A moderate climb with a moderate approach with a surprising amount of excitement, and surprisingly little polish. Enough said. 9 pitches sounds like a lot, but 3 of them are easy junk, while another 3 are memorable for their position and quality. The other 3 are plod-alongs to get to the good stuff.
Wild nature?? The tram hums overhead, and topping out amid the tourists downing strudle and coffee is memorable. Join them for the ride down.
See associated trip report.
Base of Maria Kante
Follow the large and well defined and signed trail from the passo pordoi parking lot toward the pass. The path cutting over to Maria Kante isn’t as obvious as expected. There are some paths that cut over too early, so be patient and find the main path before cutting over. It’s no great loss to go past it and see it below you. Better that than unnecessary talus slogging. Follow the path to the large gully that separates the Maria Kante pillar from the south face.
Route overview with marked belays
Pitch 1: 5.5 There is a pedestal that abuts the actual pillar. Climb this pedestal up several large steps, continue until reaching a ledge with a ring bolt anchor. The only real polish on this climb is at the beginning. It can be tricky to find the easiest start, but none are harder than 5.6. It's supposedly easier to start in the gully, but the outside variations are clean and fun.
Pitch 2: 5.6 This is the supposed crux, and it does steepen a bit at about one third height. This long pitch leads to a large ledge that circles the formation. Surprising amount of loose rock at the belay considering its popularity. Ring Bolt Anchor.
Pitch 3: 5.5 Begin in the shallow dihedral on better quality rock and continue to a smaller ledge after about 30 meters.
Pitch 4: 5.6 A really nice pitch. Continue to follow the vague dihedral. There is another crack system to the left that looks initially easier, but follow the more right leaning depression. There is no visible pro from the outset, but don’t worry, a couple stoppers in short cracks, and some hidden pitons see you through. There were 3 pins on this pitch in 2008, only one was easy to find. The belay is just above and to the right of the enormous roof.
Pitch 5: 5.4 From the awesome belay at the roof, traverse around the big edge and into the not so awesome gully. Set up a belay once in the gully.
Pitch 6: low fifth junk up to the gap between the south pillar and main face. There is one steeper section, but it protects easily, and there are enormous holds everywhere, if not for that short steep part, this could easily be simulclimbed. Belay in the boulders that have fallen into the gap.
Pitch 7: 5.6 One of the best 5.6 pitches anywhere. Start on the blank looking orange face with a few buckets. Get through this steep face without pro quickly. Now start a long right traverse in huecos and scoops aiming for the right edge of the face. Protection is mostly threads through the heavily featured holes and pockets. Make an easy but exhilarating move around the edge and belay on a great ledge on the other side.
Pitch 8: 5.4 Junk in a wide gully leads to some loose rock on ledges. Stay left of the upper ridge. Belay wherever convenient, or simulclimb to the top.
Pitch 9: 5 nasty. More junk and easy traversing leads to the railing around the summit. Loose rock abounds, I found staying below the tram station on a sort of ridge crest for as long as possible avoided the worst of it. Others hauled right up through the bowl.
Have some cord for threading the holes, there are plenty of these. A few medium-small stoppers. 3 or 4 cams from fingers to hands. A sharp eye for the in-situ pitons. Helmets: a popular route with loose rock at many of the belays, plus tourists throw their empties at you from the top...just kidding.
All of a sudden climbing below the tram is no longer annoying. Enjoy the cruise down past the route you just climbed. Or hike down the well marked path.