Trip report: The amazing Dolomites of Northern Italy

Lago di Braies, Dolomites Italy
The stunning Lago di Braies, Dolomites, Italy.

For the past three years or so I’ve been fortunate enough to have been commissioned by Vango and Force Ten to produce various photos and videos for their marketing and catalogues. The work has taken me to the French Alps and a number of locations around Britain. 

The imagery was mainly focused on backpacking equipment for Force Ten but this year they asked me to include family camping aspects too – something which was rather daunting for me as it was all new ground in many respects (including working with professional models). So I had mixed feelings of trepidation and excitement when they informed me that we’d be off to the Dolomites in Italy for 8 nights to capture scenes of new and amended kit for 2015.

Thankfully, my nerves soon disappeared as the work began in earnest and I wandered about in awe at the other-worldly majesty of the towering limestone peaks of South Tyrol. The Dolomites has always been a place I’ve wished to visit, and despite the 14-16 hour days, sweltering heat and altitude – I loved every minute of exploring this fantastic range of mountains that hug the main Alps proper.

One of our first shoots was around a stunning lake called Lago Di Braies which resides in a valley at about 5000ft and bizarrely I suffered from some very minor altitude sickness! I always took such symptons to generally kick in at the 6000ft mark. One of the children who was modelling had their father in tow who happened to work in a mountain rescue team in the Bavarian Alps and he proved to be very informative in reassuring me that what I was experiencing was normal for someone who lives in England at little over 50ft above sea level!

It was interesting listening to Patrick’s stories about the rescues he’s been involved with – many of which were similar to what MRT’s deal with in the UK. Ill-equipped and ill-prepared tourists jumping on cable cars, and racing about on the high ground not paying attention to the terrain, weather and of course not being mindful of the sudden change in altitude (something we don’t ever have to think about here in Blighty).

As the week progressed I felt perfectly fine and when the work involved heading up to 6000ft then 7000ft and almost 8000ft I wasn’t affected by the altitude at all – despite some of the Vango team faltering at times and having to take things slowly. In truth I wasn’t exactly rushing about either but that was down to the intense workload and sweltering heat under clear blue skies.

Regardless of bringing along the necessary kit, I never did manage to head up the tops and wild camp for a night or two. Shame. I was eager for it, but a combination of evening thunderstorms and the trips itinerary put any thoughts of that to bed. On the subject of wild camping – Force Ten will hopefully be releasing an eVent bivouac soon and a tarp too. Will be interesting to see what they come up with.

I also have to say that the Rohan clothing I wore for the trip performed superbly. Outstanding in fact. And unusually for me I wore sandals every day of the trip – from valley bottoms to the high tops. I’ve not done this before, but Chris Townsend persuaded me to give it a go recently and it’s been a revelation to me in terms of hiking comfort during the summer. Sure, the odd bit of grit crept in at times but it was easy to to remove, and not once did I bash my toes on any rocks (I wore some old Merrell Moabs though they’re a bit battered now). Scree walks were fine but I did cross with care – but overall I loved it. And later this week I’ll continue to wear them on a visit to the Lake District.

All in all it was a fantastic trip and I’m truly grateful for Vango for inviting me along and having the faith in me to come up with the goods they required. The company was great, the Italians were charming and lovely (though some aspects to their ‘laid-back’ culture grated me a little at times to say the least), the beer was shite and most of all the mountain scenery was out of this world.

You can enjoy a peek of what I got up via the following photos. Special thanks to John at Vango for capturing some pictures of me at work too.


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