Unknown hiking area or famous tourism arena? - The Via Alpina in north-eastern Italy

“We, Katharina Boie and Vincent Neeb (both 14 years old) from the south of Munich, Germany, are going to hike along the Yellow Trail of the Via Alpina. The project will probably be divided in two one-week stretches, one at the beginning of June and one in early August (corresponding to the school holidays in Bavaria). The first part will take us from the Triglav to the Julian and southern Carnic Alps and to the Pesarin Dolomites in Italy, across a widely unknown and therefore very authentic area. On the contrary the second part is a big East-West crossing of the Dolomites, leading through famous massifs like the Sorapis-Antelao, Pelmo, Marmolada and the Catinaccio/Rosengarten. But here also there are “quiet corners”, which we will particularly endeavour to explore. Therefore we will sometimes come off the main Via Alpina route to avoid well-known and consequently overcrowded tourist attractions like the Pordoi and Giau passes, and find instead quieter routes which may in part be more difficult and more alpine. In particular, summit climbs for instance to the Antelao, Monte Pelmo, Marmolada and Catinaccio d’Antermoia/Kesselkogel could make these parts of Via Alpina attractive for mountaineers who climb confidently on easy or moderate grounds.

However our main goal is to make comparisons between the different massifs and countries. We will also include the Bavarian and Tyrolean Alps which we know well, and the Ötztal Alps. The comparisons will regard most diverse aspects:

1.    Physical factors

In this part we will deal with the geology and the formation of these parts of the Alps, especially the impact of erosion and its further evolution. Furthermore we will study closer the climate, flora and fauna of the mentioned areas and look at the consequences of climate change.

2.    History and culture

Here we will try to give an historical overview of the settlement and the cultural development in the Alps, from the first findings in the Stone Age to the Roman times, the middle Ages and up to now. We are especially interested in the agricultural use in these areas, and also in specific cultures such as the “cultural island” Sauris in the Carnic Alps and of course the Ladin culture, unique in the Alps up to now. The current development of these cultures and specifically the support to mountain agriculture is also interesting and we will study it mostly through discussions with local people.

3.    Tourism

Tourism was developed rather late in the parts of the Alps that we are going to cross. The Carnic Alps are still widely unknown and thus promise quiet landscapes without ski lifts or overcrowded road passes. This means on one hand quiet hiking days and relaxation, on the other hand there isn’t here any infrastructure for ski tourism or holidaymakers in search of attractions who wish to reach high and interesting summits without long walks. In the Dolomites it is the contrary, but here also, hikers gather in large numbers in order to explore the exciting landscape; but they are often disturbed and must give up enjoying the calm which should actually be prevalent in the mountains.
Therefore we want to try and identify a way to establish a balance between “normal” tourists and hikers which on one hand would preserve the natural authenticity of the Alps and the quietness, on the other hand would continue to fill the tills of the managers and countries so that projects for the conservation of culture and landscape can be funded; this approach should distribute tourism better, aiming for a change of mindset among the tourists and raised interest for sustainable forms of tourism.

We will report on our work in an internet blog, to communicate regularly our results and experiences. Overall we will mostly aim at reaching young people our age, to convince them of the experience and challenge, but also the relaxation brought about by a hike and to give them incentive for an environmental-friendly kind of tourism. We are very much looking forward to our adventure and hope to motivate a large number of people to also walk in the Alps and give more attention to the exceptional Alpine landscape.”

Vincent and Katharina hiked from 25 May to 1 June from Planica in Slovenia to Forni di Sopra in the Italian Friuli. Then, from 1 to 8 September they carried on their hike from Forni di Sopra to Canazei.

After one stage on the Via Alpina Red Trail, they followed the Yellow one with several variants due to the snow (still abundant during the first week) or to pepper their hike with more demanding ascents, or in their search for “quite corners” as alternative to the most frequented sections. Despite the language barriers, they were able to lead very interesting discussions with hut keepers and inhabitants (especially in the first part of their hike, less so in the largest huts of the Dolomites) and many tourists. As they expected, their route was full of contrasts: a flora with both Alpine and Mediterranean influences, abandoned villages and over-developed ski resorts, impressing cliffs and landscapes of phantasmagorical rock formations created by erosion... In their video, they comment the most beautiful images of their hike and of the natural and cultural heritage admired on the way.


Vincent and Katharina also wrote up a comparative report, complete and illustrated, on the three topics considered (physical factors, history and culture, and tourism) and on the attractivity of the trails followed, downloadable here (in German): PDF (9.8 Mb).

Contact: YouthProject2013(at)hotmail.com

The Blog: youthproject2013.blogspot.de