Days 19 - 20 Munich to Venice - Belluno

With the arrival of my cousin Chris and his friend Mike yesterday, the number of English people on the Munich to Venice walk has doubled. Although late, these reinforcements should help us cross the final bits of high altitude walking and reinforce the final assault on Venice.

Yesterday's walk was good. The weather was fine and the scenery excellent, classic Dolomites. Chris and Mike started a little fast for my taste and I rightly concluded that the speed was unsustainable; indeed one of them flagged seriously before the day was out.  For the first part we were joined by Marcus, a German Christine and I had walked with a couple of days ago, a really nice guy, but extremely fast and not a person you should sensibly use as a pace maker.
Marmalada on the horizon

Mt Pelmo
After walking through a pine forest the route climbed, became more open and, a rare treat on this trip, we got some long views. I can't be 100 per cent certain but I'm pretty sure that the mountains we could see on the  western horizon included the snow capped Marmalada and the Sella Group, mountains we had walked past and through last week.
Alpine meadow

Fueled up with a bowl of soup from the Rifigio Sommariva (where we chatted with three Scottish walkers heading the other way up the Alta Via 1) we set off on the main event of the day, a 500m climb to the Forcella de Zita Sud.
More orchids
It's a great bit a walking. After an initial climb through trees up the side of an old glacier the route reaches a false top and a wide arid  limestone plateau.  Crossing this the path then climbs steeply onto another ridge which leads, eventually, to the pass itself. With Marcus setting a crazy pace, encouraged by Christine, we soon found ourselves spread across the pass. Rumour has it you can see the sea from the top but there were none of the shiny reflections you usually get so who knows.
The valley on the other side was in stark contrast to what had gone before. Very green with path stretching down and away into the distance. At the end was Mt Schiara, the last great mountain between us and Belluno.
Chris being chased by two Isreali women

Crossing the Forcella de Zita Sud

The hut and the dormitory was fully booked (I got the last four places the day before yesterday) and quite a few Munich - Venice  trekkers were unable to get in. Manfred and Petra were there however and we had another great evening in their company. Our schedules have crossed since Day 4 but as they are staying in Belluno an extra day we won't see them again till Venice.
Hikers breakfast
Sound the retreat  
Petra and Manfred

Despite everyone's missgivings about a night in a packed dormitory we all survived and Christine, the No 1 dormitory hater, slept well. Belatedly she has discovered the benefits of my super heavyweight ear plugs. Amazingly no-one snored.

The official route heads into Belluno over Mt  Schiara to another hut but as this involves a long stretch of Via Ferrata (special gear and equipment needed) hardly anyone does it. Most people climb a pass and head down the valley to catch a Dolomiti bus. Marcus thinks there is an alternative route around the east side of the mountain, a 9hr trip, but couldn't persuade anyone to join him so set off alone. He has promised to let me have the details if he makes it!

The rest of us, on a damp morning, were treated to a rendition on a cornet (I think) of "its a wonderful world" while a large German group of men we have been with for the last three days drank beer and vodka shots and smoked cigarettes.

The walk was much better than expected with great views with a lovely  path down a gorge full of lovely beech trees. We had been given the wrong time for the bus and got down to  the  bus stop  on the  road an hour early, after a descent of 1200m. By the time the bus arrived about 30 walkers had emerged from the mountain and there was  competition to find seats. I'm pleased to report that the English for once out played the Germans.

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