Via delle Bocchette (Alfredo Benini + Alte + Centrali)

Published by Stijn , 6 August 2017, 19h35.

Region: World » Italy » Trentino-South Tirol
Date of the hike:30 July 2017
Hiking grading: T4 - High-level Alpine hike
Mountaineering grading: F
Via ferrata grading: AD
Geo-Tags: I 
Time: 3 days
Height gain: 1800 m 5904 ft.
Height loss: 2700 m 8856 ft.

The Bocchette trail in the Brenta Dolomites! A unique route, traversing along incredible ledges, from saddle (= bocchetta) to saddle, just below the highest peaks of the Brenta group. A via ferrata classic if there ever was one!

As far as via ferrata is concerned, the routes are not particularly difficult (up to C / K3, mostly easier) and the distances between the huts are relatively short. However, one must not forget that the Via delle Bocchette takes you into an exposed, alpine environment. Stable weather and careful planning are an absolute requirement. There is a lot of scrambling (UIAA grade I) and many exposed ledges (up to T4) to be conquered without the help and/or protection of fixed cables. The approaches from the huts lead over glacier slopes (mostly covered with scree), which can be problematic without the necessary equipment and sure-footedness.

Of the many people tackling the Bocchette trail, a majority seems to live in flatter parts of this world. They have picked this classic via ferrata as their big mountain holiday for this summer. Consequently, there are huge differences in the fitness, confidence and sure-footedness of the ferratisti along the way. Experienced alpinists will tackle many of the less exposed sections without using their via ferrata set, even when a cable is available. Less confident climbers, who want to use their via ferrata sets wherever possible, will lose a lot of time doing so, especially since the distance between then anchors is often really short. Faster climbers will unavoidably lose some time while overtaking or crossing larger and slower groups. The Via delle Bocchette can be done in both directions, but north-to-south is the more popular option. When travelling southbound from hut to hut, you can expect to make friends, because you will be among the same people night after night. Conversely, when going northbound, you'll have to expect having to deal with a lot of traffic coming the opposite way.

Day 1
Passo Grostè - Sentiero Alfredo Benini - Bocca del Tuckett - Rifugio Tuckett
600m ascent, 750m descent, 4h45, T4 and K2

At the bottom station of the Passo Grostè, we pay 16 euros for 3 days of parking. As "long stay" parkers, we are allowed to park inside the secure parking garage. There is also limited free parking nearby along the main road.

It's busy at the Passo Grostè, but surprisingly few hikers choose path number 305 towards the Sentiero Alfredo Benini, the first/northernmost part for the Bocchette trail. The route follows some (mostly comfortable) ledges around the eastern side of the Cima Grostè. Then it traverses along the east face of the Cima Falkner to the highest point of the route (ca. 2880m, plaque). A short, steep descent offers two variations - though we only discover the left variation (as seen in descent) when we are already at the bottom of the right variation.

The weather is more stable than expected. Some light clouds between the surrounding peaks create a fantastic atmosphere. With more hiking than via ferrata, the route continues towards the Cima Sella. Before the Cima Sella, the route turns towards the west and descends (with spectacular views of the rock tower of the Castelletto Superiore) to a signpost at ca. 2700m. Instead of taking the direct descent to the Rifugio Tuckett, we also include the final (and most intensive) part of the Alfredo Benini via ferrata. With the help of numerous ladders, the route descends in a diagonal line through the almost vertical Cima Sella south face towards the Bocca di Tuckett. If you have enough time and the weather is stable, you can directly continue with the Via delle Bocchette Alte from the saddle. Descending from the Bocca di Tuckett to the Rifugio Tuckett is less ideal, since the descent over some scree-covered glacier remains is somewhat unpleasant. It's best to move to the right-hand side (as seen in descent) of the ice as soon as possible, being careful about the Randkluft.

The large Rifugio Tuckett was renovated a couple of years ago. The two buildings ("Tuckett" and "Sella") were originally build by the Italian and German alpine clubs respectively, but are now operated as a single hut by the CAI. There's a choice of excellent dishes included in the half-board dinner and the food is cooked very efficiently. Unfortunately, the breakfast is much more basic and somewhat disorganised.

Day 2
Rifugio Tuckett - Bocchette Alte - Sentiero Detassis - Rifugio Alimonta
850m ascent, 550m descent, 6h, T4 and K3

Together with dozens of others, we walk back up to the Bocca di Tuckett. Thankfully, the groups soon spread out and there are not too many traffic jams on the Bocchette Alte. The ascent from the Bocca di Tuckett towards the Cima Brenta offers lots of excellent scrambling, which experienced scramblers will enjoy most without using the cables much. After following some nice ledges along the Cima Brenta east face, there's a spectacular section along the ridge (only the "Spreizschritt" from the guidebook turns out to be disappointingly trivial), followed by a long ladder ("Scala degli Amici") onto the summit plateau of the Spallone dei Massodi.

With some twists and turns, the Bocchette Alte now descends to the narrow col of the Bocca dei Massodi. Just before the col, there's a junction offering two descent routes: The Sentiero Umberto Quintavalle spectacularly crosses the col, after which it becomes easier. We pick the other option, the Sentiero Detassis, which descends almost vertically with many ladders into the valley directly west of the col. Looping around a big rock tower, we join the path ascending from the Rifugio Brentei to the Rifugio Alimonta. The Rifugio Alimonta is another modern hut, though considerably smaller than the Rifugio Tuckett. Once again the dinner is outstanding and the breakfast much more frugal.

Day 3
Rifugio Alimonta - Bocchette Centrali - Bocca di Brenta - Rifugio Brentei - Vallesinella
350m ascent, 1400m descent, 6h15, T4, K2 and F (facile/leicht)

That crampons are often needed on the Bocchette trail, is usually only mentioned in reference to the glaciers around the Cima Tosa, on the southernmost section of the trail. However, I must emphasise that light crampons also belong in the standard equipment for the small Sfulmini glacier, between the Rifugio Alimonta and the start of the Bocchette Centrali. A 15m stretch of blank ice needs to be crossed. It's just about flat enough and with a few small stones embedded in the ice, so that it's possible to cross without crampons. It's very uncomfortable, though. Almost no-one has crampons here, but pretty much everybody was wishing that they had brought a pair. (Microspikes or similar would suffice.)

The via delle Bocchette Centrali is shorter and easier than the Bocchette Alte, but it's still the absolute highlight of the Brenta group. If you only do one part of the Bocchette trail, it must be the Bocchette Centrali. The route traverses over some sensational ledges through vertical rock faces, unbelievably picturesque in the morning sunlight. It then passes the base of the Campanile Basso, where rock climbers are busy climbing the iconic tower. The final part of the Bocchette Centrali then switches to the shadowy west face of the Cima Brenta Alta, before reaching the Bocca di Brenta.

The saddle of the Bocca di Brenta marks the end of the Bocchette trail for us. We descend on the hiking path towards the Rifugio Brentei (T4- where the terrain was shaped by a former glacier, then easier). The signpost at the Rifugio Brentei says that it's still 1h50 to Vallesinella. Indeed, the panoramic path (Sentiero Bogani, site of a sad 1991 tragedy) goes up an down for quite a while before it really starts to descend towards the Rifugi Casinei and Vallesinella. From Vallesinella, we take the shuttle bus to Madonna di Campiglio and the connecting bus to our starting point at the Grostè cable car station. (For bus schedules, click "scarica il depliant" on this page.)

Hike partners: Stijn

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