The “Alta Via Bepi Zac” is a spectacular equipped ridge trail along the Cime di Costabella, north of Passo San Pellegrino, in the Marmolada group. The route is dedicated to the Fassa Valley mountaineer Bepi Pellegrin (known as Zac), a nature lover, and a passionate local historian, who was also once the owner of the Passo delle Selle Refuge (2530 m), also known as the “Bergvagabunden Hütte” or refuge dedicated to the mountain “vagabonds.” The concept of mountain vagabond is captivating, evoking the gypsy-like restlessness that flowed in the veins of the very first pioneers of these mountains.
It’s late July, but the thermometer reads a few degrees above freezing; the Bepi Zac doesn’t want to give us anything for free. A light dusting of snow on the peaks of Costabella confirms that, until the sun appears, it will be cold. This is also a part of the mountain experience. Let’s get started!
Between the Great War and breathtaking vistas: the beauty of the Bepi Zac.
Landscape-wise, the Via Ferrata offers breathtaking scenery that ranges from the Marmolada to the Pale di S. Martino, from the Sella to the Sassolungo, from the Catinaccio to the Latemar. From a historical perspective, Costabella was an important defensive stronghold of the Austrian front during the Great War. Along the route, you will encounter numerous remnants such as trenches, barracks, caves, and fortifications. The trail is a true open-air museum that brings to life what happened just over 100 years ago on these peaks, including battles, cold, and hunger. A must-see detour along the Bepi Zac High Route is to visit the photographic exhibition “War against War” by Ernst Friedrich inside the rocky tower of Costabella (“Sass di Costabella”). It is a very raw and realistic exhibit that rekindles a deep objection to all wars.
The high route is moderately challenging and features some equipped sections and a few very exposed points. Via ferrata equipment is essential, in addition to good physical preparation. The first part from the Passo delle Selle Refuge to Cima Campagnaccia (2737 meters above sea level) is, from a technical standpoint, easier, also because there’s an option, just after Cima Campagnaccia, to expedite the descent by going right down a steep rocky channel with fixed ropes. The second, more technical part concludes at Forcella Ciadin. Let’s take a closer look at the itinerary.
The itinerary of the Bepi Zac High Route.
The starting point of the route is the parking area near the Costabella chairlift in San Pellegrino, which can be reached by car from Moena. By using the Costabella lifts, you can avoid the initial elevation gain. You’ll reach the Le Selle refuge (approximately one hour of walking). From here, the trail begins to climb. In about ten minutes, you’ll encounter the start of the Via Ferrata, where the use of climbing equipment is highly recommended. Several ups and downs lead to an Austrian cave, where it is still possible to visit a shelter for 12 soldiers; the interiors have remained perfectly preserved, like a space-time capsule. The bunk beds and wooden cabinets inside the cave are exactly as they were 100 years ago.
Once you reach the summit of Costabella (2731 m, an Austrian machine gun position), the trail becomes exposed and airy before passing to the Sass di Costabella, the former Italian frontline location hosting the aforementioned must-see photographic exhibition. Descending through a long rock crevice, equipped with stairs and ropes, you’ll reach Forcella Ciadin, where the Bepi Zac trail ends. From here, you can return to Passo San Pellegrino along trail 637 B.
Why are they called the Dolomites and their ancient geological origins
The magnificent Dolomites, also known by the nickname “Pale Mountains” for the milky gray color of their rocks, have their origins in the mists of time.
The time machine takes us back more than 250 million years ago. This part of Trentino was an immense tropical lagoon. Dinosaurs roamed freely on long stretches of sand, leaving prehistoric footprints. In some fortunate cases, these footprints have even been preserved to this day. Near Rovereto, in southern Trentino, it is still possible to admire them at the Lavini di Marco geosite.
In some areas, the tropical seas and beautiful lagoons were interrupted by splendid atolls with coral formations reminiscent of today’s Caribbean. These rocky formations, pushed upward by the collision of tectonic plates, emerged from the depths and are nothing other than the magnificent Dolomites we see today.
They owe their name to the French naturalist Déodat de Dolomieu (1750-1801), who was the first to study the particular type of rock they are composed of; their distinctive iridescent coloration is due to their chemical structure. In fact, they are an agglomeration of calcium carbonate and magnesium with a high capacity to reflect colors, capable of producing wonderful reflections of light during unforgettable sunrises and sunsets.
In brief, how to get there and important information.
Parking: at Passo San Pellegrino (Costabella chairlift) (check on maps) Trail Markings: trails E604B, E637, E604A (E637 alpine variant) Length: approximately 16 km (with the alpine variant) (round trip time approximately 6 hours)
Family: 👶 Pet friendly: 🐶 Ideal Seasons:🌸☀️🍂
📍 CLICK HERE to set up Maps and get directions directly to the starting point.