Alps for Graduation

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 24, 2019

Introduction

Kessler graduated high school last May. For his graduation present, he wanted to climb the Alps. Luckily, I had a lot of travel awards saved up so our plane tickets and hotels were free. We flew in Milan Italy and out Munich Germany, so we got to cross the Alps south to north, doing several climbs along the way and visiting Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. We used trains and buses to get around. We also got to visit some musuems and castles too.

Kessler climbing the Steger Route on First Sella Tower.
Kessler climbing the Steger Route on First Sella Tower.
Early morning on Ortler.
Early morning on Ortler.

June 22-23: Catinaccio (Italy)

June 22

It was raining and the weather forecast called for a 100% chance of rain, but since we had a hut reservation we decided to hike anyway.

We took the cable car from Vigo di Fasso to Rifugio Ciampedie and walked, mostly in the rain to Rifugio Vaiolet. It was a really easy, gentle, and and pleasant walk (even in the rain) until the end which was steeper but still easy. The hut was in a spectacular setting.

Once at the hut we ate a fancy lunch with a strauben. We also brought our sleeping bags since we didn't know the huts would be so fancy.

In the late afternoon it began to clear and we walked towards Passo Principe. Since we had to be back for dinner, we didn't quite make it to the pass. It was a beautiful walk though and the clouds seem to play tag with the mountaintops.

After dinner, we decided to climb towards the Rifugio Re Alberto. We climbed until sunset and then returned to the Vaiolet.

 

Strauben as served in the Refugio Vaiolet!
Strauben as served in the Refugio Vaiolet!
On the trail above the refugio.
On the trail above the refugio.

 

View from the refugio.
View from the refugio.
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Vojolet Tower
Vojolet Tower

June 23

Kessler and I left the hut in the morning and headed for the Passo delle Coronelle. The weather was much better than it was the day before. It was a pleasant hike and there were a lot of marmots playing in the meadows. Once we got to the pass though, the route became much more sketchy, especially since we regrettably didn't bring an ice axe (we should have). The route down the west side to the Refuio Fronza was pretty sketchy and the cables were buried in snow, but we made it down OK.

Unfortunately, we saw the aftermath of one climbing accident on the cliffs above the Refigio. It appeared to be a fatal accident.

The rest of the walk was beautiful and pleasant. Near the Rifugio Roda di Vael we climbed the Col de Ciampac (more of a hill than a mountain) and the Marare Ridge, but we weren't equipped to do the traverse across the crest of the ridge, which looked like an excellent climb.

The rest of the walk was a pretty gentle and beautiful walk to Rifugio Ciampedie where we then rode the cable car back to Vigo di Fassa.

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Route to Passo delle Coronelle.
Route to Passo delle Coronelle.
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June 24: First Sella Tower (Italy)

Kessler and I met Eitenne in Canazei and headed for the First Sella Tower. It was a really spectacular climb and the best we ended up doing in the Alps. The weather was beautiful as well.

The last pitch was the hardest and was really polished. I struggled on that one! Kessler found it easier. It was a great climb and the views were great too. The descent wasn't so bad either.

Strangely we saw a giant centipede at the base of the tower. I didn't think they lived up this high.

Climbing the Steger Route on the First Sella Tower.
Climbing the Steger Route on the First Sella Tower.

June 25: Sass Pordoi/Piz Boè (Italy)

Kessler and I decided to head to Piz Boè today. We rode the cable car up to Sass Pordoi and headed for Piz Boè, mostly on the snow. The route to Piz Boè was a fairly easy rock scramble with fixed cables. Coming from the US, it was weird to have a restaurant and hut on the summit! We ate a fancy lunch before headed down the other side of the mountain to Pizes del Valun and Le Pointe. We only saw one person on this route. The couloir below Le Pointe was filled with snow and very steep, but there was a fixed rope in places.

After reaching the Grand Valacia we headed long a trail on a bench between the huge cliffs and circled around to the south side of the mountains. There were a lot of marmots in the meadows. We then took a steep trail down to the WWI monument (Ossario del Pordoi Kreigerdenkmal) where 8000 soldiers are buried from WWI and 800 from WWII. Sombering place. After visiting the monument, we walked back to the Passo Pordoi and took a bus back to Canazei.

Marmolada as seen from the route up Piz Boe.
Marmolada as seen from the route up Piz Boe.

June 27: Cima Grande (Italy)

Kessler and I spent the previous day resting and travelling by bus and train to Toblach. This morning we met Andreas in the morning and drove to Cima Grande for the climb of one of the most famous peaks in the Alps. We climbed the south face. It was a pretty good climb, but it wasn't nearly as fun as First Sella Tower since it has a lot of loose rocks on the benches between the good pitches. The weather and views were fantastic though.

We reached the beautiful summit and enjoyed a good lunch. We took a different route down. It was not so fun and was rather loose and a bit dangerous.

Climbing route up Cima Grande.
Climbing route up Cima Grande.

June 28-29: Ortler (Italy)

June 28

Andreas, Kessler, and I drove to the Ortler to start our climb. We decided the north ridge route since we weren't sure of the conditions and time commitments on the Hintergrat.

We hiked past the enormous north face (which had a monument on it dedicated to the climbers killed on the north face) and then hiked the trail to the Sayers Hut, which is set spectacularly right at the edge of a huge cliff. We then ate dinner and went to bed so we could get up early for the next day's climb.

Ortler as viewed from the north ridge.
Ortler as viewed from the north ridge.

June 29

We left early the next morning for the climb. It was more "exciting" than expected. There was a lot of rock climbing, which was tricky with boots and crampons and there was also a vertical ice traverse. There were also some really big crevasses to jump across. Still, the climb was enjoyable and we reached the summit without incident.

The descent didn't go as well for me. The mountaineering boots rubbed my feet raw and I was in a lot of pain during the descent. I had to move really slowly, perhaps to the annoyance of my climbing partners. The rock pitches were especially painful.

We reached the hut and ate lunch, but it was still a long and painful descent from there.

Kessler on the summit of Ortler.
Kessler on the summit of Ortler.

June 30:  Ambras Castle (Austria)

Kessler and I visited the Ambras Castle and we also hiked the nice trails around the castle, which included a nice forest and waterfall.

July 1-2: Zugspitze (Germany/Austria)

July 1

The weather forecast was bad and my feet were still very sore from Ortler, but Kessler and I decided to give Zugspitze a try to climb at least part way up anyway, especially since we already had a hut reservation at the Hoellentalangerhuette.

The weather was not promising. As soon as we boarded the bus, it began to hail and rain hard. We started up the trail in the rain and hail. By the time we reached the Hollentalklamm Gorge, it wasn't raining as much and since we were already soaked, we didn't have to worry so much about getting wet in the gorge!

The gorge was really impressive and spectacular as was the trail. There were tunnels and lots of waterfalls spilling down all over the place. There were also some huge snowbanks in the gorge at an elevation of only just over 1000 meters.

We eventually made our way out of the gorge and to the valley holding the Hoellentalangerhuette. We wore raincoats, but we still soaked anyway so we decided to dry our clothes out before doing some exploring around. In the evening, the weather cleared a big and we explored the upper valley to as high as the beginning of the via feratta route known as Brett.

We returned back to the hut there. There were alpine salamanders all over the place and some frogs as well. It was suprising to see so many cold blooded creatures in a place that was so cold. We also saw a chamois on the cliffs above Brett.

Höllentalklamm Gorge.
Höllentalklamm Gorge.

July 2

The weather forecast was bad again, so we decided not chance climbing the Hoellental Route. Instead we hiked around the mountain to a cable car station and rode the cable car the rest of the way to near the summit. We then made the final climb up the easy but exposed ladders and cables to the summit. We got lucky since the weather was partially clear at the summit. After we left the summit, everything clouded up again.

It was a good climb, but I still wish we would have been able to complete the Hoellental Route. Maybe some day.

Looking north from the summit of Zugspitze.
Looking north from the summit of Zugspitze.

July 3: Scwartzenkopt/Hollentorkopt (Germany)

The original plan was to climb Alpspitze, but the weather forecast was not good. Instead Kessler and I walked from Hammersbach to the summits of Scwartzenkopt/Hollentorkopt, which were lower. This turned out to be a good move because above Hollentorkopt everything was socked in with clouds. It only rained a little bit on the hike up though. We rode the lift down from near the summit of Hollentorkopt.

Summit of Hollentorkopt.
Summit of Hollentorkopt.

This was the last of our climbs in the Alps and after Scwartzenkopt/Hollentorkopt, it was time to ride the train to Munich for the trip home!



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