Val Ornella Loop Hike
Ornella – Passo Padon – Ornella (Livinallongo del Col di Lana)
The first Summer weekend of this strange Summer 2020 welcomed us with enjoyably warm temperatures and sunny days, interrupted only sporadically by some brief heatstorms (which are normal in this part of the season); the ideal conditions for a nice hike in the heart of our beloved Dolomites UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site!
For this article, we have chosen as the starting and arrival point for our adventures in the Pale Mountains the marvelous hamlet of Ornella, in the Municipality of Livinallongo del Col di Lana. This charming little village, located on the right side of the Cordevole River in the heart of the Valle di Fodom, had attracted our attention some days ago for the beauty of the wild and pristine context of the place: some very small hamlets (Pe’ d’Ornella, Chëleciese, Ornella, Col d’Ornella, Pescosta) in a marvelous and untouched valley (the Val d’Ornella or Val d’Ornela) surrounded by the imposing peaks of the Padon Mountain Range (Marmolada Group). A wonderful place for the enthusiasts of the Dolomites under all points of view, but at the same time a place that is original and not too frequented: a treat for those who look for the wildest places of the Dolomites in which to enjoy the wonderful landscapes of the area in tranquillity and in absolute peace.
In a very hot June morning we left from the small and cozy center of the hamlet of Ornella, next to the small Alpine church of San Sebastiano, towards the hamlet of Col d’Ornella, located half mile upstream. The pleasant Val d’Ornella appeared already (despite the fact that summer in the altitudes has just started) with all the beauty of its lush nature and the charm of its Tyrolean architectures.
Once we reached the beautiful hamlet of Col d’Ornella, we found without any particular difficulty the trail signs of the 634 CAI Path (which is marked on the Tabacco maps as 634B) on the beautiful wooden barns of the place. The path starts out on a nice mule track that gently winds up the Val d’Ornella on charming Alpine meadows and small wooden cottages.
Despite the fact that the damages of the Vaia Storm from October 2018 are still visible, the CAI Path number 634 is generally enjoyably walkable. The felled trees have been removed for the most, and it’s easy to walk also in the places where the fury of the storm hit most fiercely. This is, however, a hike in the Dolomites, that requires good training, predisposition to a minimum of fatigue and sufficient technical equipment.
Crossing the woods that cover the first part of this hike in the Val d’Ornella, we enjoyed from time to time wonderful views that the place offered us: the charming Ru d’Ornella creates nice water jumps in a valley which is sometimes deep and narrow, sometimes aerial and sunny; the majestic shape of the Pizongol d’Ornela, the outstanding monolith of the Padon mountain range, dominates the wonderful valley, a treasure chest of natural treats with a genuine Dolomite flavour.
In the place called Rus, we found the first ample pasture, covered in flowers, and the first real ascent of the hike that leads to Col de Scofe. While we were climbing the slope, we stopped several time to enjoy the marvelous views on the Fodom Valley behind us, with the Col di Lana, the Settsass Group, Lagazuoi, Tofana di Rozes and the peaks of the Passo Giau. Great start for a hike!
The climb to Col de Scofe is sudden but relatively brief, and in half an hour we emerged from the woodland and we enjoyed the first complete view on the Padon mountain range. A sight that leaves us not indifferent, so much so that we spent several minutes admiring the peaks and the wonderful meadows in front of us. A spectacle that is worth a visit!
This beautiful dolomitic retreat of the Valle di Fodom appeared to us in its lush Summer version; the CAI Path 634 offers in this place an ample detour on the left side of the valley that gently climbs up the plateau. As we saw some military galleries from the Great War at the foot of the Col Toron, we decided to leave the path for a while to admire them and to take a look around; we eventually went on the summit of the Col Toron to take some picture of the Fodom Valley and of the incredibly imposing Sella Massif. This view left us almost breathless.
After a short tactic break (as you can see from the pictures, the weather changed rapidly at this point and we started to feel the first rain drops), we crossed the enchanting Scofe plateau towards the Passo Padon area; the harmony of nature is interrupted here only by some ski lifts of the Dolomiti Superski area (Passo Padon is one of the most important connections of the Arabba – Marmolada ski area), but all considered nothing that ruins the enjoyment of the place. It’s weird, however, to realize how the situation changes here from winter to summer: in winter, the Padon area is crossed by dozens of thousands skiers every day, whereas in summer you find here just some random hiker.
Once we reached the ski slope, we faced the last ascent of our hike on a wide and steep road. The slope becomes more steep as you come closer to the Passo Padon, but nothing too challenging for the average-level hiker. At the top of the Padon Pass, the view compensates you of the effort spent to reach the place, with one of the most beautiful landscapes of the Dolomites UNESCO area.
At Passo Padon we found ourselves in front of her, the almighty Queen of the Dolomites; the impressive Marmolada Massif dominated completely the landscape, too big to fit the camera framing, so beautiful and majestic to give us a chill on the back. Rifugio Padon lies on a marvellous panoramic position, and a continuous hustle and bustle of hikers enlived on that day the slopes of the Padon mountain range (also thanks to the lifts of the Marmolada area that are already open).
The imposing Sass de le Undes and Sass de le Dodes surrounded as austere walls the path that leads to the summit of the Marmolada from Passo Fedaia; furthermore, the Marmolada Glacier produced a lot of steam under the summer sun. The intermediate station of Punta Serauta of the Marmolada Cable Car (the place that houses the highest museum of the whole European area) appeared and disappeared quickly between the clouds, whereas towards the south we enjoyed marvellous views on the Agordino peaks: Civetta, Sass Bianc, the Auta mountain range, Pelsa, and the Pala Group on the Conca Agordina. A spectacle that well represents the beauty and charm of our Agordino, the Heart of the Dolomites.
After having enjoyed enough the view from the Passo Padon, with the promise of returning in these places within this Autumn, we went back on the same route we walked on the outward journey. The afternoon lights are more suitable to take pictures of the Fodom Valley, and we had many occasions to stop admiring the wonderful Padon mountain range and the peaks of the Northern Dolomites.
Once we were back to Col de Scofe, we took the small detour that allowed us to close the ring hike by descending on the other side of the Ru de Ornela. This other side is wider and more practical than the 634B, and in a few minutes we were back to Pian de la Fernata, the crossroads with the CAI Path 634B. Our choice to go back on this trail is arbitrary: the CAI Path 634 goes on downstream until Col de Ornela, so you can freely choose the one you like the more.
To conclude our ring hike it took almost 6 hours to us, but with a lot of stops and with no particularly performing pace. There are some steep slopes on the way towards Passo Padon, but generally nothing too challenging for the average-level excursionists and the enthusiasts of hiking in the Dolomites, above all considering that this place belong to the mountain range of the highest mountain of the Dolomite area.
In addition to the beauty of the natural surroundings, a place in the middle of the magnificent landscape of the Northern Dolomites, the Val d’Ornella is a place which is very charming and fascinating, being almost completely wild and untouched. The presence of some military galleries and posts on the Col Toron makes this hike interesting also under the point of view of the historical context of the area. Rifugio Padon is furthermore an excellent place in which to rest and eat something in a welcoming and true dolomitic atmosphere.
With this hike, guests have the chance to see a lot of different mountain groups of the Dolomites UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site: the Padon mountain range and the other groups of the Marmolada Dolomite System, the Sella Massif, the Col di Lana, the peaks of the Passo Valparola (Settsass, Sass de Stria, Lagazuoi) and of the Giau Pass (Nuvolau, Croda da Lago, Tofana di Rozes, Pelmo). From Passo Padon, the peaks of the Val Cordevole (Civetta among the others) and of the Conca Agordina (Pala Group) can be easily admired. Long story short, this is a wonderful hike for guests looking for an enchanting natural scenario during their visits to the heart of the Dolomites: try this one and it won’t let you down!
As usual, we invite you to leave a comment below if you enjoyed the article or if you like to share with our readers some of your Dolomite adventures. Our team wishes you all a beautiful summer 2020 full of hikes and dolomitic emotions. We’ll see each other very soon for other adventures from the Heart of the Dolomites – Stay tuned!