the mountains with the real experts



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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