The last episode of our multi-sport adventure holiday in the Dolomites was two days of rock climbing some of the classics in the area. As I do not yet lead rock, and Terry has never multi-pitched or climbed outside much, we decided to hire a guide for the two days.
Our guide was Gery Unterasinger, Austrian born but currently living and working in Canmore. We had such a fun time with Gery, climbing (he whistled his way up all the climbs!) and talking about everything from who we know in Canmore to the importance of a good cup of coffee.
We met Gery at the Cinque Torri chairlift outside of Cortina to catch the first ride up in the morning (9:00 am). The climbing area is just a short hike from the top of the chairlift, with two Rifugios nearby- the aptly named Cinque Torri and the Scoiattolo (squirrel), built in 1969 by the great Italian climber Lorenzo Lorenzi.
The Cinque Torri area is a climbers playground, with everything from difficult sport cragging to moderate multi-pitch trad routes. Even on the trad routes, almost all belay stations and rappels have fixed anchors. UK Climbing compiled a great list of all the climbs in the region.
We started the day with a couple of moderate but classic 4-5 pitch routes. I never actually got the names of the routes we climbed but I believe one was Finlandia and the other was the North Face of the Torre Barancio, with a thrilling 60 meter free rappel off the other side!
Dolomite rock is a form of limestone. I found it to be very polished, almost like marble, with weird holes similar to Hueco Tanks. You need to be careful where you place your feet or hands, as some of the more precarious holds tend to tear right off.
By later in the afternoon, Terry had decided he wasn't so keen on multi-pitch climbing after all. Instead we finished the day working up a severe pump with some hard (for me!) sport cragging. We literally had to run to catch the last chairlift down (5:00 pm sharp!), and celebrated the day with some pizza and beer.
As another day of multi-pitch climbing seemed to be out, we decided to spend the second day climbing one of the classic Via Ferratas in the area-The Pisciadu near the Passo Gardena. We brought no Via Ferrata gear with us, so Gery decided we could just as easily free climb the route short roped together.
The Via Ferrata was surprisingly fun and a great workout. You are constantly pushing or pulling yourself up on railings, cables, ladders, or rock, with some sections extremely vertical. We had fun climbing next to the Via Ferrata route in some sections that were just way to congested with scared looking Italians.
If you do decide to try the Pisciadu, make sure you actually climb to the top of the tower. A trail off to the right, just before you cross the hanging bridge, leads to the actual tower summit. You are rewarded at the top by amazing views and of course another Rifugio for some refreshments. The hike back down the other side is pretty much a never ending knee buster, so bring trekking poles if you have them.
The Dolomites are now firmly on my list of places to head back to for both rock climbing and ice climbing, as I guess the winters are pretty fabulous too.