Dolomites, 15th-28th July 2006

Several of us in the Ochils Mountaineering Club decided it was time for a club trip to the Dolomites. About twenty of us flew out to Milan Bergamo and headed up to Corvara.

Jen and myself decided on a lazy first day at the Cinque Torre, having arrived at the camp site after midnight the night before


Cloud burning off Tofana di Rozes


We decided to climb the North Face of Torre Barancio, a 4 pitch route with the crux being this crack on the second pitch, about Severe 4b


It was quite bright in the sunlight at the top!


The Croda da Lago ridge


Some cloud lingering on the Tofana


The next morning, Monday, we headed up to climb the Falzarego Towers. We got to the base of the route before anyone else, but by the time we had racked up fifteen other people had arrived! We decided it would be no fun climbing something so busy, and headed back down to go for a via ferrata instead


Edelweiss, edelweiss...


The approach from the Lagazuoi cable car station to VF Tomaselli


There were quite a lot of people kitting up for the ferrata, so we raced on to get there before them


A large ledge not too far from the top. A few minutes before, one of these people had dislodged a small boulder and sent it tumbling towards Jen, who was luckily able to duck back under an overhang to avoid it


The steep slab just below the summit


The Tofana from the summit


Looking back across the Lagazuoi battlefield


The knife-edge ridge of Lagazuoi Grande


Across to Croda da Lago


The descent ferrata


Walking back out. We teamed up with a Dutch couple we had been chatting to earlier, and ended up in the pub for a couple of drinks. This ferrata had been one they had really wanted to do, so they were very pleased to be finishing their holiday on a high note


We got up early on Tuesday and headed back to the Falzarego Towers, starting climbing before 0800. We were well ahead of the queues this time. The first pitch was a bit scrappy and about Hard Severe 4b


The view across to the Cinque Torre, Croda da Lago and Monte Averau


From then on the rock was sound and the climbing was great


Pitches 2 and 3 headed up a wall and chimney at about Severe, then after that it was all V Diff or easier apart from one slightly harder pitch high up on Torre Picola


The top of pitch 4


Torre Grande was a poorer route - the upper half of it being very broken and loose - but the second pitch on it followed a delightful S Crack and was the best (and probably hardest) pitch of the day. We than had to make a loose scramble down the back of Torre Grande to join the descent path


We headed around to the Pordoispitze on Wednesday intending to climb Mariakante, up the towers on the upper left here. Unfortunately, Jen wasn't having a great day, and we retreated after the first pitch. We went back down to the car and got the ferrata kit, then went back up and climbed VF Cesare Piazzetta


The route proved steep and strenuous but unimaginative - a bit of a cable haul over very polished rock


We crossed a chasm higher up by way of this bridge


At least the scenery was good...


We were getting a bit tired by Thursday, so we took the lazy option of taking lifts up to the Boèseekofel to climb a chimney system in the middle of this face


Awash in a sea of rock


The climbing was easy but great - every pitch looking harder than it was, and mostly being V Diff


The final pitch climbed through an overhang on large holds and was a bit harder (about Hard Severe). It then finished up this chimney


At the summit of the Boèseekofel


The weather had been pretty much perfect, but the forecast wasn't so good for Friday, with rain and maybe thunder predicted for the afternoon. Jen, Dave Scott and myself headed up early to climb the first Sella Tower. The first pitch was a bit scrappy


The second climbed an entertaining and highly polished chimney to this ledge; the third climbed cracks above to the shoulder of the ridge


Dave looking pleased to have topped out on the final pitch, which involved a short, hard but well protected corner that was more polished than anything else I've ever climbed, yet still very enjoyable!


The descent involved an abseil (not mentioned in the guidebook...)


Wild flowers at the base of the tower


The forecast for Saturday was for rain and thunder by the late morning, and it wasn't wrong. Jen and myself went for a walk around the Croda da Lago ridge


The weather held for the first section, but broke as we approached the refuge


We hid under some trees for a while and this cow decided to lick my shoe


After a while we headed on through the showers. The lightning was very spectacular over the mountains


We descended back down the valley past Cima Cason di Formin, a great route we'd climbed two years previously. The showers kept coming


On Sunday we headed West to climb Torre Firenze, a 12 pitch supposedly 'classic' climb. It turned out to be mostly made of dirt, rubble and vegetation, with about 10m of interesting climbing in the first half. For once, the crux proved easier than the guidebook suggested, being just a couple of steep well protected moves of Severe


There was a not-too-bad 15m groove pitch and then a very nice 15m pitch up an arête at half way (both about V Diff), then more dirt, rubble and vegetation


I raced up the upper half, as a thunderstorm was growing on the hill across the valley. It broke as we descended, but didn't quite reach us


Our day was brightened up when we spotted this shop on the way back to Corvara


We felt like having an easy day on Monday, as did these moths


We slept in a bit and went up VF Brigata Tridentina above Corvara


This VF was very enjoyable, having been constructed so that the rock could be climbed at all points without resorting to pulling on the cable. It was also quite long


There was a ladder and some steps on a steep chimney and wall high up, though


The pinnacle the ferrata ascend is separated from the mountainside by a chasm, spanned by this bridge


There was no stopping Jen - she had heard that the refuge did good applestrudel


An Alpine chough by the refuge


We packed up our tents the next day and headed for the hills - to Refuge La Varella under the Neunerspitze. The plan was to climb the Messner Direct, an impressive looking slab route on the South face


I needed to psyche myself up for this one, so I headed up that afternoon for a wee look on my own. The slab can be seen to the left here. Note the flutings on the rock in the foreground - the limestone around this area is very waterworn, and there's a lot of karst landscape


A bit closer ... and now I knew I was going to do it


A goat guarding the way back to the refuge.

La Varella was a great place to stay, with private rooms, hot showers, and a good choice of courses and drinks on the menu. There was a spectacular thunderstorm that night, and we were lucky enough to be in a room with a skylight


Heading up the next morning


Looking West from under the Neunerspitze...


... and to the South. The Marmolada can be seen at the middle back


To the East


On the first pitch I had placed a poor nut at 10m and clipped a piton at 25m, and was 3 or 4m from a good two-bolt belay on our 60m ropes when Jen shouted up "two metres!"

Luckily, I was just able to reach on rope stretch after she took me off belay. After that, I noticed another belay point 10-15m below and further right (facing down).

This picture is of the second pitch from the belay I took at about 30m - there was good gear at half way


Jen following up the second pitch


Our third pitch. After this the route followed a corner system


Looking West from the top of pitch 3...


... and from the top of pitch 4. A dark cloud was growing over our summit, so we hurried on


The corner pitch - perfectly pleasant, but a bit of an anticlimax after the slab


The summit. The dark cloud had blown away, but we could see showers over the Tofana and some other large hills


There's a short via ferrata on the descent along the ridge


Someone we met on the walk out


Just two climbing days left, as we wanted Saturday to be a rest day. We pitched the tent at Cortina and got a good night's sleep, then headed East to Misurina to climb Punta Col de Varda by way of a very enjoyable chimney system


Evening light from the camp site


Saturday was our last climbing day, and we took it easy by going back to the Cinque Torre where Jen led the normal route up Torre Lusy


This tower fell over in the Spring just a couple of years previously. Luckily nobody was on it at the time


A pair climbing something quite hard looking on the Torre Grande


Perched boulders. Note the climbers behind them


We were lazy enough to take the cable car back down. We headed back to the camp site at Corvara to check for a top Jen had mislaid, then headed South to Bergamo to finish with a relaxing day in town.