Friday, September 13, 2013

AMC in the Dolomites

This year the club organised a summer trip abroad and those keen opted for the sun kissed (s)limestone of the Italian Dolomites.  After last year successful trip to the Cortina area, folk fancied trying a bit further west and so headed to the town of Canazei as a cracking central location.

We certainly weren’t disappointed!  Driving up from Venice over a couple of high winding passes, past the Marmolada a we were greeted by awesome looking walls and spires everywhere!  Hard to keep my eyes on the road, but eventually we did make it to Canazei in one piece.

Luigi had done a sterling job finding us accommodation – we’d recommend these serviced apartments to anyone looking for somewhere to stay in the area.  To make us feel at home, the local supermarket had shipped in some bottles of this:

Can’t top that kind of service! :O)

Dave was catching a bus down from Germany, so we picked him up and headed back to the flat for a bit of plotting and planning (and beer)…..

Weather was mixed on the Sunday so we decided to go cragging nearby rather than head up high and had a cracking day on some water worn limestone slabs in a fantastic setting – appetites were well and truly whetted!

So with great forecasts for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we headed to the mountains.

Monday we decided that a traverse of the 3 Sella towers would start us off nicely.  After a bit of a faff looking for the start of the route, we gave up and just decided to climb.  Following our noses towards the first features we knew to be on our route lead to some great climbing on lovely slabs – more or less approximating to our route.  The upper pitches of the 1st tower where really good climbing, culminating in a VS pitch – not normally a problem but with a freezing wind blowing over the preceding belay numb hands, polished sloping foot holds and only old rusty pegs for gear added to the “excitement”!  Back in the sunshine on the summit all cold was forgotten as we looked up at the 2nd tower.

West Face 1st Sella Tower

SW face of 2nd Sella Tower

Dave took over leading for this route and we headed up.  3 pitches with a lovely central groove took us up to the top of the 2nd tower and yet more basking in the sunshine!  Time was wearing on though, and we decided we’d struggle to get the last tower done and be off the down climbing before losing light so decided to descend after the 2nd tower.  An abseil and 40mins or so of scrambling saw us back at the car, chuffed to bits at our first mountain route together!!

Dave leading Kostner Route, 2nd Tower

Sitting on the belays on the Sella Towers, you can’t help up notice the Sassalungo group opposite and ideas had been planted for the next day…….


Glancing through the obscene number of guide books we seemed to have, the ordinary route up the 
 Punta Della Cinque Dita aught our eye.  At only UIAA III it seemed the perfect route up onto a spectacular summit for us.

Up early the next morning we were at the foot of the route too early!  And the sunshine hadn’t reached it yet making for a chilly first couple of pitches!  Luigi lead 3 very run out pitches up to easy ledges and slabs which we soloed up into the gap between the “thumb” and the main summit.  I took over the lead here and headed off up steep but juggy rock which after a few pitches took us back out into the (now very welcome!!) sunshine.  Briefly basking in the sun we were amused watching a guide with some clients descending.  The clients nervous on the down climbing, the guide skipping down facing out.  Oh to be that comfortable on that kind of terrain!!

A few more pitches of lovely limestone took us under a massive jammed boulder and hence to the summit.
summit of Punta Della Cinque Dita
2nd last pitch of Punta Della Cinque Dita

With a long descent ahead (reversing the route we’d just climbed) we didn’t hang about so while Dave and Luigi sorted ropes I wandered off to find the abseil point to start the descent.

A long abseil brought us down to the start of the first 2 pitches of downclimbing.  Traversing back out over the sunny face was a little never wracking (why is down climbing always so much scarier than climbing up???) but very easy.  More abseils, down climbing and obscene rope fankels in my old ½ ropes eventually brought us back to the foot of the route – just in time to see the last cable cars grind to a halt for the evening.  Damm………..

Dave Abseiling 6th Pitch
Dave on Last Abseil

Oh well, the walk down was pleasant enough, and we were full of cheer after the route so no probs!

Day 3 in the mountains was back to the Sella towers.  Not particularly adventurous, but they are so striking you can’t help but go back!  
The Sella Towers

This time we were looking at the South East Buttress/ chimney.  

The reason for the route choice was pitch 4.  A 3m pitch which involves jumping 1.5m from the top of the buttress onto a ledge on the main tower.  This distance would be an easy leap between peat hags, but with 100m of chimney and another 200m of buttress after than beneath us, it seemed a wee bit scarier……

SE Buttress/Chimney
showing the gap to jump

A worse thought than not jumping far enough, was jumping too far though – with a rock wall on the far side, the over enthusiastic jumper risks an embarrassing face plant followed by drop down into the gap – double embarrassing!

Dave went first, after a few deep breaths and barely a whimper was on the far side secure!  Luigi and I followed with similar noises / expressions on our faces!
Luigi making the leap!
The rest of the route to the summit was very fine easy climbing in the sun, followed by a quick descent back to the car and a celebratory beer at the sella pass.

At this point however, the weather broke.  The mountains were forecast to start being hit by electrical storms through the day and rain at night.  Luckily however the forecast was still fine in the glens and we decided on a bit of cragging while the mountains shouted at each other above. 

Day 4 was to a neighbouring valley, with some lovely looking slabby climbs – definitely a nice change after the steeper juggy mountain routes.  And suitably humbling as we struggled up 5’s and a couple of 6as!

An improved forecast for day 5 lead to us planning via ferrata for the day.  Unfortunately the weather didn’t co-operate and we woke up to cloud down into the valley and river levels up significantly.  Loitering about in the hope that it would improve lead to a day wandering up and down the valley and Dave accidentally buying a new pair of rock shoes.

The next couple of days were much the same, bad weather high up meant valley cragging – with us trying some different styles of crags to keep ourselves on our toes!
Cragging shot
another Cragging shot

The last day was planned for climbing at Col Rodella, but a roaring and cold wind put paid to that after the 1st route!  Luckily there was a basic / easy via ferrata nearby so we ran up that, conveniently finishing at a refuge serving tea and cake…….not such a bad result really!
Col Rodella Via Ferrata
Walking down, the weather gods decided it was time to get us re-acclimatised for Scotland so 10mins from the car the heavens opened and nicely soaked us for the return drive to the apartment!

Luckily since we weren’t camping, a brew and snack and some lazing about on sofa’s soon used up the rest of the afternoon before we headed off for a luxury night in Venice airport.  Dave then headed off to Venice for the day, before catching the sleeper back to Germany and I caught the morning flight back to Edinburgh.

All in all, an absolutely cracking trip where we managed something everyday and got a few superb mountain days in.  Roll on next year!!!