Up and Down in the Dolomites

It was a pleasant drive north into the mountains, our cars in convoy all the way. As a fan of winter sports, I had to admit it was a somewhat bizarre to see these places without a thick white covering of snow; piste-bashers sitting idle, gleaming in the sunshine.

We set up camp then went to find food, explore the town, and plan the next day’s activities.

On the iron road

We began easy, and opted for a little bit of easy via ferrata. Our first, essentially a walk, but with a little bit of exposure, took us through some lovely countryside.

This was my first VF, so I took it slowly at first, but I quickly got used the equipment and the exposure.

Next day, we decided to warm up out actual climbing muscles and went off to do some simple sport lead climbing in one of the many excellent Klattergartens. These are short routes, of varying difficulties, and were an excellent warmup.

It was odd experience to take a ski lift down a mountain, especially in summer.

Next day saw another trip on the Iron Road, very easy, but interesting, as it took us through some famous world war one tunnels, where German and Italian forces dug in and took pot shots at each other, popping out of holes in the mountainside our out digging each other.

We explored the tunnels, making our way to the bottom, through a labyrinth of tunnels.

Multipitch and stomach aches

By this time, the carb heavy local food, combined by lack of sleep (it was very cold, and due to airline weight restrictions I only had my summer sleeping bag) had given me a little bit of a dodgy stomach. So, while Kelly and some of the others spent time doing a long multiple pitch route, I and Dave spent some time doing some cragging sport routes.

We cragged, grabbed food and coffee, the sun slowly tracking its way through the sky.

The others joined us, just in time for the last cable car off the mountain, after having what amounted to a little bit of an epic; involving getting a little bit lost, and a stuck rope on an abseil of some dubious gear.

Harder VF

Mixing it up, the next day we opted to go on another VF. One that was put up within the last year, shiny and new, but technically closer to real climbing and with much more exposure (traversing over 1000ft vertical drops not uncommon).

It took us a few hours to reach the start of the route, and then the best part of the day to climb up the rest. I did my best to do it Trad – climbing the rock rather than hauling on the cable – but there were a few places where I couldn’t… most memorably where we had to edge around an overhang, on tiny footholds, over an approximate 1000 foot drop.

Once at the top, we had some food, and explored some more WW1 ruins before making our way slowly down the decent path, in a scene that looked not unlike something out of a Peter Jackson movie (his more recent ones, not the arthouse ones). I found this the hardest part of the day, since my footing on scree can hardly be said to be particularly steady.

Craggin’

The next two days we split into two groups, some to do more another VF, and some to do some crag sport climbing.

Then, on our last full day we embarked on a mighty multipitch.

Due to the equipment we had, it was necessary to split into two groups – boys and girls. The girls set off first as they were the smaller group, and we followed on after.

The first two pitches went ok, but on the third pitch we had to get a little creative… I had a backpack on carrying our gear, and it was viewed that I would have issues getting through a chimney crawl with it on, so we hoisted the bag Big Wall style. This slowed us down, and by the time we topped out, the sun was going down on the far side of the mountain.

Still, we got a lovely view…

Back to our cars, and to the camp site for a last meal and to back up for the morning drive back to Venice.

Fun fact, during lunch time, even self service gas stations in Italy are closed.