26 Aug 2016

Kasnapoff Route (V, 10 pitches)

Steve, Ever and I climbed the Kasnapoff Route on the Second Sella Tower. I drove down to their campground on the south side of the Sella Pass the night before, after an exciting day of climbing on the Alpspitze with Barbara. I’d wanted to climb the Kasnapoff ever since Danno, Garon and I climbed the Vinatzer Route on the 3rd Sella Tower in July, 2009. From that route, we had a fantastic view across and down to the many climbers on the Kasnapoff. It looked quite hard…a continuous vertical endeavor just left of the towers edge, and thus, perpetually in shade.

After the forgettable first pitch, things got interesting: an entrancing vertical journey up cracks and small edges. Protection was sparse but adequate, I suppose. Steve and Ever kept me on the sharp end for the whole climb, which was great for me (I’m a notorious lead hog!). Belays were cramped, and escaping for the next pitch involved climbing over or under smiling friends. A Swiss couple was behind us, but we traveled at a similar pace so we weren’t slowing them down (too much, anyway!).

Ever was funny, she used every opportunity to take photos, many of which were selfies. She knows how to center herself in her world! It was so much fun to climb with the two of them, such a happy couple. And since I’d been climbing with Barbara just the day before, I didn’t feel the slightest bit jealous of their cuddly companionship: I had it too…

As we entered the middle of the route, our two topos diverged. Mine, from Mauro Bernardi’s excellent guide to Gröden climbing suggested that after following an easy ramp up and left, you should go straight up on grade IV terrain at near-constant difficulty to near the end of the route at the sunny ridgetop. But Steve’s new RockFax guidebook (I have some pictures in this book!) opted for a harder variation. It’s pitch 4) advocated going “up a few meters to a peg then traverse right on good rock (thread) to a stance by a yellow shattered niche.” (Grade V).

Well, I was feeling frisky and a harder variation definitely appealed to me! At this location (corresponding to the middle of pitch 5) in Bernardi’s topo), I traversed right on sparse holds, definitely hoping I was on the right track! I was very aware of Steve ad Ever directly below me, talking softly. After about 3 meters, I found a piton and clipped it rather gratefully. Whew! A few more moves reached the small stance.

We watched as the Swiss couple made the traverse. Oh, I should add that continuing straight up as the Bernardi guide advocates was made less tempting because it looked quite wet. There is no better way to send climbers on a harder variant than dripping water in cracks! Who knows, it might have been fine, and it seems that the routes diverge foe at least four pitches. One should certainly return for the variant. Because the route was pretty empty today, we didn’t see anyone over there as time passed.

The guidebook describes the next pitch quite well:

“V+, 30 meters. From the niche, move up and right to a peg, and pull through a bulge on a hidden side-pull, then move right for 1 meter onto the arete. Climb a shallow corner-crack – smooth and tricky at first then easier – and continue to easier ground and a stance on a large grassy ledge.”

Ha! What they describe as a bulge felt more like a bone-fide overhang. But it was fun. The corner crack was spectaculer, and a somehow American variant to the climb. Our Swiss friends opted for a steep face of edges and little protection above the bulge.

The crack intimidated me at first, but thanks to the huge array of cams Steve had given me, I was able to really sew it up. By the end as it got easier, I felt silly for placing so much gear. Anyway, the crack was good for hands.

For pitch 6 we chose the first of three variations. Climbing a shattered chimney through rotten yellow rock (brief), then left and up for 40 meters to a niche on the arete (Grade V). A last long and steep pitch (Grade V-, 40 meters) of the shady north-facing style of most of the route led to a small stance on the arete. Then a long and sunny climb (IV-, 50 meters) reached a sandy and sunny notch on the crest where I belayed my charges from behind a big block.

The final pitches were concerned with scrambling up beautiful edges and corners in the sun, taking many pictures and watching the paragliders over the Marmolada.

What a fantastic climb. In a year where I’d done very little, it restored my confidence We descended, making an abseil or two, then scrambling for a long time down steep corners and cracks.

We went out for excellent pizza in Canazei. What a fantastic day, huge thanks to Steve, Ever and the spirit of these deeply beautiful mountains!