BackgroundVia del Veterano is famous as the longest sport route in Ticnio. My Swiss friend Dieter and I climbed this. Actually I had been wanting to do this for a very long time, but for some reason I could never get down to climbing this and I lost interest over time. Then when Dieter asked me whether I can join him last weekend I said OK, I am not too keen but I will come for your sake. I am glad I agreed, because it was really a fine climb and I felt proud after climbing this, Thanks Dieter :-)
LogisticsWell, Dieter had planned everything, so I just had to join him at the appointed hour in the train. We reached Faido ar 5:18 pm on Saturday. Now depending on your mode of transport and sleeping plans you have several options. The route starts in the hamlet called Freggio which is 2 hours hike.
What we did was to break at Osco which is a hamlet a few hundred metres above Freggio, with the plan to walk down to the climb via Freggio.
We hiked up from Faido to Osco in about 1-1.5 hours to reach Restaurante Marti. It is a nice hotel with a separate dormitory. A dorm bed costs 50 CHf including excellent halfpension (B/f and dinner). We had dinner at 7 pm, paid the amount, collected packed breakfast/coffee in thermos for the next day and "checked out".
Sunday I woke Dieter up at 4:30, had breakfast and collected all our stuff and set out of Hotel Marti at 5:20 am and hiked to Freggio. We hid our overnight baggage at a point where the approach trail and the descent trail intersect. We took about 2 litres of water each and lunch, about 25 expresses, and 2X60 m half ropes and started the climb at 7:00 am. The pitches are:
4a, 2a, 3c, 3c, 5a, 4b, 3b, 4b, 5a, 4b, 5a, 3c, 3a, 5a, 3c, 3c, 4a, 4a, 3c, 3a, 3b, 4b.
The climbThe first four pitches, we simul-climbed. Then we mostly did alternate leads. I found it a bit difficult to climb with a heavy pack but that is life :-( The tradeoff between goind light and finishing fast vs. carrying more food/layers and being prepared. Well, it wasn't heavy in the absolute sense, maybe 4-5 kgs in all, but still enough to make it hard for me.
Barring that, the climb was very nice. Solid rock, no looseness or moisture, it was very pleasant climbing. Despite that, I can say it is a pretty endurance climb and its length should not be underestimated.
I was leading the penultimate pitch when it began to rain. Having never climbed on wet rock, and being out of earshot from my partner this was a bit scary. In that situation I missed recognizing the end of the pitch and proceed up the final pitch. The rope drag was increasingly becoming an issue, but I somehow pulled the rope and clipped on a bolt. That is when I realized the rope was now stuck somewhere or I had used up all 60m and I just could not pull any more rope. Providentially, once I secured myself to the bolt with a sling, I could lean outward and actually see Dieter below. I communicated to him that I can't pull any more rope. I was in a dilemma whether I should down climb and locate the rope tangle, or Dieter should come up and do it. After ascertaining that my end of the rope was secure, Dieter decided to prussic up toward me. he was able to free the rope, pass me and complete the last pitch and belayed me up. Wheph, we lost like half an hour but it was fine.
The guidebook time is 6-8 hours, and we finished in exactly 7 hours at 2pm.
I must say the bolts are fabulously laid out, the route is very well-marked and you can't miss the route. However in the upper half, you notice that the runouts become increasingly longer, which is fine as the last pitches are easier. There are only a few places where the next bolt is not visible and you can miss the route (which did happend to us once or twice and we had to downclimb). Also note, there are several exit options in case you want to bail out due to weather or fatigue.
At the end of the 23rd pitch, you walk up another 80m in a T4 or T5 hike (Alpine hike) and follow the well-marked trail for the descent. The trickier sections are equipped with via ferrata. We came down, picked up our remaining stuff, and hiked (ran) down all the way to Faido, just in time to catch the 4:40 pm train.
Hindsight wisdom1. We carried 2x60m half ropes at my behest. I now feel a 50 m or 60 m single rope would be ideal (we didn't have these lengths though).
2. We carried about 25 expresses thinking we would simul-climb most of the route. However it is much harder to climb with packs, and didn't feel like simul climbing, so 12 expresses would have been sufficient for belayed climbing.
3. We started early, however (and especially if you have a car or bivouac in Freggio) if possible start even earlier. This is because the later you start, the more you are exposed to sunlight, the more water you need to avoid dehydration, and the heavier your pack, and the longer you will take to climb and ...you got the idea :-)