Sunrise on Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites

Few things in this world can wake me up before 6 am. Hurricanes, earthquakes, a raging fire, and promises of a beautiful mountain sunrise are about the only things that can lift me from the warmth of my own bed. But when I heard “sunrise from the top of the Dolomites”, I knew I wasn’t going to want to miss it.

It was still pitch dark when my alarm started buzzing at 5 am. I fought off the fatigue and layered up with as many warm merino base layers as possible. I was prepared for the cold because I knew it’d be worth it. 

In the winter, there is a unique experience offered in the Agordino region of Veneto, the Heart of the Dolomites. On some occasional mornings you have the chance to take the cable car to the top of the Marmolada, the tallest peak in the Dolomites, where you can enjoy the sunrise from 3,265 meters while the valleys below slowly wake up from their winter slumber. Be aware, bookings are required between January and February.

The morning started with a few coffees, of course. Once properly caffeinated, we began our journey up the first of three cable cars. With each meter of elevation, we gained the air got thinner and colder. The twilight had started to disappear and the sky was light blue. I knew I was in for a treat. 

The cable car on the Marmolada is an impressive feat in itself and is perfect for visitors who don’t want to ski or snowboard but who still want to enjoy the views from the top. The cable car is made up of three segments that connect Malga Ciapèla (at 1,450m), with Coston d’Antermoja (2,350m), Serauta (2,950m) before heading to the summit station at Punta Rocca (3,265m).

The history is strong in this part of the Dolomites, and during WWI the border between Italy and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire ran across the Marmolada, making it the frontline for fighting in the region. Soldiers lived in deep tunnels inside the glacier for years and warfare was conducted high up on the mountains. It was around then that the via ferrata system was created here.

The cable car climbed higher and higher and with the temperatures dropping to -20°C outside, I was immensely thankful for all the layers I had put on. The air was so cold I could only expose my fingers for a minute or two before they were completely numb. My warm breath instantly froze on my hair creating a ring of icicles around my face. 

Despite the cold, I loved it. That crisp frosty cold air can be harsh, sure, but there’s so much beauty in it as well. The snow sparkles and the world seems frozen in time, almost as if we were inside a snow globe about to be shaken.

The blue hues got lighter and lighter and then we saw our first spot of color. It was subtle at first and then a quick silent explosion of color filled the air, stretching over the horizon. 

It was at that moment, watching the world wake up from the top of the queen of the Dolomites that I fell in love with the Agordino. What a place! I truly felt her immensity and scale and privilege for getting to experience it in such a wonderful time of day.

And to be rewarded with treats and cake afterwards? And get to snowboard down? What. A. Day.


Photo credits: Liz Carlson

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