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It’s dawn . . . strange for someone who usually attacks when the sun has already warmed the air, but this time is different. On the one hand there’s the speed of the well-bolted 6b, but on the other hand there are 17 much more difficult pitches.

It’s cold, and to make the first pitch of 7a+ even more exciting, there’s also a slight layer of dampness. This time I find myself in a fine predicament. I’m on the other side, the side of someone who trusts his leader but knows he has to go up there too, with traverses that are crumbling a bit and bolts that are — considering the difficulties — “spacious,” as Omar describes them.

I put on my lightweight down jacket and look up. My feet are well anchored on the flat horizontal gravel, and I would still have time to escape, but I could never do that to my partners or to myself. The wall above me is wonderful, a yellow-white upside-down staircase with ominous black streaks. For a moment the morning sun brightly illuminates the north face of the Cima Ovest di Lavaredo, and Omar is now in that narrow slice of light that changes the mood, but it will be brief; in a moment we will sink back into the shadow of the north walls. The route established by Christoph Hainz is a work of art. It frees a terrible overhanging wall following an intelligent and logical sequence that incorporates the most vulnerable points, but this means the ascent is a succession of traverses that translates into a long distance, as well as frightening the unfortunate second.

At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, Omar and I are on the circular ledge under the summit. I’m satisfied, and even though I’m not used to being a passenger, I have to say that with an outstanding pilot the trip was exciting. Sara and Mauro arrive a bit later. Sara and Omar freed the entire climb, and I’ve finally seen a genuinely difficult route up close.

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Cima Ovest di Lavaredo, 2973 m

North Face

Alpenliebe Christoph Hainz and Kurt Astner, August 1998


General notes

Spectacular climb on one of the most overhanging walls in the Alps and in the world, bolted expertly by the South Tyrolian alpine guides Christoph Hainz and Kurt Astner. The difficulties are constant, and a retreat after the sixth pitch becomes problematic due to the traverses that follow one another in order to find the logic on the wall, and the continuous and steep overhang. Recommended for climbers accustomed to at least 8a.

Difficulty: up to 7c

Time: 10–15 hours

Climbing distance: 550 m

Equipment: standard climbing gear and small and medium friends Attack


From the parking lot of Rifugio Auronzo go to Rifugio Lavaredo, and from there you quickly reach Forcella Lavaredo. Now you follow a trail that skirts the large walls to the north. After passing Cima Grande, head to a long ledge at the base of the left part of the north face of Cima Ovest. Follow this ledge, which leads comfortably to the attack, approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes from the parking lot.

1) Go up a few meters toward the right and then vertically to the belay. The pitch is difficult right from the start, both because you are cold and because the rock is often damp and slippery. (40 m up to 7a)

2) Climb first straight and then slightly to the right. This pitch requires stamina. (30 m 6c+)

3) Another challenging pitch that moves slightly to the right, less technical but requiring endurance. (45 m 7a)

4) Short and less difficult, this vertical pitch takes you under an enormous roof, where you belay. (20 m 6a+)

5) Moving first to the left and then to the right, you avoid the large ceiling and belay above, a stop shared with the Couzy route (40 m 6c+ and 7a)

6) A challenging pitch toward the right, with difficult and unprotected sequences near the end. Watch the friction of the ropes. (45 m 7b)

7) Move straight to an overhang that you avoid to the left. You belay above. (30 m 7a)

8) A beautiful, technical pitch with a tricky passage on a slab with small holds. (40 m 7b+)

9) Crux pitch traversing toward the right, with an overhanging section on rock that is not good. Here you feel like you are leaving the yellow, but beyond a rib you realize that the overhanging wall is not finished. (40 m 7c)

10) Now the wall provides a moment of respite, at least psychologically. The rock is better, and less overhanging, but there are only 4 hard-to-find bolts on 40 meters, and the difficulty is not trivial. You climb the yellow wall vertically, with a few deviations to find the weak points, and belay under a long gray roof. (40 m 6c)

11) Traverse carefully toward the left to where the roof offers a few holds. Climb it and belay just above. (15 m 6c+)

12-13-14) Three vertical pitches that are not difficult but are almost unprotected. Small and medium friends are useful. (130 m 6a/6a+)

15) From the belay keep to the left of the obvious crack. (50 m 6b+)

16-17) The final problem, a small boulder of 6c+, and then easy ramps that take you to the large ledge below the summit.


Descent from Cima Ovest di Lavaredo

The descent from the Cima Ovest is neither easy nor quick and allows for various interpretations. It requires at least an hour — a bit more if you climb to the top. Follow the circular ledge to the left (east) to a chimney couloir that you climb down (possible to rappel, many cairns and red signs).

Descend toward the right (southwest), through short couloirs with debris and small exposed walls. More debris and small ramps with cairns everywhere, war remains, and a thick wedged-in pole (many variations are possible). To the left you enter the couloir again and, passing a large hole dug during the war, continue down to the scree.

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