Tag Archives: Rock Climbing

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M.Speciale, Piccolo Lagozuoi, VI-

M.Speciale is a fantastic 300m route which climbs to the top of Piccolo Lagazuoi on a very direct line. Its difficulty is a little discontinuous, but the crux pitches especially are really quite special, certainly some of the most fun climbing I’ve done of that grade in the Dolomites. It is airy, with highly pocketed and water worn grey Dolomite on the hard sections and is broken by a terrace at mid height from where you can escape to the right should you need to.

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Topo showing approach and descent, and approximate line of route

 

Approach:

Approach is fast and easy from Passo Valparola, where you park in a lay by opposite the old fort. Follow the Kaiserjaeger Path towards the base of the Lagozuoi and after climbing for some 15 minutes, strike out directly to the base of the wall up loose scree. The route starts at an obvious chimney near the lowest point of the buttress and to the right of an overhang.

What to take:

There are a great number of threads on this route, many of them equipped with tat of varying quality. Stiff Kevlar cords and dyneema slings to thread these are useful. The rock is a touch tricky to place gear in, so a limited rack of a set of nuts and a few cams (0.4-1 Camalot) are useful. Double ropes are advised should you need to retreat during a storm as the pitches are quite long.

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Close up of the route. The best pitch is up the black water worn rock near the start.

The Climb:

After a short easy chimney the route strikes out leftwards in a determined fashion across a rather blank wall; it has just enough good holds to make it relatively easy. There are a number of pegs to protect, but a few nuts also help. Shortly a  belay in a shattered niche is reached where there is a peg belay. The next pitch is fantastic; steep and featured, it looks intimidating from the start. However you soon realise that you can follow a line of jugs which breech the wall and a couple of small overlaps. In a 35m pitch you reach a belay, again equipped with pegs although there are plenty of alternative placements should they be needed. It’s a small belay and not ideal for more than 2 people.

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Federico climbing the steep, exposed and utterly excellent first pitch.

 

From here you climb more easily to a terrace which is crossed. This the point at which escape to the right is possible, just be careful not to knock off rocks as there are a number of busy routes which climb the wall beneath it. All being well though, belay at the back of the terrace beneath a steep wall. Here you climb a fairly obvious weakness in the wall to a hanging groove. You reach another loose terrace with few good belays. Retrospectively I would search for something close to the edge of this terrace as the rock at the back is loose and shattered and provides little real security.

 

Federico larking around on the terrace. What a spot.

Federico larking around on the terrace. What a spot.

Climbing leftwards across this terrace you will approach a steep wall beneath a large black bulge. Climb until you find a rampline which leads back right wards into an open corner beneath the wall and belay to a thread and nut. Now strike out boldly leftwards, climbing through a first overlap and then a smaller second one with some difficulty. You will reach a ledge leading leftwards – do not be lured along this but instead climb quite directly to a hidden peg and from there to a large ledge. Here arrange a runner for your second and traverse the ledge leftwards to a peg belay beneath a crack in the overhanging wall above.

Looking into the abyss from the last belay, just before the short hard crack.

Looking into the abyss from the last belay, just before the short hard crack.

Climb this crack with some “urgency” to yet another loose terrace and belay. The exit of the climb is on the left, across scree covered ledges, at first quite steep and exposed but quickly giving way to an easy path.

The Descent:

The descent is certainly not easy. You must be sure footed and comfortable with quite tricky scrambling. According to the guidebook we had, after traversing ledges rightward, you find some pegs for an abseil. We never found this, and instead followed first a large terrace and then increasingly narrow ledges eastwards across the mountain until we reached a large slope above the East face of Piccolo Lagozuoi. There we picked up the top of the Kaiserjaeger path which is equipped with a bridge and cables to protect exposed sections. We followed this directly back to the carpark in around 25 minutes, the whole descent taking about an hour.

Sass di Stria, Spigolo Sud, IV+

The Spigolo Sud or South Arete of the Sass di Stria is a magnificent and highly attainable goal for the aspirant rock alpinist. Over looking the famous Passo Falzarego it affords not only excellent climbing, but stunning views and an extensive insight into the history of the area during the descent. With a minimal approach it is great as an introductory climb if you’ve not experienced Dolomite rock yet.

Looking out over Passo Falzarego towards Tofana di Rozes, Cinque Torri, and Averau.

Looking out over Passo Falzarego towards Tofana di Rozes, Cinque Torri, and Averau.

Approach:

Only 25 minutes drive from Casa Alfredino, park either at the Lagozuoi cable car station or at the Fort museum at Passo Val Parola. From the cable car station follow the road towards the pass and vice versa from the pass. About midway between the two there is a small rock gym area just south of the road on the very foot of Sass di Stria. Walk over to this from where you will see an obvious path leading around the eastern flank of the mountain. This ascends quite steeply through scree and scrub until the South Arete is reached in around 15 minutes. If you go a little further you will reach old trenches which are interesting to look around.

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What to take:

As with most trade routes in this area there is extensive fixed gear on the route. So 10 extenders (slingdraws are useful), a few 120cm slings, a set of nuts and sizes 0.5-1 Camalots will suffice. Of course it’s assumed you will carry a small pack with a rain proof and something warm in case of a summer storm!

Shortly before reaching the Arête, at one of the numerous beefy ring bolts enroute.

Shortly before reaching the Arête, at one of the numerous beefy ring bolts enroute.

 

The Climb:

Six pitches at a fairly sustained grad of UIAA IV or around Hard Severe / 5.6. The initial pitches start easily climbing out of a gully onto a rib. Belays are denoted by large steel ring bolts which are usually painted with a red blob and are frequent – you can easily run some of them together.

On the arête looking out over the mountains.

On the arête looking out over the mountains.

The route follows this rib for a couple of pitches and it slowly becomes more and more acute to form a sharp arete. At one point an improbable and exposed section leads up the left side of the arete just when you think it should go right; the difficulties are short lived but exciting. This leads to a chimney and large ledge where upon if you look right you will see an enormous leaning flake with a passageway behind it.

The hidden passageway. Continuing direct at this point is apparently about UIAA VII!

The hidden passageway. Continuing direct at this point is apparently about UIAA VII!

Climb up to this and through the hole to the other side. Here you find either an easy exit at grade III or a more testing direct line up a groove at V- which is well worth the effort if you have the ability. This deposits you directly at the summit cross where you can sign the summit log.

The summit - it's a great place with room for a nice lunch and tremendous 360 views.

The summit – it’s a great place with room for a nice lunch and tremendous 360 views.

Descent:

Trenches from the war extend virtually to the road from the summit. From the cross go down westwards where you will find the first one. If you have time, take a head torch with you so that you can explore the war tunnels. If pressed for time it takes maybe 45 minutes to reach the car park from the summit. The route is reasonably obvious bar little side trenches, but if you get lost, climb up out of the trench to help you reorient.

Some of the trenches with their wooden ladders. Although classed a Via Ferrata, there is very little one could call climbing, bar a few ladders.

Some of the trenches with their wooden ladders. Although classed a Via Ferrata, there is very little one could call climbing, bar a few ladders.

 

Comici Route, Falzarego Towers, V-

The Comici Route on the Torre Piccolo di Falzarego is a great route with a short 45 minute approach and the grade V- climbing concentrated in the first pitch and which if you like can be bypassed. Otherwise it is mostly IV and is ideal for those looking for the next step up from Sass di Stria.

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Approach:

The walk in is easy – leave the car at the Lagozuoi cable car lift station. From the back of the carpark a path winds first through a boulderfield, then through the stunted pines of the tree line towards the ruins of a World War 1 Field hospital, well worth a look. The Falzarego towers are two modest but satisfying looking peaks, the Picolo being a fine pointed summit, separated from the Grande by a deep cleft, some 4-8 metres wide. To reach the base of the route, walk steeply up and left behind the hospital to reach more or less the lowest point of the buttress where you will find some earthy ledges to gear up, although it might be easier to do so at the hospital where there is flat ground.

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What to take:

Gearwise, you can afford a slim rack; there are so many pegs, that I rarely found myself reaching for nuts. Indeed, we had one small set and Camalots 0.4 – 1 (grey – red) and never felt the need for more. Slings are useful for the numerous threads as the insitue tat although frequent is usually faded and untrustworthy.

Standing in the ruins of the field hospital one gets a sense for the isolation and desperation the men must have felt in a sport like this.

Standing in the ruins of the field hospital one gets a sense for the isolation and desperation the men must have felt in a sport like this.

The Climb:

Comici, one of the great pioneers of the Dolomites lends his name to a vast number of routes on an equally vast number of peaks – it’s rare to find his routes disappointing and he is renowned for his bold, aethetically pleasing lines, not to mention their difficulty with many still presenting a serious challange for the aspiring alpine rock athelete. The line on the Falzarego towers does not disappoint, which after a couple of pitches gains the arete of the tower providing great positions. The start seems to have a number of variations at differing grades; we spotted at least 3 different ways to reach the first belay. But as this is a practice area, the route is often marked with red or green way markers, and is very extensively equipped with pitons and cemented in bolts. The third pitch is no less than spectacular, leaving a niche and climbing briefly and steeply up a corner one reaches the top of a flake – step out across air to continue up the arete, which after another 2 pitches leads to the small summit of the tower.

Attacking the first grade V- pitch. The difficulties are not sustained and are found in the groove seen here.

Attacking the first grade V- pitch. The difficulties are not sustained and are found in the groove seen here.

With excellent rock through out, bar the odd loose flake, this is a great introduction to the area. If there is a chance you might feel the need to retreat, or weather is looking a little less than optimal, the belays are mostly bolted, some with new glue-ins, some with cemented rings. Route finding is mostly very straight forwards with waymarkers helping frequently when you are unsure, as does the fixed protection. I would say that a UK leader comfortable leading a multipitch HS would not struggle unduely with this route.

From the top of the third pitch should it be needed, abseiling to the western side of the ridge should see you to an escape route.

Felix Idiens climbing high on the arête with Autumn snows on Averau and Nuvolau behind him.

Felix Idiens climbing high on the arête with Autumn snows on Averau and Nuvolau behind him.

Descent:

The descent is worth mentioning – once you reach the summit climb quite steeply down the far side of the tower – rings and gear are easy to find so it’s easily protected to a shoulder where you will find three curled steel staples. We used the largest and highest as this was the easiest to access and a 25m abseil landed you at the top of the gully descending between the two towers. This gully is a little tricky in places with two down climbing sections, but could be abseiled with sufficiently long ropes should there still be winter snows in the gully from a ring in the side wall of the gully. Once out of the gully there are two further down climbing sections but they are straight forwards if a little exposed.

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