The story of a single photo, ep. 2: Camping beneath Averau

After the cancelation of a trip to Pakistan, I decided to go with Łukasz from Taternia Taternia in the Dolomites on via ferratas – a secured climbing routes. During the previous journeys into these mountains I visited the places which I had explored multiple times already, e.g. during the training courses conducted by me within Light Guides. As the access through via ferrata is much more difficult in comparison with the most popular places, e.g. Tre Cime, Passo Giau et al., I started to have high hopes for unique frames.

up to the top!

The Dolomites greeted us in the best way possible. After spending 15 long hours in the car, we finally felt a scent of fresh air and saw the rays of sunshine as they were trying to break through a cloudy sky (ain’t no *blacha!). A chilly breeze instantly made us feel refreshed, easing a reluctance to put on a 30–kg backpack, even though a standard thought, “Is it worth it?”, accompanied me when leaving a parking lot at Cinque Torri. A welcoming beer drank at the parking lot increased our motivation and after a quick repackaging we took off.

We decided to ease the initial part of the trail and spent 13,5 euro on a cable car, in this way shortening the road to Cinque Torri. Only after returning along this trail on foot did we realise how lucky we were – the mud was covering our ankles at times. Our hike started from Rifugio Scoiattoli (A Squirrel’s Shelter, in free translation). After 20 or so minutes, we carried our clobber to Rifugio Averau and celebrated this achievement by drinking another cold beer. It was raining outside, so we made of this break to repack and put on a via ferrata equipment. When the weather quietened down, we drank the last sip of beer and headed out towards Averau 2649 m n.p.m.

Tomasz Przychodzień

I have contemplated the Averau peak on multiple occasions and from almost every angle. What I lacked of was a photo from the top of the mountain, possible to reach only by via ferrata, assessed in guidebooks as easy. Indeed, the route turned out to be not that technically demanding, although the backpack was weighing down on me – it was meant to have 30 litres of capacity, but I felt like there was 30 kg of weight in it. Full to overflowing, 90 litre Osprey was slowly climbing to the top and soon I was able to enjoy one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen in the Dolomites.

on the summit

Tomasz Przychodzień at Averau peak

I’ve been in the Dolomites on several occasions: with my family, on my own or when conducting training courses, and yet I was dumbfounded by the view from Averau, being able to perceive the summits of Cinque Torri, Nuvolau, Ra Gusela and Pelmo in a completely new way. The beginning of an adventure with via ferrata was very promising and the physical effort came out to be worthwhile, given the number of new frames I managed to capture. However, the first sunset on via ferrata turned out to be only a prelude of what’s to come.

As soon as the sun hid behind a horizon, we walked down 150 m or so in search for a proper camping place. The combination of a camping tarp, a cosy sleeping bag and a bottle of whiskey resulted in a serene sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night to check the weather. The sky was starry and crisscrossed by showering Perseids, while the Milky Way was visible to the naked eye – in short, a paradise for astrophotographers. Luckily, I’m not one of them and I was able to focus entirely on admiring the views. Unfortunately, the sky full of stars foreshadowed clear sky by sunrise, so I went to sleep, keeping in mind that the only right decision at 4.30 am will be to continue sleeping.

photographing sunrise

The sky, which was cloudless at night, woke me up at 5 am with rain, so our early packing was joined with preserving from water the equipment which I had left near the camping place. After 20 minutes and a true breakfast for champions, consisting of a few cubes of chocolate and a sip of whiskey, I started to walk up. The task was handicapped by slippery rocks, although it was a good sign, giving hope that there will be no clear sky. The motivation has increased.

As I reached the top, it turned out that the spectacle I had seen at sunset on the day before was only a starter to a main course. It was raining constantly and the Nuvolau refuge, located way off in the distance, was swathed with clouds overflowing the nearest peaks. Dark, stormy clouds were hanging above the summits of Passo Giau. The first thunders over Marmolada started to distort the monotonous sound of rain drops. There was a full range of weather phenomena. Despite the lack of light, I couldn’t complain on the lack of frames. It was at this moment when I took my favourite photo of that morning, the one you can see below.

Camping beneath Averau

In the foreground the Nuvolau refuge emerged from the clouds. The distant summits were overflown by clouds, with only the highest parts of them visible. The cloud banks were sliding down the steep alps like waterfalls towards the pass of Giau, which was covered underneath an eiderdown of fog. This scenery was totally unexpected as just a few hours ago it seemed that there won’t be a single cloud in the sky. It was not the first time the mountains surprised me with a changing weather, but it only goes to show that it is always worth trying, no matter what the weather forecast suggests. The only thing you can waste in this way is time, but we all know that the time spent in the mountains is never wasted. Even if I go back home without photos, I am enriched by new experiences which make up for all the effort. Always.

After a while, the first sunrays appeared from the Cortina direction. The second act of the play has now begun. The lighting was changing almost every second and it was impossible to capture everything. I was constantly switching cameras and lenses, swearing that I had left the second tripod under a camping tarp. In the meantime, I was wiping the photographic objectives with cloths and just like the windscreen wipers on a rainy day – I was hardly keeping up. My only hope was that after returning home and deleting all of the photos wasted by rain drops, there still will be some great frames left. In all this mess, a rainbow suddenly emerged from the west. A double rainbow. It was a cherry on top – after taking a photo I felt like I have no right to expect anything more.

After two hours I decided that I had seen enough. Common sense told me that it can’t get any better than this and the very thought of returning on via ferrata during a storm motivated me to go back as quickly as I could. After 20 minutes I was at the camping place – soaking wet and happy at once.

Time to begin a brand new day. Breakfast. Sip of whiskey. Via Ferrata.

Below you can see a few frames from that morning.

Images from Averau

* blacha – a situation well thought of by the tourists, when there is a clear sky, the sun is shining and a hike in the mountains starts to resemble a rest in a seaside resort. However, for a landscape photographer these are one of the most unsuitable conditions for taking photos.