Here some good rules for hiking on Dolomites. Safely. Don’t you want to Turn Your Holiday into a Bad Experience, right?

Title too dramatic? Maybe … but not so much. Every year, especially in summer, the Alpine Rescue carries out numerous rescue operations for tourists and hikers in difficulty, some of which could have been avoided with some simple precautions. So read these good rules for hiking on Dolomites.

After all, we all want to go home happy and not find ourselves dealing with unpleasant situations, avoidable injuries and bringing back bad memories. Although now very popular with tourists and hikers of all kinds, the Dolomites remain a high mountain environment, where it is easy to encounter errors of assessment that can be dramatic or even fatal. Do not forget!

1. We must not overestimate our strength;

It is not just about physical forces. Maybe you are very trained, maybe you are used to going to the mountains, but remember that every place has its characteristics.
Consider altitude, altitude difference, technical difficulties of the hike you are about to do. Be well informed, using good guides (books) and good blogs (such mine, :-))). Don’t push yourself to the limit, you’re in places you don’t know and in another country. Plan an excursion in 70-80% of those who consider your limits, to have a margin in case you find out that it is more difficult than you thought.

2. You must never go away alone;

If you are part of a group, avoid making detours, shortcuts, unmarked routes that distance you from your group. Getting lost is easy and you could be forced to take long laps to get back on the right track or suddenly find yourself in front of overhangs, rock jumps, screeds or situations that are not nice to deal with, especially alone.

3. Be always with someone else;

Do not plan hikes in solitude. This is a rule that works everywhere, do it here too. It doesn’t matter that you have little time, that your friends are slow, that you absolutely want to publish the photo from the peak on Instagram. Going alone is never a good idea. You could stumble, fall, not be able to continue, not be able to communicate with your smartphone, not be able to establish your position, be in a bad storm and many other situations in which it is always better to be in 2, also to decide what to do together.

4. Don not underestimated your tiring out;

Do not underestimate the signals of your body of excessive fatigue, especially above 2,500-3,000 meters of altitude. If you feel sick you need to warn your companions and reach the nearest hut or call for help. If you come from the plains and have not had time to acclimatize to the altitude, you may feel dizzy. Even on a easy path, losing your balance and falling can lead to serious injuries. No path is too easy to avoid you from injures.

5. Find out where you are going and if paths are ok and huts are open;

Before leaving for a hike, make sure you find out if the paths are all viable (sometimes a landslide can block a path), if the huts are open, take the phone numbers of the huts and the number of the Alpine Rescue. You can get free information at the Alpine Guide offices in many Dolomite villages.

6. Forecast and communicate a return time to your friends;

If your friends or relatives do not come with you, inform them of the route you want to take, the hiking times, the stops you want to take and update them by telephone so often you can. This can be very useful if you need help and are unable to communicate. Your loved ones could say precisely where you were and speed up the rescue operations.

7. Use the appropriate equipment for the kind of hike you are going to do;

On this point a universe of possibilities opens up! I think many of you already know how to dress in the mountains, but always keep in mind the path you are about to take. Are your shoes suitable for a path in the woods or between rocks, but are they suitable for a gravel descent? or snow? If they are not, you could go home with a bad sprained ankle.
Does your hike include dangerous stretches or those with a metal rope? Bring a harness, safety is never too much, even if the difficult path can be short. Also think about the safety of those who come with you, not just yourself.

8. Watch the weather forecast;

Getting accurate weather forecasts before you go to hike is fundamental. This is valid all over the world, and Dolomites confirm it. A sudden cloudy and foggy weather can easily make you become disoriented, or a sudden rainy weather can heavily make your trail dangerous. This is why when you plan a hike on Dolomites you have to hold accurate weather forecasts. When I say “accurate” I mean a precise hourly forecasts. Take a look here for more infos on this point.

9. Take a map of the path you are going and always have it at hand;

We have beautiful apps and wonderful smartwatches with GPS. But nothing will substitute a paper map. Why? First of all because of a digital instrument can have any problem that makes it does not work perfectly (low battery, bug, system down, inaccurate GPS, and similar). And then, if you fully use a map, you will get lots of useful information about the territory you are going through. Which? Take a look here for more infos on this point


10. Don’t pick flowers and mushrooms if you can’t collect them.

When I was a child on many paths there was a sign that says something like: “Those who love mountains leave their flowers”. Some flowers here are very rare, like the famous Edelweiss. Leave them there. Take pictures of them and then leave them there. The same is for mushrooms, the collection of which is strictly regulated. If you are passionate about mushrooms, buy a collection permit at the municipalities where you are staying, they will tell you how far the collection is legal.

Well, now you know enough to leave safely and maybe you learnt some new good rules for hiking on Dolomites. But one principle is worth more than any other: prudence and don’t do anything stupid!

And do not forget to let me know what do you think about this post!

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Are you leaving for Dolomites and want to travel with your tent? Your dream is to sleep under the starry sky or do you love the idea of ​​a low-cost travel? Beware, it’s not so simple. Italy is well known for having one of the most complicated bureaucracies in the Western World, and camping rules are not so clear. So it is much better to ask before leaving, so as not to incur in sanctions. Below I give you some indications.

First of all, there is no one law in Italy that regulates overnight stay in the tent throughout the whole National territory. As in many other cases, the Regions or Parks issue different laws depending on the area. For this reason, you may find different laws depending on the area you are visiting.

Let’s start by distinguishing two important things: the campsite and the night bivouac.

For Italian law, it is defined as camping to stay in a tent site for at least 48 hours. This is generally prohibited in all areas not specifically dedicated to camping (camping, caravan parking areas, and similar). In this case, if you settle down for more than 48 hours in the same place you are definitely be punishable by law. For a closer look at the rules in the various Italian regions, take a look here (in Italian).
In any case, in the 2 Regions that particularly concern to us (Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige), camping is strictly forbidden outside the areas specifically dedicated to.
It is different for the night-time bivouac.

For night-time bivouac is meant to spend the night outdoors from evening to morning, which can be done in the mountains either by necessity (f.e. impossibility to reach a hut, bad weather, physical difficulties), and by choice (and it is the case that we are seeing).

We have already seen in another post that in the Dolomites, in addition to huts, there are free and unattended bivouacs, in which you can stay overnight in case of need or even during an excursion.

But what if I would sleep in my tent? Can I do it?
Here we go into a not very clear regulation. In general, the night-time camp for necessity or emergency is always allowed, but of course in case of control of the Forestry Guards you should explain why, if you did not think about sleeping outdoors, you had a tent with you. And if we check the website of the Parco delle Dolomiti Bellunesi we see that the ban applies only to camping. However, I wrote to the Park and the answer was that both the campsite and the night bivouac are always forbidden.
During my excursions it happened to me to find hikers with tents.

My personal impression is that Regions and Parks try to limit the number of overnight stays in the tent, and this is understandable, considering the protection of the environment, security reasons (not each hikers is well prepared to sleep in the Dolomite enviroment!) and all the unforeseen events that can happen during the night on the mountains.

It is not possible for the Forestry Guards to sanction each hiker or hinder those who want to move to the mountains by going to the tent, however they try not to publicize this possibility. In any case, the best choice is to ask the Tourist Office or the Alpine Guides Office closer to the Dolomite town you are, and of course to get all informations about the areas where you are going.

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The path signs of the Dolomites trails are different, but for the most they follow the guidelines of CAI (Alpine Italian Club), the historic mountaineering club that still owns many huts, and which is often responsible for information and maintenance of many alpine and dolomitic trails.

It is always very important to read all the path signs, to be sure to walk through the planned path. Also remember to check the correspondence between the signage you meet and the map you have in hand.
It is not uncommon to take old or wrong trails that suddenly ends or take you off the road.

The main signage is the vertical ones, and it is usually wooden signposts that provide information on: track number, main destinations, travel times.

Travel times are calculated on medium trained hikers.

If you are well trained you will probably spend a little less than indicated, and if you have children or people who are not trained you will need to calculate 30% more time at least, depending on the people.
There is also the horizontal signage, that is the characteristic white-red sign painted on rocks, trees or other elements of the environment .

Sometimes the sign also contains the number of the path. In case of paths where orientation is not easy, these signals are usually very close to each other, so that they can be seen one after the other. On an easy-going path they are more workout.

If you do not meet any horizontal sign for 10-15 minutes, consider that you could have taken the wrong path.

The “Little Men”

“Ometti” is the Italian word (that in English can sound as “Little Men”) used for the small stone pyramids that are used to indicate the path where orientation is difficult due to the lack of reference points, for example on stone, scree or near the peaks, where vegetation is completely absent.
They indicate the right path, so when you go to the side, you can add some stone so that they are always visible!

Other Signals

It is common to find on the trees other signs of yellow or blue colour, or black. Do not consider them, these are signs used by foresters or forest guards and do not in any way concern your path.

Scale of difficult

International books, guides and sometimes topographic maps usually indicate the paths according to the following table:

T for tourist path
Itinerary mule tracks or wide trails. Tracks generally are not long, do not have any orientation problem, and do not require a specific workout, except that typical of the walk.

H (or E) for hiking path
Hikers Itineraries on trails or obvious traces in various kinds of land (pastures, debris, stone …). They require hiking equipment and sufficient orientation and walking skills even for a few hours.

EE for expert hikers
They are generally marked off roads but with some difficulty: the terrain can be made up of slippery slopes of grass, mixed with rocks and grass, stone, mild snowy slopes or even easy climbing rocky passages (use of hands at some points). They require a discreet acquaintance from the Alpine environment, safe pace and no dizziness. Physical preparation must be adapted to a fairly continuous day.

EEA for equipped expert hikers.
Equipment paths is necessary, requiring the use of self-insurance devices. This symbol in the Dolmites is often used for the “vie ferrate”

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