Revisiting The Dolomites

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Intro

Tissi

Shirley on the short approach hike to the base of Sella One.

Over the extended 4th Of July Weekend, Shirley and I got a chance to return for a bit of climbing to the Dolomites. We’ve been thinking about making this trip since our last visit there two years ago. Unlike in 2008 however (when we had 4+ weeks), this time we had just under a week (unfortunately!) to get our fill of the beautiful limestone routes. Though we failed to tick off the main objective of our trip due to weather, we did get a couple of great mid-sized routes in.

First Sella Tower, Tissi (VI, 7p)

Tissi

Shirley somewhere near the summit of First Sella Tower.

Portland to Philly to Munich followed by a quick drive to the South Tirol region of the Dolomites. Shirley was enjoying her autobahn driving experience despite being highly-speed-limited (130km/h) by our tiny Peugeot rental. The idea was to start the next day with a short moderate route for warm up. We picked the Tissi line on First Sella Tower due to the short approach (20 minutes), moderate rating (VI ~ 5.9) and a low number of pitches (~7). Given our experience from two years ago on the next-door Trenker (V-) route, I should’ve taken the guidebook warnings of “polished rock” more seriously. Soon I was cursing my way up polished 5.9 off-widths and wishing I had brought some large cams. Somewhere in the upper third, I screwed up the route finding and we ended up topping out on the (equally polished) Southwest Ridge. Perhaps the last two pitches of Tissi are great enough to offset the quality of the lower 2/3rds, but I still think I’d rather pierce my nipples or have a root canal done sans-Novocain instead.

Cima Piccolissima, Cassin (VII-, 12p)

South Face - Cassin

Shirley on pitch 3 of Cassin.

From Sella Pass, we then drove over to the well familiar Rifugio Auronzo in the Tre Cime Di Lavaredo area in hopes of bagging another classic line there. Two years earlier we were lucky enough to climb two famous routes here: Spigolo Giallo (VI) on the south face of Cima Piccola and Comici (VII-) on the north face of Cima Grande. One that eluded us was the Cassin (VII-, 12P) route on the south face of Cima Piccolissima. Despite the tower’s name, the route is in fact similar in the number of pitches to Spigolo Giallo but with a more difficult climbing and unlike Comici on Cima Grande the crux is not really “French-freeable.” Following a shifted sleeping schedule (jet lag and all), we woke up early and enjoyed breakfast in the refuge. By the time we got to the base, we saw a party of two one pitch up the route. We started up behind them. We ran the first two pitches together and caught up to the lead party atop the large ledge where the business begins. The three pitches above the ledge slowly build in difficulty, starting with a VI then a VI+ and finally the VII- crux. Looking back, I would’ve combined the VI+ and the crux pitches but the party ahead of us was breaking things up per guidebook and therefore so were we. Though apparently many of the European routes suffer from over-bolting (although I have not done enough climbing there to have a worthwhile opinion), Dolomite routes still have this nice adventure feel where essentially all fixed stuff is of the piton kind in various degrees of mankiness. Here too, I found myself at the crux bulge with two pins separating me and Shirley who in turn was hanging at a belay consisting of three interesting looking pitons. After considering things (i.e. taking an extended rest on the 2nd pin), I finally went for it and clipped an old tattered piece of cord 20 feet above with great relief to both of us. The rest of the pitch seemed easier and although a slight drizzle picked up we decided to continue following some discussion. Immediately after the crux pitch, the route does a horizontal traverse for a pitch and then follows easier (mostly V or below) terrain to the summit. Though the drizzle subsided, the wind picked up and so we did not linger much at the top and instead combined our forces on the descent with the two Polish guys from the lead party. Descent went quickly and efficiently.

Marmolada (fail)

Marmolada

Shirley relaxing at the Refugio Falier.

We spent another night in the Auronzo Hut and then drove to the Marmolada region for a casual yet very scenic hike up to Refugio Falier. Our hope was to bag one of the longer routes on the impressive south face of Marmolada. The remainder of the afternoon was spent reading, eating, and playing with the miniature goats at the refuge. With the 4:15pm deadline for topout (last cable car from the top vs. a painful glacier descent and many miles of road hiking) and many pitches to go, we were out the door by 5am. Unfortunately, the clarity of the previous day was replaced by thick clouds obscuring the mountain. We hiked up into the milky whiteout and waited near what we guessed to be the start of the route for things to start breaking up. By 8am conditions were still not improving and so with heavy hearts we gave up and hiked down. On the walk down from the refuge later that morning, the upper reaches of the south face would momentarily show themselves but overall the mountain remained socked in. Oh well – next time.

Sass Pordoi, Gross-Fuhre (V-, 11P)

Sass Pordoi

Shirley on approach to Sass Pordoi.

On our final day, we drove up to Pordoi Pass in hopes of doing another quick route before heading back to Munich for our trip home. Although we were aiming for Maria Kante on Sass Pordoi’s south face, the two parties already on it when we got to the base convinced us to try something else. Instead we followed a party on a route next door which we later found out was Gross Fuhre (V-, 11P). Fun climbing on good quality rock. What made the experience unique (for us anyway) was the topout: you finish the route on a tourist-loaded terrace next to the cable car station. After enjoying a strudel and some cappuccinos on the summit, we took the cable car down and were at our car 5 minutes later. Not a wilderness experience but quite memorable. That evening we were back in Munich and home the following night. The highlight of the trip home was an exceptionally clear weather over Greenland – quite a sight! I think the next time we visit the Dolomites it’ll be for two weeks.

Slideshow

Autobahn

Shirley flying down an autobahn (at a blazing 120 km/h) just south of Munich in our rented mini something (July 2010).

First Sella Tower, Tissi (VI, 7p)

Sella Pass

Shirley hiking up to the First Sella Tower from the Pass trailhead (July 2010).


Tissi

Shirley on the short approach hike to the base of Sella One. Sella Pass is below. Langkofel (right), Funffingerspitze, and Grohmannspitze (?) are in the background (July 2010).


Tissi

Leading the very polished OW on pitch 1 of Tissi route on First Sella Tower (July 2010).


Tissi

Shirley following one of the wide pitches on the lower half of Tissi route on First Sella Tower...dragging the pack below her on a daisy (July 2010).


Tissi

Off route on the Tissi line on the south face of Sella One Tower. Langkofel (right), Funffingerspitze, and Grohmannspitze (?) are in the background (July 2010).


Tissi

Shirley belaying me on a ledge atop pitch 5 of Tissi route...this is where we likely lost the Tissi & found the West Arete (July 2010).


Tissi

Looking NE from high on the Tissi route (though this might be the West Arete already...I screwed up near the top I think; July 2010).


Tissi

The final pitch of the West Arete on the First Sella Tower (July 2010).


Tissi

Shirley somewhere near the summit of First Sella Tower. We started on the Tissi route but I think we ended up on the West Arete near the top (oooops; July 2010).


Tissi

Shirley rapping the west ridge of the First Sella Tower after our climb of Tissi (or most of it anyway; July 2010).


Sella Pass

Shirley at Sella Pass. Third Sella Tower is the most tower-like formation; Second Tower is just to the right and the First Sella Tower is in the foreground largely overshadowed by Sella One (July 2010).

Cima Piccolissima, Cassin (VII-, 12p)

Rifugio Auronzo

Shirley at the Rifugio Auronzo at the foot of the Tre Cime Di Lavaredo (July 2010).


Rifugio Auronzo

The Auronzo Hut at the foot of the Tre Cime Di Lavaredo group (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

South face of Cima Piccolissima in the Tre Cime Di Lavaredo group. Punta Frida on the left (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Leading pitches 1 and 2 (combined) of the Cassin route on the south face of Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Leading pitch 3 (I think) of the Cassin route (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley on pitch 3 of Cassin on the south face of Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley on pitch 4 (I think) of the Cassin route (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Typical Dolomite route belay anchor. This one is from the Cassin route on Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley topping out on pitch 4 of the Cassin route (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

The steep crux of Cassin route on Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley on the fifth (& crux at VII-) pitch of South Face - Cassin route (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Leading the traverse pitch (#6) on Cassin route on Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Looking back at Shirley from the traverse pitch midway up Cassin route on Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


Cassin

Leading the spectacular traverse pitch midway up Cassin route on Cima Piccolissima. Shirley belaying. Photo courtesy of another team on the route (P. Kowalski) & posted with permission (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Arriving at the belay at the far end of the pitch 6 traverse on Cassin (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley starting the traverse on pitch 6 of Cassin (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Starting the lead of pitch 8 of Cassin route (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley on a nice belay ledge atop pitch 7 of Cassin. From here onwards, the route eases considerably all the way to the summit (~5 pitches higher; July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley topping out on pitch 8 (I think) of Cassin on Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley near the top of Cassin route on Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Manteling onto the summit of Cima Piccolissima (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley on the summit of Cima Piccolissima after our climb of the 12 pitch Cassin route (July 2010).


Cima Piccolissima

Cima Piccolissima with a party on the subsummit shoulder as seen from Spigolo Giallo route on Cima Piccola. Cassin route on Piccolissima finishes up either the obvious wide chimney or the less obvious one to the right (summer 2008).


South Face - Cassin

Yours truly on the summit of Cima Piccolissima after our climb of South Face - Cassin (VII-) route (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Joining forces for the raps off of Cima Piccolissima after our climb of Cassin route. The north faces of the Tre Cime group are in the background (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley rapping from Cima Piccolisima after our climb of the Cassin route...note the single bolt rap anchor, a typical European set up perhaps (July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley hiking down after our climb of Cassin (VII-, 12P) route on Cima Piccolissima's south face (background; July 2010).


South Face - Cassin

Shirley hiking down after our climb of Cima Piccolissima's Cassin route. Cima Piccola is the leftmost formation and Punta Frida is the indistinct massif near center of photo (July 2010).

Marmolada & Other Failures

Cortina d'Ampezzo

Shirley hiking through Cortina d'Ampezzo (I think; July 2010).


Marmolada

Marmolada cable car and a helicopter ferrying logs up the valley as seen during the the hike in to Rifugio Falier (July 2010).


Marmolada

On the scenic approach to Rifugio Falier at the foot of Marmolada's south face (visible on right; July 2010).


Marmolada

Shirley relaxing at the Refugio Falier at the base of the huge south face of Marmolada (background; July 2010).


Marmolada

A scene from Rif. Falier at the base of the south face of Marmolada (not in photo)...note the miniature goats - always fun times (July 2010).


Marmolada

A miniature goat at Rifugio Falier at the foot of Marmolada's south face (July 2010).


Marmolada

Shirley at the base of Marmolada's south face trying to decide go/no-go...we did not go (July 2010).


Rifugio Boscanero

A pet goose at Rifugio Boscanero (July 2010).


Rifugio Boscanero

Shirley and a very friendly feline in Rifugio Boscanero (July 2010).


Rocchetta Alta

Leading the loose & wet "approach" pitch at the base of Spigolo Strobel on Rocchetta Alta. We found the start of the "real" climbing above runout and with a shitty belay anchor in shittier rock...bailed (July 2010).


Rocchetta Alta

Shirley following the initial 300 foot pitch (approach) on the Spigolo Strobel route on Rocchetta Alta...we bailed off of this one (July 2010).


Castelrotto

Shirley checking out the guidebook at a bar in Castelrotto (July 2010).

Sass Pordoi, Gross-Fuhre (V-, 11P)

Piz Pordoi

Southern aspect of Piz Pordoi as seen from the road (July 2010).


Sass Pordoi

Shirley hiking to the south face of Sass Pordoi through the alpine meadow splendor of the Dolomites (July 2010).


Sass Pordoi

Shirley on approach to the south face of Sass Pordoi (in background; July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Shirley following the first pitch of Gross-Fuhre route on Sass Pordoi (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Starting up a pitch (probably 2nd or 3rd) on Gross-Fuhre route (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Shirley on pitch 2 or 3 of Gross-Fuhre (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Shirley on a large belay ledge two pitches up Gross-Fuhre route on the south face of Sass Pordoi. The glaciated north slope of Marmolada is in the background (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Leading a traverse pitch somewhere on Gross-Fuhre route on Sass Pordoi (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Another nice belay ledge on the Gross-Fuhre route (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Another pitch of face climbing high on Gross-Fuhre route - not sure which pitch exactly this was (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Shirley following a pitch somewhere on the upper third of Gross-Fuhre route on Sass Pordoi (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

The second fastest way down from top of Sass Pordoi (as seen from Gross-Fuhre route; July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

Shirley at a belay somewhere near the top of Gross-Fuhre route on Sass Pordoi (July 2010).


Gross-Fuhre

The unusual finish to the Gross-Fuhre route on Sass Pordoi...tourist loaded terrace next to the cable car station. Several routes converge here and hence the traffic jam (July 2010).


Gross Fuhre

Shirley near the top of the Gross Fuhre route on the south face of Sass Pordoi formation. The glaciated northern slope of Marmolada is in the background (July 2010).


Sass Pordoi

Shirley on the summit of Sass Pordoi next to the cable car station (July 2010).


Sass Pordoi

Shirley enjoying a struddel and a cappucino atop Sass Pordoi after our climb of Gross-Fuhre...wilderness experience it's not, unique - for sure. Submitted for TR (July 2010).


Sass Pordoi

Shirley on the complicated descent from the summit of Sass Pordoi (July 2010).


Greenland

On the flight home...


Greenland

...caught an exceptionally clear afternoon over Greenland (July 2010).


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