For a moment, Kristina Ciari looked like Julie Andrews from the 1965 film “The Sound of Music.”
But she wasn’t surrounded by the hills of Austria. She was awestruck by the Italian Dolomites, an impressive mountain range that traces the northeastern border between Italy and Austria.
It was late September: Ciari and her husband, Jordan Tursi, on an annual vacation, had just hiked up to Rifugio Averau, a Bavarian-style lodge perched at 7,916 feet.
The view from the top was jaw-dropping. All around them was beauty: striking peaks, mountain valleys and deep gorges.
Ciari could hardly contain her glee.
“I was just giddy, jumping around,” she said. “At one point, Jordan was like, ‘You need to calm down.’”
For Ciari, the Dolomites were another check-off on her bucket list as an adventurer-traveler. She has been a member of the Mountaineers for more than six years. Ciari, of Seattle, will speak at the The Mountaineers’ Everett branch open house Nov. 6 at the Snohomish County PUD Auditorium.
Ciari and Tursi spent two weeks cycling, hiking and climbing in idyllic settings from Sept. 22 to Oct. 7. On their rest days, they lodged in mountain huts and dined with other world travelers.
Ciari, 35, is an avid hiker, cyclist, climber and skier whose day job is director of membership and marketing for Seattle Mountaineers. She met Tursi, 40, an adventurer in his own right, through the organization. Both are of Italian descent and love travel in their ancestors’ country.
They married last year and spent their honeymoon in southern Italy. Far off in the distance were the Dolomites, which form part of the Southern Limestone Alps. The couple decided they’d go there the following year.
“I’m a mountain person and we love Italy, so it was an easy decision,” Ciari said.
The Dolomites, which are named after the carbonate rock dolomite, are often referred to as the “pale mountains” for their shades of white, gray, cream and pink. The landscape, dominated by 18 peaks, consists of more than 350,000 acres of glaciers, rock faces, gorges, forests and valleys.
During World War I, the Dolomites were a battleground for Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces. Soldiers built defensive positions on crests, carved out footpaths to traverse the front line and bolted ladders and cables into rock, known as via ferratas, to ascend steep faces.
Remnants of the war remain. About 75% of the area’s residents speak German, which explains why the villages and towns that dot the countryside are a cultural smorgasbord.
The wartime infrastructure today serves as stepping stones into the mountains for adventurers. During a day hike, Ciari and Tursi climbed a via ferrata that had been restored by rock climbers as Marmolada Glacier, the only glacier in the Italian Dolomites, loomed in the background.
“Traveling there to do a via ferrata is a big pretty big industry,” she said.
A massive network of mountain huts, including Rifugio Averau, were built for overnight stays. Tourists bounce from one to the next, as they traverse the region.
After a few days in Venice, Ciari and Tursi train hopped to northern Italy, and rented a car and some bikes. They spent the better part of a week on a circuit route around the Brenta Dolomites, a subrange of the Southern Limestone Alps.
They rode on hillside paths, undulating alpine roads and steep descents and climbs. They passed mountain goats and made a pit stop at a vineyard.
In all, they’d biked 107 miles and gained 10,500 in elevation. Their toughest day stretched 37 miles and rose 3,050 feet. (For comparison, the stretch of U.S. 2 from Index to Stevens Pass is 33 miles and gains 3,485 feet.)
The Brenta Dolomites were Ciari’s first bike ride through mountains. Although there was a scary climb where cars passed a little too close for comfort, the ride didn’t disappoint.
“It was a cyclists’ paradise,” she said.
On rainy days, they drove the car through picturesque mountain passes, often scooting over to sunny skies in Austria.
The couple booked their overnight stays day-by-day. This plan backfired just once — a lodge they planned to stay in closed 30 minutes after they hiked about 3 miles to reach it.
“It was completely self-supported,” she said. “This is not the type of trip for everyone. You spend more time while you’re traveling doing logistics, but you can be more nimble making changes on the fly.”
When the sun was out, they went on day hikes. One of them led to the mountaintop perch of Rifugio Averau.
Dozens of hiking boots were on the floor of the lodge and restaurant when they walked inside. Travelers from Germany, Sweden and, yes, Colorado had made it up there, too. The couple shared conversation and a five-course dinner with their fellow tourists, who all spoke English.
Ciari and Tursi drank a couple of beers they’d hauled up with them, then settled in for sunset. The blue sky gradually gave way to an explosion of vibrant oranges and pinks above the mountains.
“I didn’t understand how big and vast the Dolemites are and how much beauty we’d experience there,” Ciari said. “I could fit six lifetimes into that one sunset.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Kristina Ciari will talk about the Mountaineers at an open house 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Snohomish County PUD Auditorium, 2320 California St., Everett. The 90-minute presentation, followed by a Q&A, will include information about winter courses and activities. Call 425-422-3162 or go to www.mountaineers.org/locations-lodges/everett-branch.