I believe in endless personal renewals, and a balance between the good intentions, deep wishes and profound goals. On the other hand, I also experience the great tornado of everyday life, successions of well oiled routines, the great time-consuming bazaar - nothing can prevent it - where the structure sometimes escapes me. So, I found myself one evening, not knowing anymore how to sleep, how to inspire, how to slow the pace and the heartbeats, how to be strong and sail straight ahead. Tell me, how? I wanted to hear the silence, but that evening, while the sun was swinging on the horizon wire, only the noice of heavy planes resonated in the sky. "J'étouffe" I whispered to the faling night. I longed for the only place where you can really see the air slipping between the clouds. The mountains were calling me again. I wanted to touch the air, like in a salty dream, scrutinize beyond appearances, a little further every time.
To you, who is just like me. I wish to share my preparations for this trip because I believe it can be useful for you. Maybe a trekking in the mountains might also allow you to live fully, unconditionally, to vibrate without restraint, to let fall the palisades that hinder your precious liberties on certain days. I wish you to believe in your value, it is unwavering. I wish you to keep your sense of derision. Allow yourself to doubt, to cry, and to tremble. And know that when you come back, there is always someone to catch you up. I wish you to be surrounded, always, by your essential pillars - friends, loves, children, parents, siblings.
Before I explain you how I prepared for this trip, I need to do this little disclaimer... Walking in the mountains can be dangerous, risking injuries or death. Undertake it only if you have a full understanding of the risks, if you're trained and in a good physical condition. Also, if you're using this post as a guide, I'm not liable for whatever that happens to you. I'm describing my personal preparation which can be used as inspiration. I'm not a professional hiker, I'm doing this for my own entertainment. The equipment and preparation can also be applied for any other similar trip.
Alta Via n°2
It turns out that the Alta Via n°2 is the most sympathetic, hardest, longest, most beautiful, and less crowded trail in the Dolomites. The trail is not easy, especially with 10-15kg on the back. It is the longest and thus most challenging one. Luckily the navigation is easy, just follow the markings (red triangle with a 2 inside). Some passages are quite engaged and there are a lot of wired or ladder passages. These sections are not strictly speaking Via Ferrata (VF), so it should be fine. Depending on the weight of your bag, your physical condition, the climatic conditions, plan your steps well and be ready to change your plans. Here is a very useful summary of the steps.
How to get there?
By train it takes 10h22 from Brussels to Bressanone-Brixen. I didn't check any other transport, since the airplane is anyway not an option for me. I doubt to hitchhike but in the end I prefer the comfort of the train and the certainty to be there in only 1 day.
One of my main concerns before departure: is it permitted to do wild camping? Can you sleep near the shelters? It is officially prohibited to do wild camping on the whole route and you can not put your tent right next to the shelters. Some shelters allow you be 500m further. But there is nobody on the roads after 7pm. So, I'll plant the tent late, get up early and everything will go well (I hope)! On the maps I can also already locate some unguarded refuges such as Brunner, Minazio or Feltre-Bodo. It will really be magical!
It's not obliged to take all the equipment that is described bellow, because several choices rely on your own desire for comfort, lightness and durability. It also depends if you're trekking with a tent or not. Being well prepared on such a trip can be lifesaving, so it took me a lot of time to find the right equipment. If you desire to be completely independent, and not force yourself to reach a refuge although you're exhausted, take a tent. Anyway several refuges don't have blankets and even mattresses.
- Backpack: I didn't go for the most lightweight model, but for the most comfortable and durable one. Having done several treks in the mountains before, I needed a backpack that rests well on my hips. One I can open from the side. One that has a side-way pocket for the water bottle and an inner pocket for a water tank. One that is transformable so that I can place the food and maps on a location I can access without taking it off. One that has a durable textile. Finally, one that is adjustable with many features. I bought the Fjällräven Kajka 55W (color graphite). This advanced bag weighs 3100 g. I know it's heavy, but the comfort of it is way better then lightweight bags. The support system is designed for female anatomy with ergonomically shaped shoulder straps, and it distributes even extremely heavy loads.
- Trekking poles: Telescopic poles are more durable than the Z-poles, and natural cork grip is more comfortable than plastic. I ended up buying versatile lightweight poles, specially designed for the mountains: Black Diamond Women's Trail Ergo Cork.
- Mountain shoes: My Meindl have already proved their value a few times. Light, flexible and very comfortable, I'd swear by this brand. If you need to buy new shoes, then I'd advice you to mountain shoes because mine are normal hiking shoes that are not suited for the rocks of the Dolomites.
- Ultra-lightweight tent: To save weight, I've only been looking for one person tents, under 1kg. The indicated weight includes eveything that comes with the package. I've been doubting between these ultra-lightweight tents:
- Nordisk Telemark 1 ULW (770g - € 629,99). The pentagon inner space gives more storage room at then then MSR model, which is very similar.
- Nordisk Lofoten 1 ULW (550g - € 629,99) - It's the lightest tent I could find, but the disadvantage of this one is the height, you can't really sit inside.
- MSR Carbon Reflex 1 Ultralight Tent (990g - € 376,30) - Why is it so much cheaper then the Nordisk Telemark? The hight is 81cm, length 2.13m, width 76cm and 61cm for the outside space. It has only a few cm's difference form the Nordisk (although the Nordisk has a smaller outside space, 40cm, but a wider inner space). It also seems to have more headspace thanks to the cross on top.
- Terra Nova Laser Photon 1 (720g - € 338.95). Also a non-freestanding tent, similar to the other ones.
- Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Platinum (936g - € 399) - The difference with the other tents is its hight inside, 99cm, making it more comfortable. Of course, this makes it also more heavy, miracles don't exist. The Big Agnes is free-standing which is a big advantage if you're unsure about the underground in the Dolomites. Should I risk to take an non-freestanding tent? Moreover, the two person tent Fly Creek HV2 Platinum, weights only 85g more: 907g.
- Nemo Hornet Elite 1P Ultralight (850g - € 295) - Its design and fabric is very similar to the Nordisk and MSR, so I don't see where the weight goes. The floor fabric is out of the same material as the MSR, and therefore I'd also need an extra footprint.
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 1 Tent (940g - € 329,99) - A free-standing tent, available in Belgium. Sadly it's heavier then the Big Agnes... This review tells everything about the tent.
- Truly freestanding:
- MSR Hubba NX 1 (1300g - € 307) - The light and freestanding model of MSR. It's area is 1,67 m². The weight is over my target of 1kg... they have a light version too, the Freelite, but here is an interesting comparison review that discouraged my to buy the Freelite.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 1 (1200g - € 429) - This model is more expensive than the MSR Hubba, but it's advantage is its lighter weight for more area 1,9 m². Here is a review on the differences between the Hubba and Copper Spur which also learned me that the MSR tent is more solid.
So, which tent did I finally choose? The truly freestanding tent MSR Hubba NX 1, because in the end the freestanding tent under 1kg are only "half" freestanding. Which means that the watercover is not always attached to the beams and the tent is loose when it's not anchored. The material of the MSR Hubba is way more durable then all the other tents.
Footprint: (170g - € 35) to protect the tent on rocky undergrounds.
- Lightweight sleeping bag: Yet Kolba, an ultralight sleeping bag. Filling duck down 700 cu. Comfort temperature 0 ° C (735 g - € 199). I've put the sleeping bag in a compression bag to save more space.
- Lightweight sleeping mat: I found a funny review about several sleeping mats, which confirmed my choice for the Thermarest NeoAir XLite Regular (460 g - length 183m - € 129). Additionally, I have a pump sac, to inflate the mat more easily.
- Stove: MSR Windburner 1 L (432g - € 115) radiant burner and enclosed design allow it to operate flawlessly in weather that causes other stove systems to slow or fail. I also have the coffee press and the Strike Igniter to for lighting the stove. Problem is, I still don't manage to light the stove with the strike igniter, so for security I've also took a normal lighter.
The essentials: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and stove, weight 3kg. Adding the weight of my backpack, also 3kg, this gives a total of 6kg, and thus about 4-5kg for all the rest of the stuff.
- 2L Widepac Filter Hydration System.
- Personal toilet
- Mobile phone with charger
- First aid kit: VAUDE EHBO-Kit First Aid Kit Hike Waterproof
- Foam ear plugs
- Topographic map (and guide)
- (Solar charger, rechargeable batteries,) battery charger etc.
- (Waist rope and karabiner clips)
- Swiss knife
- Logbook and pensil
So, I took every item double, one I'm wearing, the other is in my backpack. I've packed my cloths like a real ranger...
- 2 hiking pants - one that turns into shorts without removing shoes and on other one that is really warm. (1 would have been enough)
- 2 pairs of socks
- 2 underwear
- 2 t-shirts (1 would have been enough)
- 1 long sleeve t-shirt
- 1 jogging: for during the night or under the pants if it gets really cold.
- Fleece / Softshell / Waterproof jacket: I have an all-in-one jacket, which allows you to take or add a layer
- Waterproof trousers
It is announce to be very difficult to find drink water, therefor, it's really important to have a filter for your drink-system. This allows to drink water from any source and it will kill 99% of bacterias.
I quickly realised that being zero-waste on this trip would be totally impossible. Food is heavy and if you can't really cook, there is only one option: freez dried food. So I bought plenty of different vegetarian packages from MX3. It fits in two waterproof bags of 6L. During the trip I realised it was a bad idea to carry 15 days of food because it's heavy. Next time I'll just have about 3-4 days of food and drop down in a town for food supplies.
- Powdered milk
- Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, dried fruits
- Coffee and tea
- MixCream - Sachet | 436 Kcal - Petit déjeuner - Saveur MixCream Sachet : Café x2
- MixCream - Sachet | 436 Kcal - Petit déjeuner - Saveur MixCream Sachet : Chocolat x2
- Bread & cheese
- Soupe Thaï BIO Lyophilisée | 83 Kcal
- Velouté de Légumes Lyophilisé | 101 Kcal x5
- Amand' Energy Bar (Pack 10 barres + 2 offertes)
- Barres Protéinées - Chocolat (Pack 12 barres)
- Aligot Aveyronnais - Pack 3 plats
- Riz "Végétarien" Lyophilisé | 587 Kcal x2
- Taboulé Lyophilisé BIO | 286 Kcal x2
- Salade de Taboulé Lyophilisé | 310 Kcal x2
- Pâtes "Végétariennes" Lyophilisé| 514 Kcal x3
- Pâtes aux 3 Fromages Lyophilisé | 491 Kcal x3
In order to be safe and also to reassure your loved ones, take a GPS Spot locator. This locator allows to send its geographical position by mail to previously selected people, as well as to publish on facebook. With the subscription, you also have a key to call the closest rescue. I didn't need it during the trip, and the battery were down very quickly. Additionally, also take a First Aid Kit with you.
Make sure to place your tent in the area of a refuge, because weather can quickly change in the mountains. If you're alone, always tell to the closest refuge where you are sleeping. And finally advice, listen to your body and be gentle with it, because this isn't an easy trail.
You can procure the guide Cicero "Trekking in the Dolomites". The usefulness of this guide lies only in the general presentation of the route, and the walking times. The cards are useless, they are just diagrams. Also, the guide is written for a hut-to-hut trip. So, also buy maps on 1/30 000 and 1/25 000 scale. They are very useful because the Dolomites massif is characterized by a multitude of trails and you can largely arrange your AV2 according to the weather conditions and the various manned and unmanned shelters.