Via Ferrata High Route


The first via ferrate, iron roads, were built in the Dolomites during World War I. These high mountain routes consist of fixed steel cables, ladders and bridges, forming long trails through the mountains that are available to walkers and climbers of varying experience and ability. Originally built to help high altitude troop movements taking place in very harsh, winter conditions, these routes have not only been renewed and restored, but many others have been added, enabling access to much of the high Dolomites.
A great many towns and villages give access to via ferrate, but one of the most popular routes is Alta Via Uno. Begirming at Pragser Wildsee, near Toblach, this 120-km (75-mi) hike, ending at Belluno, takes days to complete and carries you through some of the most unforgettable scenery in the 'Pale Mountains', The routes are all very well signed, and there are frequent refuges in which to stay, providing simple, inexpensive meals and beds for hikers. It is also possible to take a much shorter, weekend trip that ends at Passo Falzareggo.
These are mountains of exceptional beauty. Tranquil, gentle valleys are interspersed with soaring steeples and pirulacles reaching up to 3,000 m (9,900 ft). The sheer walls, and jagged ridges formed from dolomite rock change colour with the passage of the sun, glowing red, pink, yellow, grey and white. On your way you will see rivers, lakes and forests laid out around you, an endless variety of trees, orchids, edelweiss and thousands of wildflowers in spring. In the highest regions, Alpine chamois and steinbock can be seen - even brown bear have been spotted. Elsewhere there are weasel, marten and the ubiquitous marmot, standing to attention, checking out eagles on the hunt in the sky above.


HOW
On foot

WHEN TO GO
May to mid-September

TIME IT TAKES
The entire length of Alta Via Uno will take up to two weeks to complete, but there are shorter sections that take only two to three days. Other via ferrate can be completed in a few hours.

HIGHLIGHTS
Skiing and other winter sports in the region.
The spectacular, panoramic views, paragliding and hang gliding during the summer.

YOU SHOULD KNOW
The name Dolomites derives from Deodat Gratet Dolomieu, the French mineralogist who first described the type of carbonate rock that forms these mountains.

Pamir Highway


The Pamir Highway is one of the highest, most thrilling, least-travelled routes in the world. Here, at the meeting point of the Tien Shan, Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges, is some of the most extraordinary and beautiful terrain on the planet, an eerie empty land of parched ochre rock, hot springs and turquoise glacial lakes set amongst the magnificent snow-capped peaks of the world's highest mountains.
Built by the Russians as a Soviet supply road, the Highway runs for some 1,250 km (780 mi) from Dushanbe to Osh along an ancient Silk Road route across the Pamir Plateau. Subject to erosion, earthquakes and landslides, the road is in a constant state of disrepair, making for a journey full of sudden unforeseen hazards. There is almost no traffic and, apart from shepherds herding their flocks, scarcely a soul to be seen. You will, however, stumble upon plenty of monuments - petroglyphs, ancient temples, Buddhist stupas and ruined fortresses, charting several millennia of history.
The Highway runs eastwards from Dushanbe across the plains, winding steeply upwards through rugged mountains to Khalaikum. You pass rusting hulks of abandoned Russian tanks and lurid signs warning of minefields as you manoeuvre your way through old landslips and uncontained streams sloshing across the road. The air grows colder and howling winds blow through an increasingly desolate landscape as you climb over the Koi-Tezek Pass at 4,200 m (13,775 ft) and set out across the Pamir Plateau towards China. At the frontier, the road turns northwards along the Chinese border up to Ak-Baital Pass at 4,655 m (15,270 ft) before descending to the hauntingly beautiful Lake Kara-Kul, through the lush pastures and dramatic gorges of the Alai Valley in Kyrgyzstan, to end this epic road trip at the colourful city of Osh.


HOW
By 4x4 or bike

WHEN TO GO
July to September

TIME IT TAKES
Five to seven days by 4x4. three weeks by mountain bike

HIGHLIGHTS
Yamchun - 12th century fort with spectacular view.
Bathing in the Garm-Chashma and Bibi Fatima hot springs.
Lake Karak-Kul - salt lake formed by meteorite impact millions of years ago.
Views from the Ak-Baital Pass, 4,655 m (15,270 ft).

YOU SHOULD KNOW
This is a demanding journey whether you travel by jeep or bike. You will be travelling at very high altitudes so must be physically fit. You can shorten the journey by taking a plane part of the way, from Dushanbe to Khorugh - a spectacular scenic flight through the mountains that is an experience in Itself.
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