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Daring Deeds - real stories, expeditions, road trips and adventure

Italy- Dolomites

By Scott Swalling
06, Nov, 2013

Scott Swalling gets treated to some proper mountain conditions during a trip out to the Marmarole Dolomites

Back in September Dan and I headed to the Dolomites.  The plan was to do some alpine classic rock, enjoy the mountains, look for new lines, maybe attempt one or two and always come back in one bit.

After arriving late at night we grabbed a hire car and headed for Cortina, having to grab a sleep for a few hours on a 2000+ pass before finishing the drive. In Cortina we had some breakfast, had a look around, bought food and water and checked weather reports and then headed for the Sorapiss region of the Marmarole Dolomites.  With heavy packs we caught a chair lift a little way up the mountain and had some lunch at the rifugio at the base of these impressive peaks. After lunch we started the long and quiet walk into the mountains, which trended left through the highest treeline and through the obvious weakness in the peaks after a short stop at the San Marco Rifugio.  The walk was made even more epic by the weight of our packs, with food, water, camping gear and trad and alpine rock gear.  Soon we could see Torre dei Sabbioni and in a little while we would be camped underneath the prominent peak.

There is one thing we were learning quickly, the Dolomites are beautiful. The next thing we would learn was that there was very little (no water) anywhere near us, a late evening descent and ascent taking around 1 and 1/2 hours saw me return with enough water to get us through the night and the next day.

The next day, Dan and I headed out with a plan to have a look around, not climb.  But plans soon changed, and with limited gear we first decided upon a ledge route that we assessed led to the Normal route of Torre dei Sabbioni. This was thoroughly enjoyable, easy and very exposed and led to the saddle of the Normal route.  So of course we climbed this too, enjoying the delights of this classic with no-one else on the mountain as we enjoyed the view, the climbing and the peace. We also enjoyed a night descent to the camp and with one head torch (I left mine in the tent), but with the aid of a very bright moon we descended rapidly and safely. I can highly recommend the Normal route as a good day out.

Day 3 and we had to head down and get more water.  On the way down we looked at a good few potential new lines and decided on a couple that we had seen on the first day on the way in. This would be this afternoons entertainment. So with water back at the camp and climbing packs filled we head over to have a look at the first of the new routes.  I started up the first pitch and this was going quite well, at one point (the crux) I did have to resort to placing a peg to protect the moves and push on. The climbing through this section was very enjoyable and after around 50m I arrived at a flake belay and Dan started up and soon arrived.

Now it was Dan's turn to head into the unknown, I watched as he moved through some slightly contorted moves in the first 10 metres and then he disappeared from view.  After a little while, thing slowed down and more and more small rocks came funnelling down the gully.  This was obviously a tad loose. Soon the roper went tight and I followed Dan's lead, first through some interesting and fun moves, then over a great deal of loose ground eventually arriving just below the belay and making the final moves through a chossy chute. Interesting pitch. I finished the last pitch which was uneventful and straight forward after starting on a nice slab.  Dan soon joined me and we headed down to the bags.  We had been watching the weather and it was clearly changing, so we sacked off the next route, knowing it was longer and steeper and possibly just as loose???

As we arrived back at the camp light rain started to fall.  We stashed the climbing pack with all the hardware in them under a boulder as Nik had replied to a text to say there was a storm coming, so we wanted the metalwork out of the tent.  We got in the tent, brewed up and listened as the rain got heavier.

After a while the drum of the rain and lap of the wind on the tent sent us to sleep, until... Suddenly we were awake again, the loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard woke us fully and without warning.  There were more rumbles around the valley and lightning up high. Somehow we feel asleep, but soon I was woken by a lighting strike, so close and bright that it was the flash that woke me up. Dan stirred too, but we fell asleep again, until an eery silence woke us up.  We darted out the tent to pee and it was quite warm outside. We returned to the "safety" of the tent again and I am not sure when, but I woke up to the wind that had returned, but it had brought a new friend with it.  The tent sounded like we had a TV only playing static and it was loud, it was a familiar sound, I peaked out the tent to see snow being blown into the valley. "Hmm, not good" I said as Dan read the temp inside the tent, about 2 degrees, chilly out then.

Whilst our water problem was solved with 2-3 inches of snow, we now had a climbing problem, that wouldn't improve for a few days (according to reports it actually worsened.)  So despite being in such a beautiful scene, we had no choice but to choose another place to go and climb for the rest of the week. A shame really as we had had two great days climbing already. Reluctantly, after choosing to head to Arco for some bolt clipping and multi-pitch routes in what would be amazing sunny conditions, we packed and started the long walk out to the now inappropriately named Fiat Punto.

Eventually back at the car, we would head to Arco, via Cortina and a large piece of steak and more quality Italian coffee. We took a lot away from those few days in the Sorapiss region. Firstly it is just so beautiful up there, there are few people, the rock is more stable than it appears and we have a few more impressive lines to go and look at, Cortina is damn expensive and when we return, water logistics wont surprise us again.

Yes, we are going back!

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