by Bethany Lloyd
This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Part 1 can be found here.
In winter the Dolomites boast one of the biggest system of pistes in Europe (1200km), rivalling the biggest French resorts. Most famously the Sella Ronda draws in many visitors to the area as skiers can partake in 26km of skiing around the Sella Massif in either direction, taking in four mountain passes and never-ending vistas. The Sella Ronda is the centre of many sporting events too. The Sellaronda Skimarathon sees athletes touring every pass and in the summer cyclists test themselves in the same way. Road cycling is very popular in the area with big road races such as the Maratona delle Dolomiti and the Giro d’Italia taking place every year.
These events are always a great opportunity to get out and do some photography. I work hard to capture the emotions that come hand in hand with the race. By getting low to the ground, alongside the Maratona riders on one of the hardest parts of the route (The Cat Wall in La Villa), the human side of the athletes starts to come through, especially when pressed with such adulation from the crowd. The picture of the rider and the older man in the crowd is one of my favourites. On the day the noise was incredible. Music was blasting out of loudspeakers along with the announcer using a mic. The crowds were continuously clapping and shouting urging the riders up the steep hill. Many of the riders were shouting out in the sheer effort of it whereas others had sunk into a concentrated silence. The elderly man across the road was very still however, just smiling and watching, as if enjoying a bygone love. I wondered if he had once ridden too. The rider in the foreground is out of focus, allowing the centre of attention to be the man in the crowd. Despite this the rider’s expression is still recognisable and the effort is clear. I like the juxtaposition between the two men. It could as well be the same person, just in different stages of their life.
The quality of off piste ski routes in the Dolomites are also incredible. The steep sided mountains keep very little snow on them but for the gullies and couloirs in between, plateaus above and valleys below. Most of the piste skiing takes place in the valleys and passes meaning that ski touring is necessary to reach the higher terrain. That said, the Pordoi cable car can carry people in summer and winter up to the top of the Sella Massif for incredible 360° views of the area. From here there are no pistes but keen Alpinists and ski tourers can make their way to plenty of incredible routes from here, including the Val Mezdi which is a very popular route in the area. Piz Boe (3,152m) can also be reached with axes and crampons on winter or on protected path (wire assistance bolted to the rock) in summer.
It was from the Pordoi cliffs, as photographed below, that legendary free-skier and inventor of powder ski, Shane McConkey, made his fatal ski-base jump proving that the terrain is to be respected. Marked routes are best not to be deviated from on the Sella as it’s walled by huge cliffs on every side.
Once again I find that the Nikon D3500 is about the line size wise for comfortable carrying when mountaineering. It is pretty important when ski touring to pack as lightweight as possible as it can be pretty hard work on the uphill sections–especially when you’re already carrying transceiver, probe, shovel, avalanche pack, walking axe, food, water, layers, skins, poles and skis! On longer days I’ve been known to carry a small compact camera to get the shots. When doing winter photography it’s all about having brightly coloured subjects to stand out from the snow. Luckily bright ski gear is pretty popular at the moment!
The choices for walking in the Dolomites in summer are endless. Everything from easy strolls to high, glacial mountaineering routes means that it suits all abilities. In spring the wildflower meadows add endless colour to the view and once the farmers cut them back in late June a sea of yellow dandelions take their place. The glacial lakes of Braies or Sorapis (photographed here) make for a welcome dip in the midst of summer as it can get fairly warm at times and when it all cools down in September the autumn colours turn everything golden–undoubtedly my favourite time of year.
Sorapis is located up above Cortina and is hands down one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The glacial water is a bright, chalky turquoise and glows as if someone is lighting it from below. The water is so opaque that you’ll lose sight of the tips of your fingers if you put your hand into the water just up to your wrist! It’s very cold too, unsurprisingly. It is understandably a popular location for photographers. I only had an hour or so at the edge of the lake but could have happily spent the day there snapping away. When the water is still its glassy surface reflects the surrounding peaks beautifully.
Somewhere that should definitely be visited summer or winter is Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The three enormous, standalone peaks of Lavaredo tower above rocky valleys and WW1 battlements, just shy of 3000m high. They are a popular climbing spot and host plenty of vast multi-pitch routes. Many just visit the north side of the mountains to take their own version of the iconic photograph. By parking out to the south and walking around a stunning, contouring path the view slowly reveals itself. The via ferrata Monte Paterno is just a little further on and keeps Tre Cime in view for most of its climb too so I took that in when visiting the area. The top gives you a more eye-to-eye view of Tre Cime but I still think that being at ground level, on the tower’s shoulder still gives the best view, just through understanding of scale. The spot has been very popular with night photographers with the lack of light pollution and impressive subject matter. In winter the area is almost deserted and this picture of snowshoe walkers tracking virgin snow over Tre Cime’s shoulder sums up the serenity of it for me. I had wondered a little off the beaten track in search of a nicely framed shot and just as I turned around they were perfectly in place between the boulders with Tre Cime behind.
In terms of where to stay in the Dolomites, for me the Village of Corvara has always served as a great base, right under the cliffs of the Sella massif between the Gardena and Campolongo passes (two of the Sella Ronda passes). It’s only a short drive/bus journey from loads of route heads and is serviced by a number of ski lifts which also open in peak season in summer for walkers and mountain bikers. There are also loads of climbing crags close by, with both traditional and bolted climbing (another of my favourite pastimes). Many an evening has been spent up above Corvara with the tripod out capturing the beautiful sunsets. The ever changing weather means that the view is rarely the same, whether it’s a deep orange glow on the rock after a clear day or a grey silhouette after a storm, the mountains are always transforming.
These mountains really are a melting pot of mountain lovers, myself included.
Bethany Lloyd is an outdoor enthusiast who takes her photography with her into the mountains. Winter or summer, feet on the ground or seat in a harness she endeavours to find her view from a new angle.