The Kaiserjägersteig is named after the Austrian soldiers who fought against the Italians on Lagazuoi during the first world war.The word Jäger (meaning "hunter" or "huntsman") is a characteristic term used for light infantry or light infantrymen in German-speaking military context.
The Austrian defensive line in the Lagazuoi area was made up by a system of trenches dug on the Vaparola Pass, the so called Vonbank emplacement, whose well kept remains are still visible today at the foot of Mount Lagazuoi on the left of the bottom lift station. High up, there were the emplacements of Sasso di Stria on the one side and those on the Lagazuoi ledge on the other.
The Kaiserjaeger path was the communication way between the bottom of the valley and the high emplacements on Lagazuoi, and was used to supply food, munitions, and war equipment. The footpath has now been repaired and can be travelled for its entire length; attention however must be paid since there is some exposure in parts, but with well placed fixed cables for support.
The Piccolo Lagazuoi is part of the Fánis group, behind which opens the wild and hard-fought Travenànzes valley: one of many doors to the Italian soldiers had to break through in order to reach the Tyrol.
During the twenty-nine long months from May 1915 to October 1917, the Piccolo Lagazuoi was an important bulwark that blocked the Falzarego pass and the lower Valparola pass.
The Lagazuoi was viciously fought over by the opposing armies, who did not hesitate to torture this mountain with defensive caves, mine tunnels and artillery emplacements.
Amongst the various war-related works there is the winding excavation inside the Piccolo Lagazuoi.
At the exit of this tunnel there is the extraordinary hanging village of the famous Martini Ledge.
It contrasts with the lower-lying Vonbank emplacement at the foot of the mountain, with its six strong lines of barbed wire.
The gallery, as indeed the whole open-air museum, is now practicable thanks to the restoration work by the Alpini and the Austrian and German soldiers in a sort of unity of the purpose to keep alive the memory of this brutal war.
During World War 1 the current parking of the cable car Lagazuoi was no man's land.
The Austrian trenches on the Vonbank emplacement blocked the passage between the western mountainsides of Mount Lagazuoi and Sasso di Stria and impeded the access to the Val Badia
The Italian trenches reached from the east slope of the Lagazuoi and the hut Col Gallina, and from here up to the summit of the Col Gallina.
On moonless nights the Italian and Austro-Hungarian reconnaissance patrols were on the scout to explore the enemy defenses and to damage or neutralize, whenever possible, the barbed wire which was laid in three rows in front of the trenches. In winter this activity was particularly difficult and dangerous, because with the white snow and under the moonlight the enemy had a very good view.
The trail no. 401 crosses the Italian trenches, which starts from the Italian armored turret at the foot of Mount Lagazuoi and runs zigzagging uphill among the Italian ermplacements of the Berrino Point. These emplacements were protected against the bombardment of the Austrian artillery positioned on the Sasso di Stria and therefore pretty sure.
Here starts the hiking trail to the Italian mine gallery. The trail n. 401 runs along the soldiers' camp where the remains of the buildings in which the Italian soldiers lived are still visible.
The emplacement was well protected, only in the direction of the saddle Forcella Travenznazes the soldiers exposed to the Austrian machine gun fire from Mount Grande Lagazuoi and the gap Forcella Lagazuoi
To reach Forcella Travenanzes, you must cross again the no man's land.
This area was directly in the line of fire of the Italian machine guns positioned on Col dei Bos (the loopholes in the rock are clearly visible) and at Berrino Point, but also of the Austrian artillery placed an the Rocky Wall, on the Lagazuoi saddle and on the Great Lagazuoi. The saddle Forcella Travenanzes was defended by a trench which has been destroyed.
The trail leading to up to Mount Lagazuoi crosses the mountainside of the Great Lagazuoi. And precisely on this path the Austro-Hungarian soldiers transported munitions and food to the positions on the saddle Forcella Travenanzes, at the Castelletto and on the saddle Forcella Fontana Negra. The transport activities were very dangerous. The bearers had to walk during the night and in a complete silence but often they were illuminated by flares and attacked by the enemy.
At the front each soldier needed about 70 kg of material per day. The word material consisted of ammunition, food, water, building materials and everything necessary to survive in the mountains. That's why the carriers had to go up and down this route very often.
The Lagazuoi saddle was defended by three rows of barbed wire and by a trench which ran from the crest “Montagna Rocciosa”to the Great Lagazuoi and leaned against a rocky promontory called the bow. Here you can still see the loopholes of the Austro-Hungarian emplacements.
The crest “Montagna Rocciosa” was an insurmountable obstacle for the Italian soldiers who were trying to attack their enemies from the Berrino point and from the no man's land, where now runs the ski slope.
This emplacement was supplied by a long material cable way. The valley station was Capanna Alpina and she passed by Scottoni refuge.
The trail no. 402 winds along the Austrian emplacements on the crest “Montagna Rocciosa”. It is a series of emplacements dug into the rock with loopholes for machine guns pointed at Berrino point and Col dei Bos. Besides the emplacements you can see the remains of the Austrian barracks. These were realized in niches, which the soldiers had previously dug into the rock in order to better protect themselves from the shrapnel of the Italian 75 mm guns.
The defensive line went up to the end of the crest “Muraglia Rocciosa” where now you can see the emplacement FW4 with the machine gun (Feldwache 4) and then turned westwards, where now there are the cable car and the mountain hut Rifugio Lagazuoi. From here, the defensive line reached the summit of Mount Lagazuoi and joined the Kaiserjäger path.
The Italian mine tunnel of 20th June 1917 has been completely restored and today it enables visitors to see one of the most dramatic battle zones of the First World War.
A trail starting from the top lift station of the Lagazuoi cable-car leads to the gallery, on the Anticima of Piccolo Lagazuoi.
Before reaching the entrance you walk amid an impressive system of trenches, once a look-out post for the Austrian army.
Currently, the mine gallery is an elaborated tangle of tunnels, the most daring gallery system ever realised during the Great War.
The branch tunnelled to place the mine is sided by the shoulder gallery -whose external opening on the Anticima was used as exit for the Italian assault troops after the mine explosion - and the artillery gallery, from where the Italian cannons fired towards Sasso di Stria.
The spiral gallery, the lower branch opening onto the Martini Ledge, and the horizontal branch that ran parallel to the ledge thus sheltering the soldiers from the Austrian fire.
Once these impressive works were completed, an internal system connecting all the branches of the gallery to the underneath ledge and a system of embrasures, facing all directions, were created. The bottom end of the gallery opens onto the Martini Ledge. Follow the ledge to the right till under the cable-car to visit the remains of the shelters, wooden huts, and communication trenches. The ledge was a crucial high emplacement, the perfect site to menace the Vonbank enemy emplacements located below. Some natural caves that opened in the rock along the path, enlarged and made more comfortable, offered shelter to the enemy's fire, housed the soldiers, and served as warehouses for war material.