An evolving landscape
In the collective imagination, the Dolomites are imposing and immobile massifs, often framed and frozen in romantic photographs. In realty, the dolomitic landscape is anything but immobile and to perceive its movement we need to first familiar ourselves with the different timescales involved: from the unfathomable rhythms of the Earth’s breath to the those we are able to perceive with our senses in the space of a single day.
Geological time frames are often so broad compared to the human experience that we cannot even imagine them. It took hundreds of millions of years for today’s dolomitic landscape to form, through epic processes of lithogenesis (formation of rocks), orogenesis (deformation and upward movement of rocks), and morphogenesis (shaping of the landscape by erosion). Some of these natural processes are still in progress, although they are imperceptible. Others occur in just a few instants, such as the collapse of a rock pinnacle, and are therefore striking in the violent forces released.
Then there are times when the dolomitic landscape changes swiftly but gently, such as pastures blanketed in white after a snowfall in the middle of summer or when the rocks are ignited with colour at sunrise and sunset by the Enrosadira (Alpenglow) phenomenon. Over the day, in fact, walls of rock react spectacularly with the changing light: saturated with warm tones (oranges, reds and purples) at sunrise and sunset, and pale and evanescent around midday, while dusk and moonlight instil the mountains with a cold and otherworldly aspect. This is why the Dolomites are also known as the Monti Pallidi, or Pale Mountains.