09/06/08. North Face – Comici (VII-, 16P) on Cima Grande Di LavaredoTwo days later the forecast improved. We were once again looking at a day-long, decent weather window in-between systems. A 5 am wake up call at the now familiar Rif. Auronzo…but the motivation faltered in the morning cold and so we slept till 6:30 in our rental car outside the Rifugio. Finally at the base of the route, we found two parties starting up – oh well, that’s what we get for our laziness. Additionally, a localized system seemed to be dropping rain on us…wait, it turned out to be the run-off from the upper portion of the wall (steep wall)! The rock was cold and wet in places. Two Brits were in the lead followed by two Italians. All of us were moving at about the same pace (& in similar style – i.e. yarding liberally on fixed pins through the hardest and often wet stretches) and so no major cluster f’s were encountered. About three pitches up, another party started up the route (and one more started up the 5.12a Directissima line next door!!). It turned out to be two young local climbers casually and quickly cruising the line. About six pitches up they passed us.
.Midway up the route, the Memmel & Kohler guidebook shows the original line taking a leftward turn following easier chimneys but also indicates a direct finish. As the first pitch of the direct looked nice (crack), we followed the South Tyrol team up it. After about 55 meters of an aesthetic but progressively widening crack (with almost no fixed gear and no large cams on my rack), I belayed Shirley from a decent ledge. Above us, the direct variant turned into what looked like an unprotected squeeze chimney. I was tired and so opted to traverse back left in hopes of catching the original (likely easier) finish. This required some sketchy free moves and an A0 penji. One long but easy pitch brought us to the base of a dihedral running with water. Despite my doubts, I soon found several fixed pins and so we followed the vertical stream. Going was probably easier but our stress level was fairly high as rock was very slick and pro opportunities were limited. Three pitches from the top we saw the British team a pitch above us…and saw the two Italian teams off in the distance on the direct finish (guessing the non-English guidebook might recommend the direct…). The final pitches, though advertised as being somewhere around IV+, felt harder as I seemed to have little left in my forearms. Finally, we topped out on the chossy and narrow ringband. The ringband traverse to the south side of the mountain was stressful – loose rock would offer no pro possibilities and so we unroped for what was essentially just a scary hike. We were tired. As it was about 6pm, we opted not to scramble up to the summit in fear of missing dinner hour at Auronzo. The descent down the south face line though seemingly complex, went well though in one spot we were happy to catch a glimpse of another team to set us back on track. We slept in the Rifugio one more night hoping to climb Paterno the next day – mostly to get a nice panoramic of the north faces. Of course, by morning the weather window closed on us and Tre Cime was once again engulfed in milky whiteness.
Go to Dolomites – Part 8.
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