Ken Roberts - - Climbing

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  • VF northeast Italy / Dolomites (11sep) : Punta Anna (Tofana) + Gerardo Sega + Che Guevara (near Arco + Lake Garda) + Monte Albano + Tabaretta (Ortler)

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VF - via ferrata in northeast Italy

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VF Punta Anna on Tofana

11sep - [ map ]

see also earlier report from last year

Sharon and I had a very fun time climbing this route on a blue-sky mid-week day, after sleeping the night before at Rifugio Pomedes near its bottom. Variety of interesting free-climbing moves and situations, sometimes directly on the ridge, sometimes on the face to one side. We did not go to the summit of Tofana di Mezzo, instead finished by hiking the trail down to the lift mid-station at Ra Valles and rode the lift down almost back to our car. My second time on VF Punta Anna, and I hope there's a third for me. (Lots more good details + photos about this route on Andrew's website.)

We parked the afternoon before by the restaurant . . .
Baita Pei Tofana parking - GPS approx latitude/longitude : (N46.5409 E12.0985) - [ map ] 
(a short ways from the Col Druschie lift station), hiked up to Rifugio Pomedes in time for dinner, met some interesting people. Breakfast next morning at 7:00, soon after we were hiking up in wonderful early morning light to the start of the cable. I did all the climbing "free" on VF Punta Anna except one steep section about two meters with no likely holds on smooth (? polished ?) rock where I grabbed the cable for aid. Sharon climbed some free and grabbed the cable for others. I had brought a short rope and some slings and carabiners, and used those to give her a secure belay from above in that most difficult section. (later there was another section where I sort of wished I had set up a belay for her, because watching from below it seemed it was tricky for her to re-clip the cable -- but she expressed no such wish before or after.) Then Sharon decided to stop after the top of the VF Punta Anna route, at the junction with the trail that descends toward Ra Valles and also to Rifugio Pomedes.

I continued climbing higher alone, thru the notorious exposed traverse around the side of Torre Aglio, and also to the summit of Torre Aglio. I made "free" moves with hands and feet directly on the rock for all that climbing, except for the actual ladder at one point on a ridge and for two meters in the climb up from the "wind gap" to the start of the traverse. Then I descended the same way (but grabbed the cable in descent so I could go faster) to rejoin Sharon waiting below at the trail junction.

Cable: Most of the steel cable is on the thin side (say much thinner than some of the cable sections in the Dachstein), but there's at least three sections on the VF Punta Anna route, then at least three more sections above that, where I think most people will need to grab and haul on the cable. And nowadays with some of the rock getting more polished from climber traffic: need to grab + pull harder on the cable. If in any doubt, wear gloves with significant thickness + good friction on the gripping surfaces. If the fingertips are cut off (as I prefer), make sure the remaining finger-coverage is adequate to protect the sections of fingers that need to grip against the cable.

Protection by cable: Though I'm not any sort of expert on this, I do think that the cable is plenty thick enough for protection -- the only question of thickness is for ease of grabbing for aid in upward climbing.

Skylotec: I suspect that the cable is thick enough to be compatible with a Skylotec Skyrider disk, but I did not use that disk on this route (because such a high percentage of the free climbing moves felt plenty secure enough for me), so I cannot be sure of the compatibility.

Parking + Approach hike options: Sharon and I parked at the end of the (freshly-paved) asphalt road at restaurant Baita Pie Tofana - at the base of the chairlift (and a short walk on the road from the Col Druschie gondola lifts, which we used for our descent, as suggested on Andrew's page). But the chairlift was not operating -- in fact there were no chairs mounted on the lift cable. So we decided to hike uptrail 405 -- but after 50 meters the trail disappeared. Higher up we found another _sign_ for trail 405, but it just directed us toward the wide ski slope -- rather steep and rather sustained with no rest spots. Finally we made it up to the Rifugio Duca d'Aosta, which is the base of the chairlift up to Rifugio Pomedes. This lift had actual chairs on its cables, but it was no longer operating in late afternoon. We saw that some cars had driven up the dirt road (I think this comes from way around from the Passo Falzarego main road, not from the Pie Tofana asphalt road). Next morning we saw lots more cars parked by Rifugio Duca d'Aosta, and the chairlift operating -- so I guess many via ferrata climbers now use this as a way to start VF Punta Anna. Anyway that afternoon . . .

To the left of the chairlift, we found the sign for trail 420 and hiked that (much easier than the steep ski trail) up to Rifugio Pomedes, made it in plenty of time for dinner -- slept there and got an earlier start onto the VF next morning.

Here's some ideas for optoins to consider:

(a) park at Baita Pei Tofana, hike up to the bottom of VF Punta Anna, then afterward ride the lift down to Col Druschie with a short walk down to the car.

(b) park somewhere near Col Druschie (e.g. perhaps at Baita Pei Tofana), ride the lift up to Ra Valles mid-station, then hike up a ways to trail junction, then down trail with cable sections to Rifugio Pomedes.

(c) park by Rifugio Dibona (the traditional "normal" approach), hike up  to the bottom of VF Punta Anna, then afterward use some combination of lifts and down-walking back to Rfg Pomedes, then down to Rfg Dibona (perhaps more walking than for parking by Rfg Duca d'Aosta). The road up to Rifugio has very narrow sections, perhaps rather tricky if a vehicle is coming in the other direction.

(d) park by Rifugio Duca d'Aosta (the traditional "normal" approach), ride chairlift up  to the bottom of VF Punta Anna, then afterward use some combination of lifts and down-walking back Rfg Pomedes and/or Rfg Duca d'Aosta. (I do not know anything about the difficulty or rules about driving to or parking at Rfg Duca d'Aosta.)

VF Gerardo Sega

11sep | GPX file

Somehow I just like the terrain around the east side of Monte Baldo near Lake Garda, even though it doesn't have the lake view and not as dramatic peaks or cliffs as other places in Italy. It's pleasant and peaceful and plenty pretty. The loop to do VF Gerargo Sega is mostly hiking, but much of the cable-protected section is under a giant rock overhang unlike other VF, and it features two long exposed (though not difficult) ledge traverses. There's also a few interesting climbing sections up higher. Two notably strenuous moves: one at the start, one at the end.

The hiking to reach start and the hiking to return from the top are both pleasant and pretty.

* Driving: Usually this route is reached by driving roughly west up Valle dei Molini from Avio near an exit on the autostrada A22. It can also be reached from the north from Mori and Brentonico, on scenic but sometimes very narrow asphalt roads - (hope for few encounters with cars - or trucks - coming in the other direction).

* Parking: Three main options: (a) near Madonna della Neve is most obvious, but requires the most driving; (b) near Pozza di Cola (? "Passo di Cola" ?), less driving but more more vertical; (c) low in Valle dei Molini, least driving up from Avio, but adds something 400 vertical meters of climbing + descending.

* Shuttles: An obvious way to cut the overall distance, and the vertical descent, is to start by Madonna della Neve and finish by Passo di Cola (and bridge the gap by one person hike, or bike, or second car). A way to cut vertical descent is start low in Valle dei Molini and hike up trail 652, then finish at Passo di Cola -- but that adds lots of vertical climbing over the other strategies (could bridge the gap by bike).

* Rain? Despite the giant overhang above, this is not a good route for when it might be wet, because: (a) part of the ledge-traverse sections extend out beyond the overhang; (b) higher up beyond the overhang there is at least one section pretty steep dirt trail required to exit the route.

GPS approx latitude/longitude

  • Madonna della Neve : (N45.7412 E10.8892)

  • road junction for Madonna della Neve : (N45.7392 E10.8876)
    Reasonable to park nearby and walk down then turn left off road to join trail 652

  • pass by junction with tr 661 : (N45.7352 E10.8889)
    Continue down on trail 652, follow red-white marks.

  • junction of tr 652 + tr 685 : (N45.7452 E10.8979)
    From here trail 685 makes a long traverse north / northeast (at first red-white marks, later red) to ...

  • alternate parking in Valle dei Molini very low on tr 652 : (N45.7477 E10.9144)

  • bottom of Via Ferrata : (N45.7528 E10.9052)
    Then later after finishing climbing the via ferrata cable sections, 685 continues, going west at first toward ...

  • junction of forest roads 685 and 653 : (N45.7545 E10.8982)
    While 685 continues a longer distance southwest down + up to Madonna della Neve, 653 goes north/northwest up to meet the main road at ...

  • Passo di Cola (or is it "Pozza di Cola") : (N45.7585 E10.8958)
    (could spot a bicycle here for an easier finish, but the longer continuation of 685 to Madonna della Neve is pleasant and pretty)

GPX file for my days in 2010 + 2011 exploring Gerardo Sega -- just a rough outline, not much detail, not much accuracy. 

VF Che Guevara

11sep | GPX file

Great views, and much of the route goes under dramatic cliffs -- but it was more hiking and less climbing than I expected. Also lots more loose rock than I like - (one falling stone hit my helmet). For those who want a steep and long hiking adventure to the top of a mountain -- with the “spice” of some exposed sections and climbing moves along the way, this could be a good choice.

But if looking (as I was) for a VF route near Arco with lots of interesting easy-moderate climbing on mostly sound rock: VF Che Guevara is not it.

* Parking: Official parking is in an industrial section of Pietramurata. If using trail 427 for the descent, then there are several options to the north along the way other than the official parking. (I parked at the “curves” place).

* Approach: Lots of signs to lead me flat thru an industrial section, then starting by a vineyard, hike up on trail marked by red dots. Trying to leave the red dots for a shortcut gets into a maze of unmarked + confusing tracks.

* Descent: Trail 427 to the north was mostly well-signed and mostly well-beaten -- but somehow I managed to lose it at a critical point. Note that the trail does not go much west or northwest, and makes a rather long traverse east before its main descent north down to the “curves” parking. (Consider "spotting" a bike at the "curves" parking to save time getting back down to start point).

(Two German-language guidebooks and one person I talked to agreed that the south-side descent is too steep and difficult, and one guidebook suggested that it might have been closed, but I didn't check it at all.)

* Alternate descent: The person I talked with a couple of years before who was most enthusiastic about this route had walked down west to Camano, then his party had arranged for a taxi to take them back to their parking on the east side.

I saw the sign for the top of the trail by the Don Zio hut, and I hiked part of the bottom section up from Camano. Seems pretty clear that the west side of the mountain is less steep than the other sides. I saw a dirt road going near the Don Zio hut, and saw someone who had ridden their bicycle up that road almost to the summit of Monte Casale.

* Climbing: Much of the climbing tends to be"slabby": Not many definite holds in the rock itself, more relying on friction (and grabbing the cable). But many of the slabby sections have steel rungs to use as easy holds. For free climbing directly on rock, the two problems I often found were: (a) The placement of the rungs relative to the cable limited the amount of rock available to use free; and (b) slabby friction is not my favorite for fun climbing. There were a few interesting free moves, but it was frustrating to get my hopes up to find more of them.

GPS approx latitude/longitude:

  • parking - official : (N46.0264 E10.9441)

  • start of driveway into industrial section : (N46.0283 E10.9442)
    (signs for trail “Croz dei Pini”)

  • key junction where approach trail goes uphill : (N46.0267 E10.9404)
    (Trail wanders, but keep following red dots.)

  • bottom of VF : (N46.0288 E10.9377)

  • viewpoint high on route : (N46.0270 E10.9287)

  • summit of Monte Casale : (N46.0315 E10.9275)

  • Rifugio Don Zio near summit : (N46.0300 E10.9245)
    (often not open weekdays, trail 427 descent starts going roughly north from here)

  • trail 427 turns right : (N46.0410 E10.9217)
    Makes long traverse southeast.

  • trail 427 turns left : (N46.0370 E10.9287)
    Goes roughly north down a long ways, then lower down goes roughly east to meet main west up from Sarche.

  • parking lot at “curves” on where trail 427 intersects the main road around north of mountain near Sarche : (N46.0444 E10.9427)

  • Trail turns south : (N46.0447 E10.9486)
    on dirt road back toward bottom of VF - (later with about 400 meters on the high-traffic main road) 

GPX file for my day on Che Guevara -- just a rough outline, not much detail, not much accuracy.


found VF Monte Albano closed


This is a popular strenuous “sport” via ferrata in Mori near Arco and Lake Garda. I went to check it out because it was low and warm enough not to be affected by the recent snowfall -- and I had a few hours left in the day after another VF route in the morning. There were notices in Italian down near the town which I didn't understand much, but walking up closer the start, I found a page in English (also German) posted, which said that an ordinance had taken effect in February 2011 that via ferrata Monte Albano was closed for “extraordinary maintenance”, and something that police could enforce the closure.

I hiked up and looked at the start of climb, rock was polished like I had heard. Two positive results for me: First I found there's some practice sport-climbing crags (“klettergarten”) near the church below the climb, with like 25-40 routes at sport difficulty 5c or more, and a few at 5a or less. Second there's a shorter (and steeper) approach to the church and VF Monte Albano.

GPS approx latitude/longitude:

  • sign for approach walk to VF much shorter + steeper : (N45.8546 E10.9822)

  • sign for approach walk to VF gentler + much longer : (N45.8557 E10.9695)

  • parking: there's no official parking place, but various opportunities along the streets roughly between those two signs.

  • church with nice view below start of VF climb : (N45.8559 E10.9804)

  • bottom of Via Ferrata : (N45.8583 E10.9809)

VF Tabaretta on the Ortler


I climbed the new Tabaretta via ferrata (German "klettersteig") in the Ortler group at Sulden (Solda) Italy. It's not in the Dolomites, but the snow-capped Ortler peak is almost 4000 meters high (by far the highest in northeast Italy), so you can see it from the Dolomites if you know what to look for. The VF route offered interesting free-climbing moves, some strenuous cable-hauling aid moves, great views (including glaciers and the north face alpine ice climb), straightforward access from lift and huts -- and lots of dirty ledges with loose rock.

No metal hardware on the rock for aid except the steel cable and the anchor pegs for attaching it to the rock. So you have to be fairly good at placing your feet on the rock in useful ways, otherwise your arms are going to get too tired to finish the route (unless you have the arms of Olympic gymnast).

Other than the easy scrambling sections, and two sections which I did completely with aid of hauling on the steel cable ... I thought the difficulty of many of the free-climbing moves was around French sport grade 5a to 5c, maybe some 6a or harder moves. Several times I interrupted my free-climbing for just a move or two to grab the cable, and felt that if I were a little better climber, or had a tighter belay that I had absolute confidence, I might have gotten the whole section climbing free.

I got there by driving to Sulden / Solda near the Stilfserjoch / Stelvio pass in Italy, and found
parking at the base of the Orso / Langenstein chairlift :
. GPS approx latitude/longitude : (N46.5260 E10.5860) - [ map ]

Chairlift started 8:30, I rode up to top, hiked trails 10/4a, then 4 to the rifugio Tabaretta hut (signs + trail easy to follow), then from the hut followed the "klettersteig" signs and trail (a bit exposed, not for wet or snowy weather) to the base of via ferrata. Climbed the VF route, then from the top neaded north along the ridge and soon reached rifugio Payer hut. Then hiked a good ways farther north down the ridge following trail 4. Then crossed to the east side of the ridge and descended trail 4. But instead of returning to the top of the chairlift on 4a, I decided to try continuing down on 4 -- until it became clear that it was not going to lead back to my car. So I traversed a ways on trail 9 until I saw the lift, then some other trails with lots of extra wandering finally back down to base of lift and my car. Lesson: Next time if I want to hike up + down without using the lift, do not park at the base of the lift - (instead figure out where is the bottom of trail 4).

Not sure what kind of rock it was, seemed different from the usual limestone around the eastern Alps. Many positive holds, some interesting cracks. Often a section of sound rock started with a small bulge to climb over. Higher up there were a couple of superb sections that I only wish were longer.

I was using a Skylotec Skyrider disk for most of my free climbing on that day, which made me feel more secure than a normal VF kit for trying difficult moves as free. All sections of cable had appropriate diameter for using the Skyrider disk (unlike some other recent VF routes).

One short section was very steep (perhaps overhanging) with no metal foothold aids and smooth low-friction rock, so the legs can do little to help -- very strenuous on the arms -- (perhaps the most strenuous short section of via ferrata in northeast Italy). Short leash ("cows tail") with carabiner attached to belay loop on harness is highly recommended.
So if you need to experience that sort of thing: Here it is. For myself I feel that's just "strenuous for strenuous' sake" (which does not interest me for Via Ferrara routes, I can find harder and better of that more conveniently at many indoor climbing gyms.) - but when the designer has constructed cable-protection for so many other interesting climbing moves on this route, I'll gladly endure this section so I can enjoy the others.

If you're good at blocking out the memory of loose rock in between the interesting climbing, and can handle some very strenuous sections, this VF has a lot going for it.
(Note that its top is over 3000 meters, so need to have a strategy for handling the altitude.)

This route is only a couple of years old, so not in any English-language guidebooks. For more info get the German-language guidebook, or check on or other VF websites.

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