Campanile Basso di Lastei, Pala Group
(8c max; 8a obb.; 200 mt)
by Ale Zeni
In my life, as in my vertical adventures, I’ve always sought out a path that’s entirely my own and sustained only by my imagination, something that could really challenge me and that would come from deep within. I’m made in such a way that I’ve never wanted to take the easy road but instead follow the route that requires an extra degree of commitment, tenacity, and sacrifice. I still remember when I started climbing, I slowly took my first steps on the crags down in the valley, and winding above was that route with the name that was already a bit frightening: Cani Morti (“Dead Dogs”).
Hidden up there like a rampion in the rocks, among my beloved Pale di San Martino, emerged what would become the most difficult route in these mountains. A route created back in 2004, it was the inspiration of my friend Riccardo “Sky” Scarian, who, together with Maurizio Zanolla, discovered and freed it. A few years later, in 2007, Mario Prinoth, a strong climber from Val di Fassa, completed the first repeat, but after him nothing more ... For 13 years Cani Morti fell into a silent hibernation. In those years I would never have thought I’d be able to climb a route like that, but as often happens, like a drop of water that falls and then slowly turns into a raging river, my experience and my skills gradually improved, until I found myself up there at the base of that imposing rock wall. It was my friend Sky who convinced me to go and give it a try. I still remember how his eyes shone as he told about that adventure and those days spent taking long falls while attempting that difficult obligatory sequence. When he talked to me about it, he also told me about his project from back then, still unfinished, which was to combine the first pitch of 8b+ with the second of 8a/+. Right from the start, I found this idea very exciting, a “handover” coming directly from a great friend and master. But for a route like this it’s not easy to find someone willing to accompany you; 1,300 meters of elevation gain and two and a half hours of walking are a lot even for the most trusted of squires. And then if the first pitch is already the most difficult, everything becomes even more complicated.
Until one day I met Alessandro “Bobo” Rudatis, a taciturn mountaineer, one of those people with whom you feel at ease, who has a simple lifestyle and doesn’t spend his days on social media but who demonstrates extraordinary class and determination when he’s on the wall. Teaming up with him on this adventure definitely gave me an extra push to do my best. So we went to try the route together, and for the first two days I concentrated on combining the first two pitches while Bobo focused on the first pitch. Maybe in part because of my characteristics, I immediately found that obligatory sequence very hard, but fortunately my body quickly adapted to this physical and not very congenial style of climbing, and on the second day on the wall I already felt that things were going much better. Now the idea of being able to combine the first two pitches into one became a bit more tangible.
Then came August 26. After the terrible heat of the previous days, the air felt like September. Already on the approach I felt good, full of energy, and when we reached the top, where those lush meadows gave way to the bare rock, I looked around. A breathtaking view awaited us, a backdrop of mountains that seemed to embrace us, but I didn’t know the names of many of them. I asked Bobo if he could identify them for me, and starting from the right, he told me all the names in one breath. I immediately understood that for him, as it was for me, all this was not just a bunch of scattered peaks, but a kind of second home where he had spent much of his life and that had forged his character and shaped him into person he was. We looked at them for a few more moments and then went on, toward the north wall of the Campanile Basso di Lastei. We reached the base with a very specific plan in mind: only one attempt each and then on to see the next pitches. If we ever managed to return in the future, it would be good to know what awaited us then in order not to jeopardize the free climb.
Bobo started, but that awful obligatory sequence blocked him, even though he climbed up to that point with extreme agility. After Bobo’s first attempt it was my turn — make it or break it! I tied my shoes and looked up at the four bolts of the first pitch. I started with determination and felt that something had changed inside me. The beautiful energy I’d felt that day flowed through my veins, and almost without realizing it I completed the obligatory sequence and managed to reach the belay for the first pitch. The feeling of happiness was immense, but the challenge was far from over because, as I had planned, I would have to continue to the second pitch. This linkage, as Sky had told me, was actually very logical because when you reach that belay, positioned in the middle of the overhang, you can’t recover much, and after shaking my arms for a moment I was forced to carry on, far from rested! That continuation on the second pitch was in fact a real fight against fatigue, which at certain moments made me think I wouldn’t make it, but fortunately it ended well. I reached the belay, and with a liberating shout I passed the rope for this incredible pitch. I really didn’t expect to be able to do it that day, so I then found myself climbing on pitches that were completely unknown. From that moment on Bobo proved to be a truly exceptional climbing partner, supporting me in everything. The positive energy he transmitted to me allowed me to climb the next pitch of 8a clean on the first attempt — a truly beautiful pitch on Verdon-style rock. Riding the wave of the moment, I euphorically climbed the next two pitches of 7b and 6c+. When we reached the top, cold gusts of wind whipped violently, leaving us just enough time for a high five before starting the series of exposed rappels over the void down to the base of the wall. Cani Morti Plus had become a reality!
We descended to the valley under a warm late-afternoon sun and reached the bar. With a good beer in front of me, I looked again at the peak of the Campanile Basso di Lastei — still lit by the last rays — that I had finally been able to touch. I reviewed these three days. Everything had gone by so fast! But those moments spent in good company had given true meaning to all this; once again I had found my way. So I come to the end of this story that, above all, I hope will be an inspiration one day to some other young mountaineer, to someone who, like me right now, pursues dreams more than grades, and that passion pushes them to hike up there to experience their own beautiful adventure.
My sincerest congratulations to the two first ascensionists of this route, which in addition to being beautiful was created with truly rigorous ethics. For me, beyond being an excellent testing ground, it was also a great example of how to develop a route in a way that respects the mountain even while using bolts. A heartfelt thanks also to the legendary Alessandro “Bobo” Rudatis for sharing this unforgettable experience with me, for the long falls made before I succeeded, for the valuable support and the many laughs that accompanied those days up there, in the hope of being able to embark on many more adventures together in the future. Finally, to give an indication of this new climb, speaking purely of difficulty, I think linking the first pitch of 8b+ with the second of 8a+ results in a pitch of 8c — as always, awaiting the confirmation of willing repeaters.