One week in the Dolomites with my two oldest friends
On my long-time planned trip to the Dolomites I was accompanied by my two best friends. Both recently went (back) into photography and so we had the best combination of long-time friendship and photography enthusiasm in place. We had about 8 days in the Dolomites and our aim was to simply make the most out of this trip. We’ve chosen Cimolais, my father hometown village in Friaul Italy (right in the heart of the Dolomites) as our home base. We started our journey with clear destinations and sequence in mind:
-Lago di Braies – Pragser Wildsee
-Lago di Misurina
-Tre Cime di Lavaredo – Drei Zinnen
-Lago di Carezza – Karrersee
-Alpe di Siusi – Seiser Alm
-Lago di Sorapis
-Campanile di Val Montanaia
The agenda was to arrive at Lago di Braies early in the morning. Therefore we started at 7 p.m. from Düsseldorf by car. It took us about 9 hours to arrive at the lake. We were damn lucky that one scheme seemed to repeat itself during our whole trip and the other did fortunately not:
By the first I mean that we had almost perfect weather condition and great light. No wind, not too cold, some clouds in the sky and the sun showed up.
By the second I mean that the place was crowded. And with crowded I mean full of people. Crazy yelling people that jumped into the water (thanks for killing all the reflections, idiots!), women in wedding dresses, people with drones, people with babies and kids (at 6 a.m. and 2° Celsius in the morning).
Nevertheless we really enjoyed the location and it was absolutely worth all the efforts, but we also feared that every other location would be similarly crowded and full of people. Spoiler! That wasn’t the case. Lago di Braies was clearly the most crowded location of all photo spots that we’ve visited.
Considering that it is easy to access, with a parking lot and hotels directly in front of the lake and that we had Saturday morning our fear for the next locations were unfounded. With only one hour of sleep and with 2-3 hours left in front of us, we packed our things after sunrise and left this beautiful location for our departure to Cimolais. The rest of the day was for recovery and napping and Pizza.
Our location for this day were the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. At the foot of the mountains is the Lago di Misurina. In itself an impressive location, but not so much in the middle of day with harsh light conditions. Which was fine, because it saved us some time for the way up to the Tre Cime. You can drive up to the Refugio Auronzo and from there it is about ¾ of an hour by foot before you arrive at Tre Cime.
The following 2-3 hours were impressive to say the least. In fact I would recall only a few occasions where I enjoyed myself and photography as much as I did on that particular evening. We were blessed with the best light and weather conditions we could ask for. Golden hour and blue hour were just special. Me and one of my friends found our spot rather quick and we made ourselves comfortable for the upcoming shoot. Our third party member climbed up significantly higher than we did and had a special view for himself. That’s clearly the spot I will try when I visit this mountain region again. By the end of the blue hour we headed back (headlamps recommended) to our car and had (another) Pizza at Lago di Misurina.
The start of the next day was a little challenging.
We had underestimated the distance to Lago di Carezza and Seiser Alm. It would take us more than 3 hours from Cimolais and we were not looking forward to drive the whole distance back by night. We decided to see the Karrersee in the evening and to have an overnight stay in the hometown village of our friends father. I was enthusiastic about this decision as it would make our trip even more adventurous. I likes the idea to basically drive from east to west Dolomites and see as much of this area as possible. We arrived on time at Karrersee. We hoped that the storm that hit the Dolomites in October 2018 did not have too much effect on the area where the lake was. In the end it was quite OK. We’ve seen much more damaged woodland on our way to the lake and so we were happy as we arrived and the scene was as expected and with only limited number of people.
And then the waiting game started. Right at golden hour the sinking sun was completely blocked by clouds. There was no light at all on our lake scene. We waited for almost 40 minutes, the golden hour was about to end and some people were already packing up their photo equipment. But then something very special happened. The sun found its way through the clouds and simultaneously some low hanging clouds drifted along the mountain range in front of us which provided an epic sunset shoot.
We got up early the next morning. It was the day where one of our friends had to leave for work. The plan was that he should come with us to Seiser Alm and take the train in the afternoon. But as he got sick over the last few days he decided to stay in the village and give himself a rest. From that point on it was only a party of two.
We arrived at Seiser Alm before 9 a.m. which is crucial if you do want to drive up to the Alm. Otherwise you have to park your car at the foot of the path and take the cable railway.
Let’s get it straight. The Seiser Alm is worth a 2-3 day visit, minimum. You can hike the whole day and the light changes the scenery almost every minute. There are lots of possibilities for hikers as well as for photographers and above all for those who combine those two things. We were following paths and hiked off the beaten tracks for about 4 hours. We enjoyed the fresh and cool air, shot some photos and had one of the best Strudel of my life.
The Alm itself is so big that although it is one big tourist location it never feels crowded. In the early afternoon we drove back to Cimolais. The next day was a rest day that we used to go through the shots we’ve already made and to start the editing.
We really needed the day off to recover from the adventures behind and foremost for the adventure that was coming. Our next hike would be up to the Lago di Sorapis.
Lago di Misurina, Tre Cime and Lago di Sorapis are all in the same area between Cortina d’Ampezzo and Auronzo. It was the third time we were driving the 1 ½ hour tour to this area. This time we stopped at Cortina and had a good pasta meal before the hike began.
Lago di Sorapis is always described as very beautiful and worth the exhausting hike. But even the way up to the lake is one of a kind. It starts comparably easy with a half hour woodland hike. After that it is getting harder but also even more beautiful. It is written that you might be hiking for a little more than 2 hours to get to the lake. Despite taking pictures on our way we needed less than 2 hours. Anyway we were absolutely exhausted when we arrived at the lake. It isn’t the distance that is tiring it is the very steep uphill walk. Despite the fact that we started with 15° C and ended up in below zero, our shirts were soaking wet by the end of the trail.
The moments before we reached our goal I started to feel exuberant joy and I can’t really explain why that was. It might have been because of the exhausting hike and overwhelmingly beautiful scenery and the feeling of being free. But even now, while writing these lines I can recall parts of the feelings of joy that I had in that moment. On the whole way up to the lake we only passed 3 other hikers that were on their way back and just a minute after we arrived at the lake we were on our own. There was no one but us for the next hour.
Let’s be honest we haven’t been the first to be there and the lake has been photographed a million times. But although knowing that, the whole event was something special for me. It might be because the lake was frozen, it might be because we were on our own or it might be because the lake has enough beauty for a million people plus us. It’s probably because all of that. We made some shots, also including the obvious hero shots and enjoyed the view for a while.
With only 1 hour of light left we decided to go back, as the way down would be far more dangerous in the dark. We needed about 1 ½ hour for the way back to our car. Tired but happy having witnessed something very special we drove back to Cimolais for the last time.
Friday was our last day in the Dolomites and we had two destinations left. Actually we had planned to visit Seceda, but as the only Refugio was fully booked we decided to leave Seceda for another trip to the Dolomites.
That gave us the opportunity to visit the local nature reserve “Parco Naturale Dolomiti Friulane Cimolais”. When in the Dolomites I had to visit the Campanile di Val Montanaia. The most famous mountain peak of that region in Friaul. The Belvedere di Campanile pretended to be only a 30 minutes hike. But the last time I was getting on that hike was more than 15 years ago and it turned out that this hike was even more steep then the one to Lago di Sorapis. Luckily it wasn’t quite the distance. I got one of my favorite shots of that trip and I couldn’t wish for a more pleasing end of that trip.
Early in the afternoon we packed our bags and drove back to Germany. On our way we accidentally passed the Lago di Landro. Of course we stopped by and gave it another photo session.
Thanks guys! It was a blast!