The Ferrata at Passo Santner is a scenic route of considerable interest that climbs to the west face of the Catinaccio taking us from the Fronza Hut to the Santner Pass and then down into the Vajolet Valley. The itinerary can be traveled in both directions and is proposed here starting from the mountain station of the Re Laurino cable car with departure between the Passo di Costalunga and the Passo Nigra in the province of Bolzano.
The starting point of the itinerary is the mountain station of the "Re Laurino" cable car. The cable car starts from the road that connects the Passo di Costalunga to the Passo Nigra in the province of Bolzano. To reach the valley station you can reach it from the Passo di Costalunga between Carezza and the Val di Fassa or directly from Tires via the Nigra Pass. The car can be parked in the large parking lot in front of the lifts.
Directions for Google Maps available here.
From the station upstream of the cableway "King Laurin", we continue uphill behind the Fronza Hut immediately meeting a saddle: on the right the CAI path 550 goes up towards the Coronelle Pass, on the left it detaches into a hillside the CAI path 542. We will hold the 542 that, after some easy aided stretch, continues along the hillside heading north towards the overhanging cliffs of the Catinaccio.
We continue in constant but not excessive uphill along the hillside following i red marks (feature S) leaving us behind hut - clearly visible - until reaching a first set of rocks unprotected that climb a series of canals and ravines. After these first stretches - not difficult - but which require a firm foot, they are reached first metal equipment with which the Ferrata begins which leads us to the Santner Pass (30 'from the top station of the cable car).
Before starting the ferrata we will see the route which we have just walked from the hut. We go up some easy rocky jumps and after some easy sections on ledges and traverses, we find ourselves having to go up a couple of chimneys potentially difficult but facilitated by ladders or metal brackets which will definitely support along the progression. After this difficult stretch, we go up a narrow path saddle which cuts the wall of the Catinaccio in half with an impressive rocky spire called Ago di Schroffenengger.
This very characteristic trait will take us to the opposite side where we will go down up to a gully generally covered with snow. This is the key passage in the itinerary where the difficulties are directly proportional to the state of snow. If covered with snow, it is advisable to cross it immediately and climb it up the left slope using the artificial brackets present. If the snow is melted you can cross it more comfortably diagonally going to look for the artificial brackets on the opposite slope. It must be said that the canal is not prohibitive but a possible fall could be fatal as a few meters below the canal is interrupted by a jump of a few hundred meters. The passage was recently aided significantly reducing the risks of a possible fall.
Back up the gully with a wall of medium difficulty we reach an easy chimney beyond which we are in one saddle. Start nowlast section of the via ferrata before reaching the Santner Pass. We have to go up an aerial but not difficult stretch that leads us to the Santner Pass recognizable by the metal cross, set between the Catinaccio and the Croda di Re Laurino. Straight to us, reachable in a few minutes, we see the little one Santner Hut (2734 m).
Reached the hut (2h 15 'from Rifugio Fronza - 1h 45' from the start), we will see straight to us the Torri del Vajolet and under the detritic basin of the Gartl with the characteristic glacial lake below and the Alberto I Hut (2621 m), the next destination of our itinerary (15 'from Passo Santner). From this hut we continue the descent along the detrital valley in the direction of the Vajolet Hut and the Preuss Hut (2243 m - 2h 45 'from the start - 3h 15' total).
From the Vejolet Hut we will remain on the right side of the wide Vajolet valley, continuing initially southwards on the wide path and then keeping to the right the CAI 541 path ascending towards Passo delle Coronelle. The trail initially climbs on steep grassy slopes and then on debris soil until it reaches a later crossroads: on the left the CAI 550 descends in the direction of the Gardeccia Hut, straight on the CAI 541 and we keep to the left the CAI 550 which steeply rises towards the pass. We approach therocky carving where a singular wooden bench di indicates to have reached the Passo delle Coronelle (1h 30 'from the Rifugio del Vajolet - 4h 45' total).
From the Passo delle Coronelle we descend steeply on the western slope of the Catinaccio towards the Fronza Hut from which we started. This descent is steep but not difficult although it takes place on a detrital gully. This indeed has been aided with some wooden steps and metal equipment where more exposed and slippery. We then reach the hut and the cable car station (1h from Passo delle Coronelle - about 6h total) from which to return to the parking lot.
The key point of the itinerary is the snow-covered gully in the upper part of the Ferrata Santner. This step is not technically difficult in the absence of snow but potentially dangerous in case of snow and ice. You need to pay close attention and, at the beginning of the season, it could be prudent to have crampons with you if the ropes were blocked by snow and the insurance was difficult.
As more general comments, it is worth pointing out that some passages in the initial section are unprotected and easy free climbing rocks must be climbed without the aid of the equipment. The steps are easy and the main difficulty is the exposure - among other things modest - in which they occur.
Finally, since the itinerary is very popular in both directions, it is advisable to pay attention to any debris that can be moved uphill.
The Ferrata at Passo Santner extends into Catinaccio Group, an area full of other routes aided with increasing levels of difficulty, from easy to difficult. Proceeding from the Vajolet Hut in a northerly direction along the Vajolet Valley in the direction of the Principe Pass one could travel along the Ferrata the Catinaccio of Antermoia maybe linking it with Aided path of the Scalette for a long ring route. Proceeding further north, the most difficult and exposed via ferrata could be followed Maximilian or Laurenzi.
If instead we wanted to proceed south along the Vajolet Valley we could opt for the Via Ferrata Bepo de Medil to the Pala di Mesdì or going up in the direction of Roda di Vael Via Ferrata Masarè or the Via Ferrata Roda di Vael. Wanting to combine multiple aided routes, it is advisable to stay overnight in one of the many mountain huts in the Catinaccio group so as to reduce approach times.