.