SCALATE NELLE ALPI (in italiano)


[02.07.2012 ]


Matterhorn *
Wild Kaiser  *
North face of the Cima Grande *
Lonely ascent of the Mont Blanc *
Hair rising moment in the Whymper couloir *
Dangerous descent from the Aiguille du Peigne *
Under the giant roof *
Expedition plans *
Accident when climbing *

25 years later

Climbing in the fog *
On the Thumb's top *
Via Micheluzzi *
At last Colodri *
40 years later: Via Finlandia *
2000 - First in France *
Then to Spain *
And Italy *
2001 - Dolomites *
2002 - Dolomites *
Vinatzer - Moment of despair *
Vajolet towers once more *
2003 - Missed season *
2004 - Tyskyewicz again *
2005 - Ape Maia *
2006 - 2008 - San Paolo *
2009 - Lino Lacedelli *
2010 - San Paolo and Rupe Secca *

 Image Galleries
    Summer 2000
    A 360° view of Passo di Sella on a foggy day
    Route to Arico gorge


Cimone della Pala


25 years later

In the winter 1989 I was in Tenerife and ascended alone the northeastern slope to the top of the mountain Teide, almost 3800 meters high. It was like a rebirth; I could scramble in the mountains again!

The next summer I visited with my wife Tarja the Alps of Berchtesgaden, where we made the ascension of the Watzmann Hocheck. Then in the Dolomites we could climb some other easy routes. At last we drove to the valley of San Martino di Castrozza, where the gigantic yellowish mountain walls hang above the small village. One of the most beautiful tops is Cimon della Pala with its 3200 meters, especially when seen from the Pass of Rolle. It seems to have vertical slopes on all sides.

A cableway took us up to the 'altipiano', where we spent the night in a mountain hut. It was a long march to the eastern saddle of Cimon, where the vertical part began. Tarja took her new 'cats paw' climbing shoes, but I said: 'I prefer these mountain boots even if they are heavy'. As Tarja fastened her harness, I fixed the rope round my chest with a double bulink-knot. And when we made the descent 'abseil', I used the old system of letting the rope glide round my body.

When we returned to the Alps the next year, I had already learned to trust in the new inventions they had made during my 25 years' absence...


Climbing in the fog

In the winter 1991 we flied to the island Mallorca, where there are many wild small mountains and many interesting routes to climb. In summer we found Arco in the northern end of the lake Garda. The vertical walls of the mount Colodri were too much for us, but we found the 350 m high gray slopes of 'Placche Zebrata' very alluring. Unfortunately we started too late in the morning and were nearly roasted to death by the merciless sun.

  Vajolet Towers

In Catinaccio are the famous Vajolet-towers. We chose the vertical Torre Stabeler, which offered some exciting moments during the ascent and an airy descent. Then we moved to Alagna and took the cableway to the Gnifetti-hut. It was already noon, as we started a short afternoon walk. For all security we took the rope and the ice axes along. On the glacier we met many parties, that were descending. 'Nothing to do, the fog is too dense', they said. We fixed the rope and continued. At the end we had almost reached the 4000 meters level. 'How about trying Piramide Vincent?', I asked. Tarja nodded and we continued. The route along the snow-slope to the top of the white triangle was in sight. Then came the fog, and we could only see a couple of meters ahead of us. Sometimes the veil dispersed away and then came back again. At the end the slope was not steep any more. We were on the top of that 4125-m high mountain.


On the Thumb's top

In the winter 1992 we visited the Spanish Costa Blanca and climbed on the extraordinary mountain Peñon de Ifac, which emerges 300 meters from the sea. And in summer of course it was the turn of the Dolomites. In the pass of Sella the Five Finger Top (Cima delle Cinque Dita) is one of the main attractions. A cableway leads to the hut at the foot of the mountain. We aimed at the 'Thumb', which is not very difficult to climb, but offers good holds and verticality on all sides. After the last rope-length I put a sling round the top and belay Tarja. Rope round the mountain!

Vajolet 1992

The descent begins with two abseils. Then small piles of stone show the way. The slope is not steep in the beginning, but then disappears from sight. I recall one Italian guide saying there is an abseil-route on the left side. There I find a convenient gully leading vertically down. A sling is put round a block and down we go. After the second abseil I begin to doubt if this really is the right way. All around loose blocks and gravel. I belay Tarja, who slowly climbs downwards.

Then the slope is vertical again. I find a block that emerges from the wall and moves if touched. But it seems strong enough, and I put a sling round it. The abseil leads us to a small terrace. At the same time the lightning strikes, the thunder clacks and it begins to rain. Soon we are wet through, and Tarja is freezing horribly. I fix our last good sling on a block and descend as first. We have two 50-m ropes, so we can get really a good amount lower with every abseil. This time I arrive on a steep snow slope. After Tarja has descended successfully, I pull the rope down. It gets stuck somewhere, and I pull and pull. We can not continue without the ropes. At last it comes, and I take a deep suck of relief.

We descend the snow slope and find several pitons and old slings, where the last vertical drop begins. Now at last we are on the right way! When we march to the hut it is almost dark, and the cableway doesn't function any more. So it is a long march to the valley that waits for us.

On the way back home we drive through the Simplon-pass to Switzerland. In Saas Fee the car is put into a big garage, and at 7.30 o'clock in the morning we take the first cableway up. The next leg is with a funicular through an ice tunnel to Mittel-Allalin. There we fix the rope and start for the ascent that leads us to the top of Allalinhorn, over 4000 meters. Before the noon we are back in Mittel-Allalin taking a couple of beers in the rotating restaurant. The alpine scrambles are not always so hard!

Via Micheluzzi 1994


Via Micheluzzi

We start the 1993 campaign with the Claudia-route on the Placche Zebrate. This time we are at the foot of the wall as soon as the day breaks. If we are rapid enough the heat of the sun may be avoided. Also we are high on the wall when the next parties arrive at the foot, and thus there will be no danger of falling stones for us.

However, the ascent of the Micheluzzi on the Piz de Ciavázes south wall is the culmination of this season. We had tried it already the precedent year climbing the four first ropelengths. As the beginning was now familiar, we could clear it without any special difficulties. Then there is the famous 90-m traverse, which is all the time vertical and quite smooth. During these 90 meters there are overhangs over the route and overhangs under the traverse. You just have to progress horizontally to the right without gaining any altitude at all. And the possible descent is more problematic the more you advance.

We climb the route as the first party of the day and there are not any climbers on the heels of us. So we have thus a freedom of movements during the whole ascension.


At last Colodri

This is the year we at last dare to try the difficult wall of Colodri. We make in all order the famous Sommadossi-route and arrive to the summit at noon. A couple of days later we climb also the neighboring Rupe Secca via the Tyskiewicz-route. Both are of the VI degree and contain passages of 6b.

On the Piz de Ciavázes southern bastion we climb the most difficult of the classic routes in the group of Sella, Via Schubert. Already at noon we are drinking a glass of beer in the Hotel Flora and after that looking with others at the parties climbing the Via Micheluzzi.

Placche Zebrate 1993

We returned to the Colodri many times. In 1997 we scrambled up the Renata Rossi -route. And two years later the longest of all, Katia Monte. After having cleared the initial crux rope lengths of 6b difficulty, I thought we had the climb in the pocket. But the last three rope lengths of some 100 m of steep an overhanging rock demanded the last reserves of strength from us.

The cracks of the Katia Monte were often overhanging and there were only a few pitons available. As we had not many Camalots and friends with us, we could not assure our climb very well. Tarja lead the last rope lengths and hard times again and again. I had the rope coming from above, but it did not help much in the overhangs. I could not let my fingers or feet slip as hanging at the end of the rope would have meant severe difficulties for us. In many places we had to clear the crack by layback technique, which means putting the feet against the farther side of the crack and pulling from the near edge which was often round and without grips.

After the Katia Monte we made another difficult climb on the nearby Rupe Secca -wall, Via Stenico. It was shorter, but its key spot was a heavy overhang in the height of some 150 meters.

Then we recalled that this was the year 1999, exactly 40 years after the first ascension of the Via Finlandia route in the Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites.

40 years later: Via Finlandia

Torre Grande

In a recent topo guide book of the Dolomites, 'Dolomiten Kletterführer' by Anette Köhler-Norbert Memmel, the Via Finlandia route was taken along as one of the best 100 climbs on the Dolomites. 'The route winds itself skillfully through the overhangs in a steep wall. A joy for people who are able to make VII degree climbs'.

I was proud on so much praise and was eager to try the route, which I could not very well recall after 40 years. At the time of the first ascent I was 27 years old and now accordingly 67. We were in the Cinque Torri hut in the evening and started early the next morning. This summer was a bad one on the Eastern Alps, and day awakened chilly and rainy. But I knew that on that wall we would be protected against the rain.

I could find several rusty pitons, which I had hammered in the rock cracks during the first climb. They were in an astounding good condition. The route was more difficult than I could imagine, and I had great pains to clear the fourth rope length. The lightning stroke near by several times, and the voice of the thunder accompanied our climb towards the wet top plateau of the Torre Grande.

In Cortina my old friend Gualtiero Ghedina invited us to his wine cellar and said that he did not know any local climber who would have made a difficult route 40 years after his first.

Image Gallery of Via Finlandia

2000 - First in France

During the summer 2000 (see the image gallery) we have over two months at disposal and it is decided to make a tour along the European sports climbing centres. We begin in France and arrive at Saussois in the end of June. I know this site quite well because I was there twice in the 1950s.

There is a peaceful camp on the other side of the river Yonne, where we drive our camping car. The charge is very decent, in fact this was one of the cheepest camps we met. The hosts did not write down our names when arriving and they disappear always in the late afternoon.

On the eastern side of the river, where the coral rock walls are, there is an excellent parking lot beside the road. You can see it from all the climbing routes and thus can keep an eye on the car all the time.

The route 'La Rech' is not difficult at all, and we start with it. But soon we discover that we must take it seriously: the grips have become like marble during the 40 years since my last visit! The French bring even their minor age kids to the rocks and pull them up with the ropes. This enormous wear and tear has had its effect in almost all routes of Saussois. There is another site quite near, which is called Le parc, where the situation is even worse. Here you have to pay for the trend of the modern times. The popularity of the sports climbing has severe drawbacks. And this is one of them. There are not enough rock climbing walls in the world if the masses are led to them.

In the Finnish climbing circles I have tried to point out that it is not wise tactics to try propagate the climbing as a hobby for the masses. The more there are devotees the more we all have to suffer. The climbing area bans in Germany are a warning example.

The next place is Surgy, where the wild vertical ridges are a challenge. Here the parking area is out of sight, which is especially in France a disadvantage. On the other hand the rock is far more better than in Saussois. Even in the most popular routes it's surface is matt brown, and the friction is always good.


 In the French magazine 'Escalade', number 3 of 1996, some 300 sites of climbing were presented with suberb color photographs. One certain image caught my eye: 'The Organs of Châteuneuf'. It is question of basalt rock with parallel vertical pillars of soft light-brown color. We went to great pains in order to see the site. And at last we found it: amongst the 'mountains' of Haute Auvergne, near the pittoresque old small-town of Riom ès Montagne.

But what a disappointment the Châteauneuf was! It was situated at the end of a small uneven country road, behind an explosed farmhouse. There was a lot of vegetation on the wall and how small the wall was! It is some 10 meters high only. The routes are quite alike, so that once you have made one of them, you have made them all.

The German climbing magazine 'Klettern' had an article about Gorges de la Jonte describing the joint as a suberb one. The scenery is exceptional, vertical mountain chains on both sides of a deep ravine. The walls of the innumerable Eastern peaks looked as ideal targets for sport climbing. But we never got that far.

The municipal camping place was expensive, and the hosts unfriendly and bureaucratic. I recall the author of the Klettern-story praising this site too. But the Germans are probably more accustomed to severe discipline than we. There is another, less costly place just beside it, but there there were no hosts during the day at all! So we could not find any suitable place in the proximity of the climbing rocks in order to leave our precious camping car.

We continued our expedition southwards, and the next important place was Thaurac. Here the municipal camping was the contrary to the previous one, and we enjoyed our stay there. The main Thaurac rock above the 'La Grotte des Demoiselles' looked a lot tamer than the Jonte's wild peaks. On the other hand the car could be left near the grotte and we could keep an eye on it all the time plus the approaching march was very short. We scrambled through the main crag on a grade 4-5 route and had during the 3-4 ropelenghts an amusing climb.



The city of Sète was the entry to the Mediterranean Sea. From Sète to Cap d'Agde there is a 14 km long narrow isthmus, straight as an arrow, where the road goes. On the seaside of the road there is beach, some 50 meters broad. The sand is fine and clean, what an invitation to swimming. The cities are far away so the water should be clean too. On the roadside during the whole of the distance there were camping cars parked one after another.

When continuing to the South there are two artificial sea resorts named Narbonne-Plage and Gruissant. The winds come from the Pyrenees mountains. During our stay the wind blew from the morning to the late evening. These are great places for the Windsurfers. But also for the climbers. Montagnes de la Clape means several rocky chains well distanced from the sea.

The Domaine de Pierre Droite and its section 'Chants magnesiques', above a large vineyard, was to our taste. An easy route called 'Cupachup' was a really photogenic one, 30 meters of vertical belly. To the right of it were the more difficult areas.

 Then to Spain 


What an adventure to traverse Barcelona!  The Littoral Highway gave us a good picture of the great city. There would have been so much looking at, that we found it wise to leave for the Sierra de Prades right away. Montblanc, Els Cogullons, Riba, Mont-Ral, La Mussara, Arboli and at last Siurana. Quite an amount of climbing sites near each other. The narrow tarmac road winds its way on the mountain slopes. There are not any railings, and on the valley side the drop is breathtaking. I try to keep on the mountain side, but then a ridge opens up before us. The road mounts heavily upwards, and on both sides the ground disappears behind the road side and comes into sight some 300 metres lower in the valleys. If another car would come towards us, how to back it up with our clumsy vehicle? Fortunately there are very little traffic on those lonely ways, we saw only one other car during a half-days' drive.

Siurana is our choice because there is the only camping place which is near to the climbing rocks. The site is very fresh, it has been opened only for a month earlier. Toni Arbones is the young custode of the place. There is a lot to do as the area is situated on a slope. The wind blows fine sand out of the soil, and the roads are still nonexistent. When entering I forget that our car is not the usual Escort and I drive the heavy Knaus camping car down into the shade of the pinewood trees. Only later on I awake to realise my error. The turning around of the car is already a problem, but how to drive it back to the main road?

We start to construct a runway. Toni's father is a great help with his wheelbarrow. The bumpy ground is filled with stones and gravel and little by little I begin to believe that we have a chance to get off this trap.

From the tiny village of Siurana, where 10 adults are living, a terrace leads in the middle of a vertical wall. Above the terrace there are sports climbing routes close together. The bolts are not at all of the same quality we had been used to in France, but the routes are attractive all the same.

Siurana was the last fortress of the Moors, steep slopes are on all sides but one. The first proper road was constructed for a couple of years ago and opened with ceremonies by the Catalan chief Jordi Pujol. Tens of tourist jeeps arrive every day to enjoy the breathtaking view. Tarja starts making one of her magnificent 360� panorama pictures with the digital camera.

We continue the climbs on different walls, and the weather is always fine with sun shining all day long, as it has done during a month of our stay in France and Spain. But then a hasty wasp stings in my hand, which starts to swell alarmingly. We get ice from the friendly Arbones family, but then it is wiser to descend to the next town in order to get medical care.

And Italy

Everybody warned us of the mosquitos, but this time they were hiding somewhere. The wild (did not look like very wild) white horses and wild (peaceful looking animals too) black bulls could be seen on the pastures near the roadside, if you chose the right roads. Flocks of beautiful flamingos were quietly wading in the shore waters. The Camarque countryside was worth to see � but there were no rocks at all. So we continued towards the North-East.

This village seems to live on climbing. They tell us Orpierre was dying for some 15 years ago, when someone found out the surrounding cliffs are exceptionally suitable for climbing. A camping place was founded and a well equipped climbing magazine started. In the camping place the climbers get a big discount of the fee.

The rocks are inviting indeed. In the routes of the 5th degree there are almost always good handholds available, and I could climb without any extreme struggles high overhanging walls as a leader.

Then came the rains, and we decided to flee towards the East, where they still had some sun. An Italian friend had recommended Ailefroide as a splended climbing site, so there we went. But the rain had invaded the small village in the gorge between high mountain walls. The camping was covered with mud, and damp vapours emerged everywhere.

We crossed the mountains and arrived in Italy. In Arco we found the reliable sun and parked the Knaus in the familiar camping place under the tremendous Eastern wall of Colodri.

Colodri and Rupe Secca
The routes from the left to the right::
White Crack
Renata Rossi
Katia Monte

At two o�clock in the afternoon the shade arrives on the big wall of Rupe Secca. We were ready in the bushes under the �Aspettando Martino� �route. It is by far the easiest way to climb the steep crag. The most interesting part is a traverse quite high up.

Last year we made the Stenico route, which ends up in the same place as the Martino. Then I did not find the usual way down, which consists of a long complicated traverse to the right and joins the normal �ferrata� descent. Instead I went directly up the troublesome walls to a higher terrasse, where we could traverse with ease to the ferrata.

As last year there were very few climbers on the Colodri walls, which is a fine thing. But I had seen several parties in the Martino route seeking the best way down and followed them with binoculars. One group had at last to abseil down, but another found the right way. With the aid of this knowledge it was quite easy for us to make our own descent.

We took breath for a day and then started marching towards Colodri very early in the morning. The first rope length was easy to find even in twilight, as we had made it so many times. And even the second was familiar to us, as it is common with the Sommadossi route. But then when our way branched off to the left, the difficulties grew up. This was the first diedre of the �White Crack�. In the middle of it is a roof, but Tarja made it quite easily. I followed doing my best, and she restarted again.

In the second diedre we were already high up on the wall, and the belaying places were very airy, as there were scarcely any footholds. There is a second roof here, and when Tarja had passed it and tried to scramble up the vertical crack, hard times began. There were not any bolts or pitons during the following 15 meters, and it was difficult to fix �camalots� here. I could not help in any way, had just to keep the two ropes in my hands and hope for the best.

At last I heard the shout, she had made it! I had to follow the suit, as the card players say and climb up the crack for my part. As there were not any bolts or pitons, I could expect very little help from above. The 8 mm ropes strech a lot and do not offer any pull upwards. So it was a hard fight before I could arrive to the comfortable ledge higher up on the wall.

Then it was my turn to try to find the way out of this crag through the three final rope lengths. In an open coloir the rock was this time extremely brittle, and it was like walking on the eggs when I proceeded further. But at the end we could sit down on the summit of Colodri, in the mid-day sunshine.


  A 360° view of Passo di Sella on a foggy day
Photography and editing of this panorama by Tarja Jokinen.

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2001 - Dolomites

The German climbing magazine 'Klettern' presented a new area in Arco called 'Arcolandia'. It is near the old 'Pezzent Area'. We were very pleased to the Arcolandia-routes (5c - 7a+). The rock has varied forms as well as the routes, each route differs clearly from the others. And the height of the wall is considerable, almost 30 meters. On the other hand the Pezzent Area presents a smooth surface, like a gym wall, where the routes resemble each other. Of course the real 'sporters' like it better, because the routes are a bit more difficult...   

This summer we made the 'Via Barbara' -route on the Colodri Wall. The first part of it goes through the lower half of the Eastern Wall. The the 'corner' is passed and the six last rope lengths are on the North Wall. There are practically no spits in the way, we met probably two or three of them. The tremendous crack in the beginning of the Northern part was a surprise to us: a vertical fissure of some 20 cm width was a hard nut to crack. And the second diedre, which is closed by a huge overhang, saw us entering and descending it three times. I could not believe that the route could go there, as the overhang seemed to be excessively difficult, and there were no tracks to be seen of earlier ascensions. At last we found higher up a big block, which is wedged in the chimney and a rusty ring above it. Then we knew this was the right route, and seen from the block the final overhang did not make  so frightening impression any more.


This was a jubilee year in Cortina as 100 years had passed since the first ascension of the Tofana South Face. It was almost an obligation to climb one of its routes, and accordingly we made the 400 m high 'First Ridge'. Afterwards we found several old veterans on the streets of Cortina, namely Claudio Zardini, Beniamino Franceschi (first ascension of the direct North Face of Cima Ovest 1959), Franz Dallago (first ascension of Cason di Formin 1970), Lorenzo Lorenzi (first ascension of the Scoiattoli Edge of the Cima Ovest 1960), Lino Lacedelli (K2 1954) etc.

Outside the Dibona hut we met a nice climber couple from Central Italia. The man had made the Tofana Pillar a day earlier and was still exhausted. As I had made the route 43 years earlier, we compared our experiences. I gather the route is more difficult to-day, as the grips have become chafed with the time and especially if the route is made red-pointed.

Then I started discussing the first ascension of the Pillar, which had been made by two Italians, Costantini and Apollonio in 1944. My comrade did know nothing of this, and I told him, that I had known Ettore Costantini and discussed many times with him. As I had asked Ettore, why they had not tried to continue to climb the upper part of the Pillar directly, Ettore had told me, that as it was just after the war they had not got enough to eat and were very tired at the end of the climb.

When talking with the Italian about other routes and other mountains, he seemed to know only very few. In the Cortina area they had for example not visited other regions, and did not even know the name of them. I got the impression, that an Alpine route, such as the Tofana Pillar, meant to him only a certain amount of climbable meters, and the history was really a nonsense. I have earlier met a similar case, where the climber could only tell me, that he had climbed some route on some mountain somewhere in the Dolomites!  

Of course we visited the Cinque Torri once again. There we could admire two parties working in the Finlandia-route. The locals say that it has become the most popular difficult route in the area. But we tried to make the Armida-route to the Western Tower, which is not so difficult in the beginning (IV-V), but has the VI degree crux higher up. I put the helmet on and started. There were very few pitons along the line and I found only one which could be trusted. The rock was bad, and some stones were falling down now and then, even if I was extremely careful all the time.

Then a flock of 'sporters' appeared below the wall. They just sat down and looked at the climbers at work - not at me but others who were fighting up the near-by Cicciolina sports route (6a, 30 m). I was already too high up in order to warn the people of falling stones. They just sat there exactly under me as if not knowing of the imminent danger.

I could not continue and decided to abseil down, which lasted for ages, as one had to be extremely careful in the proceedings. When at last happily down, someone asked me why I came back. 'The route is badly belayed', I answered, took the helmet away - and started to climb the Cicciolina!

Even if the Cicciolina line is a beautiful route with very small grips and healthy black rock along the line, and it was a great pleasure to climb it, I think it has not been a good idea to make sport lines at the foot of the Torre Grande, where there are so many fine classical routes going on above them. Later on when discussing the matter in Cortina, one expert lady asked me: 'When climbing your own route lately, did you use the spits they have added there?'. I knew what she meant and answered: 'Yes, as the old pitons are not fully reliable any more. But the chains installed in two belay points could be smaller and neater. Now they are like fishing traps. I am certainly not angry about those spits. Without them nobody would climb the route today'.

On the way back home we visited the German Altm�hltal, where I climbed the 'Nusshausener Verschneidung' on the Keilstein rock. It was longer than expected, some 25 meters, and the route wound round the tower so that the toprope system for the second was not possible. I had to abseil down on the other side of the tower, but of course the ATC and eight were at the foot of the rock.

Well, there is always the possibility to use the HMS knot especially as I had a suitable large carabiner with me. Said and done, I started gliding down. However, after some 5 meters the descent stopped, the rope was hopelessly entwined below the carabiner and down to the foot of the tower, where the extra rope was in slings on the ground. With the free hand I tried to swing the rope in order to clear it. I helped but not a lot. After some five rounds of swinging I could glide down four inches. It was an akward task to get down. Next time I will take two or three normal biners and construct a tuber-like system for abseiling.  

2002 - Dolomites

 I had my 70th birthday in the spring, which we did not celebrate specially. Instead we wanted to make some difficult climbs in the Dolomites later during the summer. 

The Falkberget crag is a 30 m high overhanging wall, some 30 km westwards of Helsinki. We had heard of it earlier but never visited. When standing under the huge amount of rock, on a sunny afternoon, we had to give a deep sigh: 'Why haven't we been here before!'. It is true that all lines are quite difficult on this wall, which is like cut out of the bedrock with a giant sword, so we were extremely happy to be able to scramble up the 'Urheiluhullut'.

Mescalito 1st
  The Colodri wall in Arco was in July just as in any other year. We had made all the classic routes, so it was the turn of the new ones. On the left side on the flat and overhanging Rupe Secca there were several possibilities - Mescalito for instance.  The beginning in an overhanging diedre was strenous (6a), and the next pitch quite complicated (6b). So we had to descend from there and make a new try later on. 

Mescalito 3rd
It was a hot day, and we made the mistake of starting too early as the wall still bathed in sunshine. The first two rope lengths were as hard as earlier, and the next one was again one step more difficult (6c). Tarja was leading the route above me and was soon unvisible as I was taking care of the belaying under an overhang. Even if the sun had already disappeared after the home mountain of Arco, the fingers of our leader had become very irritated working for hours on the hot sandpaper like black rock. The 7a pitch as well as the big final overhangs were waiting high above her head, but they waited in vain, as we decided to glide down to the inviting green bushes in the foot of the wall.

Fair weather 'warnings' arrived from the Dolomites, and we left the hot Sarca valley and drove up to the successive valleys of Fiammes and Fassa and put our tent in Pera di Fassa camping place. 


In the north there was the Sella group, on our occidental side the Catinaccio, 'Rose garden' and far in the east the Queen of the Dolomites, Marmolada.

The weather was not yet quite established, so we circulated in the numerous sport climbing sites of the valley. Many of them were in high altitude at the foot of the real mountains: Frea, 'Dream Pillar', 'City of Blocks', Ciavazes, Rodella, Schiavaneis. May be the finest of them all is the small mountain Rodella, where the Val di Fassa opens itself below your feet.


Down in the valleys there are several places to visit: Ronchi is on the left side of the road leading to San Pellegrino pass. Do not believe what the signposts say: the '15 min' means that you may come back from the site in 15 minutes, by running and gliding down the gravel slopes. To scramble up to the place may take a fourfold time. 


However, Ronchi is worth a visit. It has a beautiful overhanging wall to offer, where there are lines of grade 6a to 7a to select from. And a paper describing the routes and their difficulties is hidden in a hole at the foot of the wall.

Val San Nicol�

In Val San Nicol� there is a famous climbing area. 'Children's site' is high up the hill, where the difficulties are around the 6a category (see image on the left). The impressive rock pillars down near the river bed contain more demanding lines, many of them made by H. Mariacher. The grades are underrated just like in the Los Cahorros area in Spain. 

Vinatzer - Moment of despair

In the Finnish annual magazine Alppikiipeily there was in 1983 an article on the Sella group written by a young Markku M�ki, who three years later lost his life in the Argenti�res massif. 'I have never elsewhere seen so inviting route' began the description of the Ciavazes Vinatzer diedre. He did never climb it, but his observation remained in my mind during the dozen years since 1990, when I visited the group for the first time.

The line is not a first selection pickup, since the black diedre begins high up from the Gamsband, 'Chamois Band', leading to the top of the Piz Ciavazes, the descent means a long backyard scramble through a 'ferrata' called Poessnecker Steig or an adventurous abseil right from the top edge over the negative, even wall, where there are not any ascent routes. To make it more repellent the cracks are said to be quite wet at least in the first part of the season. We had made a couple of routes on the spectacular Ciavazes South face, but they always ended in the Gamsband.

Piz de Ciavazes

Last summer we could follow with binoculars from the Sella road an ascension of the Vinatzer . Two parties led obviously by local guides proceeded slowly and were on the top in the late afternoon. They came down abseiling, and it was quite a scene to see. It started from the top edge and during the three long stages they barely touched the rock. The mid stations did not offer conveniences: when waiting for the next shot down they were hanging probably in pitons. The second station was above a huge roof, so the last abseil was absolutely free hanging. And to make it more impressive, after that the descent was not over: it continued as a steep rocky slope, some 300 meters or so.

I was always wondering what to do if the rope got jammed when it was pulled down during the abseil. Therefore it would be an advantage to have two or more parties making the descent at the same time. Well, we did not have that option if not by a chance. Yet we wanted to make that descent.

It was quite early in the morning when we tried to find the easiest way up the preliminary slope towards the Gamsband. From there the first pitches did not offer any remarkable difficulties, but when the big crevices began the right way was not very evident. Sometimes we hade to climb the smooth left side and sometimes enter deeply in the crack. The two key pitches are in the middle of the way. Tarja took the lead and fighted higher and higher, and I began to understand why the last year's parties had been so slow. I had exhausting time trying to pull myself up the overhanging wall, using without inhibitions the numerous pitons as handholds, the rucksack weighing on the back like a pile of bricks.

To the top of the Ciavazes

When starting the last pitch we saw a following Italian party. The leader told me that there were still a German 'cordata' behind them. Three parties at the same time in this route, which is not climbed so often! Good news for us, as we were first to start the descent. But then the Italian said, that they were descending through the Poessnecker Steig.

When mounting the top edge we arrived on the gentle sloping 'roof' of the mountain. It consisted of grey flat stones like roof bricks and loose sand and it was some 50 meters high. There a just visible path led down to the left, to the edge where the abseil track was to begin. We waived to the Italians, who later disappeared to the other side of the 'roof'.

It was a great disappointment to see the first abseil 'station'. I had expected to find a big ring bolt cemented in the rock wall, like they have in many routes here. Instead there were a couple of rusty old pitons hammered in a crack of a large block and a thousand rope slings, one older than the other, attached to pitons. In the slings there was a big iron ring, which was a good fixing point for the abseil rope.  Well, what else could I do than add one new sling to the collection.

We tied our two 50m ropes together with an eight knot, one of the ropes going through the iron eyelet. I fixed the Italian ATC called 'Jaws' to the ropes and my harness and began gliding down. During a descent from the First Sella Tower I once missed a midway station, but now this option was not allowed. Like hawk I studied the rocky wall when it slowly passed by. We knew the approximate lengths of the stages, so I was alert when the time came. There I saw a niche in the rock with some old pitons and a handful of grey old slings. I attached myself to the pitons, added there a new sling of our own, took away the 'Jaws' from the rope and pulled the red rope to see if it could be pulled easily down later on.

Tarja glided down to the station occupied by me and fastened herself to the pitons. There we were hanging side by side a 500m sheer drop below our feet. With a banging heart I started to pull the red 8mm rope down. At first it came reluctantly, but then more lightly. At last we saw the knot coming, and then the yellow one came like a bullet towards us. What a sigh of relief!

The next stage was to be a bit shorter, and there the rock was more uneven: here an overhang and there a hollow and an overhang again. At last I saw a flat niche, where there were those grey slings, which told me that the station was there. But this time there were not any pitons at all. The slings had been pulled through two 'clessidras', which mean a hole through a rocky projection. Of course I added a thin Dyneema sling there, as there were space enough in the holes. I only wondered how well the rock would keep, there were no exessive amounts of that material there.

When Tarja arrived, we were very cramped there without any footholds at all. And then I started pulling the rope. It came down well and we hoped for the best. Then we could see the knot, and the rope came fast and we could see the end of it swinging in the air. But then it hit against the wall and it stopped abruptly. It was jammed!

I felt the sweat arising on the forehed. And I started to pull gently. The rope did not come. Then I began throwing it upward in a loop. To no avail. At last we pulled as hard as we could, together. No way, it was stuck totally and completely. The swinging end had found a crack or small peak of rock and was now sitting pretty.

This was the nightmare I had imagined so many times earlier. What now Pinneberg? 'Let's wait for a while, perhaps the Germans are descending this way'. But no one came after us, and we felt quite lonely, cramped together. Hanging from a rocky handle some 500m above the ground and may be some 1000m above the Sella roadway, where a tourist bus was slowly mounting the serpentines.

We waited for an hour, but the Germans had probably followed the descent route of the Italians. We were very lonely now and we should do something to get out of the trap. Tarja proposed that she could try to climb to the rope end, which was perhaps 15m above us. She attached one end of the rope to her harness and I belayed her with the aid of the slings. She could do some 5 meters, and then she ended up under an overhang. Only a couple of meters more, and that was the end of it.

Obviously we had no other option than to cut the rope. But how? The rope was hanging freely in the air and it should be cut as high as possible. Then I remembered, that we had a very small Swiss clasp knife in our first aid package. We hade never needed it, but now it could be a solution. I fastened it to the rope, and Tarja pulled it up, as she had some footholds up there. Then she cut the rope as high as she could and then descended cautiously down.

Then I fixed the double rope in the slings and let it fall down. It was an exciting moment. Under us was the big overhanging roof and quite far down there was rocky slope descending. Will the shortened end reach the rocks? Of course we could fix the intact rope into the slings and abseil down with it. But then we could not get it down any more, and I was not quite certain that we would not need any rope on the remaining way down.

But also the shortened rope reached only just the rocks, and so I could start to descend. Everything went well, and we did not meet any difficulties in the continuation. Later on we could measure the cut rope, and it was 10m shorter than originally. As such it is quite useless to us and have to be classified as a definite loss. We also found out that we had lost a Camalot during the ascension, so it became in all very costly to us.

Vajolet towers

Vajolet towers once more

Nine years ago we were on the Vajolet towers - climbing the middle tower, Stabeler. But for some reasons did not make the original goal, Delago edge of the first tower, Delago tower.

Ok, start at seven o'clock and with a small bus to the Gardeccia hut. From there 2� hours march up to the Gartl hut, at the foot of the famous Vajolet towers. There was already traffic up there. We climbed up the easy slope to a band and made a traverse to the left, to the edge. It is a peculiar place, when you look down you can see the distant gravel slope some 500 meters lower, right below you.

Delago edge

Time to fix the ropes to the harness. The first pitch had some delicate moves, but otherwise there were not any difficulties, even if the edge continued steeply towards the sky, as may be seen from the photo.

On the top of Delago tower

Some peaceful moments on the top blocks and then down the other side, in the gully between the Delago and Stabeler Towers. Six times abseil in all and then having something to eat. After that eastwards, traverse to the foot of Winkler Tower.

Winkler tower

We tried to make the Winkler by the original route, but not succeeded in it. First on the southern side along a great vertical crack, scrambling up an overhang in the end. Then round the corner to the northern side. I was eager to make the Winkler crack, which Hans Winkler made during his solo first climb in 1887. I thought it was the about 30 cm wide vertical crack just in the middle of the face leading some 40 meters to the top. I found two old pitons in the beginning, but then no more. It was of the 4th grade, but continous all the way without possibilities for a rest. When I saw later on at home the topo book of the Vajolets, it was clear that this crack was not Winkler crack, but belongs to a much more rare North face route.    

Descent from Winkler

Again complicated six abseils, first on the East edge and then in the western gully between Winkler and Stabeler. When we looked at the watch, it was more than 18 o'clock. As the bus went down from the Gardeccia at 19 o'clock, we had to hurry. On the rocky path down to the Vajolet hut, which is half-way between Gartl and Gardeccia huts, there was sometimes loose gravel on the rock. Stepping with the heel on such place was like stepping on ball bearings, and down I went head first twisting the left foot badly in the knee and hitting all possible places towards the rocks. At first we thought I could not walk any more, but then little by little we could continue. I was bruised all over. But the hurry was over, and so we had to march into the coming night and were in the camp a little before midnight. 

2003 - Missed season

After the strenuous attempt of the Mescalito I felt some pain in the left elbow. It was probably from a hit against roc, so I thought it would heal itself under way. But at last it became intolerable, and the diagnosis made by a local doctor was 'Tennis elbow'. It meant the end of the otherwise successful season and took over a year to heal. As it was a lot better in the summer 2003 a bad thing happened: the big toe of the left foot thought it had spent enough time in a cramped space of a tight climbing shoe. The nail was black and its root reddish with a constant pain. I had to change the number 8 Anasazi to a considerably bigger number 10, but it was only 6 months later that I could use it. In the meantime I had to keep a real mountain boot in this foot when climbing.

2004 - Tyskyewicz again

After a myriad of preparative sport climbs in Arco we ventured to bigger walls and chose the nearby Colodri Rupe Secca face and the Via Tyskyewicz, which we had made in 1994 and remembered to be a nice route. It was nice up

Via Tyskyewicz
to the cave, but when we struggled after the overhanging crux we noticed to our astonishment, that the continuation was a lot harder than 10 years ago. May be it left a lot to be desired in our physiques, but this route was not any more quite the same: they had extracted a lot of old pitons and compensated it by inserting new reliable spits. But what a distance had they used! So after all it was one of the hardest Colodri routes we had ever made, certainly 6b throughout from the cave to the top.

Ape Maia

       2005 - Ape Maia

In the 8 pitch route 'Ape Maia' above the San Paolo wall in Arco, two parties were climbing there in the 17th of August when I took the picture. They may be seen in the vertical panorama image, on the right side, shown with yellow arrows. This is one of the very new routes, made in 2002. When we made it a week earlier we found it be around 5c/6a most of the time, but the two rope lengths in the upper section and marked with 6a+ and 6ab, appeared to us at least 6b - look at the two climbers higher up, they are just tackling these pitches.

An interesting video of this route is shown in YouTube da sportinfotrentino Parete di San Paolo - Ape Maia

If the panorama image is not large in your browser, in IE uncheck the Tools/ Internet Options/ Advanced/ Multimedia/ Enable Automatic Image Resizing.

2006 - 2008 -  San Paolo

Noora in the wide Calliope crack

During the following two years we must be content with easier climbs on the Rupe Secca wall like 'Aspettando Martino'. But in 2008 Walter Gobbi tells us that there are many many new routes on the San Paolo wall. So we start exploring it and find the easiest ones on the northernmost end of the 2 km long wall, 'Via Nereidi' and 'Porci con le ali'.


2009  -  Lino Lacedelli

Marko and Calliope

Continuing checking the routes on the San Paolo wall one after another, Aganippe, Adonis, Selene. Then our friends Marko and Noora arrive for a couple of days. My hand is in poor condition, so when I remain waiting in the hospitable bar 'Lanterna' tasting the new popular yellow drink 'Spritzl' thery climb with Tarja the big crack of 'Calliope' and 'Via Concordia'.

 Some days earlier I had heard of a short descent route on the left end of the wall and when they started the Concordia, I described and recommended it for the three climbers. However, later when following the ascension with the binoculars and in company of the host of the 'Lanterna', Ruggero, I told him about the ascent. He was quite shocked and explained to me, that the man who had described the route did not know anything, and that the route was not prepared at all and was a dangerous one. So it was my turn to become scared and I tried to get to contact to the party by a mobile phone. I did not succeed, and it was with a growing fear we were waiting for the return of the climbers. At last they appeared on the road of the left side of the wall! But they were in ok condition and unharmed, but told us of the really difficult descent with colorful expressions.     

Visiting Cortina d'Ampezzo we make an easy climb on the Cinque Torri and later find our friend Gualtiero. Asking him how Lino Lacedelli is now, Gualtiero responds by saying 'Would you like to see him?'. Of cours we say yes and so he makes a phone call, picks a good bottle of red wine from the shelf of his Enoteca and so we drive to Lacedel above Cortina and enter the house of Lino. He is not in a good condition, having to walk   and breath with difficulty. He invites us heartily to his house, where we spend a couple hours speaking of old times and of Himalaya and K2.

Returning to Arco we still make one climb, the Via Helena. At the end of the year I send Lino a Christmas card, but then find the sad news in the German 'Klettern' magazin: Lino had died about a month later after our visit.

2010  -  San Paolo and Rupe Secca

Matti on the Aganippe route

This year we are content to repeat and try routes on the San Paolo wall and RupeSecca. Visiting the Nereidi, Aganippe, Via dell'Hades, Selene and Aspettando Martino gives us enough of training, but the new projects remain projects for the next year.


Tarja and Aganippe

One reason for interrupting the climbing are the nasty insects, that cause swelling in the joints. Insects that are probably tropical, as the usual 'Autan' repellents do not help. Next summer we must arrive here later, may be in middle August and taking along the real Autan Plus sticks, which contain powerful Icaridine.