Simon F, Debra, Carmen and Simon C flew out to Italy on 6th September, and after 3 days doing tourist stuff in Venice and Treviso, we drove north to Cortina in the Dolomites.
On Monday, we did our first Via Ferrata on Punta Fiames (Grade D). This made its way up a seemingly sheer rock face, protected by metal wires and ladders. The descent was via either a perfect scree run, or a horrendous pile of choss, depending on your point of view!
The next day we opted for something a little easier (ha ha). We took the cable car to about 2500m, then traversed to the ridge where we walked up Tofana di Dentro (Grade C) . This would have been quite straightforward, but due to unseasonably cold weather there was a covering of fresh snow, which made going quite perilous! (Of course, this being a 'summer' holiday, we hadn't brought any axes or crampons with us). As if this wasn't enough, the next section of the ridge to Tofana di Mezzo (3238m) involved 200m of descent, followed by a knife edge ridge, then 200m renascent up an icy slope! Exhilarating stuff, particular at altitude, we arrived just as the last cable car of the day was about to depart!
The next day, Simon and Debra opted for something a little easier, a descent of a 1km tunnel, one of many relics from the first world war (the whole area was fiercely fought over between Italy and Austria - over 1 million people died over the space of 3 years).
Meanwhile, Simon and Carmen decided against their planned rock climbing due to the cold weather, and did a grade E ferrata around Tofana di Rozes. This was another spectacular route, made more interesting by the sheet ice on sections of the path, and icicles hanging off the wire ropes! It was approached by another interesting route through the WW I tunnel of Gallerie del Castelletto.
On Thursday, the 4 of us did another Grade E route up Col Rosa, which had the advantage of starting from the camp site. On the summit we met a party from Yorkshire, one of whom is moving to York later in the year, so we embarked on an impromptu recruitment drive!
That evening, the "B Team" of Peter, John and Phi arrived. They decided to stay in Cortina, while we moved on to Corvara in the next valley. We arrived and managed to pitch our tents between rain showers. The rain later grew heavier and turned to snow, and the next morning we were greeted by 2 inches of snow on the tents!
Meanwhile, the B Team did the route on Punta Fiames that we had done earlier. They take over the story:
Sunday 16th September
We set of with intention of doing the Via Ferrata up Col Rosa, however when we reached the start it started snowing. The route was abandoned and we opted for a walk that contoured back along the valley side before dropping down. When we returned to the car we found a note tucked under the windscreen wipers, the A party had abandoned Corvara due to heavy snow and were heading for Lake Garda. Later that day we caught up with them at Riva Del Garda, having navigated our way south using the map in the climbing !
Monday 17th September
The area to the north of Lake Garda, around the town of Arco is well worth revisiting as a climbing venue. The local guidebook describes 58 crags. Although many of the routes are harder than French 6a there are still more than enough to occupy a middle grade climber for a week. The climbs vary in character from 10m sports climbs to 450m routes of 10 pitches.
Climbing at Muro Dell'Asino near Arco. Did various routes ranging between 3 and 6a (the grades are similar to French grades).
Tuesday 18th September
Via Ferrata Fausto Susatti. The approach to this via ferrata is currently not as described in the guidebook the access road stops abruptly where a tunnel is being built. To get to the start of the route a long detour to the village of Biacessa was necessary. The via feratta itself was the easiest so far however it afforded breathtaking views of Lake Garda. After some directional challenges at the top there was a long trudge down a cobbled track back to Biacessa and the best restaurant of the trip. The food was excellent but the waiter was something else.
Thursday 20th September
The A Party's last day. Via Ferrata Che Guevara - change in altitude 1400m.
In reality the most difficult part of the route is navigating a way through the loose rock of the working quarry at the bottom, which took us well over an hour. After a five-hour climb, on an excellent route, we reached the rolling hay meadow and Refuge at the top where we had black tea laced with rum.
The descent at first appeared an easy track but after a while our path turned left and took us steeply down through a wood along what was a via feratta in reverse. To keep up YAC traditions the last hour of the route was guided by head-torch.
Friday 21st September
After a morning at the Café Trentino in Arco we headed off for some bolted sports climbs in the sun at Massone.
Saturday 22nd September
We woke up to find that we could not see the other side of the valley from the campsite so our plan to climb a 450m route was abandoned and we chose instead a walk up Monte Stivo a ridge to the east of Riva del Garda. The walk up to the top was a long slog but we were rewarded for our efforts by the superb Rif Marchetti at the top, their Goulash and Polenta is to be recommended!
Sunday 23rd September
Absolutely pouring down, any thoughts of climbing out of the question. After hurried packing we headed for the Café Trentino (again) for breakfast. We then drove back to Treviso and the comforts of the hotel.