Dolomite adventures

September 1st, 2018 by Jamie B

Due to an imminent change of lifestyle, I was desperate to get in a big climbing trip whilst I still had some freedom. The plan had been to get a core group of 4 together to simplify decisions and arrangements, then open it out to the rest of the club. Unfortunately due to my inability to organise a piss up in a brewery, there were still no firm arrangements a week before our planned departure date (and a month before due date)! After about two hundred emails back and forth we finally agreed on a 4 bed apartment in Arabba, a tiny village close to the Sella group in the centre of the Dolomites. The team was Mike Shaw, Pete B, Rob and myself, with Paul coming later for an extra week with Rob…

We arrived at the apt (C├Ęsa Raggio di Sole) about midnight and were pleased to find the extensive dithering had paid off. A great little apt, newly decorated, comfy, and cheaper than camping. Though we had no crags right on our doorstep, we were pretty well located for the Western end of the Dolomites, with a huge selection of crags (a.k.a. mountains!) within an hour's drive, inevitably involving going up and over a mountain pass – we got very used to those hair-pins.

As we'd arrived late we hadn't had chance to pick up any food but with the weather forecast warning of storms later in the week we wanted to make the most of the good weather despite our late start so grabbed a meagre breakfast of apples and cake in the local shop and headed to Sella Towers, a group of three towers right by the road at the top of one of the passes, with a selection of long easy routes to go at. Mike and I climbed Via Fiechtl (V-), a nice route with the crux (for me) being the awkward offwidth on pitch 2. The route culminated with a fantastic couple of chimney pitches, proper traditional back-and-footing, which proved rather easier for those closer to 6ft than 5 ft! Pete and Rob climbed a neighbouring route which shared the first 1.5 pitches.

A great start to the weeks climbing, but we got back to the car too late to make it to the shops (silly continental Sunday trading hours) so we scraped together some dinner from the basic provisions we'd got that morning and Rob's secret stash.

The following day, despite the lack of a proper meal for almost 2 days, we opted for another big route before the storms arrived, this time on Piz Ciavazes. Once again, Mike and I teamed up for 
Little Micheluzzi (Direct Start), a three started V- culminating in a fantastic juggy traverse with spectacular exposure hundreds of metres above the valley floor.

The following day had rain forecast for the afternoon so a roadside sport crag (Penia di Canazei) seemed like the perfect option for the morning. This turned out to be a humbling experience, with most of us struggling on 5s and 6s, and I even managed to fall off a 4! The rain arrived just as we were running out of routes, and pulling power so we took the opportunity to do a proper shop, at least that was the plan, continental trading hours had other ideas, so an hour or so was killed mooching around the town, but we finally got some proper supplies.

More sport the following day, this time at Sass de Stria, a much better crag with more realistic grading. A few of Rob's mates who'd been camping nearby made an appearance.

More suspect forecasts the next day prompted a bit of via ferratta. A grade 4c (out of 5) on Sella Towers, which was great fun but over all to soon. The descent from the top was a different story, going via a couple of summits just under 3000m and taking several hours, only to emerge on the road about a mile and a half downhill from where the car was park. I drew the short straw so ditched my bag and went to retrieve the car, however karma was clearly on my side as the others got midged whilst waiting.

paul at rest

Paul had been due to arrive that night but due to a delayed flight (a sign of things to come) he resorted to kipping in the car and arrived early Friday morning. With a good forecast one last big route was called for so we headed to Falzarego Towers. Since they were climbing as a three Pete, Rob and Mike went for the easier option of Comici – South Arete (V- *** 6 pitches) whilst Paul jumped in at the deep end and joined me on Dibona (V+ *** 11 pitches). This had some great climbing throughout, culminating with a scary unprotected chimney pitch behind a detached pillar (crux IMHO) leading to a fantastic belay perched atop said pillar. The final pitch (and technical crux) stepped back across off the pillar and pulled through some wild and steep moves to reach the summit. A great start/end to our respective trips.

That evening we celebrated with pizza and beer and went our separate ways the following morning, Paul and Rob to find a campsite for the next week, the rest of us squeezed in a couple more sport routes at Sass de Stria before heading to the airport for our flight home. The less said about that the better, let's just say there's a few of us who won't be flying with Ryanair again. An otherwise great trip! I would certainly go back either to the same area (as there's so much more to go at) or elsewhere in the Dollies, maybe in 18 years or so.

Pix (more to come):

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