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Scaling the Dolomites

I met Lale von Fass (@lalevonfass) a few years ago while riding motocycles through europe. I was instantly drawn to her spirit and zest for life. We have kept in touch through the years and have be inspired by her journey from outdoor lover, to hiker and back packer, and now she has graduated to climber. Her contant seeking had driven me to try and do more. To go further and seek high places that bring with them a wonder and a view.

She is blessed with he Dolomites, some of the most beautiful mountains I have seen to date, and the alps in her back yard. I sent her some questions, and she was kind enough to share with us in depth, to gain insight into what drives this incredible women.

What has been your favorite Hike so far?

The trek that I remember with the most emotion was reaching the summit of Monte Civetta 3220 mt., an amazing mountain in the Dolomites, i did it last September . For some years I had been hearing about this very, very long and tough via ferrata that leads to top of Mount Civetta and had become my short-term goal. Every year I like to set goals for the following year, it's fun because it allows you to test yourself, to understand if you are tenacious enough and to measure your growth in the field. Obviously every year it becomes more challenging and adrenaline ... especially if consider that I started climbing from few years and climbing for 1 and therefore I rely above all on my enthusiasm . As often happens, when I do some demanding trekking that I have been waiting for a long time, my excitement and the charge of enthusiasm keep me awake most of the night and in the morning I wake me up with only 2 hours of sleep, this is penalizing but at the moment I can't doing nothing, with the habit I will be able to manage this emotional part. So here we are at the parking in Palafavera (1530 mt) Saturday 19 September 2020 at the foot of the mountains where we leave the car, load our backpacks on our shoulders and leave full of energy. I immediately try to figure out which peak could be our but from down here you can't see it because it is behind high peaks and I understand from this that it will be really long. But when you start it's fabulous, the energy is at the top and you feel like conquerors of the world.

We arrives at the Coldai refuge 2132 mt. after one hour from the park, a fairly popular tourist destination, it is a very quiet and easy stretch suitable for everyone, as we say “path for families with strollers, children and dogs”. We say goodbye to civilization and human tingling and continue our trek, the landscape becomes harsh and rocky, the forest ends and humans no longer meet, so in two hours we arrive at the start of the Alleghesi via ferrata, here we are, the time has come. The via ferrata that has immediately fascinated me since I heard it, the via ferrata full of expectations, work and overcoming limits. Inside me there is a feeling that has been growing for days and that I can now let explode in all its instinctive strength: the adrenaline.

Harness, via ferrata kit, carabiners, safety quickdraw, helmet with GOPRO, gloves, smiley, let's start, let's start climbing, taproot after taproot, rock after rock, ledge after ledge, first in silence, humbly, then joking and laughing to express joy. It is fantastic, breathtaking landscapes follow, vertigo after vertigo, a continuous high of entrancing moods and I smile, because this has become my happiness, because here, with the noise of the carabiners sliding on the cable steel, is me, fragile, strong, prudent, growing.

After 3 hours of walking and 2 hours of via ferrata begin to feel that you need to recharge energy and stopit in a safety place and eat the best sandwich in the world with a paradise view. After about 15 minutes we start again and continue to follow each other ledges, traverses, challenging passages and others easier and do not see an arrival. Every time I think I am near the summit i see 2 dots, very far, that rise above me and I understand that I will have to get to where they are now and so I think about how much fun I'm having and a deep sense of gratitude arises in me. When the gratitude ends, the fear begins. I am reaching the end of the via ferrata but, I see in front of me a very exposed climb all without a cable to be safe. Deep breath, missing a little, missing the last and scariest stretch where I need all my self-control and calm. Obviously all these feelings of fear none of my friends notice, I'm good at pretending to have everything under control ... The last stretch I do it with hands and feet, sometimes crawling, the summit cross is getting closer but mine thought suddenly realizes "but how do I get off from here ???" . Here ... one day maybe I will be able to enjoy the summit without the anxiety of descending. When I reach the sacred cross on top of the mountain my chest explodes with emotion, how much wonder, how much satisfaction, how much pride for the conquest and for having achieved this thing that was unthinkable for me up to 2 years earlier, unimaginable due to the great block of vertigo. Unfortunately we do not find clear but there are clouds and the weather is getting worse so we decide to go down and take the road to the Torrani refuge where we will spend the night.

The Torrani refuge is located about 200 meters in altitude below the summit of Mount Civetta, 2.984 mt.,and is an “eagle's nest”. The atmosphere is that of an old-time refuge, there is no hot water, one bathroom for 30 people, only one refugee who cooks and keeps tidy, you eat and sleep in the same dormitory and soon we talk and socialize with everyone present over a beer. I would like to stay up there at least a month to deepen the emotion that that magical place made me taste but the next morning we wake up early to admire the sunrise and after having breakfast we begin to descend. The descent is for the normal path but it doesn't have much of a normal because it is a downhill aided path with sections to be disassembled and very exposed, I'm having a lot of fun and I feel full of energy despite the fact that the night in the refuge was really reposant (i'm an earplugs addicted). The return flows between a comment and a consideration and a lot of laughs, I feel satisfied, gratified, amazed and really happy because I have experienced something magical and I am grateful and aware of being lucky because I found my happiness!

What inspired you to start hiking or climbing?

For some years I have been living my weekends in the mountains, fortunately I have the Dolomites close to home and the Alps within half an hour by car and it's fantastic! I go to the mountains because I need to get excited, I have this addiction to strong emotions (and to be scared sometimes) and I need it to live more intensely. It is a natural mechanism and I understood it listening deeply myself, before, I just did it, as a dog wags its tail so I went to the mountains.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

In reality, I find it hard to remember embarrassing moments in the mountains ... but the only one I remember happened a few years ago when a friend of mine decided to climb Mount Coglians in the Friulian Dolomites. We did a nice trek on Saturday of about 1000 meters in altitude and then in the evening we slept at the Lambertenghi Romanin refuge (wonderful) and we started to toast celebrate with beer, then wine and then grappa…. Well ... the day after I couldn't get to the top to ring the bell because I was literally spitting blood ... my head was spinning, I was stunned and the only place I wanted to be was at home on my sofa. Big mistake! too much party the night before !!! and I was very ashamed, what a bad rookie move shouldn't have happened and I never went back to the top of that mountain. I will certainly do it in the coming summer

What is your favorite 3 pieces of gear?

My 3 favorite pieces? wow what a beautiful and difficult question.

The first is the shoes. Shoes / boots are the element that makes the difference.

"Often it isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the little pebble in your shoe" cit.

The second is my Dolomites passport, a small diary where I write all my adventures in the mountains, I put the stamps of the refuge, where I sign technical data and emotions and where I write technical data and emotions and who have shared the experience with me.

The third is the via ferrata / climbing kit, harness + carabiners, it is the symbol of adventure, exploration, adrenaline and the unexpected.

A noise that really drives me crazy is the sliding of the carabiner on the steel cable during a via ferrata, or the rattling of quickdraws attached to the harness while climbing, it's so exciting!

What piece of gear have you purchased and then have never used?

The piece I have bought and never used yet is a 60 Lt Salewa backpack during a Black Friday 2 years ago… compulsive shopping !? maybe … I wanted to leave and be away for 2 months ? I'll use it for a long way that sooner or later I'll do.

Do you prefer to hike solo or with a group?

My ideal group is composed from 2 to 6 elements, more becomes unmanageable because people have different walking and more groups would be formed. I really like going as a team and 5 is the perfect number because you are able to communicate with everyone, you create more "family" and you get to know each other better. When I go walking alone I do it to train. There is a mountain 40 minutes from my home where I like to go because it is a safe mountain to do even alone, it has a good difference in height. I like to measure myself against myself , listen to me, decide my fast.

In the mountains you can walk alone, even when you are walking with someone.

What is your scariest moment?

I experienced the worst moment during my third via ferrata. A via ferrata with a section classified as "difficult". The classification of the via ferratas is: - easy - moderately - difficult- very difficult – extremely difficult. I had made a moderately difficult 2 hour via ferrata on Mount Grappa the Sass Brusai via ferrata and then taken by enthusiasm we made a difficult piece of another via ferrata the Guzzella. Never get overwhelmed by too much enthusiasm because you lose the real sense of the situation. The fact is this: we begin the difficult climb and i already had arms that don't have much strength, i was a beginner and i didn't have the experience to understand when I have to give up or to continue but suddenly I feel that my arms no longer hold and I get scared, I find myself in an exposed place like never before and I don't see any holds to continue, I stay too still pulling with my arms and my hands don't close anymore , my strength fails, fingers can no longer grasp and i fall! i fall for a few meters into the void. Fortunately I was attached to a high taproot and the heatsink does not open. I have a few hits but I'm safe. At the moment. With the survival instinct that remains to me, i put myself in safety on a small terrace where i was on tiptoe and I was shaking like a leaf. How much fear. I try to calm down and my friend tries to give me suggestions and advice that I don't feel at the time. I'm in a panic and want to get off the carousel. Stop everything I want to get off. But you can't … So there is no possibility of continuing to climb for me, the only option remains to descend by dis-climbing. Result… maybe it was better to go up. The descent was excruciating, I held on to the steel cable with all possible parts of my body and in the end I hit the ground, I had bruises everywhere.

I swear I've learned my lesson. I swear.

Sad conclusion: the friendship was broken. I only recovered it after 1 year, after returning with more experience and having concluded successfully the via ferrata. I was very lucky that day, lucky to have come out well and lucky to have lived it because now I seriously and meticulously study every via ferrata or climb before going to do it and find my self in situations with a tragic ending.

What is the best Hiking/Climbing advice you have received?

The best advice is given by the mountain itself, it quickly makes you understand that you have to stay humble and to have patience. The mountain whispers advices that if you don't have the sensitivity to hear… pay on your skin. I love it for that. The best human advice that i received was from myself: have fun! always have fun. If you are doing something that is too much for you, too scary, too strong, take a step back, don't be in a hurry, don't be ashamed, it's human, you're human. Your thermometer needs to be tuned to feel good, which means you don't want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment but only where you are. It can be a forest, a vertical wall, a valley with meadows, in a refuge or bivouac, any situation ... you must feel at your best.

Waletr Bonatti gave me the biggest thought and it is this and it applies to everyone: “There are no mountains of their own, you know, but there are their own experiences. Many others can climb the mountains, but no one will ever be able to invade the experiences that are and remain ours "

The mountain environment welcomes everyone, it does not judge and does not label it is a pure side, or rather, I see it like this!

Do you have a workout regimen to supplement your adventures or do you rely on the trail to keep you fit?

I have no training regime, in the summer I go for a run 3 times a week for 5 km and then I love kayaking, doing workouts at home, stretching by miself and on weekends go to mountains ... surely the best training is contact with nature and treading hard.

What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

if the question is what would you do if you didn't have a job but someone paid me a monthly basis to live… well that would be walking! I would plan trips to do by foot or by bicycle, ... my dream is to do the Appalacchian trail :)

What are the things that inspire you to reach higher?

I search the inspiration to grow by listening the stories of the others. I like to listen to the mountain tales of hikers who have more experience than me in partcular the adventurer that with only a short sentence can ignite in me the curiosity to see with my eyes and feel the fatigue on my legs. There are people who have this natural ability, they talk about a trekking or a mountain in such a way that you can already imagine it and then trigger the desire to go and experience it.

How would you describe yourself?

Instinctive - Adventurer - Prudent

I was a party girl with nature always in her heart. At 15 I cleaned beaches / rivers / ditches from plastic, I have always done a lot of active volunteering towards humans, animals and the environment but lately I prefer to focus on my passions, I have lost the illusion of saving the world and I try to save myself :). However, I have not lost the habit of collecting garbage in the mountains, at the sea or in the countryside and I actively participate when I have the opportunity.

The mountain makes me humble. Living it more and more intensely is an extraordinary feeling you grow mentally and you become a different person. It is very important to evolve in whatever you do in life because if you always do the same thing you will no longer have curiosity and you will lose that spark that makes thing

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Kayla Koeune
Kayla Koeune
May 04, 2021

If you have a question for Lale just post here and she can help you with your adventure to the Italian Dolomites!

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