What a Mountain!
Standing at the end of Valle di San Lucano, a valley that resembles a deep narrow fiord between high rock walls, one is amazed at the magnificent spectacle almost unrivaled in the Alps. A perfect structure of vertical, smooth walls and sharp crests, a gigantic obelisk towers 2200 m above us. Agnèr is the magical, mysterious name of this superb mountain that renders us deeply moved and at awe, at loss for words in our rapturous admiration. It might be best to simply lie down in the soft bosom of a lush meadow by the Col di Pra hamlet and take ample time to gaze at the mighty peaks around.
Aside from the central Agnèr the two dominant summits on its left are Spiz d'Agnèr Nord, 2545 m, and slightly less sharp Spiz d'Agnèr Sud, 2652 m, both of which proudly display their perpendicular high walls. To the right (west) is Torre Armena, 2652 m, which seems a somewhat diminished copy of Agnèr. They are divided by Vanet del Piz, a somber narrow gorge with tortuous strips of bluish snow on which the sun never shines. A fraction less forbidding is its slightly wider neighbor, a gorge named Vallon delle Scandole, that lies between the slim Torre Armena and the squarely built Lastei d'Agnèr, 2861 m, in which the precipitous snowfields alternate with difficultly passable rocky cliffs. This mighty, wild area exudes an almost uneasy somberness, stillness and eternal peace. The entire San Lucano valley itself is a quiet place, and its southern rim Valle d'Angheraz, is one of the loneliest impasses in the Dolomites. Although the Agnèr mountain range is also rocky and steep to the south, it is drenched with sunlight and the ample grasslands at the foothills seem much more subdued and kinder. These pastures, which have been scattered with sheep and their lambs (agnello denotes lamb) since ancient times, had also given their name to Monte Agnèr, which is otherwise called simply Il Pizzòn (Great Peak) by the locals.
Short Synopsis of History
The first successful ascent was carried out on 18 August 1875 by Cesare Tomé, a well-known alpinist at that time, accompanied by two guides Tomaso Dal Col and Martino Gnech. They climbed upon a characteristic ramp, which obliquely transverses the south crags of the mountain. Then, on 14-15 September 1921, Francesco Jori, Arturo Andreoletti, and Alberto Zanutti have immortalized their names by a very hard and long route in the collossal N Wall; an incredible exploit at that time (UIAA V grade), which has remained highly estimated among the best climbers even today. On 29 August 1932, two superb climbers Celso Gilberti and Oscar Soravito won a splendid victory over the fantastic N arête of Agner, the highest in the Dolomites. The magic VI grade of difficulty has been reached in the cliffs of Agnèr, also. Prior to the Second World War, some routes have been climbed in the NE, E, and SE walls by Alfonso Vinci, Gianelia Bernasconi, Attilio Tissi, Giovani Andrich... After the war, numerous best climbers have traced their routes in the rocks if this lofty peak; here, we have to mention some celebrities like Reinhold and Günther Messner, Daniele Costantini, Lorenzo Massarotto, Miroslav and Michal Coubal... However, the routes in Agnèr would never become trendy or overcrowded by climbers.
From Belluno (connected to the italian highway network) to Agordo, a picturesque small town in the lower part of Cordévole valley.
North approach: From Agordo one has to ride northwards to Taibon Agordino (3 km), then turn left into the narrow San Lucano valley, up to the branch of marked track leading to the Cozzolino bivouac.
South approach: From Agordo towards the west, following the road signs for Fiera di Primiero to the resort village Frassené, 1084 m, (10 km).
Map Pale di San Martino. Tabacco 022, 1: 25 000.
Luca Visentini: Pale di San Martino. Athesia, Bolzano/Bozen
Paolo Mosca: Agnèr - Croda Granda. Edizioni Rocciaviva, Belluno
Eugen E. Hüsler: Hüslers Klettersteigführer Dolomiten. Bruckmann, München
Eugen E. Hüsler: Bruckmanns Gipfelatlas Alpen. Bruckmann, München
Graham Fletcher, John Smith: Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites. Vol. 2. Cicerone, Milnthorpe, Cumbria
Huts and Bivouacs1. Enrico Scarpa - Ohhanes Gurekian Hut, 1735 m. E. Scarpa, a painter from Venice, built a private edifice in 1912. Later, in the sixties it was enlarged and reconstructed for turistic purposes. O. Gurekian was an Armenian émigré in Italy, who accomplished the first ascension on Torre Armena (hence the name of the peak). The hut is an agreeable place, seldom overcrowded, and lies in close vicinity of alpine pasture Malga Losch. Reachable by a chair lift or marked path from Frassené (1.30 h). Open from June to September. Tel.: 0437/67010.
2. Giancarlo Biasin Bivouac, 2650 m. It lies a bit above the Forcella del Pizzòn notch and serves primarily to the climbers coming out the N Wall. At the bivouac all marked paths on Agnèr get together. The summit is attainable by partially protected path, by means of moderately difficult scrambling.
3. Enzo Cozzolino Bivouac, 1398 m. Situated in the narrow murky basin under the N Wall of Agnèr, it is designed almost exclusively for the big wall aspirants. A steep marked track leads to the bivouac from San Lucano valley (1.30h).
A. Marked and secured routes
1. Normal ascent route. Difficulty: UIAA F+, II-/I (moderately difficult scrambling, marked track scarcely protected by iron ropes above the Biasin bivouac). The most recommendable approach to the summit, without excessive difficulties, but strenuous and long (3.30 h to the Biasin bivouac, 1 h to the summit). Less experienced mountaineers should be accompanied by a guide. The route is totally devoid of water and exposed to the sun, so an early starting hour is a good choice.
2. Via del Canalone. Marked, partially secured route, some kind of easier via ferrata. It is less usable as a former one, due to constant danger of stone-falling and steep snowfields. Frequently, the protective installations are badly damaged.
3. Via ferrata "Stella Alpina" (Edelweiss Route). An extremely difficult ferrata, one of the hardest in the Dolomites. To reach the slanted slabs under the summit of Lastei d'Agnèr one has to climb a vertical 300 m high wall, overcoming vertiginous, here and there even slightly overhanging passages. The route is secured by solidly anchored iron ropes only. A strong shot of adrenalin is ensured!
B. Alpinistic routes(List of routes is compiled from P. Mosca's "Agnèr - Croda Granda" guide; see above!)
1. Pilastro "Riccardo Bee" (NW Pillar). Difficulty: UIAA VII/VI+, A1, 730 m. First ascent: 19-20 July 1982, R. Bee, solo. Extremely hard route above the oppressive gorge Vallon delle Scandole.
2. L. Massarotto - C. Chenet route. Difficulty: UIAA VI-/V+, 760 m. First ascent: 13 August 2003. The character of the route is similar to the former, but a bit easier.
3. A. Vinci - G. Bernasconi route. Difficulty: VI/V, 1300 m. First ascent: 15-17 July 1939. Excellent route in the best rock.
1. Spigolo Nord, Gilberti - Soravito (N arête). Difficulty: UIAA VI-/V+, V, 1600 m. First ascent: 29 August 1932. One of the greatest classics in the Alps, traced upon the highest crest in the Dolomites. Extraordinary long route begins from a green pillar coverd with dwarf-pine and blueberry bushes, then sticks to the very edge of the arete and ends at the right side of it. The route of sheer superlatives!
2. L. Massarotto - D. Costantini route. Difficulty: UIAA VI-/V. First ascent: summer 1988.
3. Via "Luciano Cergol". Difficulty: UIAA VII-/VI. First ascent: September 1989, L. Massarotto and G. Rebeschini.
4. Via "Dante Guzzo". Difficulty: UIAA VII-/VI. First ascent: September 1988, L. Massarotto and Groaz.
5. Via Jori. Difficulty UIAA V/IV+, 1500 m. First ascent: 14-15 September 1921. Famous route, characterized by numerous chimneys, transverses the immensely high wall from right to the left.
1. M. Martin - S. Soppelsa - B. Schena route. Difficulty: UIAA VI+/V, 1500 m. First ascent: 15 August 1987.
2. "La Storia Infinita". Difficulty: UIAA VIII-/VII+, 1400 m. First ascent: 12-15 July 1990, M. and M. Coubal. Arguably the hardest route in Agnèr's walls.
3. Via dei Sud Tirolesi (Route of the South Tyroleans). Difficulty: UIAA VI-/V, A2, 1400 m. First ascent: 17-18 August 1967, H. Holzer, G. and R. Messner.
4. Via "Riccardo Bee". Difficulty: UIAA VI/V, A?, 800 m. First ascent: March 1980, R. Bee, solo.
5. Via "Del Cuore". Difficulty: UIAA VI-/V, A2, 1200 m. First ascent: 16-17 August 1981, L. Massarotto and S. Soppelsa.
1. A. Tissi - G. Andrich route. Difficulty: UIAA V/IV, III. First ascent: 15 August 1930. Fine, pleasant route for more modest climbers.