First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 9. Adamello Massif and Rifugio Mandrone

Glacier front at Forcella Payer
Short after the begin of the conflict, the Adamello massif became one of the highest front during World War I. The Italian-Austrian border ran at that time across two important mountain ranges, the Ortles-Cevedale and the Adamello-Brenta range, where the so called “white war” was fought between 1915 and 1918. This Alpine War, lead on positions at 3000m above the sea level and – as a consequence – in difficult climatic and geographic conditions was, especially in winter, a double fight – against the enemy and the nature – surviving with temperatures dropping deep below zero also during the day. The Adamello range was a crucial point for both Armies.  For the Italians controlling it would assure the command on Val di Genova and then on Trentino. On the other side, the Austro-Hungarian Army looked at this massif as the entering pass to the Pianura Padana and Milan. It is therefore no surprise, that this mountains were the setting of bitter battles and became thus a “white hell”. Many marks of WWI can be seen even today: trenches, bunkers and fortress are everywhere on the three peaks of the Adamello and relicts, remnants, weapons and even soldiers bodies emerge every years, as the glaciers of Adamello melt and release them.
To approach Adamello range and discover the “white war” we suggest a first one-day-itinerary to Rifugio Mandrone, which permits, in the case, an extension up to the glaciers. This itinerary – at least till Mandrone refuge – offers no particular difficulty and requires only proper trekking equipment and training. It takes in all about 5 hours and a difference of height of about 850m.

You can reach Malga Bedole driving up to Val di Genova, along the river Sarca. During the summer, considering the touristic traffic, the road is partially closed to private vehicles. It is in any case possible to take a shuttle-bus in Carisolo or Pinzolo, the two village at opening of the Valley of Genova (For further informations call the tourist-office in Pinzolo: +39 0465 501007). From Malga Bedole you can reach in about 15 minutes Rifugio Bedole, behind which starts the path n. 212, that enters immediately the wood. For the first part the steep path twists and turns among the trees and small bridges over the runlets coming from the glaciers, then the ascent becomes milder and crosses high meadows with a great view on the front glaciers of Mandrone and Lobbie. This is a magnificent landscape, especially if you think about both human and geological history deposited here, as you can learn as soon as you reach the Center Julius Payer, dedicated to the Austrian officer who first climbed Adamello in September 1864 (open from June to September, for informations contact the Società degli Alpinisti Tridentini). The Center was founded in 1994, renovating the Capanna Mandron, and shows a permanent exhibition dedicated to geology and glaciology of the Adamello range made of “tonalite”, a volcanic rock which is an unicum in the Alps context. There’s also an observatory and a small botanic garden, that conserves many species of plants and flowers of the high mountain environments endemic to small nival areas of the near glacier. Adamello glacier is in fact the largest in Italy. But we said both human and geological history. Therefore we recommend to visit not only the Center Julius Payer, but to have also a look at the ruins of the near Leipziger Hütte: existing since 1878, it was one of the oldest huts in Trentino and served during the Great War as Austrian shelter, before the Italian Army conquered the place in spring 1916 after the “battle of the glaciers”. A last stop-over has to take place at the tiny – yet touching – WWI war cemetery nearside.

Lake ascending from Rifugio
Mandrone to Forcella Payer
After all that, we guess one really deserves a break at the Rifugio Mandrone, the destination point, which is only 10 minutes walk far away. Here you can rest and eat something. According to the time, forces and interest at your disposal, you can chose between these two suggestions, before coming back home. You can have a short walk near the Refugee and have a look to the small lakes besides, lie down on the grass and look around, at the rocks, the glaciers and the sky. If you want to undertake an extension to the itinerary, you can follow the unnumbered path which starts behind the Rifugio Mandrone and leads to saddle. From the Forcella Payer (2978) different paths run on the glacier. This would cost however a lot of time and require also three further prerequisites: you have to sleep at Rifugio Mandrone, in order to have enough hours of light for your walk on the glaciers; you must have an appropriate equipment (climbers, ropes, etc); lastly, if you’re not a very high skilled climber, you should be accompanied by an alpine guide, since the glaciers are really very dangerous environments. Anyway, reaching the Payer saddle takes only 1 hour from Rifugio Mandrone and the view on the glacier plateau is worth, even if you cannot walk on it.
The descent follows then the same path of the ascent to Rifugio Mandrone and then, with path n. 212, to Malga Bedole.