So here we go with a mixed bag of efforts, attempts and some success and a huge portion of pure fun
climbing on some of the best overhanging choss walls in Europe. I love the climbing and the beauty of the Italian Dolomites. My love affair with the Dolomites started back in 1988 when I first visited the Sella Towers.
Day one, the 16th of July: We climbed the first 4 pitches of "Alpenliebe", 500m (7c) on the North Face of Cima Ovest. This route was established in 1998 by Hainz and Astner. The weather was good but super cold and we thought it was too cold to go for a push at that stage so we left the 4 first pitches fixed. I had been up there a few weeks earlier in much better conditions but other things stopped me then... So our plan was to wait for warmer temperatures.
Day two, the 17th: We decided it was too cold to go and do Alpenliebe so we opted for an easy day getting some meters under our belt so we climbed "Gelbe Mauer", (300m 7a+) on Cima Piccola. This route was opened by the late Kurt Albert and Stefan Glowacz in 1996 (7a, 7a+, 6c, 7a+, 7a, 7a+, 6c, 6c, 6b+). Given that this route is in the sun and we still did not feel too warm we figured we would need the temperature to increase significantly in order to free "Alpenliebe" and the forecast did not really give us much in that way but we decided to go and see what it would be like on top of P4 the next day.
Day three, the 18th: We went back to the top of P4 on "Alpenlibe" and after much deliberating we decided to call it quits. We thought it was a bit too cold to be certain we would be able to free the route. It was about 4 to 6°C and some wind. We packed up but left the fixed rope in place for a future attempt…. We went down to Cortina to get on to the internet and get some pictures and info about Donnafugata from the website of www.planetmountain.com. We then drove to the valley of Torre Trieste and hiked up to Refugio Vazzoler where we arrived just before 8pm.
Day four, the 19th: We departed the Refugio for Donnafugata 4am Climbing…
Day five, the 20th: Climbed the last pitches and descended for some hydration and well deserved food.
Day six, the 21st: Hiked down to our cars! Business done to some extent... We will be back for more.
Donnafugata 5.13b, 750m, on Torre Trieste 2458m WSW Face
So me and Mayan Smith-Gobat climbed Donnafugata on Torre Trieste, 750m 8a in a ground up 32 hours single push carrying no bivvy gear, two liters of water and few bars and energy gels.
As a team we collectively lift our hats for the creators Christoph Hainz and Roger Schäli who had the vision and energy to open such an incredible route on such an imposing wall back in 2004. Donnafugata must be one of the most interesting challenges in the Dolomites and the route really deserves more ascents. The route was first free climbed by Mauro Bubu Bole in 2007 after five days of work on the route.
Since then the route has only seen a few (two or three repeats) free repeats. Mayan did the first female ascent and most likely this was the second ground up ascent.
The route is exposed but fairly safe compared to some of Christoph Hainz other amazing creations in the Dolomites. As a team you certainly need good mountaineering skills along with a high level of sport climbing capabilities, but then again it’s not a dangerous route as long as you know what you are doing…
Mayan’s effort must be considered as one of the most impressive female achievements ever in modern Dolomite climbing, as Mayan managed to on-sight all but two of the pitches on this 23/25-pitch route. I led a few of the pitches and seconded all but two pitches (with a few A0 moves) witch I jugged.
After hiking about an hour and half we arrived at the Refugio Vazzoler around 8pm on the 18th of July. At 4.15am we departed the Refugio and started climbing at around 5am. We brought an ultra-light backpack that we duct taped so we would be able to haul it. We carried no bivvy gear and only two liters of electrolyte water and a few bars and energy gels with us.
We got at the top of pitch 14th just under the 8a/5.13b crux pitch at around 2pm. We stopped and relaxed for about 20 minutes and then headed up what we thought was the 6b+ corner before the 8a pitch. However we were off route too far to the right on an old classic route, so after some scouting around above that pitch and some wild traversing to the left we managed to pull off a sketchy rap back down to the belay on top of P14 and traverse left to the right belay on Donnafugata.
Mayan set off on what we now thought was the 6b+ pitch but she soon realized that she was on the 8a pitch and we understood that we must have linked the P13 (7b) and 14 (6b+) unintentionally. After climbing through the pitch and figuring out the moves Mayan lowered off and rested for about an hour or so then headed back up in her smaller Red Dragons we had brought specially for this pitch. She sent P15 the 8a/5.13b in what looked like a huge effort where I think she was digging as deep as one possibly can at that stage on a climb. Mayan clipped the belay of the 8a/5.13.b pitch at around 7.15pm. I jugged up to the belay and we had a look at the following pitch but decided that given the time, around 8pm the tactical move would be to rap back down to the comfortable ledge and spend the night there in order to rest and recover as well as we possibly could give the fact that we had little water and food and no bivvy gear as Mayan really wanted to take a shoot and try and on-sight the remaining three pitches graded 6c, 7a and 7b.
The next morning just before 6am we both jugged back to the belay of P15 the 8a pitch and Mayan headed off on the 6c… Hard one! I jugged this pitch. The next pitch is a hard 7a followed by THE last hard pitch graded 7b. Let’s just say you need to be one hell of a climber or beta monster to do that one on-sight. Mayan did it second go and without in detail go into the grade it would be fair to say that you need as much left in the tank as you had for the 8a pitch. So a bit of sandbagging we think. It’s a hard technical pitch on amazing holds. I think the 7a and "7b" pitches where unreal good and cool with climbing similar in style to what you would find on some routes in Ceuse.
The following pitches are nice but on P20 we managed to get lost again as the line now are much less obvious. So burning some time trying to get on the line we finally ended up in a chimney system about the same grade as the last three pitches on Donnafugata but most likely much less nice… We topped out around 1pm with a few drops of water and half a bar. Only the descent to go… We were back at the Vazzoler hut around 5pm after a total of 38 hours on the move.
As far as we know this was the 3rd free ascent and first female ascent and most likely the hardest climb ever made by a female in the Dolomites ground up.
The route is of exceptional quality and the climbing is sustained on mostly good rock with some very technical and demanding pitches even if they are in the 7th grade register.
As Mayan’s partner and with previous experiences from climbing in the Dolomites I cannot in words express how impressive this effort was by Mayan. She had to dig deep both mentally and physically to pull off such a huge effort on such a committing undertaking. To be part of this world class effort was epic fun!
Worth noting is that we had virtually no information other than a picture taken off the computer screen from the description on Planet mountain’s website and the grade of the individual pitches written down on a small piece of paper.
Some related links with additional photos and info:
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