Should I stay or should I go now…

We knew on completing our climb on the Vajolet Towers that the weather was changing for the worse! As it turned out, we moved to a new location, Canazai, which had a parking bay on the other side of town that had running water, toilets and bins, all useful when stopping somewhere! As I said, the weather was changing for the worse and so we hunkered down in town, whilst outside it was chucking it down! So much so, that when we left we were getting hit by light hail, and at this point my choice in sandles as footwear seemed a bad idea, as my toes were little blocks of ice! By the time we arrived at the van we had a short rest bite from the storm and the clouds opened up to display snow capped summits, that gave a truly alpine feel…in August! Although my feelings at all this bad weather were the fear of not being able to climb for a few days.

The view after the storm

It turns out I was right, for the next few days when we ventured out it was so cold, as were the nights, the best part of the snow stayed put and the rest melted and streaked black marks across the faces of the climbs we had planned to do. All this was quite demoralising. Jess’s birthday was wedged in between this bad weather and she decided that she wanted to go to a spa, and so we ventured into town and walked into the relaxing panpipes megamix, candles and a wierd woman in white clothing and crocs.

Now for anyone who does not know me, I’m not the spa and be pampered kind of guy, I just don’t get it… first of all we went in a jacuzzi, where you just sit whilst bubbles blow up your shorts, and the burst on the surface splashing your face every few seconds, as you might all know, or can imagine, getting splashed in the face every few seconds is irritating and not relaxing… we then took a tour of all the rooms, the cold room, ‘a room full of ice’, there’s a whole bloody world out there that is freezing, why would you pay for a special room, it’s beyond me?! We moved off to the Vicks vapour room, basically a menthol sauna, weird, but even I have to admit, it was not that bad.

Now, saunas on the other hand? I find nothing relaxing about sitting half naked with a bunch of random old people, in a room so hot that you sweat uncomfortably and cannot breath. Everything around you is hot, it’s hot to sit, to lean back, you move an inch and you will find some hot piece of wood to burn on. I would liken this to driving through a desert in a car without air con, the hot stifling air blowing into your face nearly suffocating you.. how is this relaxing? I do not know, maybe this could be included in some torture routine. Although, there were hot chairs that were pretty cool, reminded me of heated seating in one of my old cars. However, all in all, spa’s are lost on me! Jess enjoyed it though!

Also on the last day of our days off from climbing we decided it was time for a treat! On our irregular trips to the supermarket, we happened across some fresh carrot cake, now this was a dream come true! We had been missing this treat since leaving the UK, and at €2.50 for a thin slice, at this price it was a sure bet for a decent piece of ‘cake’! We brewed the kettle and made some tea to savour with our delicious carrot cake! All this build up I have to admit led to severe disappointment, it was dry and tasteless, what a let down, I can’t wait for a decent piece of cake, carrot or otherwise!

All this bad weather had dampened our spirits somewhat! Who would have though we would have snow fall in the Dolomites in August? Add to this the rain and general bad weather, we both decided that we should maybe move on and come back later, when the weather is better…if it ever is? With Venice in the sat nav, we set off, although we soon pulled over when the sun shone through the clouds and questioned whether we were going to be missing out on days of climbing and were preemptively predicting the weather too much.

View over the Dolomites from the sport routes

So we changed our plans again and headed north to Falzarego Pass, although as usually happens when we get within walking distance of the climbs, the clouds closed in and rain seemed on the cusp. So instead of climbing the south arête of sass de stria, we stayed lower down and decided to hit the sport crag at the foot of the cliff, and even though there was a lot of seepage we managed to climb a few different routes.

Cinque Torre on the left, looking smaller than I thought!

That evening we drove to Cortina, where we spent the night in a lovely car park at the edge of town. The classic ‘no overnight parking’ signs, and then a shit ton of camper vans and motor homes parked bumper to bumper, certainly not door to door! That evening we were sat in the middle of the high street using the free wifi, like a pair of true free loaders. The next day we saw that the weather was raining in the afternoon, and planned on doing the south arête in the morning, and have the afternoon off! As you can guess this all went to plan!

A cross of wood and barbed wire, near the trenches at the foot of the climb

We did not get up as early as planned (as usual) and our journey to the pass was held up behind a couple of lorries cruising up at an average speed of 10mph. Once we did actually arrive, there was another traffic jam, only this time it was on the climb! We were fortunate enough to bump into a British couple at the foot of the climb who had been waiting for forty minutes, so we joined the queue, and it was nice for once to have a decent conversation at belays throughout the climb.

The next few hours were spent climbing every so often, although the best part of the climb was spent sat at belays waiting for the traffic jam ahead to move on up the face! To be honest I really enjoyed the climb, there were so many different climbing styles throughout, and the grade was about right and well within our ability. The one big let down, apart from the traffic, was the polish! It was just horrendous in places, even to the point of climbing off route to get some friction, that said the final pitch was the worse. The sitting at belays did allow us to chat with the other couple, where we traded stories and learnt about a few crags to visit in the future.

Jess high above the pass

The plan for a morning climb turned into an all day event! Mainly due to queues ahead. One group abseiled off and this added to the mess! That said, once they left we were able to climb a couple of pitches at a normal pace, until we again hit a jam, although this group was made up of old age pensioners group that must have been holidaying with the ‘extreme’ arm of the SAGA group in the area! They probably dropped the average age of climbers on the route hat day by twenty years or so. In all seriousness if I’m still climbing at that age I will be a happy man! All these traffic jams were a major part of the climb, so much so that it felt a little like a rest day!

If you look closely you can see my silhouette worming it’s way through the hole

At the summit of the climb I was looking for a belay and considered using the cross, although did not want to offend anyone, although I’m sure God or Jesus or whoever, would have forgave me as it kept me safe and I’m sure they would want me safe! We sat at the summit, and continued our conversation for a while before working our way down the down climb, which has to be the most amazing down climb I have ever been on. It was a bit like walking through World War One history, all the trenches, look out points etc, and the walk down worked it’s way through all of these to the foot of the cliff, where Nick offered us a drink! We gratefully accepted, and they gave us a lift down to the pass to the bar, which was great! After a drink and a few laughs, we made our way back to our respective vehicles, where we showed off our van!

At the summit next to the cross
Final belay point!

All in all, it seems like we made the right decision to stay as we have managed to get a couple of days climbing in that otherwise would have been lost, it not like Venice is going anywhere is it… oh hang on, yeah it is… As for the rain, it was back again by the evening! Hopefully it does not hang around as the weather has been a pain throughout this entire trip! I keep looking through the guidebook, wondering what peak/climb we should do next, but to be honest it all depends on the weather…

Working our way down the trench systems

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