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The Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Drei Zinnen, Dolomites. Form left to right: Cima Piccola, Cima Grande, Cima Ovest
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The walk around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo
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The unmistakable Spigolo Giallo
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Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Dolomites

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Enrico Maioni, Cortina Mountain Guide, introduces the walk around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo - Drei Zinnen - in the Dolomites, one of the most beautiful and famous hikes in the world.

Before describing the tour around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, I've got to say the following: if you really want to fully enjoy the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, forget visiting this magnificent corner of the Dolomites in summer and wait for autumn before walking along the stony paths that lead around the legendary Drei Zinnen triad.

The reason for this - which you may or may not share - is as follows: this area is so beautiful and famous that it has become a victim of its own success. In summer, hordes of motley coloured tourists swarm like crazed ants along the path that leads from Rifugio Auronzo past Rifugio Lavaredo and the Lavaredo col down to Rifugio Locatelli – Drei Zinnen Hütte.

You'll stumble across a bit of everything really, from rowdy school trips, with leaders who are certainly well-intentioned but who probably don't know how precious silence is to fully enjoy the mountains, to barking dogs and crying children asking parents, weighed down by enormous rucksacks, how much further they still need to walk. Then inevitably you'll hear a group shouting at the top of their voices, trying to hear their echo; the "alpinists" preparing to deal with the De Luca – Innerkofler ferrata, headlamps already fixed to their helmets, harnesses filled to the brim with countless, unnecessary jingling carabiners; the latest generation of mobile phones with absurd ringtones wedged to the ear of someone animatedly discussing the most diverse things. And of course you'll see someone proudly shouldering a radio blaring out some rock song, while a choir nearby sings "Lord of the Mountains."

What I've just written probably won't please some... Personally I don't consider myself backward or an indefatigable traditionalist, but I love my mountains and all this just seems out of place. It actually hurts and bothers me. So I'll state it clearly and unashamedly: I really don't enjoy the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in summer.

Having got that off my chest, I have to say that visiting the Tre Cime out of season, when silence returns and allows us to enjoy the peace of this indescribable landscape, is something completely different. The few walkers you happen to meet along the route are true mountain lovers, and they even stop and say hello! The air is clear, the sun is lower in the sky and the shadows lengthen, highlighting chimneys, cracks and all the features of these immense rocky peaks.

It's far more likely that you'll chance across some marmots. These beautiful rodents tend to shy away from the summer crowds but in autumn they scamper happily across the grassy slopes, searching for the food they'll need during their long winter hibernation, which generally goes from from October to April.

It's true, almost all flowers will have disappeared, but the smell of wilting valerian will fill the air. Below the peaks the larch trees turn into a rich golden colour, transforming the forest into an enchanting kingdom.

Bar some rare exceptions, in autumn it's too cold to climb the legendary North Faces of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, but those routes that still get the sun are far more pleasant, the weather tends to be more stable and the dreaded summer storms no longer a worry. Even the normal route up Cima Grande or Cima Ovest, not particularly popular with Mountain Guides in summer, become an attractive proposition.

Nature seems to slow down, and in this magnificent, spectacular setting you'll easily find that serenity that we all need. Believe me, if you can, do visit the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on a fine autumn day.

If, however, you can only go in summer, then I recommend you start early, extremely early in the morning: the effort for getting up before dawn will be amply rewarded by the astounding spectacle of sunrise and the silence that still reigns supreme. Don't set off like sheep, right in the middle of the tourist season simply because it's such a famous walk and you'll then be able to say "I've been to the Tre Cime, what a great place Peaks." If you do, you'll miss out on the very essence of these mountains and you'll return home with distorted memories of this grand outing.

by Enrico Maioni


TOPO: The walk around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo

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