July 15, 2010


The Dolomites are a series of mountain groups in north-eastern Italy, in the Italian Alps.

DolomitesThe Dolomites' cliam to fame is not great height: the tallest peak in this part of the Italian Alps, Monte Marmolada, reaches up only 10,964 feet. What makes Dolomites memorable is their incredibly bold contours, with stark, sheer-walled massifs rising straight up from gently inclined lower slopes. The contrast is especially striking in winter, when snow blankets the valleys and slopes but not the somber walls of stone. Looming against the horizon are massive rock formations that resemble needles, spires, castles, and fortresses. Saw-toothed ridges tower over distant valleys, while vertical walls rise straight up for 3300 feet and more. Dolomites are actually originated in a warm, shallow sea. Some 200 million years ago water covered the region, and a coral reef developed atop much older beds of shale and marl. Over the millennia the coral was compressed into a distinctive type of limestone that contains magnesium. Known as Dolomite, it was named after the 18th century French geologist Deodat Dolomieu, who first described the rock. During the period of mountain building that began 65 million years ago, the Dolomites were uplifted along with the rest of the Alps. As the mountains were rising, the forces of erosion began their work of wearing down. Valleys developed where the softer, more easily eroded shale and marl were exposed. The harder Dolomite, in contrast, wore away much more slowly. As a result, great mass of Dolomite remain more or less intact, forming the stark massifs that now typify this part of Alps.