The name Seceda denotes the westernmost peak along the ridgeline that divides the Val Gardena (Gröden) from the Val di Funes (Villnoßtal) and that culminates with the Odle (Geisler) mountains, part of the Puez-Odle group in the Dolomites.
On the southern side, this ridge degrades gently with green lawns dotted with mountain huts, but on the northern side it drops precipitously.
The view from the top of Seceda towards the Odle is one of the most stunning in the Dolomites. It can be photographed at sunset, with the sun behind your back, or at sunrise, when it’s possible to create interesting sunstars as the sun peeks from behind the tall peaks to the east.
You can also enjoy a dramatic 360° panorama that takes in many of the Dolomites’ mountains and beyond, with the closest ones and most photographable ones being Puez/Odle, Sella, Sassolungo (Langkofel), Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm), and Catinaccio (Rosengarten).
There are two ways to reach Seceda without hiking all the way. The easiest is to take the Seceda cableway from the town of Ortisei (St. Ulrich). It has two legs, the second of which takes you to a location that is a short, uphill walk from the top.
The other one involves getting the Col Raiser lift from Santa Cristina (St. Christina), that takes you to the eponymous location, about 500 meters below the top. The walk up from Col Raiser is about 3.5km long and steep towards the end, but very easy.
The problem with taking lifts is that they only run between 9AM and 5.30PM. This means that if you want to photograph from the top at the best hours of the day, you have two options: you can take an afternoon ride up, shoot the sunset and then hike the long (at least 3 hours) way back down to Ortisei or Santa Cristina, getting there when it’s already dark, or walking up in the dark to get there before sunrise and then descending with the cableway (or on foot again, should you really love hiking).
A third possibility is to overnight at Col Raiser, where there is a beautiful hotel, the Almhotel Col Raiser, just at the lift’s arrival. Calculate about one hour each way to go to Seceda from Col Raiser.
This is in fact what I did when I visited Seceda. WIth sunrise set for 5.45AM, I left from the hotel at 4.30AM, when it was bright enough that I didn’t need a headlamp.
The weather forecast wasn’t very good, with even a chance of rain in the morning, but since that was my only chance to get there during that trip, I walked up, hoping for the best.
Indeed, when I got to the top, I found myself enveloped in clouds. The only subject available for photography was the huge cross that marks the top. Everything else was shrouded in fog.
Since I had made the effort, I decided to stay there and hope the clouds would clear at least a bit, but I wasn’t very lucky, as I was only able to snap a quick photo of parts of the Odle. It never got any clearer than this.
Fortunately, the location has more to offer than just the Odle and I got much more visibility towards the south. Thanks to that, I was able to capture a good photograph of the surrounding mountains, when they were hit by dappled light from the sunlight filtering through occasional breaks in the clouds and creating an interesting chiaroscuro effect.
These are impressive mountains in their own right.
When I arrived at Seceda, I realized there is another way of maximizing your chances of shooting both sunset and sunrise and of taking the cableway up and down, avoiding the long trek, and it is to spend the night on the mountain in a tent. I could count at least a dozen tents there on that morning.
If you like roughing it a bit, that’s certainly an option, but it’s not for me.
One of the benefits of hiking up and down from Col Raiser, if you do it in the July like I did, is that you will cross fields strewn with wildflowers, including the occasional edelweiss, so you can find worthy subjects for your pictures, even on a cloudy day.