Eterna Brigata Cadore

2 Stars
 VF4D

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Up until recently this has been something of a forgotten via ferrata - the cables had fallen into disrepair and it was officially closed between 2008 and 2012. However the route was re-equipped in 2012/13 and is now in excellent condition. Well marked and with taut cables, the via ferrata snakes its way up the immense slab of Punta Serauta, on the east flank of the Marmolada (3343m), the highest peak in the Dolomites. It finishes at the second of the Malga Ciapela cable car stations. This provides the recommended descent route, or the opportunity to take the third cable car to the top station where the views are truly spectacular.

Because of the altitude and environment this via ferrata is not to be underestimated. The route should only be tackled with a stable weather forecast and good visibility. For those planning to descend on foot (unless you retrace your steps) you will need glacier crossing experience and the appropriate equipment.
The climbing on the via ferrata is not outstanding and indeed the long section up the slab can feel like a bit of an ordeal. However the situations are fantastic, particularly on the final ridge-line. There is added appeal for budding historians in the form of a war museum at the cable car station and numerous war remains on the final section. All in all the route can be recommended to anyone searching for something a bit different, or for those who have worked their way through the more classic via ferratas and want something a little off the beaten track.
Note - The route has changed since its re-equipping and the 'Via Ferrata Eterna' route line marked on the Tabacco maps is now outdated. The start has moved further uphill and to the west.
Approach - Take the Fedaia Pass from either Canazei to the west or Caprile to the east. Drive to the top of the pass and park at Rifugio Fedaia located at the east end of the reservoir Lago di Fedaia. For those planning on descending via the Malga Ciapela cable car, it is possible to park at the cable car station and get the bus up the pass to Rifugio Fedaia, but this gives you less time to complete the via ferrata before the last lift back down.
Follow the ski piste up the steep gravel track behind, and to the left of, Rifugio Fedaia, following red markings and signs for 'Ferrata Eterna'. After 10-15 minutes on the steep gravel track, just after a sharp switchback to the right, you will see 'F.E.' marked on a boulder on the left with a sign for the ferrata above. Turn left here following red/orange circular markings up through scrub and scree heading for a large boulder just below a green col. When you reach the col, follow wooden stakes and paint rightwards uphill. At this point if often feels like you are going too high up the hillside, but continue until you join a scree path which traverses left to the start of the route. There are several large plaques and signs at the base of the route warning you of its Alpine nature and difficulty. The route times on the signs here tend to be a bit pessimistic.
VF - The route gets going straight away and is immediately quite steep with two successive exposed smeary traverses. This is followed by a shallow chimney with sections of stemples to provide assistance. From here the gradient decreases and the wire angles around a shoulder to bring you onto the main slab proper. Follow the well-tensioned wire on its left as it winds its way up a succession of steep slabs. This section is more akin to steep walking as opposed to climbing and quickly gets tiring. After an hour or so, you should reach the top of the main slab and join a slightly loose ridge-line.
Follow the wire as it weaves and undulates along the ridge-line, past some stunning situations and fantastic views. Overcome two larger peaks on the ridge, until a long section of down-climbing on new stemples to the left of the old cast iron stemples, brings you down into a gully. Descend this, then contour round passing through a little hole in the rock to join a terrace path leading past many old war buildings and ruins. This is the start of the open air war museum, usually reached from the mid station of the Malga Ciapela cable car. Heading right here takes you up to a panoramic viewpoint on a small summit, and turning left takes you to the cable car station. It is worth exploring the ruins if time permits.
Descent - The usual and recommended descent is down the Malga Ciapela cable car, which avoids crossing the glacier.
For those wanting to descend on foot, you can either retrace your steps or descend the glacier to the north. At the bottom of the glacier you can rejoin the original vehicle track you started on. Make sure you have the appropriate equipment if choosing to descend the glacier.

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