The Bellunesi Dolomites: Of Summits and Thunderstorms

There are many things that can go wrong during an adventure. You never know what to expect, which is part of why some of us love to go out exploring. If all goes well, you had a great day. If it doesn’t, you probably have a good story to tell. Some stories, however, aren’t worth the risk you take. On a recent trip to the Bellunesi Dolomites in Italy, I ended up being in a situation, that I am not proud of. It took me a while to decide whether to publicly write about it or not. But in the end, everyone involved agreed on doing so, if only to prevent other people from doing the same mistake.

So here we go. A couple of things I have learned in the mountains:

1. Start your day early.
Or, if you don’t, shorten your tour accordingly. On the day we climbed Malga Vallazza, we had arrived in the mountains rather late and decided to turn around before we reached the actual peak.

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2. Wear purple shorts. As often as you can.
Lutz is a pro at this and looks flawless every second.

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3. Learn how to read maps.
By now, Lutz and I have gotten pretty good at interpreting dashed and dotted lines as well as altitude profiles. Sometimes we’ll look at a map for half an hour or more, to find a trail that could be rideable. And even then, there’s a good chance it’s not rideable at all.

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4. Know your companions.
Do not invite anyone to come with you, before asking them about their experience in detail. Ask them about their gear and any fears they have. If someone shows up in a sweatshirt and sneakers, does not bring a rain jacket and tells you she usually hikes in flat landscapes and is afraid of heights: Do not bring them along. For their and your own safety.

Bring along strong and strong-minded people like these:

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5. If you think you are lost, don’t continue hiking without a trail for another hour.
This seems obvious, but it’s tempting to continue upwards, when you think the trail you are looking for is just around the corner. Hint: It is probably not.

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6. Take a selfie at the peak.
Mandatory. This one is called Monte Pizzocco.

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7. Watch the weather.
Clouds at an altitude of 2000m usually don’t have any rainbows or unicorns in them. They might make everything look mysterious and give you a feeling of being on top of the world. But they are actually a sign of a thunderstorm coming up. Leave the summit immediately.

Do not climb metal crosses.

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Do not take landscape photos because they might look cool on your blog.

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Again, leave the peak immediately and don’t rest until you are amongst some bushes or trees.

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Do not continue to the second peak.

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Do not touch anything metal. If you do so anyhow and get an electric shock, leave.

If your hair stands up straight into the air, LEAVE. Those are signs, that lightning is about to strike. Seriously. Get off the mountain.

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This view: Not cool.

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Also, if you are afraid and want to leave, do so. Make your friends do so as well. Don’t try to pull off the courageous woman that fights her instincts. They are there for a reason.

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If you disregard any of the above, you might get to a point of hearing the ground below you make electric sizzles. This means your life is at danger and you should seriously get off the mountain. Do not take a video of it. Just leave.

I am serious about all of this, even if I am keeping a sense of humor here, to make you continue read this.

Only after we got down this mountain, talked about the situation and asked some experienced mountaineers about it, did we realize how extremely unintelligent our behavior was.

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And we did learn from this experience. After a day of rain, sitting in the hut and talking about our poor choices, we decided to hike up to Forcella di Valon.

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The air felt warm and it was sunny.

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We cautiously crossed some snow fields that were still there from the winter.

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Soon, we realized we would not be able to ride down the top part of the trail.

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So we left our unicycles at a save spot and continued upwards.

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At the top, Yannick looked like he could defeat a T. Rex with his bare hands.

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And I realized I never stood at a more exposed spot before and couldn’t stop mentioning it to the others.

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Who didn’t really care.

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We then realized that big clouds were slowly coming closer. We had learned our lesson from the last days and all agreed to go back down to the valley immediately.

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Once we had picked up our unicycles, riding was the fastest option.

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Just when we reached the trees, it started hailing. Like crazy. We took it as another proof that there will never be perfect conditions, didn’t let the hail count as an excuse to perform poorly and learned how to ride in the hail.

In the end, we were soaking wet, but still in a jolly mood.

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We surely learned our lesson during this trip. There were moments, when we realized we are lucky to be alive and tell this story. If we’ll every be in a situation like this again, we’ll know what to do (GET OFF THE MOUNTAIN!). We wildly discussed whether to post this or not. And we decided to do so, because it might save a life. Stay save, guys.

3 thoughts on “The Bellunesi Dolomites: Of Summits and Thunderstorms”

  1. I can recommend to read a book by Pit Schubert: Sicherheit und Risiko in Fels und Eis. It’s composed from real stories and you can find there what is a safe behaviour in dangerous situations 😉 Be save and enjoy your trips!

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