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Via della Rampa del Torso, Ciavazes, IV+

Ciavazes is a spectacular place to climb. Situated a stones throw from the Sella Pass and directly opposite Piz Pordoi’s enormous NW face, this is Dolomite little Big Wall climbing at it’s finest. Attainable by any competent Hard Severe leader who can move quickly, the route covers 325m of rock from the bottom of the cliff and finishes at the Cengia dei Camosci, the half way terrace. Above the rock tends to be loose and crumbly, thus not worth continuing, so the norm is to follow a small precipitous path off towards the Sella Pass. With a walk-in of merely minutes, this is a climbing paradise.

Approach

Drive along the road from Canazei to Sella Pass and you will pass beneath the very very obvious cliff of Ciavazes, facing due south. The road at one point passes a matter of 150m from the base of the cliff. Here you will find numerous parking spots with glorious views over Val di Fassa. Pick a spot and set off up the steep hillside towards the cliff through pine and spruce trees. Within a matter of minutes you will find yourself on the screes below the cliff. Via della Rampa climbs a profound left facing corner. It is in the shade for a large part of the morning as it is oriented to the south west. You will most likely need to contour around the mountain to the right to reach the base of the entrance gully, passing il Piccolo Micheluzzi and numerous other routes. After kitting up, climb up into the gully to some obvious cracks which stay just right of the actual corner.

What to take

As the route climbs mainly medium sized cracks, nuts in larger sizes are useful. Infact I carried a full set of rocks up to size 13 on a whim and they proved very useful. Sizes 0.4-1 Camalot were also useful, a few slings for belays and the odd flake, plus extenders, 50m double ropes and you are ready to go. As always, carry a waterproof, and if you will be returning along the terrace, approach shoes as the walk down is long and loose in places.

The climb

The route is characterised my mainly shallow angled climbing with a few harder moves inbetween and is not sustained in nature. It does however attain some splendid positions. It is quite long and for climbers who are a little stretched at the grade, an ascent would require a steady and determined approach. That said, retreat is facilitated by regular belay bolts and you can abseil the route in a matter of an hour or two. Just be aware that this is a popular route in high season as it’s the easiest on the face, so abseiling may be complicated by other parties.

  1. 25m IV Climb the cracks to a steepening below a narrowing in the gully, pulling slightly left to a belay ring.
  2. 30m IV Above there is a steep but reasonable crack which after a few meters relents.
  3. 35m IV- Above you climb up an obvious, which you climb using holds on the left when they disappear in the crack. Now you find yourself in a gully, climb this keeping right until on the right side you will find a ring bolt.
  4. 35m IV- Above there are three cracks, of varying looseness. Climb the right hand line which is more solid than it appears, until you can step right into a large bay. In the middle of the bay you will find a ring bolt.
  5. 40m IV In my opinion, this is the crux of the route. Climb up the bay easily, ignoring tat at the top of a crack to the left. The base of the bay narrows into a gully, simultaneously steepening. Clip a poor peg just above a vertical step, (preferably placing something to back it up below) and then climb a steep bridging corner to it’s end and a belay.
  6. 40m IV Climb the wide crack above, using holds to the left when the crack becomes more difficult, until you can step out to the left. Now climb up to a ring bolt on your left.
  7. You will find yourself at the base of another bay with broken rocks above. Climb this directly to a small overhang with a red peg above it. Pull through and then follow a crack up a corner to a steepening where a flake to your right leads to a belay above the abyss. One of the best belay positions.
  8. 85m III+, III, II Climb the ramp more and more easily to reach the Cengia dei Camosci

Descent

If necessary, abseil the route (for example in early season when snow may make returning along the terrace difficult) using the ring bolts, just be extremely careful as any rocks knocked off funnel directly down the line of the route – if anybody is climbing below you have a very high chance of hitting them. Or walk westward along the terrace along a small path. This leads somewhat circuitously towards the Sella Towers. Eventually you have to down climb and abseil back to easier ground and from there return to the base of the cliff.

Via Delle Guide, Cinque Torri, IV+

If you are looking for a simple route to warm up on, with fixed belays and some additional bolts en route, this 4-5 pitch climb is a great place to start. It’s easy to access, easy to retreat from should bad weather arrive and the descent is well marked and bolted. It also gets you operating at a modest altitude to help you adjust to the lower level of oxygen (even though it’s not much less) and if you are moving well should allow you to climb another at a similar grade nearby on the same day. It’s also a great option out of season when the towers are less crowded and because it is south facing can be completed in early spring (mid to late March) given the right conditions.

Approach

There are several ways to approach the climb, season dependent.

  1. Park at the 5 Torri ski lift car park on the road from Cortina to Passo Falzarego. Take the lift either as a single or a return (12-16 Euro). Once at Rifugio Scoiattoli, the towers are a 150m away, walk down the path and find the bottom of the route which climbs up the arete of the closest tower. This option allows you to ski down in spring.
  2. By foot in 1.5-2 hours, by waking from Passo Falzarego, the 5 Torri car park or up the road to Rifugio Cinque Torri, or from Passo Giau.
  3. With a car you can drive to Rifugio Cinque Torri, although this is only possible when there is no snow and outside the month of August , when the road is closed between 9.30am and 5.30pm. During these hours a Navette bus service runs.

What to take:

There is a reasonable amount of fixed gear on this route. A set of nuts is useful, maybe 3-4 cams (BD #0.5-#1 most useful), some slings and of course extenders. In Late July and August it’s still worth taking a waterproof as storms frequently roll in during this period.

Climbing the first pitch of Via delle Guide, Cinque Torri

Climbing the first pitch of Via delle Guide, Cinque Torri

The climb:

The pitches are quite short and relatively easy after the second pitch although there are a couple of sections which are a little steep and airy. This only adds to the route in my opinion and really makes you feel as though you are climbing something worthwhile. Belays are on large, solid ring bolts, are frequent and obvious. Indeed the crux is also protected by such a bolt.

  1. 20m IV- After starting up a shallow groove in the arete of the tower, step right and climb towards an obvious overhang. Just below this you will find a number of bolts to belay.
  2. 25m IV+ Now climb right across a ledge to a break in the overhangs past a peg and then a bolt which denotes the crux of the route. Pull through the overhang (harder if you are short as the holds are quite high up) and then up past a bolt where you could belay if required or continue up a crack to a bolt below a large yellow corner.
  3. 25m IV- From the bolt, climb diagonally right up grey rock to a further overhang, bolt on the right, and another on the left. Step left over the void to pull through and then directly upwards to find a ring bolt.
  4. 40m III From here a number of routes are possible as you find your self on a wide slab. The correct route follows a series of corners and cracks up leftwards, you will find a number of ring bolts on the way, although it is easily possible to reach the summit of the tower from here in a 40m pitch.
Via delle Guide

Via delle Guide, IV-, IV+, IV-, III

Descent:

To descend you have two options. During the summer and when there are others on the route, it is imperative to follow the ring bolts down the northern side of the tower. However, if there is nobody around in early or late season, it’s easy enough to descend the route so you stay in the warm and don’t have to tramp back through the snow to your skis.

Other routes to consider at Cinque Torri:

Via Del Camino III

Via Normal, Torre Quarta Bassa and/or Alta, III+, IV-

Via Lusy Pompanin, IV-

Via Olga, V+

Via Myriam, V+

Fessura Dimai, VI-

Via Finlandia, VI+

Ice climbing at Torre Coldai, Civetta

Torre Coldai hangs ominously above the Civetta ski area in Alleghe. If you are looking for a route in an alpine setting, somewhere that really feels wild and has fantastic quality routes, this is the place. The approach is either quite easy if you ski down to it, or a bit of a slog if you get there on foot. Having done both, the 6 euro ticket (2019) from Piani Pezze to allow you to approach by ski was well worth it.

Approach

Start from the lift station at Piani Pezze, walk up the ski runs towards Torre Coldai, the obvious and closest tower. After a few hundred metres you will reach a junction in the ski run. Here you can either continue directly up the bed of a stream or turn left and continue up the ski runs, increasingly steeply until you can go right through low scrub. The slope above the junction is long, maybe 300m of ascent on either loose rubble or snow. Eventually you climb into a deep corner where you will start to see both Paperoga and Hypercoldai.

Paperoga WI3+ 5-6 pitches 170m ***

A fantastic route which is a full notch easier than Hypercoldai, Paperoga is the first cascade you come to in the gully.

Optional entry) WI2+ 40m, Low down there is an entry pitch which can be taken a number of ways, or which can be circumnavigated by climbing higher up the gully and traversing left, especially after snow.

1) WI3+, 50m The main cascade can be taken anywhere across it’s width, possibly slightly steeper the further right you go.

Climb 30m up a shallow gully to reach a small cave  where there is a rock belay, three old pegs and cord.

2) WI2+, 40m Continue for 40m past a narrowing to a rock belay on the right wall of the gully.

3) WI1, 30m Continue up easy ice to a further rock belay, pegs and tat low down on the right, possibly behind an ice stalactite.

You can continue above for another couple of pitches at a lower grade.

Abseil the route from belays and abalakovs. Belays are in a mixed state of deteriation, take tat and possibly some pitons to supplement the belays. The length given does not include the lower pitch or snow slope transitions.

Hypercoldai WI4 150m ***

This is a world class route – the setting, the ice formations, the climbing it self all add up to make a super special routes. The first couple of pitches are clearly the crux but there are still sections of tough climbing after this.

Continue up the gully past Paperoga until you reach a rock outcrop on the right side of the gully where you will find a rock belay. In general, a small set of nuts was useful on the route to back up pegs.

1) WI4, 35m Climb a surprisingly steep wide section of ice in a gully to a cave on the right where you will find a three peg belay.

2) WI4, 50m Traverse diagonally left to climb around a curtain of ice to a sloping ledge. Now either climb directy with difficulty (4+) or much more easily up to the left. On the right bank of the gully there are two rock belays, the second is better than the first as the pegs appear quite rotten on the first.

3) 60m climb the gully on snow to a corner. There is a thread high up above the niche before the ice steepens again, but the slings are old – an abalokov is probably a better option.

4) WI3+, 60m climb ice in a series of steeps to a cave where you would expect a belay. Step left on thin ice and rock to reach a niche.

Descend on abalokov threads and peg belays.

 

Ice climbing at the Fedaia Dam

At the western end of Fedaia Pass, a dam overlooks Val di Fassa. Standing on the dam and looking down, if you blinked you’d miss the ice falls cascading down the Southern side of the valley below. But look more closely, especially from near Rifugio Castiglioni and you will see 4 streaks of ice. Furthermore there are others here and due to their high altitude, these stay in condition for far longer than some others. Conversely when it’s cold in the valley, here you will find the ice brittle and not much fun to climb on, so this venue is perfect later in the season when substantial ice has formed.

Cascata della Galleria 10m WI2+

Cascata della Galleria is easily accessed from Rifugio Castiglioni – just part by the hut and walk 10m! First climbed on a whim, and almost too ridiculous to include, it’s actually kind of fun and you can be on it in approximately 30 seconds, it will take all of a few minutes to climb and you’re back at the car in no time at all! The ice fall is actually a gutter from the roof of the gallery and forms a pillar in quite a stunning spot.

Above there is an icefall which occasionally forms, I have no idea whether this has been climbed. If you know, please write to me and I can include it here.

Below the dam

Access to routes 1, Das Schlusselloch and 2 is relatively easy, from the southern end of the dam. Drive over the dam and immediately on your right you will see a souvenir shop and bar, called Bar Diga. Park in the carpark at the back of the bar and then walk to the end of the carpark where you will find a marked path that descends into the valley, quite steeply to begin with. After about 5-10 minutes depending on conditions you will see the first icefalls on the left. If you continue beneath the cliff you will reach a deep twin gully which is the location of das Schlussellock and 2.

If you have names for the routes, and a first ascensionist, please let me know!

Route 1 WI 3+, 40m.

This is the first route on the left and climbs a wide slab at its left most extreme. Start by climbing from a small cave directly up a short steep wall onto the slab, the ice may be quite tin here. Here you can either continue directly up steep steps, or trend slightly right but the smooth ice slab to a final wall. We climbed it in two pitches, but it should be possible to climb it in one given the right conditions and enough screws.n Finish at a pair of trees, to the left of a higher set of falls which form a slight curtain of ice.

There are a number of other features to the right which we feel almost certainly have been climbed – please let me know if you have information.

Das Schlusselloch WI4/M, 100m?

From Route 1 descend another 150m to find a deep twin gully which climbs towards an obvious streak of left trending ice. This route follows the first gully, on the left.

1: WI2 Climb the narrow gully easily to a boulder choke where you can belay

2: After climbing the boulder (may not exist after snow) you reach a wide open bowl, climb left to a thin streak of ice below a small tunnel in the rock.

3: WI4/M Climb to the tunnel, take off your sack and then drag yourself through it, pulling your sack behind you. Then climb the very thin ice diagonally leftwards, eventually reaching a tree

4: Either descend from here or continue up snow for 50m to reach the aquaduct which crosses the mountainside. You can use the aquaduct to return to the dam.

Route 2 – information needed

The original objective when climbing Das Schlusselloch was to see if we could connect to the obvious ice smear. At the time, the ice from this had not connected to the ground, but recently I went back and saw that it should be possible with good late season conditions to climb a fine look line which would give a fine route, with a steep first pitch, maybe WI4+? If you have climbed it please let me know!

Access to routes 3&4 is best from Pian Trevisian, where you can park at a haripin in the road to Canazei or at Albergo Villeta Maria and walk into the valley. When there is snow, even after a warm spell it is likely that you will need snowshoes or skis as the snow stays cold and powdery for a long time here. When coming from Pian Trevisian, follow the path and after 1.5km, cross the valley to the southern side. In amongst the trees there are two parallel cascades, some 50m high.

Route 3 – information needed

The cascade which we did not climb is a clear objective and starts from a terrace. It seems there would be substantial volumes of ice.

Route 4a and b – Information needed WI 3+

The cascade to the right can be taken two different ways, on the left or the right. Start by a large open cave and climb an initial short steepening, either going left up a continuously steep cascade in one pitch to the top, or go to the right of a rock, then rejoin the fall higher up for a final steep section. This second line is what we climbed, finishing at a tree where we found a cord and Maillion and seemed to be easier than the lefthand line, which I would expect to be WI4/+.

Gran Poz

The Gran Poz is a large outcrop which hangs above the dam and is quite obvious and slabby. It is home to some easy rock slab climbs and some other lines which we know exist but have no information about. Again, if you know what these routes to the right are, please get in touch as we would be interested to publish a guide here!

Gran Poz seems to have several ice lines, but only one has been recorded in Ghiaccio Verticale:

La Cometa di Bous 55m WI5***

La Cometa di Bous has quite a long approach across a steep terrace. Take care when crossing as it is easy to slip here and when conditions are firm underfoot, it could end in a fatal slip, as has happened in the past. Park in the upper car park by the lift to Pian di Fiaconi. Walk up 20 yards and then head right across the ski piste to find a path through the trees and scrub. This leads up and west to the aforementioned terrace which steepens and narrows the further you go across until you are directly beneath the Gran Poz. Follow the cliff round for several hundred metres into am open bowl beneath Marmolada and you will see the large icefall of Cometa di Boes on the left. 1.5hrs Climb the icefall start on the left, slowly working up to finish on the right.

 

 

Ice climbing in Malga Ciapela

Malga Ciapela is a beautiful spot. Currently it is dominated by the ski lift to Marmolada, but look carefully and here there lies some potential for ice climbing but also Dry Tooling. I will split this area into two sectors, west and east. The west side of the valley consists nearly entirely of very hard dry tooling, in the Tomorrows World cave, first climbed by Tom Ballard. On the east side, the climbs are easy ice climbs, ideal in the early season when it is cold, as they nearly all catch the sun in the afternoon for a while.

Tomorrows World Cave

This sector holds one of the highest concentration of drytooling routes in the world. First discovered by the alpinist Tom Ballard, the routes climb through the roof of a huge limestone cave. The holds are natural and the routes are generally long stamina fests. Park by Capanna Bill and cross the ski piste to the cave.

Real Steel D9

Fear Index D12

French Connection D15-

Let them eat Cake D13+

Edge of Tomorrow D13

Tomorrows World D14/+

Oblivion D14

Je ne sais quoi D14+

A line above the sky D15-

Invocation D14

War without end D15+

Parallel World D16

East Side Sector.

The routes on the east side of the valley are located around Capan Bill. They follow natural water courses and under heavy snow would become impractical. But for the last few years when the start of the season has been snowless, they provide good sport and are useful for beginners as they have short pitches and are at maximum WI3. As they are a little higher than the gorge, they can be reasonably reliable in the early season when the sun barely touches them. They are very close to the road so you can easily find them and see what sort of condition they are in.

Minion WI2+

Park in a small layby below Capanna Bill from where you will see three streambeds descending the hillside. The right hand most forms Minion. Walk up to where the stream splits in two and climb the streambed easily, with a couple of trickier steps no more than 4-5 mtres long. Take the left branch and bash through bushes a little to reach some more vertical ice. Take the obvious line of weakness, 25m. Then descend by either ascending the right bank of the gully and abseiling and down climbing from trees or possibly more sensibly, set an abalakov and abseil the last step and walk down the hill.

Ituuk, il cattivo malamute WI3 *

Park in the layby near Capanna bill and walk up to the middle streambed. Currently you have to start by climbing up behind a fallen tree which provides some interest. Then continue up a stepped fall with one steep section around 10m high. Continue for another 1-2 pitches where you can then either abseil down from the right side of the gully or continue to the hillside above and walk around and down to the road.

The third streambed often looks dirty and rotten from the sun and as yet I have not climbed it.

Piccolo pillar WI2+

A short free standing pillar high on the hillside above Capana Bill. Drive up the fist few hairpins of the pass until you reach a barrier on the right and some small cabins. Park here and take a track into a small re-entrant and then strike out left up to the falls.

The climbing is brief at around 15m but kind of fun and in a nice location. Almost ice bouldering, and a good opportunity to climb a short vertical pillar for the first time. Descend the hill side.

Ice climbing in the Serrai di Sottoguda

The Serrai di Sottuguda is a deep slash through the base of Val Pettorina formed during the ice ages as glacial meltwater gouged down through the rock. It is a UNESCO site, as is Marmolada which towers above the gorge to the west. So narrow in places that the walls almost meet, this natural phenomenon ticks every box you can think of as an ice climber. With a total of 29 routes in the guide book (and a bunch which aren’t!), it’s a really extensive venue to visit.

The valley which faces east-west is very deep, hidden from the sun through most of the winter and acts as a cold sink for air dropping from Marmolada’s glacial north face. With temperatures in November usually in the minus figures and water pouring into the 150m deep gorge from both sides of the valley, conditions couldn’t be more perfect for an ice climber.

Access

Please note – there is officially no current access allowed to the gorge. If you enter, you do so at your own risk, and also if caught may be taken to task by the Carabinieri.

This is what makes the Serrai di Sottoguda so appealing – essentially roadside ice. The car park at the end of Sottoguda village is large and only occasionally full. From here take the small road which leads uphill into the gorge. Within 3 minutes from the car you will reach the first icefalls, and the far end of the gorge is a further 20 minute walk uphill. Alternatively you can park in Malga Ciapela and walk down into the gorge if you plan to climb higher up the valley.

Routes

Over its 2km length, amongst its 29+ lines, the gorge has a great number of classic routes. I’ve decribed the canyon from it’s lowest end, nearest Sottoguda and in sections to make it a little clearer.

Sottoguda Entrance

Starting just after the gorge office building the gorge narrows. This is home to various shorter routes, both mixed and ice and finishes by the large cave with a Madonna in it.

Baby WI3 15m.

The first ice fall on the right as you enter the gorge from the village. Although short, it is worthwhile as a warm up or for beginners. The belay is equipped with bolts.

El Dent del Guidizio WI5+/M5 15m.

Just to the left of Baby, there is a cave. Climb the initial wall to this, then climb to the hanging ice with sections of M5. Descent is by abseil from the trees above.

Baby Killer WI5+ 25m

The climbs the wall opposite and slightly further up from Baby. It is short but hard with difficult protection as the ice forms very thinly over a slab. There is risk of a ground fall with the ground being the river below!

Luna Nera WI6 25m

Another short, extreme route with ground fall potential. The route starts just as the river disappears beneath the roadway and climbs a corner by a section of brutal looking mixed climbing. Higher it reaches a smear of ice which is climbed to the end of the route.

2 mixed/dry routes which are fully bolted exist on the right side of the gorge.

Cascata del Sole Bowl

Straight after the Madonna the gorge opens out into a large bowl, dominated by the fantastic Cascata del Sole on the right.

Immediately on the right there is a line of bolts in a cave – currently I do not know what this line is, presumably either a summer line or an tough drytooling line, although the bolts look old.

Cascata del Sole WI3+, 3 pitches, 80m ***

One of the few routes to receive full sunlight, this route comes with the usual caveat. However, choose an early morning ascent or a late afternoon time and you may just strike the right conditions. A massive volume of ice which funnels down to a narrow gap at its top. The access pitch climbs to a small cave with a bolted belay. You can either stop here or continue up the initial steep section to a bolted belay on the right. This is advisable for afternoon ascents as the second belay is far over to the right and out of the way of dripping water and falling ice. It also allows you to assess the condition of the upper falls which are slender at the best of times.

Le Ciandeline WI3+, 30m

This fall is partly hidden from view up in the woods more or less directly opposite Cascate del Sole. Start at the left of the falls and then climb up and right with some vertical steps. Descent is by abseil from the trees above. Not often in condition.

Cascata della Luna WI4, 2 pitches, 70m**

The first pitch is often climbed in it’s own right. There are two lines above, one slightly harder than the other. However in recent years these have been slow to form fully. Climb a short free standing pillar to an easier ramp, usually covered with snow. Climb up to a tree (currently there is a tree which has fallen across the path making gaining the tree awkward. Eitherdescend from here or traverse rightwards to the step upper pitches. The line on the right is climbed at WI4, the one on the left 4+. Abseil from trees if possible as above there is steep, snowy ground which often is difficult to wade through.

The Narrows

Immediately after the bowl the gorge pinches down into a very tall, narrow section with the road bridge going directly overhead. There is a high concentration of hard routes in this area, mainly on the left side of the gorge but also there are some dry routes on the right.

Cascata del Serrai WI6+, 2 pitches 90m

This rare line climbs a huge hanging curtain of ice which descends from the buttress below the road over a large overhang. Climb to the cave formed by the curtain, belay and then very very carefully climb the curtain to reach more sucure graound above. A big tick.

Clessidra WI3+, 25m*

Nice climbing although a little broken with an easier middle section. The route which starts beneath the road bridge on the left hand side of the gorge. Jumping over the barriers allows access to a point at which the river goes beneath the gorge wall and affords an easy step across to the ice. After an initial steep to vertical section above the river, the ice becomes shallower and more stepped leading you to a bolted belay.

Abseil descent.

Simpatiche Canaglie WI-5+/M6, 3 pitches, 85m

Mister Wawowi WI-5/M8+, 3 pitches 60m *

Star Trek WI-6+/M6, 2 pitches, 80m

This rarely formed route represents an advance in climbing at Sottoguda, ushering in the use of bolts to protect climbing. It has mixed climbing with sections of M6. The route climbs an old rock route – you will find some old pegs in place which should be treated with caution owing to the damp nature of the gorge in the summer!

Abseil the route.

La Roccia Nella Spada WI5/M7+, 2 pitches 45m

Beneath the road bridge you will find the famous Spada nella Roccia. This twin route runs paralell and to the left of the huge column of ice up an obvious corner with sections of hard drytooling and climbing up to M7+. At the end of the route, climb right to the belay of Spada on a ledge.

Abseil of bolts.

Spada nella Roccia WI5, 40m ****

This is a route of national importance and the first ascent during the 80’s represented a major leap forwards as far as Piolet Traction was concerned. As such it is regarded as one of the finest routes in Italy, if not the Alps. Dropping directly from a ledge beneath a road bridge, the route is unremittingly steep, although its nature is often highly featured. Generally climbed on its right hand side, you will need a full complement of screws to tackle this route.

There are three dry routes on the right side of the gorge, currently I don’t have details for them.

Spirale della Contingenzia WI4+, 4 pitches, 110m

Strictly speaking this comes after the narrows, where the gorge opens up again into a tall amphitheatre. This route climbs the enormous diedre to the right of the gorge. It only forms in exceptionally good conditions as it is extremely long and requires extended cold and a plentiful supply of water from the slopes above. When it does form though it is a very impressive and imposing feature.

 

La Catedrale area

The Catedrale is an utterly stunning cascade, so wide that it supports at least 4 independent lines, all of which have first pitches that are frequently climbed in their own right and on many lines, usually dependent on where the boulders are located in the stream bed! All of them are classic and see very regular ascents, with perhaps the exception of “sinistra”, the WI 6 mammoth at the far left side of the falls. Walking up the gorge, the falls are utterly unmistakable as they are simply huge.

Cascata del Gelato WI3, 15m

Before reaching La Catedrale there is a short quite an enclosed line, on the right with the upper section following an almost chimney like section. It’s great as a warm up or for beginners and is slightly awkward which makes it fun! Start in asmall cave and climb up and left to some chains.

Destra Destra WI5, 2 pitches, 100m ***

Climb the extreme right of the cascade below an obvious pillar. Belay beneath a curtain of ice in a cave on bolts. Climb the steep, freestanding pillar to a vertical wall above which gradually eases with height

Destra WI4+, 2 pitches, 100m ***

Several lines possible, with a max of 2 freestanding pillars forming to the right of the falls. Climb WI 4 lines of your choosing to the halfway ledge. In the rock section, you will find at least 2 fixed belay/abseil stations. Then choose between the Right, Central or Left hand lines. All are steep mushroomed ice. The pillars take time to form but are often thick and solid. Be careful with the left hand variant exit as it can be thin in early season.

Centrale WI5, 2 pitches, 100m ***

The first pitch attacks the steep central groove of the first tier. The second follows a wide steep wall with relatively few spots to take a break.

Sinistra WI5+/6, 2 pitches, 100m ***

The left hand variant is usually the last to form as it is an immensely slender column of ice, with intricate, steep climbing. The main upper pitch is a colossal 60m pitch and it’s truly breath taking to watch climbers picking their way up it.

Cascata delle Attraversate WI4, 2-3 pitches, 100m ***

On the opposite side of the valley, there is an obvious and tall cascade which starts with a wide shallow slab of ice, followed by two pillars, one on the left, on on the right

The first pitch is also climbed as an ideal beginner’s/warm up route at about WI2+. At the top of this pitch, belay to the left and then climb a steep, mushroomed column to a ledge. Either belay here or continue by traversing the ledge to a final pillar. The falls can be climbed directly to the final pillar which looks to be 4+ or 5.

The Upper gorge

From here on, the routes are a little more spread out so I will describe them as you come to them, starting after the chapel where you cross a bridge.

On the left there are two, short hard dry lins, grade unknown.

Palestrina Destra WI2+, 30m

Cross the river and start by a fallen tree. The route climbs up and left to a tree just where the angle of the slope becomes a little shallower.

Palestrina WI2, 35m **

An ideal route for the beginner, or as a first ice lead. Cross the river to the right hand side of the gorge. The line follows a shallow stream with a short step

Kill Bill WI5/M, 25m

This is a mixed route on the left as you approach Excalibur. It climbs a leftward trending corner using bolts for protection

Moulinette WI4+, 40m*

To the right of Kill Bill, this follows a right trending corner and has massively variable amounts depending on the year which affects both difficulty and protectability!

On the right there is a bolted dry line which rarely holds any ice. No details of dificulty at this stage.

Excalibur WI4+, 3 pitches, 100m ****

Winter transforms this gushing waterspout into a long, excellent route, and is considered to be the crown jewel of the gorge. The falls have a huge volume of water and so often form a thick column of ice on all the pitches. The first pitch has 2 main lines, left or right of the column whereas the top two pitches are more wall climbing, with the climber choosing their line.

Lingua d’Argento WI5, 2 pitches, 100m

Just to the right of Excalibur. This route climbs thin ice up a slab to a cave near the top of the cliff in two pitches. Requires a wet season to form. Often the first 25m of te route are very thin indeed. Equipped belays.

Rugadia WI4, 20m

Continue up the valley from Excalibur and just before a bridge on the right you will see a small ice fall which starts with a mixed section. An ice hook for this initial section is useful protection as there is no other protection available when the ice is thin. Climb thin bridging moves up a corner and then pull up left onto buried turf. This section requires care. Then climb through a narrow section with increasing volumes of ice to reach a fat icicle. Climb this to a poor bolted and peg belay. Alternatively if you’ve had enough there is usually a piece of tat on a tree to the right just of the ice fall before you commit to the steep ice moves. The belay does require replacement.

Vecchia sosta WI5/M6, 30

Placca d’Argento WI6, 55m

Arbre Magique WI4, 30m

Follow the valley until you see a relatively new pumping house to the left with information boards. Directly opposite there are some ice falls. Arbre Magique climbs the right hand line. Make a long span to reach over the torrent and climb an initial vertical wall for 10m’s. The angle eases and the route becomes a little stepped before reaching a tree belay. Abseil descent.

Arbre Magique Sinistra, WI4, 30m

At the top of the gorge opposite a new pumping house there are some falls. This is the left hand line which weaves it’s way up to a steep step of about 8-10m. There are often hooks and chandeliers here. Surmount the bulge and then move right to a small pillar where you exit to a tree and an abseil descent.

 

Ice climbing – Prezzi Pazzo Sector, Val Pettorina

This is as far as we know a completely new sector for ice climbing with a large number of worthwhile routes. Access is quick and easy and the routes are of a more traditional nature compared to other routes in the Serrai di Sottoguda – they are mainly in gullies.

Approach

Park at a car park in Palue, which is obvious and on the left hand side as you go up the valley towards Sottoguda. Currently access from near Col di Rocca is not possible as the bridge was washed away during the storm of 29th October 2018. This situation may change in the near future.

Cross the river and follow the track east towards 2 large holiday condominiums. When you reach the condominiums start to climb the hillside through the woods towards a deep and obvious canyon marked on Tabacco maps as Ru dei Minieri. After 5 minutes walking through the woods you will approach a stream bed, walk and scramble up this to the mouth of the entrance to the left of the summer climbing crag, L’Ander.

Routes

Prezzi Pazzo WI 2+/3+

Climb the stream bed. From the mouth of the canyon you will enter a large bowl and encounter a short 20m ice fall WI2. This fall becomes banked out after snow and more or less disappears. However under these conditions be careful as the water may still be running beneath the snow. Continue up various smaller steps easily for 150m to reach a longer pitch to the right of an obvious loose yellow cave. This we believe used to be a pirite mine. Climb a 45m pitch WI2+. Now you will reach another large bowl in the valley where you will see other icefalls, manily descending from climbers left. Climb another short pitch and start to climb right towards a stream coming fown from the right. Climb this indirectly at WI 2/2+ fo 50m, or cut the corner up a short vertical wall at 3+. Now cut through the woods diagonally right to find a very faint track to descend.

Low Price WI 4- 40m

This climbs the first large ice fall on the left in the upper valley. It is very obvious and follows a groove from left to right and then back left. There is a second pitch above at a lower grade and which is less worthwhile.

Crazy Price WI3+/4- 40m (150m)

The second ice fall on the left flank of the gully again climbs a right trending groove to a final steep step. 50m after Low Price, climb leftwards directly up to the ice falls. to take a belay at the start of the groove. Potentially you could climb more steeply in a direct line, (WI4?). Above, the stream bed is less steep but can be climbed for it’s full length giving around 150m in total of climbing. At the top you can continue with difficulty through trees to walk down to Ca’Sciota, a small barn and from there return to the valley via a steep short path down through the woods. Or abseil from trees after the first pitch and continue up Prezzi Pazzo.

RIP Crazy Dog WI3+/4- 60m

Climb Prezzi Pazzo into the upper canyon until you reach the split where the main route climbs right. Now continue up a short steep fall to continue up the canyon into an upper amphitheatre. Here you have three water courses. RIP Crazy Dog follows a line up the middle of the central gully. Start by climbing to a large terrace up a short step and take a screw belay. There is a short easy angled piller to the left of the falls, and then a groove. Climb the groove to a ledge, then continue up directly to the top of the stream bed. To decend abseil from a tree on the right, but be careful under heave snow conditions then your ropes make become stuck due to rope drag in the snow. Or go up through the woods to the right of the stream, then descend into another stream bed and follow the rim of the gorge to rejoin the main path back to the valley.

This upper amphitheatre has many possibilities for new routes (between 4 and 6). Please let me know if you climb any of these lines so they can be reported here. Indeed we climbed a line to the right of RIP Crazy Dog on top rope which under good conditions would I expect to be WI4 or 4+.

The Right Price WI2+ 200m

This route climbs a gully to the right of the main Prezzi Pazzo canyon. It’s visible from the road by De Grandi sport in Boscoverde. Start by entering the canyon and when you reach the first bowl, climb up a ramp to the right following a very faint path. When the ramp runs out you will reach a clearing – go steeply up diagonally right until you find the path going through trees. It narrows to pass along a rock terrace and at the end of this you will find yourself in a second gully. Follow the stream with several steep steps up to 75-80 degrees. A really enjoyable climb at the grade. After 4 pitches the gradient becomes shallow and you can climb into the woods to the left. Countour around the mountain to find the path back down the mountain (very faint) to return to the start of the route and then the canyon.

Cascata Boscoverde WI4 60m

When you drive through Boscoverde you will see an ambulance station on the right side of the road. Pull in here and you will be able to see the falls. To reach the falls go over the bridge just down the road near Col di Rocca (at time of writing this is missing – there is a smaller bridge 100m further down the road in Col di Rocca – follow the path back up to meet the road on the far side of the Pettorina) Follo the road to the first shallow stream that crosses the road and a path on the left. Follow the streambed steeply up the hill to the start of the cascade. Climb in 3 pitches, 3+ 20m, 4 20m, 3+ 20m.

Marco Russo on the first ascent of Cascata Boscoverde

Marmolada Freeride

Marmolada, called the Queen of the Dolomites by the locals, has very little pisted skiing considering her size. The tallest mountains in the range due to her formation from harder Calcarious Limestone and sporting the largest and only notable glacier, it’s the perfect place for Freerie skiing. Easy access due to the three stage lift means that you can have three big offpiste runs in one day, and when the conditions are good, there really is no better place to learn about skiing in a wilder environment. There are a great number of  runs you can take, varying in their difficulty, length, ease of return and seriousness. of course there are basically an infinite number of variations, but here I’ve collated the basics together. Please note, the top section of ALL these runs are on a glacier. Therefore you must pay attention to where you are going. It is not the most crevassed of glaciers, but it is still possible to fall in. Generally the further west you are skiing, the more serious the route is, with the furthest east basically being sidecountry riding.

Safety:

Please note – this is an offpiste area in which you should carry all the appropriate equipment – avalanche beacon and probe and a shovel at the minimum preferably an Avalung or Airbag system aswell. It is ILLEGAL to ride offpiste without a beacon and you can be stopped and fined if you do not have one. If you are unsure, take an IFMGA guide like Manfred Stuffer or Enrico Geremia – as us and we will put you in contact.

Route 1: from second station – used to be groomed as a black run, now left to it’s own devices. Ski beneath Punta Serrauta until you are above Sass de Mul where either you can cut leftwards down a shallow valley back to the piste, or ski right on Route 2 all the way down to near Capanna Bill by the road. The second option can suffer from slabby snow as it catches northerly winds and also at the base there is a section down through small Pine trees (Pino Mugo – look for the Grappa made from it!).

Route 3: Take the lift to Punta Rocca and after having gone up to the viewing platform for a minute or two, ski down the piste a few metres until you can ski off the left side and down towards Sass Undici, aiming to it’s righthand side, bewteen the piste and the rock. As you reach Sass Undici there is a steeper slope which drops down the snout of the glacier back to the piste. Here if you have wide skis aor the conditions permit you can continue directly beneath Sass Undici, or take the piste for a little while until you can ski back left to rejoin the direct route, Route 4. This drops you down through a gully towards the reservoir. Make sure you are close to the foot of Sass Unidici as the terrain steepens to the right into small cliffs.

Route 5: A Fantastic route which takes the slopes just to the left of Sass Undici in the valley between the former and Sass Dodici. You can ski into the valley in a variety of ways, from the piste like route 3 at a shallower angle or ski down a hanging spur above the glacier and then drop to skier right down a steeper slope where often you can find untracked snow. Once you enter the valley stay right as there is a large flat area in the middle which will require a walk if you go into the middle of it. Once you reach the foot of Sass Undici, the ride gets more interesting again with some great little valleys and re-entrants to play in before scooting hard right, dropping beneath the rock band and rejoining the piste with a short 5 minute walk to Rifugio Fedaia.

Route 6: Very similar to route 5 but with a longer walk back unless you have the right conditions. Often less tracked. This time ski towards Sass Dodici and drop into the bowl between the two rocks more steeply. Exit to the left to the Fedaia Dam and walk back to Rifugio Fedaia at the Eastern end of the reservoir or if you are lucky you might be able to ski back towards route 5.

Route 7: From the exit of the Gondola station, take route 6 but this time ski left of Sass Dodici, passing directly beneath the rock to rejoin the piste low down the mountain. Walk back to Rigugio Fedaia.

Route 8: Ski directly down towards the Fedaia dam from the station, quite steeply to begin with, 35-40 degrees. This area is potentially crevassed so be careful. Descend towards Rifugio Fiaconi keeping it to your left and then head down the side of Sass Dodici to join route 7 and then the Piste. Walk back to Rifugio Fedaia.

Route 9: The last is a fantastic route which takes in the famous Marmolada Canyon. Follow Route 8 but as you reach the lower glacier keep bearing left beneath a rock buttress (which leads above to Punta Penia, the summit of Marmolada). Keep skiing down and left until you ski off the snout of the glacier and into a faint gully. This quickly turns into a very tight, twisting canyon around 4 metres wide and 150m long. Once you’ve passed through the canyon keep descending towards a rock face on your right which often sports a 50m high ice fall. The terrain will funnel you into a steepening and narrowing slope directly below the rock face. You will reach a terrace which crosses the face to your right. In icy conditions you must be exceedingly careful here as one foot wrong could lead to your demise as the slope ends in large cliffs. Traverse back towards the dam – gradually the slope eases off in angle and seriousness. When you reach the dam, walk back to Rifugio Fedaia.

 

 

Skitour – Monte Mondeval from Malga Giau

This is a great skitour for beginners. The height gain is moderate, the terrain is not steep and the views are some of the best in the Dolomites. On the way you will see Monte Pelmo, Lastoni di Formin, Civetta, Becco di Mezzodi, Monte Cernera and Piz del Corvo. Here’s how to do it.

Approach:

From Casa Alfredino in Col di Rocca, drive to Passo Giau via Colle Santa Lucia (for a scenic but slightly longer route) or Selva di Cadore. After crossing the pass, descend untill you see a sign for Malga Giau. After the next hairpin there is a parking spot. The tour starts directly opposite the parking place.

Grade: MSA (Media Sci Alpinista) – Easy

Height Gain: 600mH

Distance: 9km

Total time required: 3-3.5 hours

Stage 1: Skin to Forcella Giau

Leave the carpark and skin following the right side of the forest and then beneath steep slopes descending from Col Piombin on the right. After 1km you reach an open bowl from where you can clearly see the line of ascent to Forcella Giau, beneath Lastoni di Formin. Cross the bowl and start to ascend, zigzaging up a 35 degree slope until you are almost level with the pass. Now contour across, gradually gaining height until you reach the pass, after 2.5km and approxmiately 0.45-1hrs.

Stage 2: Skin to Monte Mondeval

This section is a real pleasure with amazing views. There is a short shallow descent from the pass for which you can leave your skins on. Ski down and right to the edge of a deep and steep corrie. Keeping the edge to your right, follow the bowl around until you start to gain height – continue, occasionaly zigzaging until you reach the summit of Mondeval. 1.8 km 0.45-1hrs

Stage 3: Descend towards a cabin to the north

From the summit you remove your skins and ski North East towards a clearly visible hut The slope reaches 25-30 degrees. When you reach a flatter area, stop probably slightly short of the hut. Now put your skins back on. 0.8km 5-10mins

Stage 4 Skin to Forcella Giau

Make a gently ascending climb back to Forcella giau, possibly following a slight ridgeline into some boulders by the pass. 1.5km, 30 minutes

Stage 5 Ski Back to the car park

The descent from Forcella Giau is wonderful. Take off your skins and descend the steeper slopes back into the bowl and then very easily back towards the car park in the bottom of the valley. Cut through the woods when it gets too shallow to ski down and rejoin your ascent track.

 

Never skied in the Dolomites? You should.

These famous mountains are home to the Dolomiti Superski ski area, one of the largest linked ski areas any where in the world, allowing skiers of all to explore the finest mountain scenery imaginable. And yet it is less known to Brits than other European resorts; a few large commercial companies operate in Selva di Gardena and Corvara making them the most famous resorts for UK holiday makers. But there is more to the area and that is what I want to explore with you.

Why should I go to the Dolomites?

Consisting of sixteen ski resorts, Dolomiti Superski covers a vast terrain which stretching from the Adige valley to Dobbiaco, the altiplane of the Pala di San Martino  to the awe inspiring Tre Cime di Lavaredo. With an estimated 1200km of piste skiing and 1177km of cross country  you will find fantastic runs second to none.

Sassolungo by early morning light.

All of these areas are included in one extremely good value for money ski pass – take a look below for a comparison (prices valid 2017/18):

  • Dolomiti Superski 6 days high season: 1200km of piste, 294 Euro
  • Les Trois Vallees 6 days high season: 600km of piste, 300 Euro
  • Chamonix Valley 6 days high season: 163km of piste, 306 Euro
  • Cervinia-Zermatt 6 days high season: 150km of piste, 316 Euro

Pistes descending to Val di Zoldo beneath Civetta, some great slopes away from the madding crowds.

It is simply one of the most interconnected areas in the world, as you can ski anywhere in the area at this price for the duration of your pass. And that is what the Dolomites are really about – experiencing the mountains through a journey. Whilst your chums will be repeating their favourite runs almost daily in other areas, you can be covering virgin terrain every day, seeing new sights and experience the culture of each of the valleys you pass through.

Stop to eat and water yourself and you will invariably find fantastic quality food at great prices. For example yo can expect a good bowl of pasta to cost 8-9 Euro, a meat main course could be between 12 and 15 Euro and a litre of wine could be as little as 8-10 Euro.

A spot of lunch at the excellent Rifugio Castiglioni situated beneath the ramparts of Sassolungo.

So what’s the catch?

I could say there isn’t one but that wouldn’t quite be true.

Firstly transfers are a little trickier than in other places, especially if you are used to the simplicity of rolling up in Geneva and jumping aboard a transfer bus. We always recommend to our customers to rent a vehicle which can be had for as little as £100 for a small car – the transfer bus to Cortina for example costs 40 euro each and only leaves at certain times, so by the time you pay a  few extra pounds, what you gain is the versatility to travel to other ski areas quickly and easily.

Secondly the area is less snow sure; the particular weather patterns needed for really good snow don’t form some years. As a consequence the area has invested heavily in preparation equipment to top up natural snow levels and when you combine this with grooming far superior to anywhere else I have ever skied you are assured an excellent experience.

Thirdly hotels and apartments are generally not directly on the slopes and you will have to at the very least walk to the lift station. And if you really want to make the most of the area, then a drive of usually around 30 minutes will see you to a totally fresh area, like Falcade which you can’t access by lift from another resort. So you need to be prepared to put in a little more effort by slinging the ski’s in the car.

I’ve heard people say that generally in Italy the lift systems are not as slick as elsewhere – I’ve never found this to be true in the Dolomites, certainly not in the last 12-15 years with the continuous programme of updating and modernisation of the lift system. Once you are away from the honey pot Sellaronda circuit (more of that later) it is rare to queue.

Who’s it best for?

Virtually anybody will enjoy the Dolomites – the scenery is such that even if you are struggling with the skiing, or finding it too easy, there is always something stunning to look at. With the variety of resorts, there is something which will fit the bill; take out local resorts, no more than 10 minutes drive away. Civetta is great for beginners and families, whilst Marmolada/Arabba is perfect for the more advanced skier with many steep reds and blacks and huge amounts of off piste and ski touring.

Crashing down through fresh powder!

But in particular, the more adventurous skier will benefit from the areas diversity. If you ski red runs competently you will have a great time and will be able to access the circular tours which are available – the Sellaronda, the Panorama Tour, the Giro della Guerra and the Hexentour.

If you can off piste ski, even better – there are runs like Val Lasties and Val Mezdi, plus the huge area of glacier skiing on Marmolada. With the help of a guide you can access dream skiing in wild terrain – gullies where you’d have thought only a pro could venture.

 

The tours

The Sellaronda is possibly the most famous on-piste tour in the world; 40km of skiing around the Sella group passing through 4 valleys with utterly breathtaking views which you can ski in either direction. You can join it from anywhere on the round, including from Casa Alfredino. It’s a great days worth of skiing for anyone who can ski red runs happily.

Returning to the Sella Pass shortly before the last lift.

The Giro della Guerra is less known but equally excellent. It follows a route which approximates the WW1 front line and takes in the highest peak in the Dolomites, Marmolada, the Serrai di Sottoguda (a UNESCO world heritage site), skiing beneath the huge Civetta North West face, a 1300m high precipice, the stunningly beautiful 360 view from beneath Monte Averau and the Hidden Valley from the summit of Lagozuoi. It is slightly more tricky to negotiate with two bus journeys and possibly a tow from a horse drawn sledge!

The Panorama tour encompasses a route around Val di Fassa. From Casa Alfredino you can access it by following a short part of the Sellaronda, or by driving over to Alba di Penia which is a 20 minute drive, as long as the pass is open. You ski directly opposite the Cantenaccio and the Marmolada south face and finish up skiing the back of the Sella and Canazei areas. It’s a really nice tour, maybe not of the quality of the other too but still very worthwhile.

The Hexentour is probably technically the easiest route and takes you on a journey from the Sella Pass beneath the ramparts of the Sassolungo to meet the snow bus with it’shuge chained wheels which transports you through a forest to the back of Alpe di Siusi. You then take very moderate slopes across to a cable car down to Ortisei, followed by a short walk, then up the Northern slopes of Val Gardena to reach Santa Christina before returning to Sella Pass. It’s still quite a long day but the scenery is fantastic and it’s fun, laid back skiing.

What else is there to do?

Have you always dreamed of heading away from the pistes and skiing the big mountains? With some training, off piste and ski touring can be the most rewarding days you’ll ever spend on ski’s. It requires good experience on-piste and fitness but it will take you to some of the most beautiful places. For example with an IFMGA guide you can access Punta Penia, the highest summit of Marmolada. If you don’t like the sound of all that exertion, there are many easily accessed off-piste areas, which again, with the help of a guide will see you crashing through powder and trees!

Sometimes it’s easier to don crampons and walk a bit. Ski touring is nearly a different sport, but oh so rewarding.

 

Don’t fancy the high adrenaline of downhill skiing? You could go cross-country skiing; as mentioned above there is nearly as many km of crosscountry pistes as there is downhill, making it one of the best places in Europe. Or if you don’t like ski’s, you could try snowshoeing. The beauty of snow shoes is that as long as you can walk, you can use them. Indeed within reason you can get to the same places as you can with touring ski’s so you can get deep into the mountains with relatively few skills.

Approaching Crazy Price, a new WI3+ in Val Pettorina

Do you climb aswell as ski? Well there’s also fantastic ice climbing in the region – indeed our local ice climbing spot is famous for it’s frozen waterfalls. If you want to give it a bash, again an IFMGA guide will be able to help you!

Getting there

And then you have to consider getting there – Casa Alfredino’s closest major airport is Venice Marco Polo; most major airlines fly there but because it is considered out of season for the region, the prices are much much cheaper than over the border in Austria. Below I’ve made a comparison (only valid on the date of publishing!) flying with Easyjet to Venice and Innsbruck, our next closest major airport:

  • Gatwick to Venice 13 Jan – 20 Jan 2018: £52 for standard flights without baggage included
  • Gatwick to Innsbruck 13 Jan -20 Jan : £132 for standard flights without baggage included

Other options include fly/drive to Milan, Verona, Munich and Memmingen. To drive from the UK takes most people two days – it is possible to do it in one, but it’s a tough day indeed. Better to break it up each way with a stop – we often take a look around Strasbourg as by the time you include the crossing, that makes a good stopping point.

Want to do this all but can’t be bothered to arrange it or simply don’t have the time? Get in touch with us – we have access to everything you could possibly need from a ski host, through to a Partnered IFMGA guide, transportation options and package deals!

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