5 days to go, and no M11’s around… So what do we do? Change clothes, get the espresso maker going in the car park and start driving to the Dolomites in search of some hard mixed climbing. I only managed to do about 4hrs drive, and I thought it was good going after having woken up at 5.30am, climbed 200mts of Wi6 and walk in and out for about 2hrs, all in the same day! We found a roadside hotel in Verona and called it a day.
Our destination was an obscure little mixed crag in Dobbiaco, South Tyrol, Italy. Apparently it packed a few quality routes put up by local legend Kurt Astner, and telling by the photo-topo, it did look promising indeed. We drove from Verona into the Dolomites and I had a jolly old time as I remembered my weekends spend in these mountains 10 years ago when I lived here. The irony is that I was still driving a Fiat Panda now like in the old days, haven’t I moved on in my career to afford something better? Apparently not. So we took the turn off and drove down the Val de Landro and there she was, a beautiful cave with ice daggers and curtains hanging all over it, bingo! We walked up it and readily got geared up and ran up an M9 called “Silent Memories”. Feeling tired from the drive and “Repentance”, we called it a active rest day and drove back to Dobbiaco to find the youth hostel.
Topping out Fly in the wind, M10+
We were using as a reference an article written by Scott Muir, who paid a visit to the crag in 2005 to try and repeat the hard lines. In that article he rated “Fly in the wind” M10+, “Mix Isch Fix, another M10+, and “La via e bella” M11. But rather than grades, we choose the line that was most inspiring to start getting psyched, and that was “Fly in the wind”. Starts on a ice pillar, up some ice slabs and then straight for a horizontal roof to join the hanging curtain, pure awesomeness. So I went up first, working out the moves all the way to the top. Then Kris had a go, also working the moves. On my next go I thought I might as well give it everything, so after a lot of embarrassing power-screaming I managed to swing on the ice-curtain and bagged the route. Kris took another couple of attempts but also successfully topped out.
The goal for this trip was to climb our proper first M11 after all, so we decided that next we ought to have a go at “La via e bella”. We studied the topo and we couldn’t tell where exactly the route went. I went up to have a look and I couldn’t figure out exactly what line of bolts it was, but one thing was for sure that whatever option it was, it didn’t touch ice. We didn’t come here for drytooling! It made us think that the more hard mixed climbing we do, the more apparent it is that above a certain grade, there’s no ice involved, as ice is considered the “rest”. So therefore can’t be any harder than a certain grade, and that seems to be around M10+.
Having seen local legend Kurt Astner the previous day cruising up “Mix isch fix”, we decided that was the best looking line left to do. Scott Muir also said in his article that it was a “hard” M10+ since some holds broke since the first ascents. Once I started working the route, it became apparent that it was a total sandbag and nails for an M10+. Nonetheless I was really psyched for the line and so I started putting the hard work into figuring out the moves. The route starts on rock, then on to icy cracks and then onto a free-hanging ice dagger, where you can rest. From here it is all systems go, but a lot of the holds are iced-up cracks, but on a horizontal roof and figure-of-4 fest all the way. Over two days I had 5 attempts, the most I’ve spend on a mixed or drytooling route recently, it definitely felt harder than M10+. Even if feeling a bit deflated that I wasn’t gonna be able to claim the M11 grade, I still gave it all and sent the route.
With this ascent I realised that sport mixed climbing is such an obscure discipline that there’s not enough people repeating the routes to arrive at a consensus on grades. So despite coming home without the trophy, it’s been a great trip fully packed with challenge and adventure.
Enjoying the steep ground.