Tofana, First Pillar (V+)
The morning after our big adventure in the Wilder Kaiser we were tired and dehydrated. It looked like the day would be another scorcher in Austria so we decided to abandon plans of another big climb there and head on down to the Dolomites. A rest day was essential! We hiked down to the car, then took a bath in the freezing cold Kaisertalbach. I only did it because Jesse did. Painful…but eventually quite refreshing. On the way down to Cortina we hydrated and got a pizza lunch in a deserted Bressanone. Gelato too, of course.
In Cortina we found a pension on the road heading north, about 10 minutes walk from downtown. I think it was 30 euros a night. During our stay we piggybacked wifi off some neighbors. This was extremely handy as we tried to figure out some rather unsettled weather. It was raining when we arrived.
On the whole, our weather forecasts for the week were not great. Usually the day would start out clear but rain or thundershowers would always come later. This left us unwilling to hop on anything really big. The next day (Monday) was forecast to be clear until mid or late afternoon. We figured that would give us enough time to knock off the classic First Pillar of Tofana di Rozes. “Klein aber fein,” is the German expression for this route (small but nice): 14 pitches to grade V+ (about 5.8 on the Yosemite scale). The year before I had climbed the ridge of the bigger Second Pillar, but this was on the todo list for a long time.
We got some take out pizza and watched the soccer final on tv. Jesse succeeded in pushing our start time back to 5 am. I, a picture of paranoia, wanted to get started an hour earlier. Without risk of spoiling the story, I can say it worked out exactly perfect. We fell asleep before the overtime minutes were done (ha!).
The hike in the morning just took at hour. We had double ropes and a moderate sized rack with us. Jesse started up the rather dark and dubious looking first pitch. By the next pitch, amorphous features harded into a dihedral that offered nice and sustained climbing. Pitch three was the supposed crux at V+, and it was fairly stout. Jesse crabbed up to an overhang in the dihedral and scooted around with some lieback and hand jamming moves. A raft of dubious pitons protected the moves, but I believe he got a good #2.5 Friend in somewhere in there. Two more unremarkable pitches got us to the crest, then exposed easy moves right on the crest led to a horizontal traverse onto the east face. The views from this point became incredible, enhanced by sun and blue sky.
Some more traversing and moderate climbing on the east side of the ridge crest got us to a rubble-strewn terrace. On the second pitch we had seen a guide and a client come up and get started on the first pitch. Now we realized they had definitely bailed. A few clouds were gathering.
The next pitch was fairly exciting, being quite polished for some reason. I had to negotiate a kind of stalactite hanging down over the crack I followed. It pushed me out into some lieback moves until I could squeeze back into the now-wider crack…kind of a chimney at this point. I enjoyed that pitch!
Some more pitches followed, though our attention was consumed by deteriorating weather. Jesse had an interesting pitch near the end when the clouds descended and the wind picked up. While he negotiated a short overhang with big holds and slabs above, I felt a few raindrops. He felt them too, and was in a hurry! Another long pitch got us to the end of the route, right below the summit of the massive buttress. Happily, the weather improved again, with the sun coming back out.
We enjoyed the walk down, admiring the ruins of an old hut and various war ammo dumps and gun emplacements. It started to rain as we approached the car, and suddenly let loose with a fury as we entered the Dibona Hut for some lunch. We’d timed everything perfectly! A big plate of spaghetti and some beer cheered us up. It was still early afternoon, and we were happy to have made it down in time! The guide and his client spoke to us, I guess they bailed because of worries over the weather. Jesse had me in stitches because he noticed that the guide’s van had a massive full color photo of himself climbing photogenically on it…long hair wafting in the breeze.
I’ve got more pictures in my Flickr gallery here.