Mountaineering was practiced in the Ampezzo valley from as early as the second half of the 19th century. Paul Grohmann, of Viennese origin, was one of the pioneers of mountaineering in the Dolomites. When he saw these mountains for the first time, from the peak of Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak, he was enchanted, and decided that he would explore and climb them. In August 1863, he and Ampezzo guide Francesco Lacedelli, also known as Chéco da Melères, climbed the highest peak in the Ampezzo valley – Tofana di Mezzo, 3,244 metres – initiating the age of Ampezzo mountaineering. In 1873 he was made an honorary citizen of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Paul Grohmann attained worldwide fame, and, with his book Wanderungen in den Dolomiten published in 1877, he helped to popularise the beauty of these areas, making the location famous throughout the whole of Northern Europe.
The first hotels and the railway were built, and a new profession became available for people who loved the mountains and had detailed knowledge of them: Mountain Guide. In 1871, Cortina d’Ampezzo, the Queen of the Dolomites, already had 9 officialMountain Guides.
Mountain Guides were given official recognition by an 1871 Ministerial Law with the so-called “authorisation licence” for service as a Mountain Guide, which had to be validated by the District Captain every year. This was a document that authorised the guides to perform their role. Their customers could record the hikes that they had performed with the guides, adding their own assessment, on the licence itself.
In 1882, an official badge for Mountain Guides was introduced: the Central Board of the Alpenverein (Alpine Club) in Vienna gave all Mountain Guides the badge so that they could be distinguished from those who worked without authorisation.