Dolomites with die Vater

Got into Bozen Italy yesterday and met up with die Vater. It was really hard to tell that we had even crossed the border to Italy. I had this irrational expectation that there would be an abrupt contrast between Austria and Italy, but here it is all still beautiful mountains and steep-terrain farming. The people all speak both german and italian and supposedly also a regional language called ladin, but I’m yet to here it. Primarily, with the exception of tourists, german seems to be the language of choice. It’s been very entertaining/confusing traveling here with my dad. He is learning italian, I’m learning german, and between the two of us we can usually communicate what we need to.

We stayed at a hotel / house ran by a family at a beautiful location on the hillside surrounded by apple trees, grape vines and stacks of wood. Dinner was a local dish of ravioli and candaleri, which is a sort of delicious spongy pasta ball.

The next morning we headed east towards St. Christina in Gröden and towards climbing! A gondola bypasses the hiking portion and brings you to the base of the cliffs. The gondola fits two people…barely. It cruises by and you have to jump in, and then the „lifty“ latches you in. I can only imagine something happening and being stuck in this gondola for hours with only enough room to stand. Fortunately this was not the case and we arrived safely at the top.

The climbing is very different from anything that I am used to. It was the highest climb that I’ve ever done at 9 pitches and over 1200’ elevation gain. The climbing is very easy but you have to be very careful to check for loose rocks and be ready to compensate for something popping out. Then there is the head game due to a combination of incredible exposure climbing up the ridge and the fun fact that we averaged about one gear placement per pitch. The magnitude and beauty of everything around is awesome. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Photo cred for much of this post goes to Christian Fracchia.

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Dinner was an absolutely incredible lasagna! There may have been multiple dishes ordered. The green dish is called spätzle. Honestly, it didn’t compare.

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view from the hotel

The next day we did the first few pitches of this rather epic “sport” climb. The size of things here is really hard to wrap your head around. The bolt spacing was pretty fair, being protected before any difficult moves, but it still helped calm the nerves to be accompanied by a small trad rack. The most common gear placement was girth hitching loops in the rock.

We only got four pitches up before the afternoon storm kicked in. Fortunately it cleared up just in time for an afternoon Eisbecher (cup of ice cream) at a nearby hotel. As has become expected around here, the views from the hotel were spectacular.

On Thursday we did a spectacular route that involved taking a gondola up to the top, hiking down a bit, then returning to the car again via gondola. Unlike Tuesday, there was only one large gondola that held about 30 people. Still a bit crowded but not as unnerving as the latched mini-gondolas.

The route started with some 5.9/5.10a mixed crack/standard climbing, but most importantly I got an awesome fist jam! The gear was available when needed; I was more concerned for my dad belaying down below, given the potential to knock a huge rock down on him. I highly recommend a helmet when climbing in this region.

I came up to an absolutely crazy window belay, perched on a rock with spectacular views on either side. The following pitches included a polished and balancy but short 5.10b/c and then some easy climbing that concluded in short-roping to the top.

Hmmmm…I think it’s time for some deutsch hip-hop. Thanks for the rec Jule and Juliana!

On Saturday we did an awesome 5 pitch climb called Blade Runner. I’m starting to develop some respect for the grades on this long climbs. The hardest pitch was 5.10d, yet all five pitches were close to that grade. Then you have to factor in that you’re often climbing with much more gear than you’re used to and a backpack with food, water and clothes. Also don’t forget the extra rope for rappel! This was even one of the lighter days given how short this climb was. Overall, excellent climb though!

Sunday in rained hard…I mean HARD. It was nuts. The mountains disappeared in all of a minute and the rain escalated to hail shortly after that. I did’t even want to go out to the car for fear of getting soaked. A very good day to stay in. We wound up going to Restaurant Nives for dinner. If you were to ask me what I would be looking forward to eating in Italy, the answer would have been carbonara, or lasagna, or probably some incredible fancy meal that I have never even heard of. I can also mention now that my staple I’m-too-lazy-to-cook-or-go-out food is to boil some pasta and slap some tomato sauce and cheese on it. Provided this information, it may surprise you as much as it did me, to find that the best meal I’ve had, probably this entire trip so far, was noodles with tomato sauce and cheese. Even the presentation seemed reasonably simple, but wow! the flavors were just incredible. Everything in it was top notch and they all went so well together. We ended up returning there the next day and order two servings so that I didn’t have to share!

The next day was our last day to climb in the Dolomites. There were all sorts of problems. We got up early to go to a route, and the pass to this cliff ended up being closed. We then couldn’t find a route without other parties on it, and after getting on a route that was probably more grassy ledge than rock, Dad lead an absolutely terrifying pitch of ~5.9 on chossy loose rock. We ended up bailing from the harder route. Despite the discouraging events that led up to 3pm, we carried on on the easier route and ended up climbing 3 pitches of amazing 5.5 that made up for everything. A very long hike along the top of the cliff followed by some windy descents led us back to the car and back to Restaurant Nives for a celebratory dinner!

I wanted to wrap up this post by making an attempt at conveying the magnitude of the Dolomites. Even being there it is truly hard to wrap one’s mind around. The following picture shows a nearby section of the cliff that I photographed from about half-way up our climb. I will emphasize here, that these climbs still only go up the first wall, and end in between that and the next massive wall above. Unfortunately, I had a better photo of the cliff, but the climber went around the corner out of view in it. In this photo the climber is only a fraction of the way up the main wall, which is itself still only half of the full size of this cliff.

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