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Our Mountains: the Dolomites

In 1848, Alexis De Tocqueville, a French sociologist, traveled throughout the United States and wrote about us referring to us and our democracy as exceptional. Our Tyrolean community has its very own De Tocqueville, Father Bonifacio Bolognaniwho traveled extensively throughout the states for over 20 years, declared us Tyrolean as exceptional. He went further, wrote a book about us, and thereby gave us if not a name possibly an identity.The books title was: A Courageous People from the DolomitesThis wonderful complement preceded and resonated the wonderful designation than none other than UNESCO gave our ancestral landsdeclaring the Dolomites as so special and exceptional that they were and are to be henceforth considered as part of the world heritageHence, descendants of these courageous people from the Dolomiteslets get to know them better by examining what they are and where they are. Compared to other mountains, they are brighter, more colorful, more monumental, and seeming to be architecturally inspired. The Dolomites feature some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys. They rise up like a cathedral of rock, full of rugged crags and breathtaking pinnacles. Formed 200 millions years ago out of the primeval ocean whose debris were pushed up as the land masses collided. Dodat de Dolomieu (1750-1801) discovered and defined the unique composition of the stone, dolomite, giving the mountains their name and responsible for the characteristic shapes and color of these mountains. They were referred to as monti pallidi, the pale mountains. These mountains are relatively young compared to other mountains. Geologically, the mountains are formed of light-colored dolomitic limestone, which erosion has carved into grotesque shapes. The resulting landforms include jagged, saw-edged ridges, rocky pinnacles, screes (pebble deposits) of limestone debris, deep gorges, and numerous steep rock faces. Many of the lower and more gentle scree slopes were once forested; only patches of woodland remain, however, interspersed with grassy meadows. There are specific groups of Dolomites: the eastern section bounded by the valleys of the Isarco (northwest), the Val di Pusteria (north), the Piave (east and southeast), the Brenta (southwest), and the Adige (west). The Trentino Alto Adige has over 66% of the Dolomites. The range comprises a number of impressive peaks, 18 of which rise to more than 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). The highest point is the Marmolada (10,964 feet), the southern face of which consists of a precipice 2,000 feet high. Dolomites were the front line between Austria and Italy during World War I and are still scattered with abandoned bunkers and fortifications. Many people visit the Dolomites to climb the Vie ferrate, protected paths used by the soldiers during the First World War and further developed to enhance the access to these sensational places. A number of long distance footpaths run across the Dolomites, which are called "Alte vie" (i.e., high paths). Such long trails, which are numbered from 1 to 8, require at least a week to be walked through and are served by numerous "Rifugi" (huts). A tourist Mecca, the Dolomites are famous for skiing in the winter months and mountain climbing, hiking, and Base Jumping, as well as paragliding and hang gliding in summer and late spring/early autumn. Primiero With this brief introduction, we will explore in future editions the individual groups of Dolomites one by one.
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