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Hiking in the Dolomites with Ilse: Day 6, Mt. Piano

Earlier this week, I found Heaven. Yesterday, I met God. Today, the Grim Reaper winked at me.

We traversed one of the many Via Ferratas today (“iron path”)—2 of us chose NOT to do this from the start and walked an alternative route to our meeting place; 3 more of us (including me), left the “trail” when an exit presented itself 3/4 of the way through; the rest of the group bravely plodded on!

For the rest of the day, I tried to figure out why my panic came up during THIS traverse and not during the scree field traverse yesterday, and I have a theory: on the scree field, my entire peripheral vision could see ground, but on the Via Ferrata, there was NO ground—our “trail” (I have to keep using quotes, because in reality, it was a very narrow, gravely ledge.) was maybe 12” wide, with a thousand foot drop off one side, and a crumbling limestone wall on the other, where the cable was secured.

But that was a VERY brief experience, in the context of another AMAZING 8-hour day. The bulk of our day had us back in history class, where our guide took us around and through the MANY bunkers littering the summit.

Karl (our guide) describe for us, the horrifying reality of boys being unwillingly ripped from their homes, not given enough ammo, (because the officers feared mutiny), forced to haul supplies up these punishing mountainsides, and live in the bunkers for multiple years (if they lived that long), through all types of weather. No matter how outmanned and outgunned they were by the Austro-Hungarian military machine, they couldn’t retreat or surrender, because their officers would shoot them as traitors. These boys were going to die—at either the hands of their enemy, at the hands of Mother Nature, or at the hands of their countrymen.

But, this isn’t really unique to Italy or to WW1, right? But it was in my face today, in a very, very powerful way.

Today, we topped out around 7600’ elevation, and at our daily apres-hiking hut stop, we tried the house specialty, which was the creamiest hot cocoa with rum.

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