Ken Roberts - - Climbing

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  • VF northeast Italy / Dolomites (11jun-11jly) : Tomaselli + Sci Club 18 + Col dei Bos / Piramide + Brigata Tridentina + Piz da Lech + Masare + Rotwand/Roda de Vael + Trincee/Mesola

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VF - via ferrata in northeast Italy

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VF Cesco Tomaselli


posted to Andrew's VF website:

I did VF Tomaselli (north of Passo Falzarego and the Lagazuoi lift), now before July, afraid of snow on the descent. It turned out that the descent was well-designed to have snow melt off, and it deposited me at the top of south-facing slope to continue my descent on a steep scree slope - which could have been rather exciting if had been covered with firm snow.

There was still a little snow-patch (hard in the morning) in a hollow just below the bottom of the ascent VF, but some careful steps got me over that. There was more snow on the slope just north of the Lagazuoi lift, but it turned out there was an alternate trail on its east side that avoided most of it. Since I did the loop of rather spectacular trail 20B in the clockwise direction, the snow was soft by the time I got there.

So though I brought ice axe + crampons, I didn't actually need to use them -- but the guidebooks were right to warn about being ready for hard snow in early season.

Great route, especially for those who like to climb the ascent "free" with hands + feet directly on the rock -- though I did feel the need to grab the cable, especially at the start.

Descent route -- Definitely I did that grabbing the cable the whole way down - "Batman" style. (Climbing up the descent route "free" I would be doubtful of -- and going both up and down that steep scree slope twice in the same day seems to me like too much punishment.)

If out with non-VF companions, perhaps they could try hiking the 20B loop while the VF climbers do Tomaselli, then meet at Rfg Lagazuoi.

further thoughts:

Some great free climbing (with hands and feet directly on rock), notably the dihedral high on the route -- perhaps the best single section of free climbing I've done on any VF route so far. Also an interesting bulge or two -- and other generally nice climbing on limestone.

I climbed the ascent all free except for 2 meters where I gave up and grabbed the cable on the traverse at the bottom (seemed like everything was sloping the wrong way).

My best guess from memory is there were some sustained sections of French sport grade 5a (I doubt more than 5b) - (except I have no idea how hard it is to free the 2-meter traverse section which I aided).

There was a bit more easy (exposed) wandering than I was expecting after the first climbing section, but worth it for the upper pitches. I found it helpful to reassure myself on the navigation by glancing at the topo from the German-language guidebook by Jentzsch-Rabi (route C6). See also the best English-language guidebook by Smith + Fletcher (route FALZ1), and the page for Tomaselli on Andrew's VF website is rather helpful.

GPS latitude/longitude (approximate):

  • parking for 402 trail or Lagazuoi lift: (N46.519 E12.008) - [ map ]

  • pass Forcella Grande: (N46.543 E12.017)

  • VF - start of ascent VF route: (N46.548 E12.017)

  • summit of peak: (N46.546 E12.019)

  • pass Forcella Lagazuoi (on the way to + from lift): (N46.531 E12.013)

  • top of Lagazuoi lift: (N46.528 E12.009)

VF Sci Club 18


posted to Andrew's VF website:

New route in the last couple of years, close to Cortina d'Ampezzo. I was lucky to get to climb it all alone today, mostly making free moves - (lots of interesting moves at my difficulty level, and way more of them than even on VF Tomaselli).

Convenient access by gondola lift: about 285 vertical meters over 1.4 km of well-marked and well-designed trail up from the Mandres mid-station. Then at the top of the VF route, easy walk 150 meters to the Faloria lift top station, for an easy descent back down to Cortina.

Committing: about 325 vertical meters of cable-protected climbing fairly sustained, and I didn't notice any "escape routes" - (someone can correct me).

Style: Metal rungs to help with some of the vertical and overhanging sections - (there were several). A few of the rubber bumpers at the cable anchors, but mostly of the anchor points did not have them. Cable anchor spacing fairly typical for VF routes I've done in the Dolomites (i.e. If you actually did fall, you could easily get hurt).

Loose rock: I found a lot of it (? because early season ?), seemed to me like more than on many other Dolomites routes I've done.

Difficulty: I did not climb it in "normal" via ferrata cable-hauling style, so I can't accurately compare on that basis -- but to me it seemed like substantially more + longer vertical (or overhanging) sections than on the Tomaselli route (which I did yesterday). The Smith + Fletcher guidebook gives VF Tomaselli a climbing difficulty rating of 5 out of 5, but Tomaselli has fewer rungs than this, so I'd guess 4+ to 5 as a grade for Sci Club 18. Since there is an escape on Tomaselli but I didn't find one on this, I'd guess a C rating for seriousness/commitment on the Smith + Fletcher scale. (German-language guidebooks use a different rating system).

GPS latitude/longitude . . .

  • parking at base of Falloria lift in Cortina: (N46.538 E12.141) - [ map ]

  • approach starts from Mandres lift mid-station: (N46.535 E12.158)

  • bottom of via ferrata route: (N46.534 E12.170)

  • top of via ferrata route: (N46.532 E12.171)

  • gondola lift top station: (N46.533 E12.173)

further thoughts:

I found lots of free climbing in difficulty range of French sport grade 4c to 5c (and some short sections harder than that) -- much of it seemed very interesting in a variety of ways -- lots more of in the range than on say VF Tomaselli - (or any other VF in the Dolomites or Austria that I've tried so far).

VF Col dei Bos / Piramide / Alpini


posted to Andrew's VF website:

I tried a new VF in the Falzarego area (FALZ6 in the Smith+Fletcher guidebook, C4 in guidebook) - (GPS latitude/longitude N46.526 E12.027).

* Some rather nice steep climbing sections -- very interesting moves if done "free" with hands + feet directly on the rock -- focus on thoughtful footwork (seemed to me about French sport grade 5a kind of sustained, not more than 5b). I really wish there were more of this - (since these sections are a smaller percentage of the route, could consider bringing rock-climbing shoes to use for them).

* Lots of easier scrambling which I found enjoyable. Though there was loose rock around, seemed like most of my scramble-climbing moves were on sound outcrops, and kind of interesting.

(Way more scrambling than steep climbing, so to choose this route, you should enjoy both.)

* Very well protected, especially with closely spaced cable-anchors in the steeper sections. And using the modern "rubber bumper" technology that I've seen on the new Austria+Germany routes - (nice to see that the Dolomites at least recognize the need to try to catch up).

* Downside is the steep dirty descent gully (a drawback shared with several more famous VF in the Dolomites). High praise to Smith + Fletcher guidebook for recommending a way (much longer) to avoid it -- if only I'd had the time + good sense to follow their idea.

An extension of their idea could permit linking to a snack+drinks at Rfg Lagazuoi and descending by the lift - (or for maximum variety in a single-day outing: descending the Lagazuoi Tunnels VF) -- which would make it parallel to the (harder) VF Cesare Piazetta outing on the Piz Boe - (parallel also in the incongruous mix of a little hard climbing with lots of easy scrambling + hiking).

* total climbing from parking to top of VF = 430 vertical meters. . . (true summit of Col dei Bos is a little higher, and it would be significantly more vertical + horizontal to do the finish recommended by Smith+Fletcher, which I did not try).

Notes for actually doing it:

* Parking: obvious place is
GPS approx latitude/longitude (N46.520 E12.019) - [ map ]

with a well-maintained hiking trail starting NE behind the restaurant. (alternate parking lower at (N46.520 E12.028), but then it's less obvious how to start hiking)

* No maintained trail to start of VF. The nice trail meets a dirt road, then turn right (East) on the road past some old buildings and the base of a broad gully. If look carefully and the sunlight direction is favorable can see lower cables of VF on the cliffs to R of gully. Anyway where the road curved sharp right (N46.525 E12.026) and down, I left the road, crossed a little creek, and climbed NorthEast, up a steep rocky slope to start of VF.

* I suggest putting on Via Ferrata kit already at the dirt road, because the terrain at bottom of VF is sloping dirt, not good for more than one person.

VF Brigata Tridentina (or Pisciadu klettersteig)


see also report from three years ago | map

posted to Andrew's VF website:

Sharon felt she was ready to try her biggest Italian VF route so far, so we drove to Brigata Tridentina on Friday morning and had a great time on it. Lucky to have few other parties on the route (early season mid-week). Couple of things we tried different . . .

* We skipped the first low section, and took the 666A and 27A hiking trails to the start of the second section -- because we weren't sure what Sharon's speed and endurance were going to be. Turned out the 666A trail was steep + strenuous, not much fun. Afterward looking at our GPS with barometric altimeter, the data track said we had actually hiked higher on the 666A trail than the start of the second VF section, before the 277A + 27 trails descended on the traverse eastward. So next time for sure we'd just climb the first VF section: less work, more fun.

(Anyway we then found that Sharon's climbing speed + endurance were plenty enough for VF Brigata Tridentina)

* Sharon finished her descent hike by taking the 666 trail to Passo Gardena / Groednerjoch - (instead of the usual 666A direct descent to the VF parking). She tries to avoid the knee-pounding impact of steep descents (because a year ago after one VF in Italy, one of her knees hurt for six months afterward). Afterward she said that the trail to Passo Gardena had some interesting variety, and though there was a steep-ish downhill at the end, it was on a fairly smooth trail. My role in this was to endure the usual final steep descent on the 666A to the VF parking, then drive the car up to Passo Gardena to meet her, which worked fine. (I suspect this finish could also be used to finish the "scenic" descent into the Val di Mesdi)

VF Piz da Lech (or Boeseekofel klettersteig)


see also report from three years ago | map

posted to Andrew's VF website:

Sharon and I did this one from the Corvara lifts. Not as much climbing on it as I thought I  remembered from a couple year  ago - (maybe I've been doing too many bigger ones recently) - but still some interesting sequences.

Seemed not-well-protected. Sharon agreed. In the sense that, although the steel cable is there, sometimes it's a longer distance down to the last cable anchor point than on many other VF routes in the Dolomites -- including at least one of the sections steeper with harder climbing moves.

VF Masare + VF Rotwand (or VF Roda di Vael)


posted to Andrew's VF website:

I did these two routes yesterday in the Rosengarten / Catinaccio group. They've been well-described + photographed already by Andrew, but I tried some things differently, so I'll add some details from a different perspective.

First, I took the Paolina lift up + down, which saved some work (and allowed me to make a later start). Trail between Rifugio Roda di Vael and the lift top station around south side of ridge by way of the Chr Memorial statue was in pretty good condition and mostly not steep.

Second I connected to the north end of the two routes at the V____ pass by hiking around the west side of the Rotwand / Roda di Vael mountain (instead of by the south + east sides) -- so I had a bigger hiking loop - (and didn't get to see the Rifugio Roda di Vael (Rotwandhtte) until later, near the end of my day.

Vertical: From checking my GPS afterward, it seemed that if I had only done the VF Masare route (instead of both), and used the Paolina lift, I would have only had to walk down around 600 vertical meters in my day (instead of the much higher amounts reported by some guidebooks). Also much of that vertical was on good trails not-so-steepish. Since the Masare route is more interesting than the other, this could be a valuable option for those who like to avoid knee-pounding down-walking.

Direction: At least 80% of the people out on that mid-week pre-season day did the Masare route in the North-to-South direction. Not the South-to-North direction described in at least one German-language and one English-language guidebook.

To my amusement, the English-language kind of hinted that people who enjoy climbing might do better N-to-S, but then suggested that it should be simpler to "go with the flow" of the popular traffic, and so described the route in the supposedly more popular way -- an attempt at self-fulfilling prophecy? -- except that on my day the prophecy was remarkably unfulfilled.

Each party that I was able to talk to about it was well aware that they had a choice, and felt their selection of N-to-S was surely superior. Also, when I got to the Rifugio Roda di Vael, the big diagram on the wall of the hut clearly said that N-to-S for Masare was their recommended direction. (My own opinion having done it only one way was that I doubt it makes much difference)

Anyway, apart from the best direction for VF Masare, I came away very convinced that the other route VF Roda di Vael / Rotwand goes better in the N-to-S, because then you get to do the rock scrambling uphill and the hiking downhill.

Amusing incident: There was a trail sign missing on the west side of the Fensterturm, so there were three German-speaking parties and me all confused about which way to go -- and after like twenty minutes of discussions and exploratory attempts and staring at guidebook diagrams -- eventually figured it out. The critical point to learn for me is that between the short northern section of Masare (that connects with VF Roda di Vael / Rotwand) and the longer southern (threading towers along the ridge) there is a big down-and-up on steep-ish grassy slopes. (If you do only VF Masare from Rifugio Roda di Vael / Rotwandhuette in the N-to-S direction and take the less-steep ascent approach, this is not an issue).

further thoughts:

VF Masare is a interesting + pretty via ferrate route at its difficulty level, with lots of great views both on the hiking approach and the route. Whenever the climbing gets near vertical, iron rungs and spikes are provided to give sufficient hand- and foot-holds, though the exposure should be thrilling to someone not accustomed to it. And just because the iron aids are provided does not mean that the moves are not interesting to figure out, and require some strengh to execute. Also some nice scrambling on good rock in the N-to-S direction.

VF Rotwand / Roda di Vael is basically a rock-scramble up the north ridge of a higher peak. The steel cable helps with navigation and to give confidence and as an available hand-rail, but mostly not necessary for the actual climbing. Rock is a somewhat loose in lower section, gets firmer higher up (if stay on the route). Note that the obvious descent to the southeast starts as hiking trail near the summit, but lower down has some steep + serious via ferrata sections.

GPS latitude/longitude (approx):

  • parking for Paolina lift : (N46.407 E11.592) - [ map ]

  • top of Paolina lift : (N46.416 E11.615)

  • Rifugio Roda di Vael / Rotwandhutte : (N46.420 E11.630)

  • N end of VF Rotwand / Roda di Vael : (N46.429 E11.619)

  • summit of high peak Rotwand / Roda di Vael: (N46.426 E11.620)

  • connection between VF Roda di Vael + VF Masare : (N46.423 E11.622)

  • junction of VF Masare with less-steep northerly approach up from Rifugio Roda di Vael : (N46.422 E11.624)

  • S end of VF Masare : (N46.417 E11.623)

VF Trincee / Mesola

11june - [ map ]

posted to Andrew's VF website:

Today I climbed VF Trincee / Mesola -- sort of between Arabba+Pordio and Lago Fedaia + Marmolada (lat/long N46.473 E11.874) -- with lots of time viewing from the ridge crest in both directions -- and no snow got in my way.

Lucky for me the lifts there will not start running until next weekend (like those on Tofana), so it was reasonably uncrowded so I could take my time working out the moves my own way.

Fortunately I checked the German-language guidebook, since they had a much better idea than the English-language guidebook for how to approach it without using the lift -- by hiking up from the south by the west end of Lago di Fedaia (GPS lat/long N46.464 E11.862): less vertical ascent and less horizontal distance. Seemed like everybody I met or saw had done it that way (so I guess some Italian guidebook must also recommend it).

One thing that surprised me was how much of the climbing was in the downward direction. The other was how much walking there was on a grassy ridge (with great views) -- and how many short steep-ish dirty downward sections there were on that also. At last I reached the second tunnel, which was indeed long and had branches to explore -- and be confused by (headlamp/torch really is necessary) -- but it's a long walk to get there.

So I finished by walking sough down to near the east end of Lago di Fedaia (N46.455 E11.886), then on the closed road along the south side of the lake back to the parking.

Overall a satisfying outing on a pretty sunny day.

further thoughts:

I was kind of sick of all the steep-ish downward hiking on the ridge while I was doing it (not knowing if it would ever end), but once I was back down to the car, those memories faded, and I was happy feeling the memories of the big views - (whether I needed anywhere near that much of that ridge walking in order to feel that happiness, I doubt).

For technical climbing free directly on rock, seemed like more of this (and perhaps more interesting) in the descent sections.

I sometimes do down-climbing on top-rope for practice, but after a while it felt like way more than I needed to attempt free in one day. Unless you really enjoy down-climbing, likely better to just plan on aiding much of it grabbing the cable like Batman - (but then there's much less reason to choose this VF route for reason of free climbing).

The rock is very coarse-grained volcanic conglomerate, not the usual limestone-like Dolomites stuff. Interesting in a single-day dose.

I would not say that the placement of the cable-anchors made the free climbing well-protected in all sections -- which might be a deterrent to attempting some of them free.

I did the climbing all free with hands and feet directly on the rock except:

  • a two-move sequence low on the first section: both the hand- and foot-holds seemed very slopy and small. I'll guess it goes free at French 6b or more if rock shoes are worn - (I was wearing approach shoes with climbing-rubber soles, nice for general friction, but not so good for smearing on small stuff).

  • bridging move higher on the first section. I felt I had the move worked out, but there was a steel spike about 40 cm below my crotch, so the "exposure" felt too much for me to do it. Seemed I guess like French sport grade 5a or 5b (not more than 5c?).

  • at least one of the down-climb parts on the second section was just too sustained steep for me, so I grabbed the cable.

Further thoughts on free climbing on this route:

  • best to choose a day in early or late season, when the lift is not running (to keep the traffic down) -- or at least not on a weekend day.

  • keep in mind you're likely to be rushed -- either by other Via Ferrata climbers waiting (since the crux is right at the start) or your partners if they're not much into free rock climbing. So either have a clever strategy for being there at an hour when no one else is, or be prepared to work out a short 7a+ sequence pretty quick.

  • if really want to go for a full free ascent of first section, consider bringing real rock-climbing shoes.
    (and perhaps a lump of styrofoam padding to glue over that steel spike further up)


VF - via ferrata / klettersteig in Austria + Germany

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