Some history of the climbing and hiking Dolomites…

Mountain climbing was once seen as the height of impudence. Was there actually air to breathe up there?

Mountain people didn’t generally consider going up into the mountains a fun activity – this was also the attitude in the Dolomites. It was actually the city dwellers that incited mountain madness. Soon, there were rather strange rope teams hanging from the mountains: the tourists gaped at the peaks while the guides looked for rock crystals and Chamois – the well known but not often seen mountain goat of the alps. The crystals made the Dolomites world famous; the Chamois made a living from them.

Two hundred years ago, people got over their fear of the mountains, and the upper elevations evolved into a much loved recreation space. Even the higher Dolomite valleys were explored and developed, especially after the introduction of the automobile, which allowed people to travel deeper than trains could into the valleys and up mountain passes.

Grand hotels offered comfort with a view, and conquering one summit after another became a sport. Gradually the “Pale Mountains” – a moniker that has been used in reference to the Dolomites since time immemorial – revealed their secrets and a multifaceted story and cultural history unfolded.

World renowned mountaineer Reinhold Messner calls them the most beautiful mountains in the world. UNESCO declared them a World Natural Heritage Site in the summer of 2009: the Dolomites, a natural wonder in the truest sense of the phrase, evolved out of coral reefs over the course of 250 million years of geological history.

This region has been populated since the Iron Age. The Raetians, Romans and Lombards all left their mark. During World War 1, Austria and Italy drew their battlefront right through these mountains. The Ladin peoples, who are the oldest inhabitants of the Dolomites and South Tyrol’s third language group today, are really the permanent settlers, though: for millennia, the mountains have been their world – as God’s creation and the Devil’s handiwork. Hundreds of legends peopled by witches, wild men, and magic kingdoms provide a key to everyday life in the mountains, which has always been dominated by the forces of nature.

The effect of nature on shaping this region and its people has been formidable. All perspectives emanate from the mountain prospect. Views and thinking. The heights and the lower regions, closeness and vastness are tightly knit in South Tyrol’s world.

Since time immemorial the latest, the foreign, the progressive, all these influences have left their mark on South Tyrol while life in the higher regions has remained arduous. In the high Alpine pastures knowledge about nature and tradition has become intuitively embedded in everyday life, while below in the valleys far-sighted people realized long ago that culture adds character to the country.

Persons engaged in the preservation of historic monuments have been caring for the region’s cultural heritage since 1850. These monuments have escaped largely unscathed by wars and attacks. This region famous for its castles, noble residences, churches, is safeguarded by official bodies. History has enriched it.

Less than half a million people inhabit this region of Sud Tyrol as it is known in German, or Alto Adige as it is known in Italian and within it Germans, Italians and Ladin people all have their own fascinating cultures, histories and memories which we would love to share with you.

There is far more to the Pale Mountains than the beauty of the place that meets the eye. Our goal is to deepen the unique cultural experience that is the Dolomites. We hope our guests come to not only enjoy the spectacular landscape of the area but also to meet, learn about, and understand it’s people and it’s myths. South Tyrol offers an area of multifaceted cultural experiences we would love to share with you.

The above is from various booklets expertly researched and written by the amazing staff at the South Tyrol (Sued Tirol) tourist office. For more information go to: www.suedtirol.info