/ Marmolada Descent and UK grades for Dollies Classics

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TRip - on 10 May 2014

Planning to head to the Dolomites this summer for a 9 days (really jobs are bad guys and gals - don't get one!).

Looking for recommendations for routes in HVS-E3 range.

I've got my eyes on things like the:

Comici-Dimai on Cima Grande
Cassin Route on Cima Piccolissma
Yellow Edge on Cima Piccola
Messner Route on Sella Towers
Don Quixote on Marmolda S Face or Vinatzer with Messner Finish. Marmolds S Face. Anyone done both? Which is best?
Steger route on Rosengartenspitze.

Can anyone who has done suggest UK grades for them and maybe suggest a few more classics.

As usual I've got a few geeky gear queries...

What's the minimum amount of kit two relatively competent alpinists would need to descend down the Glacier off the back of the Marmolada. Just studded fell running shoes? Fell shoes and micro spikes?

There is a fair chance that we'll miss the last cable car down. Is there any shelter at the lift station? I presume it's a good idea to take a warm jacket in case of a night out?

If the weather comes in it can get very, very wet very quickly. With this in mind I presume it is a good idea to a lightweight waterproof on most long routes?

Do most folk use half ropes? Was considering taking a skinny single paired with a half so I can haul the bag on the harder pitches on the Comici? Or does this just sound like a total faff? Quicker and easier to second on a tight rope pulling on the odd runner?

Oh and we'll be going in my mate's van are their plenty of places near the crags we can park overnight for free?

Cheers,

Tom
Post edited at 15:09
drysori - on 10 May 2014
In reply to TRip:

Messner Route in Sella has several pitches around HVS 4c, route finding is tricky and it's quite run out, but on good solid rock generally. A great route.

Don Quixote is often touted at HVS, I thought the crux pitch was possibly E1, but it has a lot of pegs in it (more than you could clip). The rest is easier, with quite a few VS pitches and maybe one more that would be HVS. We managed to make the last cable car with a 6am start, I think you'd be lucky to manage that on the Vinatzer, there is a small spot to shelter at the cable car station that some friends used, very cosy though!

Definitely use half ropes, lots of belays are in place so it would make retreat easier. I'd probably just second with the pack on the Comici, but friends did the Brandler-Hasse by clipping shoes to their harness, 1 litre of water each and stuffing cereal bars in their shoes!

I just took a windproof on shorter routes (up to 12 pitches), but definitely take a waterproof on the bigger ones, think how long you could be trapped in pouring rain trying to bail! It can be quite breezy too, obviously.

There are loads of spots you could park a van up for the night.
mark hounslea - on 10 May 2014
In reply to TRip:

Did most of those routes last summer. I would add the 2nd pillar of the tofana to your list as it has a short approach and an easy walk off. There was a lot of snow last year which made some descents tricky.
On Don Quixote we simu climbed most pitches up to the half way ledge and made the cable car with 15 minutes to spare. Don't under estimate the length and difficulty of the routes. Yes the crux pitch might only be E1 but I can assure you that it felt much harder after 23 pitches and felt more like 6c! The descent was 3 abs on unconvincing anchors and a scary steep snow/ ice slope down to the glacier. I was very scared in training shoes,though if I'd carried more gear we would have missed the cable car and had to do the 7000 ft descent down the glacier. We climbed all the routes without a rucksack and with shoes and a cag on our harnesses as seemed the norm for most parties.
I would recommend two ropes on all routes as it makes descents so much quicker and safer.
Enjoy!
johncoxmysteriously - on 10 May 2014
In reply to TRip:

Comici E2 5c, Yellow Edge HVS/E1.

I definitely wouldn't go in for any hauling. You can treat the Comici pretty much like it was a route on Cloggy, bar obviously the fact you need to carry a bit more clothing etc.

jcm
TRip - on 10 May 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Comici E2 5c, Yellow Edge HVS/E1.

> I definitely wouldn't go in for any hauling. You can treat the Comici pretty much like it was a route on Cloggy, bar obviously the fact you need to carry a bit more clothing etc.

Just what I wanted to hear. Thanks.

In terms of rack I presume you want lost of quickdraws, a good number of slings, plus some wires and cams. Basically not a Gogarth rack!

James Rushforth - on 10 May 2014
In reply to TRip:
Drysori and Mark's posts are pretty spot on.

> Looking for recommendations for routes in HVS-E3 range.

The list you have is a good one. I'd recommend the 'Grande Muro' on Sass dal Crusc. As Mark suggests something on Tofanas South Face is worth a look - loads to go at.

> Don Quixote on Marmolda S Face or Vinatzer with Messner Finish. Marmolds S Face. Anyone done both? Which is best?

Both are classics. Vinatzer / Messner is longer - people often find route finding on the Messner difficult.

> What's the minimum amount of kit two relatively competent alpinists would need to descend down the Glacier off the back of the Marmolada. Just studded fell running shoes? Fell shoes and micro spikes?

How long is a piece of string. Ultimately it's up to you to decide (it's also largely dependant on what time of season your descending and how much snow there's been over the winter). Many people don't take glacier kit. However Feo Maffei was a strong climber and tragically died falling into a crevasse whilst descending from Don Quixote.

> There is a fair chance that we'll miss the last cable car down. Is there any shelter at the lift station? I presume it's a good idea to take a warm jacket in case of a night out?

There is limited shelter (a tunnel near the 2nd lift station).

> If the weather comes in it can get very, very wet very quickly. With this in mind I presume it is a good idea to a lightweight waterproof on most long routes?

I always take a light-weight waterproof.

> Do most folk use half ropes? Was considering taking a skinny single paired with a half so I can haul the bag on the harder pitches on the Comici? Or does this just sound like a total faff? Quicker and easier to second on a tight rope pulling on the odd runner?

Half ropes are advisable, easier to retreat. Bag hauling on Comici would be a faff. Bag hauling on Hasse-Brandler is more common. I always think it's better to both just carry a light sack than loading the second up with all the kit.

> Oh and we'll be going in my mate's van are their plenty of places near the crags we can park overnight for free?

Yes

Have fun!
Post edited at 16:33
Fergal - on 10 May 2014
In reply to TRip:

Don Quixote felt more like E1 and the crux free is harder again, the Messner (Sella towers) is more like sustained E2 5a, HVS is total nonsense.
jon on 10 May 2014
In reply to TRip:
Well Tom, I haven't done much in the Dolomites but personally I'd knock the Yellow Edge on the head - rarely have I been so disappointed in a route that I've heard about just about since I started climbing. Replace it with the splendid (though much harder) Pilastro on the south face of the Tofana di Rozes.

Double ropes, not this faddy single nonsense...
Post edited at 17:56
danm - on 10 May 2014
In reply to TRip:

Rippers, give me a shout if you want some tips. I had a great 3-4 week trip a few years back. Just took a standard mountain rack for the UK, useful to have skinny slings or even better stiff kevlar cord for threading pockets and stuff. Small pack each with shoes, l/w waterproof top, hat gloves and a bit of food/water.

Steiger route, Cima Catinaccio was my fave route of the trip, 16 pitches, up to HVS/E1 ish. I find it hard to grade on big routes, because you just have to get up the f***er, but the Messner on 2nd Sella is great but felt like E1 5a. Very classic but quite spooky. Don Quixote is meant to be fab, ask Dan Arkle. Vinatzer on 3rd tower would be a good warm up, felt VS ish with one slightly tougher bit above the ledge.

We did the van thing for a bit as the camp sites are a bit shit and expensive. There are places but I get the impression that more than a night may not be tolerated. Camping is a definite no-no and we got asked to move on from the top of the Falzerago Pass.
jcw on 10 May 2014
In reply to TRip: I did four of those six route sin the 60s so find it hard to assess the difficulty in modern terms. A much better route than the Spigolo Giallo is the via Graffer on the Campanilo Basso in the Brenta. Also a worthwhile route is Comici's last, Il Salame. And the Eisentstecken on the Roda di Vael is also a good expedition if the bigger routes on that wall do not attract you. Always remember in the Dolomites that there is a good chance of getting in a short but very sharp storm in the late afternoon. You just have to put up with it. So you must climb fast and go for it even when the forecast is not particularly good. Lots of other recommendations if you want to email me.
Enjoy

Dan Arkle - on 10 May 2014
In reply to jcw:

I found many of classic Dollies route's were unpleasantly busy, and lots of stuff off the beaten track was scary death choss. So I'd say only go for recommended routes but think about timing and avoiding busy routes on weekends.

One of the best things we did was the normal route on the Campanile Basso, which is a very pointy spire.

We descended the Marmolada with the aid of two sit sleds, in June - vid here, 30 secs in http://www.vimeo.com/5290320
The trouble with any Marmolada descent is if you get onto the glacier late it could be sheet ice. I think we took an axe between us, but didn't need it.

Also, I'm selling a couple of guidebooks to the area http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=586249&v=1#x7760315
henwardian - on 11 May 2014
In reply to TRip:

> Comici-Dimai on Cima Grande

Fantastic route. Not to be missed, unique (in dolomitic terms at least) smooth curve of the face gives incredible view of all the other routes/parties and a massive "out there" feeling. Probably about E2/3 5c. Crux will probably be the first hard pitch because it'll be early and cold and it's got a short hard bit with small holds for hands and feet. The upper hard section is more sustained but perhaps easier and you are well warmed up by then. It can be busy, start early or risk being held up for hours. Route finding is very easy.
The descent is long and complex, especially in the dark and there are a few fairly dodgy downclimbing bits, especially in the wet. Read the topo closely though and don't rush it and you should find the way.

> Cassin Route on Cima Piccolissma

Climbed this in intermittant snow showers. Bitterly cold. E2 5c but the crux pitch has so many pitons it's really E1 5b with a 6a+ or so sport pitch. Top (not recommended) section was dripping with icicles when we were there, we followed the guidebook advice, swallowed the british ethics and finished with the leftwards traverse before the summit.
Descent is easy abseil.

> Yellow Edge on Cima Piccola

For no good reason I went the wrong way, make better use of the topo than I did though and you should be fine. Others I know think it was great.

> Messner Route on Sella Towers

straight forward but pretty bold. Thoroughly enjoyed this. I don't remember so much about the difficulty but I think maybe it was like E1 5a. I remember it being quite an open face but with careful topo use the route finding was ok.
Descent is easy and straightforward.

> Don Quixote on Marmolda S Face or Vinatzer with Messner Finish. Marmolds S Face. Anyone done both? Which is best?

Dunno about Don Quixote, not done it.
Tried the Vinatzer Messner. Vinatzer part is easy to follow but Messner is a route finding nightmare. We ended up abbing the whole face from about 50m from the top when totally off route and faced with a blank headwall. I've since spoken to at least two other people who (separately) had to bail because of route loss in the Messner finish.
I enjoyed the Gogna route, the final pitches in particular are in a pretty cool situation. It also has only one pitch at about E2 5c with loads of easier ground and we didn't have much trouble route finding.

Don't underestimate the Marmolada. Two out of two of my impromptu bivies have been on its South face. I find it's rock more technical and time consuming than the rest of the dolomites (massive generalisation!) and it has less easy-scramble interludes than many other dolomitic big faces.

> Steger route on Rosengartenspitze.

Did this many years ago. My abiding memory was of the crux pitch with so many pitons I couldn't clip them all! Great route, think the route finding was easy. I don't remember the descent, only that it is a long walk back round to the starting point vicinity. Think it was about HVS.

> Can anyone who has done suggest UK grades for them and maybe suggest a few more classics.

Pretty much everything in the "classic climbs in the dolomites" book is a classic I think. Literal grade translation shouldn't lead you into things you can't handle really as long as you remember to factor in how long some of the routes are. (If doing other routes, always remember that Heinz Mariacher is the biggest sandbagger in the entire universe!)

> As usual I've got a few geeky gear queries...

> What's the minimum amount of kit two relatively competent alpinists would need to descend down the Glacier off the back of the Marmolada. Just studded fell running shoes? Fell shoes and micro spikes?

Minimum kit: a one gram piece of paper with "50" written on it (from which you will get plenty of change).
When I did the Via Classica I walked to the hut and West down the via ferrata and back up over the pass to get back to the vicinity of the bottom of the routes. This is easy and obvious but long, what I don't know is how the summit ridge of the Marmolada is if you are walking it from further east (top of Messner or Quixote). If you could walk down this way, it saves the need for any extra glacier kit.

> There is a fair chance that we'll miss the last cable car down. Is there any shelter at the lift station? I presume it's a good idea to take a warm jacket in case of a night out?

I stumbled into the lift station in a grim way last summer after getting caught in a storm. I didn't stop to look at how one might break in but I would be astonished if you couldn't use your climbing skills and the maintenance ladders to get inside the station even if they lock the door (which they may or may not do). You should certainly be able to get into the big where the cable car comes, if not the center of the station.

> If the weather comes in it can get very, very wet very quickly. With this in mind I presume it is a good idea to a lightweight waterproof on most long routes?

NO! You will take a lightweight waterproof on ALL long routes! :D

I would consider the following indispensible on all long routes in the dolomites:
Waterproof, head torch (get a good one and make sure your batteries are well charged), water, energy food.

I habitually carry a down jacket which works ok with a waterproof so long as you are not still in the up part of the climbing day when the rain arrives. Without an extra insulating layer you get cold very quicky when the proverbial hits the fan.

> Do most folk use half ropes? Was considering taking a skinny single paired with a half so I can haul the bag on the harder pitches on the Comici? Or does this just sound like a total faff? Quicker and easier to second on a tight rope pulling on the odd runner?

I use two halves.
I recently tried a bag approach where the second hitches the (light) bag in 3 metres above them on one half rope. This way, the leader hauls it while belaying (in guide mode) but the second is still on two ropes. The second frees the bag from rock or gear placements periodically but does not have to bear its weight. It's far from ideal and bad on traverses but it's one option. Another is for the leader to trail a 4mm cord and put the pack on that to haul it... Every system has its ups and downs.

tbc...
henwardian - on 11 May 2014
continued...

> Oh and we'll be going in my mate's van are their plenty of places near the crags we can park overnight for free?

You can park almost anywhere for free. Anywhere you can get off the road a bit. Into a car park, onto a picnic pullout... don't take mick by parking right outside a restaurante/refuge but other than that nobody in Italy really cares (though it is technically Illegal to just park your camper up in this way).
Except for the Tri Cime. You have to pay a LOT to get up that road and it's more for every day you stay up there (though they have no concerns about you setting up your van in their car park). It used to be that you could get in and out late at night but now there is a 24/7 automatic barrier. However...
[Disclaimer: I definitely did not do this and in no way endorse it, it is recorded here only as an interesting theoretical observation someone once told me. Cough.]
If you wait near the exit barrier in your van late in the evening and then drive up behind someone as they are leaving, if you tailgate them very closely you can drive through on their payment and get out scot-free. Of course if one were to do such a thing, one might be well advised not to go back in the same vehicle soon after.

> Cheers,

> Tom

If this is your first trip to somewhere with longer routes like we don't have in the UK, the Sella Towers is a great place to start. Minutes to walk in, easy descents and short (for the Dolomites) routes. I'd say, work up to doing the Marmolada route(s) at the end of the holiday as they are the most commiting and time consuming.
Weather forecast is important... Generally it's pretty good for the next day (if it says rain at 1pm, it will rain at 1pm) but really hit and miss for 2 or 3 days ahead unless the weather is quite settled, in which case it can be a bit more accurate.
Stock up with food as much as possible before you get there (infact before you even get to Italy, if possible). Even in the slightly larger shops in Canazei or Cortina, food is horribly expensive and selection feebly limited.
johncoxmysteriously - on 11 May 2014
In reply to henwardian:
> Crux will probably be the first hard pitch because it'll be early and cold and it's got a short hard bit with small holds for hands and feet.

It definitely will be, I'd say, but don't be put off - this move is miles harder than anything above and if necessary just pull on the peg.

As to the descent, it's very easy to get lost and arrive in a gully leading to a huge drop - the scene of a notorious rescue. Fortunately this rescue left two bolts in the side wall. From this point two joined 60m will take you down to easy ground. Two 50s - I wouldn't be so sure.

jcm
Post edited at 07:48
TRip - on 15 May 2014

Thanks for all the advice folks. Tom
Post edited at 17:45
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Fiona Reid - on 15 May 2014
In reply to henwardian:
> Stock up with food as much as possible before you get there (infact before you even get to Italy, if possible). Even in the slightly larger shops in Canazei or Cortina, food is horribly expensive and selection feebly limited.

We usually stop in Austria on the way down from Munich and do our main shop there. However, if you find the cheap supermarkets it's actually not *that* bad. Sure, they don't stock everything but you'll certainly save a fair bit over the COOPs.

Just south of Cortina there's a Eurospin (pretty much a Lidl/Aldi type clone) http://cortina.dolomiti.org/index.cfm/guida/shop/Eurospin-Discount-Alimentare/

There's another discount grocery store in Val di San Nicolo, just east from Pozza di Fassa. We found it by accident after doing a walk from Canazei to Pozza. Details: http://www.d-piu.com/punti-vendita?cont=page&home=1®ione=Trentino+Alto+Adige&provincia=TN&citta=P...

The Pozza di Fassa one is in a weird almost underground situation, e.g. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@46.42573,11.698858,3a,90y,239.23h,66.14t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s6K4aT6b2...
Post edited at 18:15

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