Setting off to hike through this inspiring terrain, we took the Resciesa cable train from Ortisei up to the Puez-Geisler Nature Reserve and, finding ourselves at about 1,650 metres above sea level, climbed a path through pine trees which plateaued at about 2,000 metres and then took us gently across the high pasture land. It is covered in yellow flowers in springtime; though by the time we passed through the pasture had matured, and it wouldn’t be long before the cows were heading down the mountain for the winter.
We couldn’t see the cattle but the low, sonorous clang of their bells echoed across the mountainside, suggesting they were never far away. The views all around are inspiring: the jagged peaks of the Dolomites piercing a clear, blue sky.We walked for about an hour before pausing at Rifugio Brogles for a Hugo, where linen sheets billowed on a line just beyond the low fence, soaking up the freshness of the air as the breeze and sunshine dried them.These mountain huts, or rifugi, offer a network of sanctuary for hikers making their way through this splendid terrain, or skiers stopping by to warm up in the winter. But they are also well-equipped rest halts with good quality accommodation and restaurants that offer some of the finest mountain food you’ll find anywhere.
Once rested, we realised that ahead of us lay the more challenging part of the route: a sharp ascent through the Pana wind gap.The air thinned as the path steepened and we made our way upwards to 2,447 metres. The latter stages of the narrowing gap were buttressed by logs with steps carved into them and steel cables holding the rocks together to create a safe route. Once at the top, the sense of achievement was marked, standing on the sharp spine of an escarpment, with views back down our path in one direction and across the valley to Selva in the other.