Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites
The Queen of the Dolomites, the highest summit in the entire range, offers more than beauty and mountaineering thrills: experts say the rocky massif's geological record of prehistoric sediments is outstanding in a global context. The Marmolada, a mountain with impressive vertical walls, includes the highest summit in the Dolomites - a 3,342 metre peak known as the Queen of the Dolomites. The Marmolada is the second of nine mountain groups included in a bid for Italy's Dolomite mountains to join the United Nation's World Heritage List as a natural heritage site of outstanding universal value.
Located between the Trentino and Veneto regions in northeast Italy, the Marmolada covers 2,207 hectares and according to the IUCN stands out for offering the geological record of a Triassic sedimentary platform and overlying volcanic sediments. On the north side of the Marmolada is a comparatively flat glacier, the Marmolada Glacier, the only large glacier in the Dolomites.
The Avalanches and Hydrogeological Defence Experimental Centre of Arabba in the Veneto region has been studying the ice in the Marmolada for the last thirty years as part of its climate change monitoring programme. The Marmolada, whose special beauty is enhanced by an array of forms and colours, is in a central position in the Dolomite range. The pale vertical limestone walls, set off against the darker deposits in the lower volcanic chains, create a unique landscape of geomorphologic contrasts. The late pope John Paul II, a great mountain lover, climbed the Marmolada on August 26, 1979 and gave the angelus service in a snow storm. From a mountaineering point of view, the south wall - more than 600 metres high - makes the Marmolada one of the most attractive to climbers.
The first ascent on the summit was made on September 28, 1864 by the Austrian Paul Grohmann with two guides from Cortina, Angelo and Fulgenzio Dimai. Grohman, one of the founders of the Austrian Alpine Club, pioneered the systematic exploration of the Dolomites. The Marmolada group lies between the Cordevole valley to the north and east, the Biois valley and the San Pellegrino valley to the south, and the Avisio valley to the northwest. The main crest forms the watershed between the Avisio stream basin, a tributary of the Adige River, and the Cordevole basin, a tributary of the Piave River. The mountain sub-groups include the Ombretta-Ombrettola, the Cima Uomo chain, the Monzoni-Vallaccia, the Collac-Buffaure and the Pado'n and Auta chains. The highest peaks are the Gran Vernel (3,210 metres) and the Piccolo Vernel (3,098), the Pizzo Serauta (3,069) and Punta Rocca (3,309).