A quick but fun tripPete and I got away for a couple of days of rock climbing in the Rosengarten. It was my first time in that Dolomiti group, and his first time in the Dolomites at all! Despite some rain going in, we had a great time.
We arrived late in the touristic town of Pera, mistakenly believing that a bus taxi was still running to get us near the Vajolet Hut. Some frantic phone calls eventually found a bus taxi willing to drive up the road. He charged us each 15 euros, which is 3 times the normal price. As rain started to fall, we easily decided to pay instead of walking up a road for 2 hours.
A humorous event occurred next. Halfway up the road, we found 2 Germans and their van blocked by the closed road. They asked us to return with them to the parking lot and come back up. Somehow, we thought we could then pool our money and have a cheaper fare. The driver didn't really speak English or German that well (duh, he's in Italy after all. :)), so he didn't understand our thinking. Needless to say, we all payed 15 euros by the time we got to the road terminus an hour later...
After a drenching walk to the crowded hut, we ate dinner and attempted to dry our soaked clothing in a hilariously crowded drying room strewn with clotheslines. We planned to climb the three main Vajolet Towers by easy routes the next day, even if they were a bit wet. The forecast was "okay," but Saturday would be the best day.
By 9 am the next morning, we were at the base of the Delago Tower, intent on the spectacular and easy "Piaz Edge" (IV+). The waterfalls running down the faces the evening before left us little hope for dry rock, but the whole thing was perfectly dry, which surprised us.
One other party was on the tower this morning, a nice couple from the Munich area. We climbed along with them throughout the day. Here, on the first pitch, I was a bit impatient and decided to pass by on an independent line a bit left of the one Franzy (the nice girl) was taking. This meant I didn't get to use the nice pitons! No matter, there were good nut and cam placements along the 30 meter pitch, the only problem was that my fingers kept going numb in the morning chill. Here is a picture of Pete coming up in the blue helmet and our other friend from Munich on the left:
We continued up the ridge 4 more pitches to the summit. The most fun was when there was exposed climbing right on the crest. Sometimes the clouds would blow away and reveal stunning deeps far below. A few summit pictures, then down 6 ~20 meter rappels to our packs.
Next we headed up the "Fehrmann Corner" (IV+) of the Stabeler Tower. It was a bit hard to find the start, as we walked too far along the access ledge and found ourselves wandering around on an easy but confusing face. The couple from Munich joined us as we puzzled it out. Eventually Pete came to the insight that we were much too far to the right, and led me back down, around and up to exactly the right place to start. I hollered over to indicate we found the way, but we lost our friends temporarily.
Pete and I went two pitches, then he lucked out to lead the crux crack which was, alone among all the climbs of the day, dripping wet. Doh! We discussed the strategy, then he headed up the crack, careful and sure at every step. Following, I felt the section right level with and above a skirted roof were the most demanding. A good lead in trying conditions!
An easier crack followed, then a short wall led to the fairly large summit. Pete found a nice natural rock chair. Good times...two down, one to go! Another 6 rappels and scrambling got us down.
Enjoyable climbing led to an especially enjoyable final pitch along a nice hand crack. Franzy and her friend were a couple of pitches below, and relying on us for route information. I hollered down some advice, then after a nice visit on the summit in better weather than the first two, we started down. The descent goes along the ascent route for a while. After some more information exchange, Pete and I headed off, scrambling around the corner to eventually reach the notch between the Stabeler and Winkler Towers. The obligatory rappels followed.
One interesting thing, we always used a single 50 meter rope for rappels instead of trying to combine with doubles. In certain situations this might have slowed us down, but often the rappels are at discontinuous locations or have features that could hang up the knot of a double rope rappel. It looked like we were at least as fast this way, and certainly had less coiling/uncoiling to do, along with less apprehension over the whole "stuck knot" issue. Pete and I are both pretty used to making fast and efficient rappels, a really useful skill.
We hiked down to another great dinner, and good views of the face we planned to climb the next day: Rosengartenspitze East Wall, via the "Steger" (18 pitches, grade VI-). But Pete tossed and turned all night, worried (justifiably!) about making it to Prague by noon on Sunday if we did such a big climb. In the morning, we immediately decided to do something smaller. Happily, the "Steger" route on Punta Emma fit the bill nicely.
We climbed the first two easy pitches in gloves against the cold (well, me in socks!). We came into the sun and enjoyed several hours of great climbing, with three sustained pitches of gray and yellow Dolomiti face climbing at it's center.
First Pete led a traverse to get us into the heart of the face. The difficult part was figuring out where to go down slightly and reach a belay. Next two sustained and interesting face pitches followed, illustrating the maxim that only in the Dolomites can you climb completely vertical at grade 5.7! There are just so many great holds!
This was really excellent, and the warm sun made up for many rather chilly hours the day before. The clarity in the air was magnificent. Some fun and creative scrambling brought us to the summit, then a rather intimidating long rappel got us to a snow-choked gully. We picked our way down, and soon were back at the car, enjoying a good pizza lunch below the "Rotwand" on the road to Bolzano.
It was great to climb with Pete for the first time, looking forward to awesome future adventures!