Hi everyone! It's Federica from the Italian chapter!
I want to share with you women who hike my experience in hiking alone in the Dolomites, some of the most amazing mountains in Europe. I decided to start my journey after a complicated year on the personal/relationship side, and found that my cure is in the mountains. I have a home there
While driving to the mountains to reach the starting point of my solo hike, my hands where shaking on the steering wheel and I was terribly nervous. I hadn't been in the mountains for so long, and neither alone for so long... would I be able to do the four days hike all by myself, without getting hurt? While the days before leaving I felt happy and thrilled about the experience, getting closer to it made it look like a terrible idea. I kept telling myself that if it was too hard I could go back, make it end before the arrival point and go home, that it was not a competition. I parked my car, changed my shoes into boots and put the backpack on my shoulder, knowing that - despite having weighted it at home - I had packed definitely more stuff that I was going to need. I had two chances to reach the top: with a cable car or hiking the 1.100mt/3.600ft gap plus another 300mt/980ft gap to reach the summit. Since it was going to be only four days of hiking, I opted for the second option. I collected the huts' overnight stay booking and the map at the cable car booth, and started walking the trail because I knew it was the only way to clear my mind.
The first hut I was going to spend the night in was the Rifugio Rosetta (Rosetta Hut), that's located in the plateau of the Pale di San Martino and is highly popular due to the proximity of the cable car arrival point. This means that also the nearby Rosetta mountain's summit (2743mt/9000ft asl) is crowded with people hiking in flats, sandals, sneakers... since from the cable cars only 20 minutes and 300mt/980ft gap. I had mixed feelings about it... having hiked for almost four hours from the base of the Pale di San Martino, it seemed strange to me to see people getting down from the cable car and reaching the summit without effort. Nevertheless, the emotion of getting to my first summit alone, looking down to the valley and seeing the small village of San Martino di Castrozza was indescribable. Once I got there, I took a seat under the cross that marks the summit top and enjoyed some well-deserved rest before heading to the hut.
Once I reached the Rosetta hut, which was about 30 minutes from the summit, I settled in the room I was assigned for the night, and then went to the common room and asked for a beer ad a slice of cake, which I enjoyed on a bench outside, with the last sun rays of day. As the sun light was decreasing I saw a lot of people leaving the hut to get to the cable car station before it closed for the last ride, and few people remained in the hut. Dinner was the hardest part for me. I sat at a table for 8 people alone, while on the other tables in the room I saw couples or group of friends enjoying their meals together while giving some strange looks and me, the girl sitting alone. The hut manager spent some minutes talking to me, asking if I was doing the trek alone, where I was going, which trails I was hiking, and this drew even more the attention of the surrounding people toward me, making me feel slightly uncomfortable. Despite other people doing the same trails I was about to do, none of them tried to speak to me... making me question about the sociability of people. I then spent some minutes outside after dinner, but the sun had already set down and I went in my room for a good sleep while all the other guests remained in the common room chatting. I was tired, I was feeling lonely and I started wondering if I was able to face the following days all alone. Sleeping was hard despite how much exhausted I felt, cause this feeling of uneasiness kept me from getting some rest.
When it was about 5 am, I got dressed and got out of the hut. It was still dark, all the lights where still off and there was no one around. The air in the early morning at 2500mt/8200ft was chill, it was the beginning of September by the way. I took a walk between the rocks of the plateau and when I found one that looked suitable, I seated on it (it was super cold). I started crying, maybe that need of being alone that I longed for was making me feel too lonely in the end. I was about to decide whether it was better going home or not, when the first beam of lights started to show from behind the mountains of the plateau, behind my back, and hitting the Rosetta's summit. I turned to the directions the rays where coming from to see the light pushing away the darkness and giving colors to the clouds, colors brighter that I could imagine. I felt happy and amazed and immediately understood that everything was going to be fine, everything would be all right, I would make it to the end, and I finally felt that peace of mind I was looking for, cause I finally felt I was home, where I belonged.
From that morning, the hike was not easier but I was definitely light hearted. And after that day, every time I can I go back to that same place, that place that gave me that peace of mind and that light hearted feeling that I'd been looking for so long.
Because now I can really say that home is where my heart is.
The first time I got back to the Rosetta hut was almost four months after. As I entered the hut I was greeted warmly by the hut manager and I was really stoked. That hut hosts and feeds thousands of people over the season, and he still remembered me. I don't know if it was due to the chat we had my first night there, or because I was a solo female hiker and you don't usually see many, but it reassured me that the mountains are my home.