Dolomites Guidebooks from Versante Sud

Jack Geldard takes a look at two of the English language guidebooks to the Italian Dolomites from Versante Sud. The Tre Cime by Erik Svab and Giovanni Renzi (2009) and the Marmolada South Face by Maurizio Giordani (2007).

Tre Cime Lavaredo, 118 kb
Tre Cime Lavaredo
© Garbhanach, Sep 2007

I love large cliffs. My favourite routes are those that follow strong lines up huge faces, mainly rock these days, and if I am fit, I like them to be tough technical challenges.

Sat in the office in the UK, I spend my time dreaming of the largest walls on earth and wondering what the routes on them are like.

Often these walls seem like far off and distant places, with not much information and a sense of adventure, but sometimes these looming castles are closer to home, and well documented in professional and inspirational guidebooks.

This is the case for the Dolomites, Italy's alpine limestone Mecca that is known the world over for its classic hard routes. I opened the guidebooks from Versante Sud and was truly impressed with what I saw. Both books really brought the area to life.

Marmolada South Face

Marmolda South Face Guidebook
Being employed in guidebook work myself, I can imagine the effort involved in documenting the climbs on this monstrous face. It is the guidebook writing equivalent of Everest without oxygen. But with this mighty tome Maurizio Giordani has reached the summit, and reached it in good style.

Giordani is one of the most qualified climbers on earth to write this book, having spent a lifetime on the walls of the Dolomites, working as a professional mountain guide since 1989. His breadth of knowledge and love for the area really shows through and the publishers Versante Sud have done a great job of presenting his knowledge in a usable and aesthetic format.

The book, a full colour, high quality A5 paperback, has superb photo-topos and essential line-drawn topos covering 180 breathtaking routes on the Marmolada's south face. The inclusion of some small but essential features such as a route index, plus extra info for mountain rescue, huts and lifts make the book very usable and ideal for a visiting foreign climber.

The book reminds me in many ways of the award winning Rockfax Lofoten guide, bringing a huge and complex area in to a colour photo-format, with the topo-photos of the routes really giving a flavour of the climbs and the landscape.

The route I have always dreamed of doing on this wall is the Fish Route, or more correctly Via Attraverso Il Pesce, a 920m monster, first climbed back in 1981 and now a world classic, albeit an extreme one.

This route is covered in depth, starting with a stunning front cover shot showing clearly the fish-shaped cave that gives the route its name, and marking the way with a full colour photo topo, plus a detailed line-drawing and text description. The route also gets the full historical treatment, with a three page first-hand account of the route by the book's author; giving historical insights and also the gripping account of his own solo ascent back in the 1980's.

The book also includes several other essays on route history and first ascents, as well as both modern and historical action shots.

The size of the book means it may not be a first choice for carrying up the routes, but a quick photocopy or digital camera shot and you'll be away.

But, perhaps what captured me more than anything with this book was the absolutely stunning fold out Panoramic photograph of the entire face, that is found at the back of the book (pictured below). It is this kind of added extra that make this book not only an essential tool to enable you to find your way, but a thing of beauty, equally at home on the coffee table as in the rucksack.

The stunning panoramic fold-out photo in the Marmolada Guidebook, 122 kb
The stunning panoramic fold-out photo in the Marmolada Guidebook
© Versante Sud

Tre Cime – Classic and Modern Routes

Tre Cime Guidebook
Another superb and full colour book, giving all the right information on all the right routes.

The first thing I did with this book is to read the descriptions for the routes I have done, checking the authors text against my own personal notes (see my Brandler Hasse UKC Article). They have certainly done a top job in terms of accuracy.

The book features profiles of the areas leading lights, accompanied by great action photos. These were a nice added extra, but for me the book didn't have quite that coffee table appeal of the Marmolada, but that's not to say it isn't excellent climbing trip reading – several dark nights have been passed in the back of my van reading these essays by headtorch.

The photo topos and line drawing are large and clear, and the hugely complex range has been covered well by two people that obviously know the areas inside out.

An essential book for the visiting English speaking climber.

Again the book is a full colour, high quality A5 paperback.

In Brief:

Two superb books. Professionally translated in to English. Full photo topos and text descriptions. Added extras.

For me the Marmolada book is worth buying whether you climb there or not, it is simply a great book. The Tre Cime book is a top notch guide book, and I would buy it if I was planning to climb there.

More info on the books on the Versante Sud Website:

Want more info on the Dolomites?

  • Read James Rushforth's excellent destination article to the Dolomites here: UKC Article
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