The Bocchetta way, or Via delle Bocchette, is a multi day, via ferrata, hut-to-hut traverse in the Brenta Dolomites in Italy. Our plan was to do what seems to be the most classic stretch, between Passo Groste and Rifugio XII Apostoli. This was part of our European road trip this summer.
After three days of cycling we packed our stuff and drove from Bormio to Madonna di Campiglio. Our original plan had been to arrive before noon and do the first part, the Sentiero Alfredo Benini, before arriving at the Tuckett hut.
We awoke in Bormio to overcast skies and light rain. As we drove towards Madonna di Campiglio the rain became even heavier and by the time we arrived it was pouring. The weather forecast for the following days was still really good, so we decided to keep our reservations at the huts and go through with the tour anyway.
Just as we were getting ready to board the Groste cable car up to passo groste, they closed for lunch and we had to wait 1,5 hours in the restaurant before they opened again and we were on our way. The temp at the top was slightly above freezing, it was raining and the summits were engulfed in clouds. We had already looked at alternative routes to get to our first hut, Rifugio Tuckett, and in the prevailing conditions, the choice to follow the hiking trail to the Tuckett hut seemed appropriate, even though we would miss the first part of the via ferrata.
The hike to the Tuckett refuge took just over an hour in a quite relaxed pace. During the afternoon, the rain became more sparse and eventually stopped completely.
Day 2 – Via Bocchette Alte
On top of having a whole room to ourselves in the hut (not many people had ventured out in the rain), we were greeted by blue skies in the morning. We had breakfast and were off at about 7 am.
The first bit up to the col was just a trek, but the small glacier was hard and slippery from the rain of the previous day and crampons could definitely have been to good help. We made it up without both crampons and incidents and set off on the actual via ferrata, the Via Bochette Alta, with “alta” meaning “high”. Indeed, it was high!
From the col we climbed up easy ground mostly protected by wire. The views were simply spectacular as the route traversed diagonally up the east side of the Brenta massif towards the highest points of the route at around 3000 meters.
The higher ground was snow covered from yesterdays storm and quite icy and slippery in some places. The rising sun had started melting the snow and ice and gave the same vibes as a late spring ski tour.
The route traversed faces and ridges with fantastic views up to the highest point Spallone di Masodi at just over 3000 m. The route was exposed most of the way bu never difficult. After the highest point, there were some ladders before slowly descending towards the Rifugio Alimonta where we opted for the “left” (or eastern) route down to the Sfulmini glacier.
Thanks to the awesome weather, the Alimonta hut was fully booked. We had diner with a french couple in their sixties and a group of four Germans at about our age. We were all doing more or less the same route, although they were all forcing it a bit more and had left from Passo Groste that same morning. We still needed around 7 hours and were quite tired when we arrived at the hut.
Even though the hut was fully booked, it didn’t feel overcrowded. We had plenty of space and even had a warm shower.
Day 3 – Via Bocchette Centrale
The third day we continued on the “main road” of the Via delle Bocchette, the “Bocchette Centrale”. There were a lot more people, including families with kids, older couples and groups of friends and couples. Everyone we met was very courteous and helpful and there was none of the “pushing” and “stressing” that you sometimes come across on popular routes.
The “centrale” differs quite a bit in character from the “alti”. Where the alti climbed over ridges and summits, the centrale traversed horizontally over huge faces on narrow ledges.
We reached our third hut, Rifugio Pedrotti, after only about four hours and had a mellow afternoon in the sun, resting a bit for the following day that would turn out to be very long (although we did not yet know exactly how long).
Day 4 – Sentiero Brentari
On this day, we had planned to do the ferratas to the Rifugio XII Apostoli and then walk back to Madonna di Campiglio where we had booked a hotel for the night.
The route was initially pretty similar to the “centrale”, but after down-climbing the ladders to the Vedretta glacier and crossing it, the Sentiero dell’Ideale offers a less frequented trail on looser rock with a bit more physical climbing.
The Ideale finishes with an easy hike down to the Rifugio XII Apostoli where we had a break with some drinks and snack. The route up to that point hadn’t been very tough and we’d been on the move for about 5 hours. We figured that it’d be another 3 or so to get back to Madonna di Campiglio.
We kind of underestimated the walk back.
First, there was a 1500 m descent on old glacier moraines with a lot of loose rock that pretty much killed our feet. Then there was at least a ten km hike back to Madonna in the steaming heat. When we finally made it back to Madonna, we walked straight into the first kiosk we saw, grabbed some sodas and an ice cream, and collapsed outside in the sun chairs…
Not much equipment is needed, just a harness, a via ferrata kit, good shoes and normal outdoor clothing for alpine activities. Of course you’ll need a travel sheet for the huts and your personal sanitary kit.
Crampons, light ice axe and a light rope are “nice to have” if there is a lot of snow or the glaciers are really icy. Glaiers didn’t appear crevassed enough to motivate bringing a crevasse rescue kit.
The tour is definitely worth wile!
The scenery is spectacular, the huts are nice and the route is well prepped with wire, ladders and steps in all the necessary places. The difficulty is relatively low, so I guess bringing your girlfriend or adventurous teenagers with some climbing experience would work great. We met people of all ages en route.
There seems to be a couple of different variations, but all of them goes over the “Alti” and “Centrale” (which were superb and the best parts). One such option could be to extend the tour to the Rifugio Agostini. The route finding was most of the time trivial, with signposts at all the crossings and obvious paths to follow.
It is definately a good idea to reserve the huts in advance. On the days with good weather, the huts were all fully booked.
I’d say that this is (probably) one of the best via ferratas in the world. Don’t miss this one!