MM Collection
Dispatches from afar - the Alaska Range. Josh Terrell photo
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
Writing dispatches in camp on Kilimanjaro. Mark Gunlogson photo
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August 8, 2017

Highlights of The Italian Dolomites

Since the beginning, Mountain Madness has strived to provide personalized care for our guests.  As a result, we provide a lot of customized trips to destinations that no other company serves. For me, this is great, since I can offer our services on my favorite mountains, without compromising my motivation to go out there. After 20 years of climbing in many different mountain ranges around the world, and given my culinary background, I must say that one of my most joyful destinations is the Dolomites. When I was given the opportunity to put together a climbing trip to Europe, I had no doubts that this World Heritage site would make everybody happy!

Beautiful view across Marmolada, the highest range in the Dolomites at 3343 meters/10,968'. R. Taglinger photo

What’s a perfect climbing trip? I narrowed this down to three main ideas: efficiency in terms of climbing days vs traveling days, long aesthetic routes that reach real summits, and just as important, good food for the rest days. After running two trips this summer, I can say - and our guests can confirm - that we have achieved these goals! In these two trips, we reached 11 summits in 10 days!

One of the best parts of the Dolomites is the ability to change valleys; each place has its own weather, but all have high quality climbing objectives. The whole range is full of beautiful peaks, all of them easy to connect by car, so “plan b” is never a problem. We ran these two trips with the same initial itinerary, but along the way we adjusted the objectives. As an example, I want to contrast the Tofana di Rozes ascent that we did with our first group, with the ascent to the Grande Cima di Lavaredo. Both of them are long, multi-pitch routes through vertical limestone walls, abundant with holds, but graded differently. Considering that our two groups came from different climbing backgrounds, it was great to give them both the opportunity to send a route with big dimensions.

Jody on Sella Towers (first group). Joshua Jarrin photo 

Robert climbing on Sass de Stria Peak next to Falzarego Pass (second group). R. Taglinger photo

All this would be enough to catch any enthusiastic climbers' attention; however, it is important to add that the flexibility and variety of routes is not the only benefit. The majority of the climbs here would be considered five-star lines in the U.S. They are long, airy, and incredibly aesthetic routes. Of course, there are many cliffs around the planet that combine those characteristics, but I really appreciate when a long route finishes on a real summit, which is what the Dolomites are all about.

 

On the summit of Cima Grande. R. Taglinger photo

After every good climb, it is necessary to rest and refuel. For this, the Italian huts make the mountain lifestyle a pretty luxurious one! This is how an average day looks: Start the day off with breakfast at 7:30am in the little alpine town of Araba. Then we drive to the Falzarego Pass where we hike for 20 minutes to the base of the Sass de Stria peak and climb ten pitches up to its summit. The descent includes visiting the old trenches left from WWI. Once back in the car, we drive to Cortina de Ampezzo for a pizza topped with speck (the südtyrolean ham) and, since it's the summer, a cold aperol spritz. For the dinner, a three-course meal; one of them is always a good pasta, and all of it is paired with good wine. Something like this really happened almost every day!

 

Pablo enjoying a well-earned beer after 16 pitches on Tofana di Rozes. R. Taglinger photo

Enjoying local speck after climbing. Joshua Jarrin photo

Our first season on the Dolomites has come to an end. We are leaving the range with a positive balance in every aspect. Happy MM guests and therefore happy guides. Now we are heading towards Switzerland for a Matterhorn extension but we are already thinking about next year’s trips to this beautiful part of Italy!

Andrea on her way to Cima Grande on Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Joshua Jarrin photo

~MM Guide Joshua Jarrin