Looking up to the Cinque Torri
Torre Grande - we climbed it via the sunlit face
We're climbing a pinnacle called Torre Grande, part of the Cinque Torri group in the Dolomites. Despite the sun it's absolutely freezing. Cold, in the mountains, in December - who knew? Rich reaches the belay. Have you given me the fucking crux pitch, he asks, and I smirk and hand him the rack. He traverses along a footrail to a weakness in the looming overhang, stuffs in some gear, grunts and struggles his way up shiny crap holds and disappears from view.
Rich tackling the crux pitch
The climbing is pretty much easy to the top now. We swing leads up blocky ground and slabs, one tricky move that I shamelessly dog on a rusty old peg. What happened to the guy who was jollying up E1s all summer, who's this fat tosser who can barely climb stairs without gasping for breath?
Nice easy pitch for me
Following slabby ground to the summit
We soon reach the awesomely exposed summit, a small flat plateau surrounded by sheer drops on all sides. After taking some photos we begin the first of three abseils down the other side of the tower to reach the bottom again. It's still early in the day so we decide to tackle another pinnacle while we're here.
On top of Torre Grande
Rich carefully abseiling down chossy shite
We decide to have a go at Torre Lusy, one of the smaller pinnacles that we should be able to get up before the daylight runs out. We climb it in 3 long pitches, mostly following an arête with the odd detour across the adjacent face. Once again I find it nails. Not just physically but mentally, I've been out of the trad game too long, and I'm struggling to commit to moves above gear.
We climbed Torre Lusy via the obvious arête
Me leading pitch 2
Suffering horrendous rope drag higher up
We reach the summit as the light starts to go, and make a completely wild free hanging abseil down an overhanging face. I lower myself over the edge, trying not to think about the ropes sawing and grinding against the sharp rock.
Summit of Torre Lusy, with an awesome looking peak looming in the distance
Back at the car we eat pasta then bed down for the night. I listen to Rich snore and contemplate smothering him with a pillow. The next day we go for the south face of the Lagazuoi Piccolo, aiming for a 9 or so pitch trad route that goes straight up the massive wall. The first pitch is the crux and this time it's my lead. I follow a long corner crack, steady with loads of gear, 'til I'm perched on tip-toes on top of a narrow spike and staring in horror at the bloody hard move between me and the belay. After several abortive goes I finally manage to grovel my way up a series of rubbish holds, slobbering with terror as I crank on a loose block that nearly detaches, almost sends me plummeting back down again. It feels UK 5a at least, but then I'm crap right now so fuck knows...
Easy cracks on pitch 2
The climbing is fairly sustained but fortunately never as hard as that one move. Rich leads a crack system to a funky cave belay then I get the best pitch of the route - traversing out of the cave to a corner crack, then following massive holds across a super exposed hanging slab, an exquisite sea of rock. I enjoy it so much I even forget to feel weak and scared.
Belay in the cave
The headwall of the south face
Bastard chimney crack thing
The view from the top of the route
On the descent
We're both feeling a bit more comfortable with the rock and climbing style now, so we decide to step up the difficulty a bit. There's a super classic route that climbs a jagged arête up a peak called Torre Piccola di Falzarego. Every pitch is brilliant. Rich leads up a sustained bridging corner then, after getting lost and fannying around for an hour, I climb a vague crack system that eventually leads into a good old chimney, which I wedge and curse my way up. The rock is so polished I can hardly look at it in sunlight, but the gear's good enough that I'm not too bothered.
Rich on the corner of pitch 1
The glorious final arête
Brilliant exposed climbing
We reach the summit just as the sun dips behind another mountain and the temperature rapidly drops. Two abseils take us into the descent gully, which we skid and scramble our way down by headtorch.