Citta dei Sassi

Citta dei Sassi

Alternative bouldering

Our mate Lorenzo from the Terre de Sienne shares some good vibes and discovers it's not always 'grim up North' on a recent trip to the Citta dei Sassi in the Italian Dolomites.

If you take the 27 pitch long "via normale" on Sassolungo, in the Italian Dolomites, and break it down in to small bits, it all comes down to the bouldering, even though I reckon i wouldn't like to find myself high above precarious (non-existent) gear trying to link two finger pockets under a 50 degree overhang...

That's how the bouldering is at "Città dei Sassi", near the Sella Pass. It is constantly crossing your attention and energy between the big mountains and the small boulders; thinking about the greatness of the long, sustained routes that were opened with hemp ropes and nailed boots, and then using all the modern resources you have to finally stick one single move problem.

The idea of a bouldering trip at Città dei Sassi in November was born, can you guess? at the pub. I'd been after it for the whole summer without going, and now, just at the third pint, KABOOM!!!!! "id like to go to the Dolomites before the snow sets in" I said, almost thinking loud. Then I crossed my friends eyes as he said "ok, we leave friday at three."

To be fair, it should be said that we had the keys of a friends house just 15 minutes away from the bouldering, so when we got there at dinner time, the -6 temps didn't scare us. We just acted in full-auto; get in the house, turn the heating on at full power, and cook dinner.

From the following morning it was climbing non stop, also because the windy days didnt give any chance to get too warm, but the friction was amazing: from mid morning to dusk, our only thoughts were how to link holds, where to heelhook, where to put the pads. Like living in a dream, we only cared about bouldering, and when it got dark we only cared about eating and sleeping, to boulder even more the second day. It could have gone on forever.

But it didn't. Sunday evening came quickly, and as I sat on the ground in front of the problem, puffing, I just had time to recall that one minute before I had said "I won't climb this thing, it's too hard, but i'll come back". Then the sun lit the mountains up, and the snow immediately took us back to reality.

With that great sense of fullfillment that we all know, we packed and left the mountain, thanking her for letting us, small boulderers, play in her garden.


The bouldering is on a sort of limestone thats called "dolomia", and even though it's not even close to be compared to sandstone or granite, is a great fun. The area was a training field for the alpinists since long ago, and in modern times the bigger boulders have been bolted, offering a good number of routes and a great place to take climbing classes out.

The setting just takes your breath away. You feel you have to boulder quietly, not to wake the surrounding giants up, and not with the cocky attitude that sometimes we boulderers have. Here, you belong to the mountain.

The problems, in the vast majority, are steep and powerful. There are pockets and edges, a few slopers, and in general long moves with some serious pulling down.

It's an alternative to more popular and, let's say it, better destinations, but it's worth every minute. I've been there a few times, especially in the summer, when the valley is packed with climbers, and (many more) tourists, that can make the drive uphill a torture of almost one hour. So, if you want to sample the valley at its best, I suggest you wait for a sunny weekend, or even better mid week, in late September or October. If you go in mid November, be sure you have a friend's house keys, or drop me a line!!!

Last tip, you'll thank me a lot.. alittle downhill of the bigger boulders, in the field, there's a small wooden hut, besides a small runnel. Go eat there.

A topo can be found at PlanetMountain