The plan to stay three nights in our lovely lakeside hotel fell apart on day two as Christine's feet became increasingly itchy, and on the third morning we got back on the trail a day early.
The weather forecast was mixed to say the least. Possible rain in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon. In view of this we decided to take chair lift up from Alleghe reducing the climb to 600m and the length of the walk from 6.5 to 3.5hrs.
At the top of the lift clouds were swirling around the mountains. Immediately to the west, occasionally emerging in a vague outline, was the mightly Mt Pelmo, one of the most iconic mountains in the whole of the Dolomites, seen from a distance it looks like a giant eye tooth jutting out from a mountainous jaw line.
The route took us up the eastern flank of the Civetta to the Rifugio Coldai, over a pass immediately behind it and down to a lake, the Lago Coldai. The clouds meant we were denied views of Marmalada and the Sella Group but we did get to see the huge cliffs of Civetta under which we would walk for the next two days. I've walked this route before and if anything it was even better the second time: the cliffs are truly dramatic.
Christine's new shoes withstood their first test and we arrived at the Rifugio Tissi in time for a late lunch. Everyone now speaks Italian and the Germans have to speak English to make themselves understood. The transition from German to Italian has taken place over about 20kms.
As the afternoon progressed the hut filled with a mix of old and new faces, although the overwhelming majority was walking from Munich to Venice. The hut, which served great food, was a little primitive on washing and sleeping facilities and Christine was not a happy bunny. We shared our 4 berth room with a German who lived in Dublin who I thought was nice but unfortunately snored.
The promised storm arrived early evening and although it turned out we could have avoided the chair lifts I would hate to get caught on the exposed mountain side in a such a big storm.
A fierce north wind was blowing in the morning and it was really cold as we continued our walk around the Civetta. After a hour or two, just as the cold was penetrating through to our inner core we arrived at the Rifugio Vazzoler for a session of coffee and strudel. We chatted to a couple of English climbers and exchanged anecdotes about the terrible weather. We told them about the 80 year old landlady, a local resident her entire life, who had told us it was her worst ever summer, and they told us about the green slime on the limestone massif which was making climbing treacherous.
I then realised that I had left my precious German guide behind in Tissi Hut and had to make a call back to arrange for its retrieval - arrangements which have yet to work.
The rest of the walk was just wonderful. Both Christine and I kept saying that the walk was much better than the last time we did it. It took us about a hour to remember that last time we had missed a turn and gone the wrong way. Essentially the walk contours for kilometre after kilometre right under Civetta cliffs along a magical path.
The normal end of the stage is the Refugio Bruto Carestiato, another lovely hut on the hill. The temptation of a hotel 40 minutes later however is just too great - even for many of the Germans, and we are not alone tonight in our hut avoidance strategy.