The first time I went to Baita Segantini everything that could go wrong went wrong. The weather was bad, the wind blew so strong that I could think of nothing else, and despite being the middle of September the temperature outside was still very low.

All signs pointed to ‘stay indoors’ on that early morning when we woke up, but I knew it wasn’t a hard trek to the ‘mountain hut’ that we had heard so much about. There was something exciting about the thought of getting there before everyone else; like we would experience something secret and exclusive.

The moon raises above Pale di San Martino
The moon raises above Pale di San Martino.

The minute we stepped outside the door we noticed the clouds. They were thick, fluffy, dense. Like the cotton wool clouds you see illustrated in cartoon books. And the only way to for us to travel was through them. My first reaction was to reach for my camera – a common accessory of mine that might as well be a fifth limb. But like I said, everything was going wrong, my camera never made it in my luggage.

This is what the south looks like from Baita Segantini.

My winter woes and cameraless frustration disappeared once we reached the end of the Passo Rolle we realised we were at the exact height of these clouds. Its a bizarre feeling to be at this height – at eye level of something you normally look down on from a plane or up to from the ground. It’s almost as if we had just stepped into heaven. This was the moment that I fell in love. In deep long lasting love with the Dolomites mountains and the 19th century wooden beamed ‘hut’ known as Baita Segantin.

Baita Segantin was built in 1935 by the Italian alpinist Alfredo Paluselli with some secular wooden beams from an old barn. Alfredo lived here for 35 years in seclusion, surrounded by nature and protected by the huge Cimon della Pala – the ‘Matterhorn of the Dolmites.’ The minute you see the aged structure, seated in the middle of the mountain range as if it were protected by a mote, you can only imagine the life that Paluselli would have lived there.

Baita Segantini covered in a cold winter sunset.

I think this is why I fell so in love with the region. And why I have returned so many time. Living in seclusion amongst nature is highly romanticised in my mind and something I have been longing to experience. To live as a hermit, surrounded by the devastatingly beautiful Dolmites Mountains, with nothing but your own thoughts, a notepad and a ukulele for entertainment, is an inevitable destiny for me.

The view of Cimon de la Pala from the edge above Baita Segantini.

The Dolmites Mountains tend to be overlooked by people traveling to Italy, but for me, this is a region I have come to know quite well. Hikers and adventurers are drawn to the mountains for the variety, beauty, and difficulty of climb. There are a number of different paths up the 18 peaks, and a number of different ways to travel. For me, there is only one way to take in the beauty of the land: on foot.

Marmolada as seen from Baita Segantini.
Marmolada as seen from Baita Segantini.

We spent 4 days visiting different sites, some nearly 3,000 meters above sea level, others closer to the base of the mountains. With temperatures still quite low, the higher up we went, the fresher the air, and the more clarity of thought. There is nothing more meditative for me than being on foot, alone in nature. It gives you a chance to admire the perfection of the natural architecture, a chance to be humbled by the immensity of an entire mountain range, and a chance to again remember that there are forces much much bigger than ourselves out here.

Cimon de la Pala shortly after sunset.
Cimon de la Pala shortly after sunset.

“The mountain reveals herself in all her infinite beauty only to those who love her for the scent of the malga and the roar of the torrent, for the harshness of the cliffs of rock and the softness of the whispering pasture; to those who know in equal measure the edelweiss and the cyclamen, the cloud and the brook, the stone and the grass-stalk; to those who feel the thrill of ascent, the pleasure of the walk through the woods, the harmony of the start and the tinkle of the cow-bell. Only those that understand all this can aspire to know the rugged pathways of the high mountain.”

– G. Mazzotti