Daniel and I met our team of 13 teenagers ages 14 to 18 at Innichen/South Tyrol. Our first day we hiked to Dreischusterhütte to spend the night.
Reaching the hut early, we played games outside until a hearty dinner and an early bedtime. Rising early, we walked through fog gradually climbing higher until we reached the Drei Zinnen Hut. With the three towering peaks in the backdrop we prepared for our first round of Via Ferrata/ Klettersteig.
Daniel and I taught our team the basics of Via Ferratta. I explained that the angry crab claw would sometimes upset happy crab claw causing them to separate but eventually reconciling. as well as how to conduct partner safety checks.
We made our way through long dark tunnels and up and over the mountain to crystal blue Alpine lakes below.
We swam in the cold clear waters (well I dipped my toes—it was a little cold for me) and dried in sun, swapping stories.
Sunday, the fog lay so heavy and thick that it felt like we walked through the clouds themselves. The views were breath taking and the edges of the cliffs were dotted with Edelweiss the rare alpine flower.
After more via ferreta we found ourselves in a valley filled with snow and a steep climb to 2660 meters.
The weather forecast said rain and thunder Tuesday, but Monday would be clear until 5:00 pm. Due to the dangerous weather we decide to not stay at Vandelli but to hike all the way to the San Marco Hut.
Monday would test our team’s endurance, courage and ability to work together, but we felt ready and the teenagers looked forward to the challenge. One told me “Monday will tell me what I am capable of.”
We started with the sun rise, following a wet, slippery and muddy trail down from Carpi, before climbing back up to Vandelli. At Vandelli we put on our harnesses and conducted partner checks.
This via ferreta snaked along the mountain. Without a harness, a misstep would result in a thousand meter drop. Our team worked together—pulling and pushing each other up over difficult climbs.
One teenager, who struggled hiking up the mountains, found her inner strength on this skyway and scampered easily over even the most difficult sections.
We ate lunch at the summit. Our team passed the test of courage, never faltering while climbing so high, but now would be a test of speed and endurance. We had already hiked and climbed seven hours and realistically had 6 or more to go, but bad weather was moving in quickly and we would be dangerously exposed if it hit while we hiked to San Marco.
We hiked quickly but cautiously slipping could be fatal. The sky darkened, wind began to howl and the temperatures dropped. We could see it raining heavily in the valley on our left and to our right, but our high center path experienced only a little rain.
We reached San Marco, without incident and an hour earlier than expected. Others at the hut were impressed by our team’s speed.
We passed the test and found our inner strength.
We spent our last two days exploring, making an attempt on the second highest peak of the Dolomites, watching Steinbock butt heads and playing games while waiting out bad weather.
My favorite part of the trip was watching the kids grow together as a team. At one point, Daniel and I sat back and watched as the teens lead the way, working together as a team. They gained confidence and competence as they mastered new skills.