Monthly Archives: September 2019

Are we there yet?

19th September 2019

Piz da Lech

Pete as the oldest member of the team commands the respect he is due…. But if he asks me one more time how long its going to take to get somewhere he’s going to be abandoned to the Bears.

Pete and Chris relaxed on Piz da Lech

So Piz Da Lech was the unanimous choice for the final days Via Ferrata given our somewhat misadventure on the first day. I had a few moments where my unbridled enthusiasm got the better of me (wanting to go for Giovanni Lipella a beast of a mountain near Punta Anna) and I sulked for a bit. But to be fair Piz de Lech was the right choice. A nice short walk in after a couple of chair lifts (Pete is no longer a chair lift virgin) and a steady walk off, with just a little sting in the tail.

Now its steep. The ladders on Piz da Lech

Sited above Cortina, its a brilliant route. Good steep climbing on fairly good quality rock, a little polished in places, but mostly excellent. Straight forward to climb free as well, which always adds a bit of spice. This coupled with some stunning views off the top made for the perfect end to the trip. And once again those startling blue skies which dogged us for the whole trip.

A hug for the top of Tomaselli

And now Tony and Pete can class themselves as hardened VF veterans. Two high altitude VF’s, a gorge and dealing with traffic on our first outing. This coupled with ‘the adventure’ of our first day made for a memorable trip. Chris of course took the whole trip in his stride. I can see many more outings coming up for the two of us.

We need to do them ALL! Oops there goes the over excitment again 🙂

20b or not 20b? That is the question…

18th September 2019

Via Ferrata Tomaselli

So this was to be a redemption of sorts. Lets get it right this time courtesy of ‘Rockfax’. So after spending the evening studying the correct way to get on Tomaselli we manufactured a brilliant day out.

Now thats high!

Tomaselli was on a different level to the other VF’s we’d done so far. High altitude, steep with huge exposure. Yee Ha! It was great. I think for Tony and Pete this put everything in its place. From the beginning it is difficult. The walk in is on an exposed path leading up to a plateau. From here it just opens out. A short traverse leads to an airy nose and then it just heads up with Lagusoi valley opening up below. The people are tiny, as I tried to explain to a worried looking Pete. Who promptly told me to F~#k off! Nice.

The gang just before the main stuff on TOMASELLI

The steepness is maintained right to a wild airy slab at the end. Pete’s slightly unsteady hand in my video gave an indication of how much fun he was having; or not. Joking aside, these routes have an air of seriousness to them. You’re at high altitude and escape is always problematic if the weather closes in. Not that we had that problem. But that’s why they are worth doing. To complete a Tomaselli is a real feather in your cap. No pain no gain as they say.

Top of Tomaselli

So how do you find Tomaselli? Now there’s the rub! There’s two routes to the start. The first drops down the main valley to the left of the massive spine of Lagazuoi. The gulley looks impentrable, but a path angles across it and then switch backs up to the platform. Or… you can go around to the other side by bearing right at the signs in the dip and come up from there. Our way down the valley side had some quite exposed traverses with no cables, but not dangerous. Just scary.

Interestingly, Tomaselli has a downwards via ferrata to come off. I think some people used this to come up. It is probably easier, but I wouldn’t want to descend the main route and the ascent of the scree before you hit the wire to gain this section of VF would have been tortuous. One its against the traffic and two its probably not as enjoyable.

Weary after Tomaselli which stands as the main pillar behind Pete

The walk back to the gondola this time was a lot more enjoyable and we got to cap it off with a beer at the cafe by the station. Pete didn’t get his cake, but hey, we’d just done Tomaselli! What more do you want? We descended by the Lagazuoi tunnels, which were just as long as I remembered but offer a great chance to understand a bit more about why the ferratas are there. You cant help but wonder how it really was for the brave souls who saw action in these claustrophobic rat runs.

And we finished with Pizza, so not a bad day really.

I shit on your Death Gully

16th September 2019

Punta Sud from the wrong direction

So this should have been a exciting and dramatic start to our adventure in the Dolomites. With a full blue sky day almost guaranteed and a fantastic Via Ferrata in Tomaselli the destination what could go wrong. Or in our immortal team moto, “Whats the worst that could happen”. Well it did!

This is what happens when you combine over exuberance, with unfounded assumptions and poor decision making. Access to Tomaselli should in theory be straight forward. Get the Lagazuoi cable car and then follow the signs for the Via Ferrata on path 20b. We even had a map to complement the cicerone guide. So how did we miss the right fork and end up dropping the entire length of the valley before realising we’d gone wrong.

Then the second mistake. Instead of returning and finding the correct start I recommended coming at the ferrata from the ridge of Cima Scotoni, described as an exposed walk into the Tomaselli VF. The map showed a route in and in hindsight (always reliable 🙂 ) it probably was ok, but once again we made an assumption which was ill founded.

We set off up the very steep pass of Forcella di Lech and then branched off up towards Cima Scotoni. The track is marked by Red and White flags and is a treacherous ascent up a scree filled valley which goes on and on and on and on finally reaching a flag on a blocky outcrop. From here the flags seemed to stop suggesting the very steep gully to our right was the way. Incorrect assumption number two. Logic had it that if we cut the ridge of Cima Scotoni then we’d pick up the ridge path and be able to follow this back to Punta Sud and then Tomaselli.

But having reached the top of the very loose, fragile and snow filled gully we were presented with two teetering piles of choss on either side. I tried a sortie to get on the ridge but everything moved and given this was Pete and Tony first foray into the mountains it was no a clever idea to get us stuck on the crest of a dangerous ridge. Also I had no gear and only a 10m rope.

Only one course of action…. retreat. “Whats the worst that could happen” out the window and rightly so as this was only going to end in disaster if we continued to pursue our current course. Pete’s remark of the fact it was only 1pm was right, but its easy to forget the scale of these peaks and even if we had found the correct ridge it would have meant completing the walk into Tomaselli and descent in 6 hrs. Sounds a lot, but we’d have missed the Cable car and it would have been a staggeringly long day.

As it was it turned into a feat of endurance. What an introduction for Pete and Tony! So it was back down Death Gully (after me and Pete both marked our territory), a scree down the main path with everyone adopting interesting techniques for skiing on scree. And then the awful slog back up to the Cable Car which never got any closer. Not sure what we would have done if we missed it, but we scraped onto the last one with a huge look of relief from the crew.

So these kind of days are a testament to what adventures in the mountains are like. No pain, no gain. Despite not achieving our goal, we had an epic mountain day. Massively tiring, but we went to places we will never go to again (hopefully). Well done on Tony and Pete for persevering – not that they had much choice.

Very much in keeping with Rule 4