Rifugio Nuvolau

Second half of the 1800s. Paul Grohmann (1838-1908) found himself in the Ampezzo Dolomites, on top of the Mt. Nuvolau. He had guessed that the privileged position of the mountain would offer an unforgettable panorama and he was not mistaken: “A sea of mountains lies before us and it would be useless to list or describe them. Only a camera could partially fix our impressions”.


1880. Richard von Meerheimb, Baron of Dresden, struggles to find a cure for his many aches and pains and cannot stand the slightest fatigue. When he finally arrives in Cortina d’Ampezzo, his health improves within three months, so that he can easily complete several climbs, including the beloved Mt. Nuvolau. In 1883, delighted with his new-found health, he donates a large sum of money to the Cortina section of the Alpenverein to finance the construction of an alpine shelter on top of his favourite mountain. Within a few months, the Sachsendankhütte is built!


11th August 1883. The Sachsendankhütte, future Rifugio Nuvolau, opens its doors. The mountaineer Leone Sinigaglia (1868-1944), who passes by 10 years after the opening, informs us that it is a large and comfortable self-managed hut, there is beer and wine available for visitors, who deposit the amount in a special box, since there is no one assigned to manage/control the sales.


1893. The number of mountaineers staying at the Rifugio is 318. It is time to find someone to entrust the management of the Rifugio and enlarge the building: the Cortina section of the Alpeverein gets in debt for 600 florins!

However, the number of mountaineers increased every year and the building was further enlarged. In 1911 there are more than 1500 visitors!


1912. A press release for the official Alpenverein magazine states that there is an airlift for rucksacks and other luggage from Rifugio Cinque Torri to the Nuvolau summit. A small cable car was already in operation! A tourist guide of Ampezzo of that year reports the cost of the service: 60 Heller per bag (1 Corona = 100 Heller).

The cableway is still the only “vehicle” able to reach the Rifugio… except when there is snow! Today it is used exclusively to supply the Rifugio.


In 1992 the peaks of Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Dolomites hosted the set of Cliffhanger – the last challenge, the legendary film by Renny Harlin starring Sylvester Stallone. On May 25th, a fire caused by lightning destroys the cableway and generators of the Rifugio. It was the Cliffhanger team, with its bright red helicopter, that transported the rope, winch and various equipment to the summit, allowing reconstruction work to begin.


On May 23rd 1915, the Kingdom of Italy ended the Triple Alliance and declared war on the Empire of Austria-Hungary. On May 28th the first Italian soldiers arrived in Cortina, Austrian land, but the Empire’s troops had recently withdrawn from the town and were entrenched on Lagazuoi, Sasso di Stria and Son Pouses. Fedele Siorpaes “Salvador”, guardian of the Sachsendankhütte and other refuges in the area, is at Rifugio Cinque Torri, he catches sight of… a contingent of Italian soldiers on top of Mt. Nuvolau! Fedele doesn’t make it to reach the top when he is arrested. He was released a few days later, to the great relief of the population of Cortina.

The Sachsendankhütte was used as an observatory by the Italian artillery, which is why it was targeted by Austrian fire and seriously damaged.

You will find these and other interesting stories in the new book written by the incomparable Prof. Paolo Giacomel, who for decades has dedicated himself to the discovery and divulgation of the history of our valley. The volume will soon be available to the public!


Rifugio Nuvolau’s wardens


Who has managed Rifugio Nuvolau with love and dedication, during its more than one hundred years of existence? Our research has identified 5 wardens:


1893. The Alpenverein section of Cortina decided to entrust the Rifugio to a manager for the first time. The number of visitors was increasing every year and it is the right decision to take… but who is the first warden? We have not found his name.


1902. Could it be Giuseppe Lacedelli Zecca di Pocòl? He certainly holds the keys in 1902, when the terrace in front of the Refuge is widened and a wall of about 1 metre is built.


1930. Once the nightmare of war was over, the Rifugio was rebuilt and put back into operation. Marcello Siorpaes will take care of it until after the Second World War, when he will take over the management of the Rifugio Croda da Lago.


1950. The management passes into the hands of Gilma and Guido de Zanna. Relations with the nearby Rifugio Cinque Torri are good and collaboration reigns.


1973. Mansueto Siorpaes wins the CAI selection and is awarded the management of the Refuge. He goes up with Joanne Jorowski and stays there for 47 years, until 2020.


2021. The CAI section of Cortina d’Ampezzo launches a call for tenders to select the new manager of Rifugio Nuvolau. 254 applications are received, including one from 27-year-old Emma Menardi from Cortina d’Ampezzo. She wins and becomes the first woman to manage Rifugio Nuvolau.

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