A week in the Italian Dolomites
|Date: 2nd to 8th July 2008
Submitted by: Columba McLaughlin
A week in the Dolomites
At the beginning of July 2008 a bunch of us headed off to savour the delights of Via Ferrata in the Arabba area of the Italian Dolomites. CCC member Columba Mc Laughlin, ex members Colin Vose and Tom Massey, Dubliner Seamus Massey, and Liverpooludians Peter Doyle and Ciaran Daly made up the group. We based ourselves in the small skiing village of Arabba and about the height of 1600 metres in the air. For those not in the know many climbs are pre-bolted and Via Ferrata routes are graded in terms of seriousness from 1 (low) to 5 (very serious) and also graded a- c in terms of exposure and potential escapes. With (a) being little exposure and a number of escapes and (c) being very exposed and no or few escapes.
Day 1: Warm up day: We went to the Passo Valorola for a short climb on the Sass Di Stria Mountain (2477 metres). The route has a short Via Ferrata section (20 metres) but is not really recognised as a via ferrata. In terms of Rock Climbing it is mainly a scramble and would warrant a Moderate rock climbing grade as the most exposed move is just below the summit with no protection whatsoever. The Route took us up through the remains of 1st World War trenches. It was eerie knowing that men had fought and died here.
Day 2 - Passo Falzarego: Our target was the Via Ferrata on Averau (2649). The Via Ferrata on Averau is only 75 metres long but there is also some good quality unprotected scrambling on it as well. The Via Ferrata is graded 2b in terms of seriousness. It was amazing to be climbing at a height of more than 7500 ft above sea level and doing it very comfortably. Boded well for the future.
Day 3 – Passo Gardena: Our target today was the Via Ferrata ‘Brigata Tridentina graded 3b and a total of 400 metres long. The route commences 10 minutes from the car park and finishes just below the summit of ‘Torre Exner (2495 metres). Also, the route is divided in 4 pitches. Pitch 1 was up a very steep and very wet slab with awkwardly angled holds and stances. A different breed from yesterday. The 2nd and 3rd pitches and steep but on dry rock and holds are perfect. Views below are very exposed but stances and traverses were very well protected. It is possible to escape from the route after the 3rd pitch. However, there is a final 4th pitch of Via Ferrata pitch that should not be missed sa it has very vertical and overhanging difficulties. The temptation was too great so Colin and I decided to go for it. High up on this pitch was an awkwardly placed ladder which proved to be fun. The final sting in the tail before exiting onto the summit plateau is crossing a very wobbly wire bridge with loose floor boards. Looking vertically down into the chasm between the holes in the bridge was awesome. We had a welcome coffee and apple strudel at the Refugio on the summit. This s a a highly recommended route for any future visitors.
Day 4 – Passo Tre Croci: Our target today involved 2 Via Ferrata. The first was a short section on the Via Ferrata ‘Ivano Dibona’ graded 2b and involves a high level crossing on the longest, shakiest and swingiest wire bridges in the Dolomites. Once I had experienced the bridge I speedily returned to the Refugio and then headed up the Via Ferrata ‘Marino Bianchi’ (2b) on the opposite side. The Marino Bianchi Via Ferrata is 200 metres long and it finishes at the summit of Cima di Mezzo (3154 metres). It is a brilliant route involving spectacular steep climbing on well protected crux positions. It was a tad scary at times as well as I could hear rock fall echoing from time to time but did not locate the exact area.
Day 5 – Arabba: Today there was a section of the cycling Grande Tour of Italy in the Arabba area so all roads were closed to traffic. Colin needed a welcome break from driving the car and Ciaran, Colin and I agreed on the very visible pointy ridge on the mountain ‘La Mesola’ (2727 metres) across the valley from our hotel. We knew that the Via Ferrata ‘Via del Trincee’ (graded 4b) on this mountain was 300 metres long and involved a very vertical start and finish. We headed up on foot and I was surprised at how well acclimatised were as at that height we climbed some 800 metres in just over 2 hours. The Via Ferrata had a stiff vertical start and it involved spectacular exposed climbing on rock similar to the rock in the Idwal Slabs North Wales. However, when we got to the summit ridge the rain, hail, thunder and lightening started. We had no choice but to go on. The descent was precarious in the wet conditions. Nonetheless, it was another brilliant route.
Day 6 – Passo Pordoi: This was our final climbing day before going home. Peter, Tom and I decided on the Via Ferrata ‘Cesare Piazzetta’ which is 5c and is some 500 metres long. It is vertical and over hanging in a number of places and there is one very short and wobbly ladder (4 rungs only). Higher up there was a wobbly bridge with wires as footholds instead of wood and a serious view of the chasm below. The climb was intimidating from the start as several signs stated that it was only for experts. The first 100 metres is very exposed and almost vertical. Overall, it was a very strenuous and very serious climb and involved some very exposed and unprotected scrambling. However, the unprotected, very exposed and airy traverse that is in nthe guide book was not as intimidating as was made out. An indication of how steep it was is that it only took us about 3 hours to do it and we topped out onto the summit ridge of Piz Boe (3154 metres) to make it to the Refuggio for coffee and apple strudel. What a climb. Instead of the gondola we opted to run down the gully.
Post note: An absolutely brilliant week in spectacular settings and exhilarating climbing. Highly recommended to all.
Slán gó Fóill,