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.
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 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.
- 25m IV Climb the cracks to a steepening below a narrowing in the gully, pulling slightly left to a belay ring.
- 30m IV Above there is a steep but reasonable crack which after a few meters relents.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 85m III+, III, II Climb the ramp more and more easily to reach the Cengia dei Camosci
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.