Hiking passo Ombretta, Marmolada, in two days. Plus bivacco and via ferrata

Passo Ombretta is a famous mountain pass for hiking in the Dolomites at an altitude of 2700 m at the southern wall of Marmolada, 3342 m — the highest mountain of the whole Dolomites.

The southern wall of Marmolada is also one of the symbols of the Dolomites, described even in the legends of the local native people Ladins.

The pass can be hiked in two days with an overnight stay in free mountain shelter bivacco right on the pass.

I did it in September 2013 and liked it so much, that I still want to repeat it one day!

Ivan Kuznetsov
Outdoor editor from the Dolomites and Karelia

Overview of the Route
Why Hiking Passo Ombretta, Marmolada
How to Get and Come Back
Photos of Ombretta Pass
Where to Hike and Where to Sleep
Three Features

Passo Ombretta, Marmolada: Overview

  • Rifugio open season: from June 21 to September 21.
  • Start and finish: village, cable car and camping Malga Ciapela.
  • Type of route: linear.
  • Duration: 2 days with an overnight stay in free alpine shelter bivacco.
  • Total hiking distance: 18-20 km (8-9 km + 10-11 km).
  • Altitude gain and drop: day 1: +1300 m, day 2: (+ 300 m), -1200 m (1500 m).
  • Level of difficulty: hard.
  • Official websites: https://www.dolomitiunesco.info/?gruppo-dolomitico=marmolada&lang=en

Passo Ombretta, Marmolada: Why Hiking

Marmolada is the highest mountain in the Dolomites, but in my opinion, visiting the mountain itself from the south side is not interesting. The cable car will take you up in 10 minutes, there will be many tourists. It is much better to walk the path along the southern wall of Marmolada through the Passo Ombretta (Ombretta Pass), 2700 meters, and sleep in bivacco right on the pass.

The pass is also known from one of the legends of the Dolomites under the name “Conturina”: stepmother buried a young stepdaughter in a rock (the southern wall of the Dolomites) on this pass because of envy for her beauty, and she did not wait for the prince. Since then, she sings songs with sadness — the mountain is considered to be “singing” and looks like a female statue.

Passo Ombretta, Marmolada: How to Get There and Come Back

The nearest settlement is the former farm Malga Chiapela, which is also an elevator to the top of Marmolada. Nearby is a camping site with the same name.

It takes a few hours to get here by bus from Belluno to the village of Caprile. Further from Caprile to Malga Chiapela there can be an inconvenient schedule: don’t wait for the bus, catch a car to travel the remaining few kilometers. Hitchhiking in Italy is good, and there are many cars in the area of Marmolada. I did like this.

To get out you will need to walk from the pass on the early morning or in the afternoon of the next day, depending on the duration of the hike, to the village of Alba di Canazei on the opposite side of the pass. From here at 9 a. m. you can take the bus to Feltre with a transfer in the village of San Martino di Castrozza (Pale di San Martino mountain range). However, it was in 2013. Check the bus schedule at Trentinotrasporti.it, learn how to travel in the Dolomites by bus in general.

Passo Ombretta, Marmolada: Photos

Passo Ombretta, Marmolada: Where to Hike and Where to Stay

Immediately from Malga Chiapela begins a marked trail to the Ombretta Pass. In theory, you don’t need a topographic map of the Dolomites, but I very recommend to have it. The ascent is not the easiest — 1300 meters, from 1400 to 2700 meters. I started it at 2 p. m., at 6 p. m. I came on the pass. At the same time, I walked almost without stopping.

There is a free alpine shelter bivacco with a capacity of 9 people. There are soft mattresses on the beds, a lot of blankets in which you can wrap if you do not take a sleeping bag.

The next morning, coming down from the pass in 2.5-4 hours, you will find yourself in the village of Alba di Canazei near another famous mountain range Sassolungo (Langkoffel).

Read the article “Everything You Want to Know About Free Mountain Shelters — Bivouacs in the Dolomites“.

Passo Ombretta, Marmolada: Three Features of the Route

  1. In the middle of the path at an altitude of 2000 meters will be rifugio Onorio Failer. In the summer season, it is possible to resupply water. There will be no water at the pass and during the descent from it, so take the maximum that you can lift up the mountain — another 700 meters. Next rifugio Contrin located on the other side of the pass is another two hours of walking.
  2. From Passo Ombretta you can climb even higher — to the top of the mountain of the same name Cima Ombretta, 3011 meters. From there, you can enjoy a stunning view of all the central Dolomites: the mountains Civetta, Pelmo, and Antelao on one side, Sassolungo and other mountains on the other. However, there are a few challenges: you have to climb another 300 meters after climbing 1300 meters in the same day; the trail is intuitive — on a steep mountain slope; there is via ferrata; descending from the top on the crumbling rocks is even harder; after sunset, it gets dark very fast, just in half an hour — this time is not enough to descend. Hence the conclusion: you should climb only with equipment for via ferrata, have at least 1-1.5 hours to climb and the same amount of time to descend until dark if you come by a different transport than me, and you feel that you have enough time left. The trail is easy to lose. Either go up there at dawn the next morning and go down to the village of Alba in the afternoon if you find transportation from there or decide to spend the night in the village.
  3. At altitudes above 2000 meters in the Dolomites, there is a lot of camoscio (chamois) or mountain goats. Most likely, you will see it. My 20 goats walked around bivacco all night! They have very expressive and even creepy eyes, which glow in the dark — but do not be afraid of it.

Cover photo: self-portrait on the Passo Ombretta in September, 2013 © Ivan Kuznetsov.

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