Saturday, July 25, 2009


Our second outing in the Dolomites has been to the Rosengarten region, a much more touristic spot with easier access. We spent two nights at the Vajolet refuge, accessed with a 45-minute walk, and there is even a road going there as well for the privileged few.

Anyway, the first day we tried the Steger route on Punta Emma, another 15-minute access from the refuge. It was pleasant except for a very scary 10-meters of pure decomposed dolomite fun that Cathy successfully lead and I successfully fell from due to braking holds. Below is Cathy following a fine slab pitch on the top of the climb, with the refuge below:

Our second objective has been a little bit more serious - another Steger route climbed in the 1920s (yes, we are advancing from 1915 to 1920...) up the impressive Rosengarten Spitze - face in the first picture of this post. Our route is a 600-meter wonder that runs through the middle of that face. We started early, and were climbing by 6 am. Below myself somewhere in the middle of the long long climb:
Below is Cathy following the awesome second before last pitch:
It all went according to plan and by 2 pm we sumitted, by 4 back to the refuge, a sweet place with manageable prices (12eur/night) but not that good food.
Finally, here is the dream - the south face of Marmolada as seen in the distance from the top of Rosengartenspitze, waiting for the future ascents:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dolomiti de Brenta

This is my fourth time in the Dolomites, rambling to some new places in this amazing range I keep coming back to. It has been 3 years I have not visited it, and it is still there, as always beatiful and as discomposed. The trip started slowly with bad weather forecast that kept us first in Lecco, and than in Arco for a couple of days eating, drinking coffee and shopping. Arco looks very nice, a rock paradise, - view of Garda lake below:

However, it has been a 30-degree heat wave in Northern Italy, with countless mosquitoes around the lakes - i counted 20 bites on my knee... - and than storm and countless...snails! How unpleasant it can be to wake up in a tent with snails crawling over your face, only experience can tell! And after the storm mountains looked rather unappealing:

Anyway, we gathered our motivation and courage together and went up to the Brenta group, a short drive from Arco with a big change in temperatures. We decided to start with Campanille Basso, our first objective. It is a very impressive summit (which looks even better from the Northern side):

We walked all the way to the Pedrotti hut in 3 long hours. Carring only gear and no tent, sleeping bag etc. made this approach seem a strall in comparison to the Maladeta one last week. The approach was snowy, but the views after the storm amazing. Crozzon di Brenta is the tower on the right of the below picture, with an 800m route of the guides....

We started with the Preuss route, soloed (up and down) in 1915 by 25-year-old Preuss (who died shortly after, at 27). We got to it following the Normal route - a little bit of ambience with ice helped us forget the numerous parties and the easy, loose climbing:

The Preuss route is a 5-pitch variation to reach the top of the Campanille Basso on pretty good rock. We gaped at the audace of Preuss in 1915, incredible feat. The summit was pleasant, hot and comfy:

The descent was also very pleasant, a couple of raps and a via ferrata quickly leading to the refuge. Partly due to this descent we decided to do another route on Campanille, hezitaing between a harder Graffer and an easier Fehrmann. Finally when arriving at the base there was already a party of 5 Catalans at the base of Graffer, we thus happily went with the easier option, Fehrmann. Here are the Spaniards at the start, with the impressive wall of the Crozzon behind them:

We went our way and the route proved very good - not overly hard, but it boasted 3 very good 60-meter pitches of sutained 5 climbing placing gear and admiring the views. Cathy following one of the good pitches, just as we came into the sun:

Unfortunately, sun abandoned us an hour after its appearance, and we had to finish the route in complete mist. It is fun climbing in the cloud, especially with the warming thought of the known descent and the close-by refuge. We saw another party of Italians rapping after a try on the Maestro route, and we did not hear anymore from the Spanish - the mystery remains if they managed to do a good job of the route finding on Graffer. Below is Cathy following one of the numerous misty pitches:

We finished the route quickly and made it to the hut in time for dinner - barley soup, shnitzel, and apple cake - gotta love Italian refuges! Today, we went down back to civilization. What next?

Monday, July 13, 2009

5 Books of the Year

My first year of serious studying is slowly but surely coming to its close. It has been productive and intellectually challenging. My brain needed the exercise, some math, some econometrics, some economics - and a lot of reading. My favorite books of this year:

Fukuyama "End of History or the Last Man"
Hirschman "Passions and Interests"
Thompson "Organizations in Action"
Murmann "Knowledge and Competitive Advantage"
Barnard "Funcions of the Executive"

and some more, from the other land:

Marjane Satrapi "Persipolis"
Art Spiegelman "Maus"
Vargas Llosa "Paraiso en la Otra Esquina"
Orhan Pamuk "Black Book"
Salman Rushdie "Shalimar the Clown"

May the next year begin!

Maladeta, Cara Sur

Finally I have gotten back to the mountains, the dear old, forgotten ones, the ones that always remain, waiting in peace and freezing indifference for the lost traveler in need of a breath of fresh air from their tops and cold reflection from their lakes.

The proposition was to do a mix of two routes, the Directa and Territorio Comanche, with Oriol, the guru of Maladeta. As usual, it all started with the hike, a painful ordeal in its own right. Surprisingly there even are some crazy tourists that want to go up to the Cregüeña lake, and then just come down...Maybe because of the views - for instance below:

It is one of the biggest alpine lakes in the Pyrennees, and it appears at you straight out of the morraine, abandoned there to eternity by the disappearing glaciers. That is where the hungry and tired climbers find a flat spot to camp and look at the walls around.

Next day is the D-Day, although it is cold and still shady, we go up, up and up, breathless and already tired, forgetting the camera, fetching the camera, moving slowly, one step after another. But the rock is calling, the smell is in the air, attack it we will! It all starts with the rimaye, the usual problems and intricate route finding with one pair of crampons, some experience, some wits - and there we are, playing on the rock and going up. Oriol follows the second pitch, life is coming back and the sun brings back warmth and determination:

The next pitch stops us for a while. While i wonder around the horizon and watch two other crazy Basques follow our footsteps, Oriol fights the 3d pitch of 6b, which will actually become 2 pitches of 6a+ (protection R) and 6b+. When the pitons come out, I wake up a little and start paying attention to the belaying job - although how can one, sitting on this huge ledge and tanning in the summer sun! Despite some grumbling, cussing, and mental struggle, the pitches go, Oriol gets his free ascent, and I get the next two pitches - awesome intricate 6a following a dihedral, and then the cherry on the pie - cool crack climbing, as I like them, from fun off-width to overhanging fist jams to finish in the sky. Last pitch before the summit:

Smell of the mountains stays with me, what a good day!!!