Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The incredible Fish

The summer has arrived and this year it brings plenty of free time to climb! After discovering Grenoble and its local climbing scene earlier this year, I was keen to bring some people over to Slovenia. I always wonder how other people might think about the climbing here. I am obviously biased to like it, but since getting to know our mountains a little bit in the past years, I think there is particularities that one finds nowhere else. On the other hand, it's true that our Alps are a pile of choss compared to some places in Italy and France. So I lured Mathieu into Slovenia by promising him the best of what we've got (according to my humble opinion) and then a short trip to the Dolomites as well... and all the trauma of chossy Slovenian rock was forgotten when we got to climb on Marmolada south face and on it the mythical Fish, La via attraverso il pesce or Weg durch den Fisch.

First off we warmed up by doing Metropolis in Triglav North Face and Črni biser in Travnik the next day. Those were some routes I wanted to do for a while. Especially Travnik was quite a long day, but I knew it would be good preparation for some big routes in the Dolomites.

the traverse pitch in Metropolis

the good stuff

climbing in Travnik

tired from Slovenian beer, still managed to send  Ritem v zraku!

 Arriving to the Dolomites, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo popped up on the horizon so we decided to start there. We did Das Phantom der Zinne on Cima Grande which is a bit of a modern hard classic. The Cima Grande north face is steep, at times overhanging, and the route is equipped with enough bolts to make the climbing flow fast, while staying exciting with some run-outs and athletic moves on positive holds. Quite a climbing treat! The first taste of dolomite rock left us hungry for more, little did we know how stunned we'd be by Marmolada!

the Tre Cime di Lavaredo

žganci for power the night before :)

under the Cima Grande, cold fingers in the morning

the first pitch on Das Phantom

product placement

yehooo! high off the ground!

the amazing view from the summit of Cima Grande (shot with my phone :O)

We were a bit intimidated by doing Il Pesce so we took extra care to make sure we'd be fast enough to climb it in a day. The day started at 4 AM at Rifugio Falier. At 6 AM we were blasting through the lower easy pitches. By now the Fish has become a classic so route-finding is made simpler by following vague traces of polished rock. Soon enough we were in the crux pitches around the characteristic fish-shaped niche, grinning from ear to ear. The rock quality and the itinerary are simply outstanding. It's like one took Ceuse and stretched it out into one 500m slab of grey limestone (plus 400m above the mid-way ledge). The climbing is super technical on tiny holds and some run-outs between gear, but rock is completely solid so one can pull on small holds with confidence.

It is 40 years since the first ascent of this mythical route and I guess it was regarded as groundbreaking for the amount of free-climbing necessary between pieces of gear (or even sky hooks). There are no bolts on the route except a few in the lower, easy part. It is amazing to consider this achievement nowadays! Some sections look truly improbable and only after careful inspection one finds passage.

We climbed by swinging leads and managed to onsight everything until I popped off a tricky 7a section while following Mathieu, right before the end of difficulties. I started from the jug but didn't repeat the whole pitch. It was definitely not good style, and I admit I was quite nervous about taking too long or taking some rain (there was some rain in the forecast). Eventually we topped out at 6 PM and even a failed onsight couldn't spoil my satisfaction. During the week of climbing together our efficiency improved and it was a pleasure to go fast on such a big route.
quick change of clothes for Mathieu. no, we were not THAT scared... it was just warm in the sun

perfect climbing on Specchio di Sara

'Parete de l'Argento', the Silver face... south face of Marmolada

cruising through a sea of gray on the Fish

tricky moves right before the belay

kind of ecstatic on the top!

...still with some descent to go

We are much, much obliged to the Slovenian alpinist camp (organized by KA PZS) for the good company, useful information and logistic support. I was a bit lost in the Dolomites since it was my first time and you helped us a lot (the second time already, hehe).

routes climbed (all onsight and swinging leads unless otherwise stated):
Metropolis, Triglav
Črni biser, Travnik
Das Phantom der Zinne, 7c+, Cima grande
Specchio di Sara, 7c (up to the halfway ledge, we didn't redpoint the two hard pitches)
The Fish (swinging leads, as mentioned above I missed one pitch)

oh and to put everything in perspective, 9 years ago The Fish was done in free-solo... gulp

I hope to climb on Marmolada again soon. It just looks like there's so much good stuff to do...