A New “Bellavista” in my Climbing Career
Our human capacity to push past suffering through sheer motivation and willingness to bite piercing pain ceases to amaze me.
I experienced the peak of my exposures to epic adventures August 12.
My plan to climb a hard multipitch route in the Dolomites, Italy was born from an Adidas dinner-table discussion between Reinhold Messner and me. December, 2011, we are sitting at a fancy restaurant and Messner ecstatically flips the wine menu over and draws a pen from his pocket. Enthusiastically he maps out the Tre Cime Oveste peak and stars a section at the quarter-mark up the mountain and notes “roof.” Messner, aware of the physically and mentally taxing project completed by Alexander Huber, drew me to a new project. Two routes stem from this picture that he drew- one pitch going left from the “roof” is Bellavista, graded 8c, and one going right is Panaroma, graded 8c(+).
In 2012 my calendar quickly filled with events, competitions, and outdoor aspirations. Going to the Dolomites kept being pushed to the wayside due to convenience, weather, and circling my comfort zone.
I also knew that trying these routes would be a unique task for me. Both juxtapose physically difficult climbing with technical and big wall exposure elements.
I have done very few multipitch routes. Climbing in The Dolomites is a feat itself for multipitch climbing. The region is composed of piercing limestone cliff faces. The rock has striking streaks of black down sheer yellow-white faces. It also breaks. A lot. Rock avalanches are common, and subsequently helicopter rescues are just as common.
Climbing in The Dolomites is a balance between balletic technique and maintaining as many delicate points on the wall as possible incase the stone you are holding with your hand or stepping on peels off. The more points, the more likely you are to stay on the wall when your hold does not.
The approach to the grand roof on Tre Cime Oveste requires this style of climbing, but then quickly transforms into a style of powerful endurance.
Kicking back to a steep angle, the wall is right in your face. Its immensity is unavoidable. The climbing is intimidating and exposed. Climbing with a jumar and trax is important because otherwise there is no way to return to the wall after falling. And the way down is not close. The rope will not reach the ground from a belay.
Originally, I posted The Dolomites, Italy, in my calendar for June. Then, the weather remained wet and cold so the route was seeping from the snow.
I went to Spain then South Africa. Then, I returned to the US for a week to visit the North American RedBull headquarters, the OR Show, and to compete in the Psicobloc Competition. Directly after the competition, I flew to Europe.
August is my last free month of summer break before class starts again in NYC. Therefore, it was perfect for me to travel to the Dolomites to try the project.
Lately I am really motivated to fuse physical challenges with testing my mental limits. I have been excited to explore new terrain- unique projects like first ascents and to have more experience big wall climbing. This type of climbing requires me to push myself to realize what is possible- to explore new test pieces and to maybe accomplish what has not been done by women, or in certain cases, anyone, before.
I flew from SLC, Utah to Munich, Germany August 3. I met Edu Marin when I arrived at the airport, August 4, then we rented a car and drove to Italy.
August 5, we climbed a 3,000-meter wall that had no particularly hard pitches, but that was extremely exposed and had a lot of traditional pitches. We arrived at the top late and it was really dark and difficult to find a place to repel. By the time we found it, repelled through the dark, and hiked back to the cabin where we were staying, it was already 230am. We thought that this would be the most epic adventure we could have.
The next day we hiked around the mountain, then drove to Tre Cime. Originally, we planned to climb some other big walls on Tre Cime Oveste before trying Bellavista. However, when we got to the wall and looked up at the stunning, intimidating wall that towered above us, we thought why not just go all in from the start.
We decided to try Bellavista first because our friend Dani Moreno tried Panaroma and told us that some of the holds broke and the route is quite reachy now. Bellavista and Panaroma share the same beginning but then split at the harder pitches. Bellavista traverses left and Panaroma traverses right. Then, they meet back up after two pitches and both continue to the top of the mountain.
We had enough gear with us to try the first few pitches of Bellavista. There are five pitches until the first “8c” pitch of Bellavista. The pitches are 7b-6a+-6a+-7a-7a+. We decided to link the five pitches into two pitches because we had a long enough rope to set up just two different anchors. The first day, we climbed these pitches and then came down at the anchor before the hardest pitch of the route.
The next day, we returned and each tried the 6th pitch, “8c,” once. If you fall on the route, you have to jumar back up to the wall. Therefore, trying the route requires a lot of effort. The falls are intimidating and exposed. My first try, I definitely knew that I mentally had to relax more. I was over-gripping and nervous to fall off the pitons into a huge gap of air. However, if I didn’t accept the possibility of taking a big fall, there would be no way to try to send the route.
The next day we rested, then the following day the weather was bad so we went sport climbing in Erto, just south of Tre Cime, closer to Auronzo. In Erto, I onsighted several routes including “Muveive” and “Pole Position,” 8a+ (5.13c). We went swimming in the lake and relaxed in Cortina. Sport climbing all of a sudden felt so much easier after Big Wall Climbing! Safe falls on bolts and the only equipment you need is shoes, harness, chalk, a belay device, draws and a rope!
Though, after trying Bellavista two days before, we were more psyched than before to return to try it. The route is exhilarating. It is not only beautiful, (it is called “Bellavista!”) but it is also challenging, exposed, and a full adventure.
Our third day on the route (August 11), we both tried the hardest pitch again. I did the hardest pitch of Bellavista my first try that day, so it took me two tries in total. I lowered down the static rope, and then jumared back up to the belay station and belayed Edu. After two tries Edu sent the pitch as well. “Que equipo fuerte!”
We then continued to the next pitch, the “8a” pitch. I flashed the route and then Edu sent the route his second try. We repelled to the ground and were incredibly excited. Bellavista was certainly possible in our minds. “All” we had left to do were the subsequent easy pitches to the top of Tre Cime Oveste. Of course, this seemed easy in our minds. However, what I didn’t realize is that after the 8a pitch, you are only about ¼ the way up the wall. The peak is at 2,973 meters. Tre Cime Oveste towers over the Dolomites mountain range. To send the route, we needed to be at the peak!
We hiked back to Refugio Auronzo with the plan to go for the send the next day. Alarm set, we were physically tired but psyched and ready to go for the send the next morning.
August 12 (the next day) we hiked back to the base of Bellavista to go for the send. The rock was cold and humid. Climbing felt much harder due to the wet rock. Though, my mind was set on the finish. I really wanted to continue.
Edu tried the hardest pitch first, but slipped off. He lowered and warned me that it was wet. I tried it, slipped, and pulled up back to the rock to chalk up the crux. I still wanted to go for the send. I knew it was possible. After trying the crux again and finding a new intermediate where before I had to do a bit of a blind-jump, I lowered and rested about 5 minutes, then lead for the wet-climb send.
I had to fight to send the route the second time more than the day before but when I got to the anchor, I was exhilarated. The hardest portion of the route was complete!
Edu, bleeding all over on his hands, lowered on the fixed static rope (fixed between the anchors of the 8c and the 8a) to the middle, then jumarred up to the anchor before the 8a to belay me free climbing the next pitch. I sent the 8a, then Edu jumarred up to the next anchor. Edu warned me that it was going to be a long journey to the top and we were running a little late, but I naively thought that it couldn’t be a problem. We just had easy pitches in front of us. Well, while they were easier, there were still more than 12 of them left…
We climbed fast, sending every pitch and linking routes together to move quicker. Climbing in the Dolomites though, you need to be careful because the rock is very delicate. Sometimes it feels like every other hold you grab breaks off.
About 200 feet from the top a big storm thundered through the valley and rain drenched us.
Climbing slower through the storm, we finally arrived to the top about 9pm. It was dark and difficult to see through an overwhelming amount of surrounding clouds and pouring rain.
After looking around for the place to head down the mountain and failing to find it, I realized that I had some battery left on my phone and cell service. We called Alex Huber (the first ascensionist of the route and climbing legend) and asked him how to get down. He told us that it was a difficult trail and dangerous trail down and recommended we sleep at the top.
We were so wet and cold. Standing in the howling wind at the top, we thought this was crazy. Surviving the night at the top in our condition sounded like a feat in itself. Though, after searching for another two hours for the way down, we realized that Alex was right. Every way we walked, we faced a perpetual dark drop off the side of the tower. Down climbing was perilous because the rock is so fragile and we could only see what was in front of us through the light from our headlamps.
Exhausted from the long day and the mental battle, we dozed off for about two hours shivering on a rock. At about 530am, morning dawn lit up the mountain and we optimistically continued the search down. We were frozen and tired. A warm shower, sleeping bag, and hot cappuccino sounded like heaven.
After about two hours, we were back in Refugio Auronzo. Each shower is 5 euros and lasts about 5 minutes. I bought three showers!
Climbing Bellavista opened a new door of possibility for me. Edu taught me how to use a lot of new big-wall gear, I realized the capacity of human suffering is without boundaries, and we accomplished a long-time dream of mine. We also did all of this much sooner than I anticipated!
Now we have ten days left in Europe. Tomorrow we will take some more photos on Bellavista, then try Panaroma and climb some other big walls in the Dolomites. August 24 I fly home and then start my second year of University! This summer has been amazing
For more on Sasha’s blog, please click here.