Climbing in the Dolomites

Grande Fermeda - 2873m

South-eastern ridge

  • Mountain massif: Puez-Odle
  • Standard: IV+ (two sections), otherwise IV and (predominantly) III
  • Starting point: Col Raiser, which can be reached via gondola from S. Cristina in Val Gardena
  • Elevation change: access: 300 m, climbing route: 400 m
  • Duration:
    Col Raiser - access point: 1 hour
    Access point - Grande Fermeda: 3.5 hours
    Descent to the foot of the rock face: 2 hours
    Way back to Col Raiser: ¾ hour
  • Summary: very long but spectacular climbing tour with predominantly good rock, some spots are slightly crumbly. A sense of orientation is required due to complicated route finding!

Start at Col Raiser (2025m) and follow the waymarks across undulating pastures in the direction of Sass Rigais until you get to the south decline of Grande Fermeda. Turn left there and proceed on the path towards the eastern Fermeda gorge (between Odla de Cisles and Grande Fermeda) until you reach the access point at the foot of the south-east edge (terrific alpine flora!).

The route leads across grassy broken rock to the beginning of a deep groove which ascends slanting to the left. Through the groove, partly over blocks and up two short chimneys (sections grade III-, otherwise easier) to their ends where there is a reddish rock face. Now climb a slightly ascending traverse to the right (II and I) to a notch at which the normal route veers left. However, continue straight on, up short chimneys and stepped rock to a small notch at the south-east edge (to this point also along the original route as described in the AV [Alpine Association] guide, however, this route is not recommended since it leads across grassy and partly crumbly broken rock terrain).

Proceed across a crack (IV-) and subsequent broken rocks to a black cave. Climb left across a small ramp first and then right to a grey slab (III) which leads to the foot of a chimney/gully (III) ascending to the right. On the upper edge left to a short overhang, over this (III) to a crack and on to large overhangs, which can be bypassed by traversing right. Now up the wall (III+) to a wide notch, few metres’ descent and traverse to the left to a yellow wall. Fingery climbing over the slightly overhang wall (IV+, 1st crux) to a crack and move on to shortly before the SE-edge. To the left one pitch (1 section IV+, otherwise IV; 2nd crux) to a small notch, and 2 pitches to the highest point on the edge (initially III, then II). Short descent via a chimney to a very narrow ridge, which you have to climb over - extremely exposed - until you are under a wall flake.

Proceed, again descending a crack for a few metres (definitely not following the Alpine Association guide, climbing 40m down into the gorge, since it is brittle and prone to rockfall!), then exposed traverse (III+) to the foot of a chimney to the right of a yellow gendarme. Up through the chimney (IV-) to the notch above (beware of brittle rock!), where the normal route comes in from the left. Climb up left to a slab (II) to the ridge of the peak and closely to the right of it up to the ridge’s highest horns. Very narrow, airy traverse (“riding ridge”) to the Grande Fermeda peak.

From the peak via the ascent route to the mentioned notch above the chimney. Take the right turning there and follow a deep hidden gully to its base, while bypassing a blocking rock-step to the right (III-, otherwise II). Now climb down a few metres to an abseil piton and abseil the so-called “placca” (slab) down to a ledge. Zigzag down over ledges and grooves (II, most of the time easier, tracks), until you reach the traverse, where you left the normal route on the way up. Down the ascending route (2 fixed abseil points) to the access point and back to Col Raiser.

Five-finger peak - 2996m

Edge of the thumb, crossing

  • Mountain massif: Sassolungo Group
  • Standard: IV (1 pitch), IV- (partly), III+ (predominantly), otherwise III
  • Starting point: Sassolungo notch, which is approached via gondola from the Passo Sella refuge
  • Elevation change: climbing route: about 400m
  • Duration:
    Sassolungo notch - thumb edge - thumb: 2 hours
    thumb - thumb notch - forefinger - middle finger: 2 hours
    descent to Sassolungo notch: 1.5 hours
  • Summary: very popular, extremely rewarding and fine fun climb, very airy all the way up on perfect, solid rock with good holds. In lovely weather there might be queues with longer waiting periods!

Start ascending from the Toni-Demetz hut in the Sassolungo notch (2679m) in a traverse. In less than 5 minutes you will find yourself at the already visible access point in the fall line of the ridge between Dito di Dio (God’s finger) and thumb.

Steep and stepped ascent over the rock face (IV-) to a scree terrace. Over it (careful not to start any stones rolling!) to a groove which leads to the ridge between Dito di Dio and thumb over easy rock and scree. Leftwards over the ridge to a headwall. Climb this directly up the edge (sections IV-, otherwise III) and proceed with a short traverse leftwards to a small notch and few metres’ descent down a groove to another notch. Continue through a crack/chimney and you will reach the edge of the thumb. Now directly on the edge, at times slightly deviating to the left or right flank, 4 pitches (1 pitch IV, otherwise IV- and III+), partly very exposed, up to the peak of the thumb (2953m).

Climb down a bit to the abseil piton (II), then abseil twice to the thumb notch. Now directly over the wall (III+) to a crack which leads to the beginning of an extremely airy traverse. Move on leftwards to the edge, continue traversing for a bit and then climb upwards slanting to the left (III) until you reach the forefinger notch. Rightwards over stepped rock (III) to the forefinger (2980m) in few minutes. Climb down from the summit into the forefinger notch and steeply ascend (III+) to the visible rock window. To the left over a smooth wall section (III+), then without difficulty over stepped rock to the summit of the middle finger (2996m).

Climb down southwards from the summit a few metres, then abseil from the abseil piton through a chimney to the forefinger notch. Climb down slanting to the left to get to the edge of the forefinger and make the airy traverse on a narrow ledge to abseil piton. Abseil three times to the thumb notch, then climb down a few metres and proceed on a ledge slanting to the left until you reach an edge. Abseil twice over the slabs to a groove. Traverse the groove on the left to the so-called ball of the thumb. Zigzag down, then traverse leftwards to an abseil piton. Abseil three times as far as the scree slope at the Sassolungo notch and along tracks back to the Toni-Demetz hut.

Sassolungo - 3181m

Fassani Ledge, normal route

  • Mountain massif: Sassolungo
  • Group Standard: III+ (one section), III (several passages), otherwise II, furthermore glacier and couloir
  • Starting point: Sassolungo notch, which is approached via gondola from the Passo Sella refuge
  • Elevation change: approach: 100m; climbing route: about 650m
  • Duration:
    Sassolungo notch - Sassolungo glacier: 1.5 hours
    Glacier-Giuliani Bivouac: 2 hours bivouac
    Sassolungo summit: ½ hour
    Both descent and ascent: 3.5 hours
  • Summary: Fantastic but demanding and, in parts, airy tour with very long and complicated route finding in spectacular surroundings. Considerable stamina and high-alpine experience as well as a sense of orientation are required! Predominantly solid rock with good holds. Climbing route approximately 1,500m!

Descend from the Toni-Demetz hut in the Sassolungo notch (2679m) for about 10 minutes towards the Sassolungo hut, then right, crossing a snowfield or easy broken rock to the beginning of the obvious Fassani Ledge in the south-west wall of Sassolungo. To the left in a lot of ups and downs on the scree and broken rock ledge until it is interrupted by a vertical chimney.

Climb left of the chimney over steep rock steps (III, II) on good holds upwards to the continuation of the ledge and proceed along it until it ends at a horn. Keep to the right climbing 40m up the steep rock wall (II) to a notch. Now work your way along a 70m long, extremely exposed traverse on wire rope rightwards to a rock angle and over rock steps (III) up to a small notch. Another, easier traverse to scree terrrain above the Sassolungo glacier. Short descent to the glacier (about 2800m), which is crossed almost evenly.

Over talus on the left to the lower couloir and an about 120-metre steep ascent in ice (crampons required; rockfall hazard!) to the notch at the upper end (the couloir can also be avoided by climbing the rock ridge on its left: in parts fixed protection: iron rungs and wire rope; grades III, II and A0).

Few metres’ descent from the notch to the amphitheatre, a scree and rock basin (about 2930m) and rightwards over a short wall (III) to the broad main groove left to the obvious pyramid tower. Over the stepped rock (II) up the groove to the window notch and on leftwards until you reach Giuliani Bivouac (3100m) under the bivouac notch.

Short ascent to the notch and the pedestal of the Torre Rossa (red tower). A few metres to the right, then direct vertical ascent (crux, III+, about 15m) to the top of the Torre Rossa and past a crucifix with board to the southern buttress (3160m). Short descent rightwards into a notch, up to a high rise in the ridge whose highest point is bypassed on the left. Again several metres down to a further notch and finally over easy terrain up to the main peak of Sassolungo.

From the peak back to the Torre Rossa and from there abseil down to the bivouac. Climb down to the amphitheatre (abseiling is partly possible) and on to the notch above the lower couloir. Now either abseil the couloir (every 20m abseil pitons on the left wall) or bypass to right via the alternative route. From the glacier along the ascending route to the Fassani Ledge, on to the Sassolungo cirque, and finally up again to the Sassolungo notch.

I. Sella Tower - 2533m

South-east face, Kostner Route

  • Mountain massif: Sella Group
  • Standard: III+ (predominantly), partly also III and II
  • Starting point: Passo Sella, which can be approached on the roads from Canazei and Selva
  • Elevation change: approach: 150m, climbing route: 150m
  • Duration:
    Passo Sella - beginning of climb: ½ hour beginning of climb
    First Sella Tower: 1 hour
    Descent along the normal track: 1 hour
  • Summary: classic ascent through the so-called south wall chimneys of the First Sella Tower. Most of the time solid but rather polished rock and very slippery if it is wet. Instead of the direct (not very rewarding) descent along the normal track to Passo Sella, the crossing to the Second Sella Tower is recommended.

Start from Passo Sella (2240m) at the Hotel Maria along a good path across steep meadows, later on scree and broken rock terrain, shortly before the access point of the normal trail in the fall line of the notch between Piz Ciavazes and the Second Sella Tower. Leftwards on tracks to the beginning of the Kostner Route at the foot of the south pillar of the First Sella Tower.

First diagonally to the left over partly grassy rock steps until you get to a short chimney (III+) which leads to a stepped, about 20-m-high wall. Climb up the wall (II), and make a short rightward traverse to the beginning of a prominent series of chimneys. Through the chimneys, partly also on their boundary walls (III+ and III), to just under the south pillar summit. Over scree and grassy rock steps on the head and with a long straddle or jump across to the summit pyramid of the First Sella Tower. On steep crag (first III+, then easier) to the notch between the First and Second Sella Towers. Leftwards over scree and broken rock to the summit of the First Sella Tower.

From the summit back to the notch between the I and II Towers, then in a wide gully (sections II, mostly I and walking terrain) to a large wall basin in the fall line of the notch between the II Sella Tower and Piz Ciavazes. Go down in switchbacks and finish off over a steep ramp to the access point of the normal route. On the path back to Passo Sella.

II. Sella Tower - 2598m

South-west face, Kostner Dihedral

  • Mountain massif: Sella Group
  • Standard: IV- (several short sections), otherwise III+ and III
  • Starting point: Passo Sella, which can be approached on the roads from Canazei and Selva
  • Elevation change: to the First Sella Tower: 300m; climbing route: 100m
  • Duration:
    Passo Sella - First Sella Tower - access point: 1.75 hours
    Access point - Second Sella Tower: 1 hour
    Descent on the normal trail: 1 hour
  • Summary: very beautiful and rewarding climb with good and sustained rock. Instead of the direct (not very rewarding) descent along the normal trail to Passo Sella the crossing to the Third Sella Tower is recommended.

From Passo Sella via the Kostner Route (or another one of the numerous routes) to the summit of the First Sella Tower and over scree and broken rock to the notch between the First and Second Sella Towers.

Proceed from the notch over wall steps and a steep gully (III) to a short ledge which leads leftwards to the beginning of the prominent Kostner Dihedral. Now directly along the remarkably beautiful dihedral (some short passages IV-, otherwise III+) up to its upper end. Over rock steps (III) rightwards to a little notch and finally along the ridge much more easily to the summit of the Second Sella Tower.

From the summit over stepped rock down to a short chimney which is downclimbed (II). In a rock groove without difficulties towards the saddle between the Second Sella Tower and Piz Ciavazes. Now either traverse over to the saddle (for the crossing to the Third Sella Tower) or further down to a big wall basin in the fall line of the saddle. Proceed descending in switchbacks and finish off over a steep ramp to the access point of the normal route. On the trail back to Passo Sella.

III. Sella Tower - 2696m

South-west face, Jahnweg trail

  • Moutain massif: Sella Group
  • Standard: IV+ (one short section), mostly III+ and III
  • Starting point: Passo Sella, which can be approached on the roads from Canazei and Selva
  • Elevation change: to the Spiralband (spiral ledge): 300m; climbing route: 160m
  • Duration:
    Passo Sella - Spiralband - access point: 2 hours
    Access point - Jahnweg - Third Sella Tower: 1.5 hours
    Descent on the normal trail: 2 hours
  • Summary: varied and in parts very airy climb on good, if partly polished rock. The crux is smoothly polished! Can be ideally combined with the routes on the First and Second Sella Towers.

Start at Passo Sella (2240m) from the Hotel Maria Flora on a good path across steep meadows, later scree and broken rock terrain to the access point of the normal trail up to the First and Second Sella Towers in the fall line of the saddle between Piz Ciavazes and the II Sella Tower. Over a steep ramp (sections II, otherwise I) to a grassy rock basin. Through this ascending in switchbacks, and across not very difficult rock terrain to the saddle. This spot can also be reached from the summit of the Second Sella Tower.

A few metres northwards down to an abseil piton and abseil twice (10m and 20m) to a ledge. Traverse the gorge between the II and III Sella Towers on the partly roofed ledge rightwards until you get to the remarkable Spiralband (spiral ledge). Along it to the access point of the Jahnweg trail at the beginning of a prominent ramp, shortly before the ledge makes a sharp right turn (please note: due to the great danger of rockfall we strongly advise you not to take the “normal route” through the gorge between the II and III Sella Towers, as described in the AV [Alpine Association] guide!).

Over the steep crack/ramp 2 pitches (first III, then III+) up to a small pinnacle. Bypass it on the back side and move on to the left to a narrow ledge. Very airy traverse on the ledge, which soon becomes very narrow (III+), leftwards to a piton. There to the right over the steep rock face with good holds (III+, later III) two pitches up. Over a slab section rightwards to a chimney which leads to the stance under a crack ascending to the left. Now don’t proceed straight on, but via the crack (crux IV+, about 4 metres, fingery and smoothly polished rock) to the adjacent chimney. Through the chimney (II) to slabs ascending to the right and leading up to the summit plateau in two pitches. The Third Sella Tower is then reached over scree and broken rock.

From the summit on tracks towards Piz Ciavazes to an abseil piton. Abseil twice to a terrace. Now downclimb over rock steps (II) to the spiral ledge (red dots mark the easiest route). On the wide ledge to the gorge between the Second and the Third Sella Towers. Cross the gorge (please note: do not descend directly through the gorge as described in the AV [Alpine Association] guide, due to the great danger of rockfall!) and on along the partly roofed ledge to an abseil piton. Abseil several times until you reach the talus under the gorge. On tracks down to the path between the Via Ferrata delle Mésules/Pößnecker path and Passo Sella, and finally leftwards back to the starting point.