Having stayed the night in Misurina and having a full 24 hours worth of parking, we decided to explore the area. From our stop, we observed that there was some sort of shuttle service up the mountain to a walk. Han did some investigating and discovered it was a walk around a WW1 battlefield site on top of a mountain.
We’d eyed up some eager tourists taking 4×4’s up the side of the mountain to the site. Despite wanting to go, I did feel a nervous sweat coming on at the prospect of paying for a lift in a 4×4 (I am from Yorkshire after all). Thankfully, Han came to the rescue with a walking route up to the site.
At it transpired it was a gem of a walk. Climbing out of the van park up along a windy track, at first through the lush forest and finally onto an exposed strip that hugged the side of the mountain. The views, as per usual, were spectacular. The Dolomites are different to any of the ranges we’d seen yet. Spires of rock rise out from the mountaintops, as if they were trying to reach ever higher into the sky.
Thinking, naively, that when we got to the end of the track the terrain would be flat, we were very mistaken. We suddenly found ourselves on this peaty moorland. It reminded us somewhat of our lives back in Yorkshire and the view over Ilkley Moor.
We chose to follow the path that took you in a direct loop around most of the monuments as this was a living museum you could explore. Ignoring where the main group of tourists were heading along the amateur route, we set out on what shall be dubbed, the tasty route.
In store for us was some fairly hair raising paths that were suspended precariously right on the edge of 0000’m drops on one side. A cross between walking and scrambling commenced, with chief as ever making the entire endeavour effortless. Our day had already been full of surprises and in truth we didn’t know what to expect of Monte Piana before we arrived. But having successfully navigated the twists and turns to the first site, we were presented with what looked like rubble signifying a defensive position. Little did we realise that the cave behind that looked natural on its frontage was actually connected to a series of other tunnels to look out points and posts. We decided to explore.
Being professional cavers, we switched our high power beams on (iPhone torch) and put on our hard hats (well, we ducked a little). This initial cave presented little challenge to us and was quite interesting to see how the military had made use of the mountain. We were constantly reminded that at this height, two armies were fighting during the First World War, at 2500 m. When you think of WW1, the battlefields of France and Belgium come to mind, but it’s easy to forget sometimes that there were more borders across the entirety of Europe at war.
Our path continued round revealing a series of caves, lookout points and interesting trenches. These trenches were maybe 4-5 ft in height, with access points down into the caverns. On a sunny day like the one we had, it was difficult to appreciate that people fought in these trenches and that not every day would have been this sunny, in fact we couldn’t even comprehend how cold it would be in the wintertime.
Feeling brave from our previous caving, we entered into some more, first down a ladder into an icy passage, then on through into an opening that presented you with a fairly difficult climb down on the scree. Across the way was another significant cave system, one we chose to explore even further. Unlike the caves we’d seen so far which usually had openings fairly close by, these caves seemed to run deep and we were submerged into pitch black fairly quickly. Armed with our high power torches (2 x iPhones now), we continued on… switching back left and right we found an exit off a spur of the main passage. The last bit required us to crawl slightly as the exit was only 2ft high. Expecting like the others it would lead to another path we found ourselves presented with a ledge overlooking the entire valley. Amazing view, but no exit. Doubling back we found our way back to the start and we climbed back out of the cave system. We decided to explore the trenches some more, fascinated by there complexity and arrangement relative to the enemies trenches.
A bit of information on the site we visited for those interested: http://www.worldwarone.it/2015/06/first-world-war-one-day-itineraries.html?m=1