One of the few truly 'Alpine' via ferrata of the Dolomites requiring good glacier crossing experience, particularly in mixed weather conditions. The route takes the west ridge up the Marmolada to Punta Penia, the highest peak in the Dolomites at 3343m. The views on the ridge, and from the summit, are stunning. In good weather conditions the wire is technically very easy but, early in the season, or after a period of snow, crampons may be needed because the route can ice heavily overnight. In addition, you will also need a walking axe and rope for the glacier crossing. The crevasses are generally well staked and the path clearly defined but, if the weather turns, navigation becomes very difficult.
Approach - The West Ridge is usually accessed from the Pian dei Fiacconi bucket lift, which runs from the west end of Lago di Fedaia, the large reservoir underneath the north side of the Marmolada. The reservoir is at the top of the Fedaia Pass (SS641 ) and can be reached from the west, via Canazei, or from Caprile to the east. Once at the west end of Lago di Fedaia, drive across the top of the dam wall and park in the large car park (well signed). From the car park, Rifugio Dolomia and the Pian dei Fiacconi lift can clearly be seen a couple of minutes walk away. The lift is old but very novel! You have to run into little shopping trolley baskets - have fun! The lift takes you to Rifugio Fiacconi and the start of the walk in.
From here, at the top of the bucket lift, follow path 606 west following signs for 'Ferrata' in the direction of Forcella de la Marmolada. The path descends at first through glacial moraine and scree before heading underneath and round a large buttress. The path leads steeply uphill to a small glacier, the start of the west ridge should be visible at the highest point of the glacier. Cross the glacier, which is usually well marked - take care after fresh snowfall.
VF - The wire starts from Forcella de la Marmolada, the saddle between Gran Vernel and Punta Penia at the top of the glacier. Recently a large crevasse has opened up between the top of the glacier and the start of the cabled section - care must be taken here.
Once on the wire the way is generally very easy if conditions are good. It follows a series of stemples and ladders up the ridge. The views are spectacular on a clear day, with numerous glimpses down the enormous south face. At the end of the wire, a path zig-zags up to the summit through the snow (which is usually found nearly all year). Just short of the large summit cross the Capanna Penia/Marmolada hut provides food and shelter during the summer months if the weather turns bad.
Descent - From the summit, follow the prominent ridge-line heading north until you reach a post and the path makes a sharp turn right. You will see wire cable heading down east to the glacier below. Follow this down to the glacier on easy wire and descend the glacier initially on the right (east) side. You will soon see Rifugio Fiacconi and the top of the Pian dei Fiacconi lift.
Alternatively in bad weather it is possible to retrace your steps back down the wire of the west ridge. © Rockfax
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