Dolomites Sella Tower

This climb was our fourth day on the bounce and it’s fair to say I am feeling a little bit fragile after it all, it’s time for a day off, however before that I will write a short piece on this climb. It’s fair to say that the great weather we are having is the reason for the day after day activity. In just four days in October we have equaled the four routes we did in two weeks in September.

Paragliders surrounding the Sella towers, our route took the left hand arête

We drove from Cortina after an unplanned lie in, and only arrived at the foot of the Sella Towers at 13.00, this meant we needed to be quick to ensure that we got up and down before night fall, that as winter closes in is getting ever earlier. After a quick bite to eat we set off up towards the towers that are only fifteen minutes away, which was one of the reasons we chose this climb. We planned to climb the Stegler Route on the arête of the first tower.
To start, well we struggled to find the start as the guide was a little vague, add to this that it was quite loose and scree ish, there was no obvious way up, so I just followed my nose as the route on the picture said to head left until the arête. Now the guide said 25 metres, and in about 55 metres of rope I had only just reached the arête, the guide wanted me to climb on up for another fifteen to twenty to the belay? Not going to happen with only sixty metre ropes, so I found a small ledge on the arête itself between a large flake and the main face, this also, had a peg and signs of wear on the rock, all good signs we were on the right track.

Working my way up to jess
Fantastic place to belay!

Jess took the next pitch, and lead through to the crack above and a ledge traverse that finished below a chimney. I hate chimneys, I just never seem to be comfortable, and so struggled my way up what was supposed to be a grade 4- pitch? It felt a bit stiffer in the grade, especially on the polish, I eventually decided to exit the chimney and climb the face instead, which was thinner, less protected, but more positive and not polished. I was a little worried that I found the easy pitch hard, as there were tougher pitches ahead!

Jess walk across another ledge traverse, missing the tiny peg marking the crack, and ended up a couple of routes across, although soon came back to the right spot and led up the next crack system, which although again polished, seemed a little more on point for the grade if you removed the polish.

This led to the final and toughest pitch, that I had been quietly psyching myself up for, although it was still low in the grade, as the other pitches had been a title tough and majorly polished, I felt this might be a stickler! The start was fine, although you have to step around the arête on the shiniest hold ever, as the polish was so bad, I was searching for other thinner holds that I felt more confident on, and soon found a couple to make the move. Only then did I have a couple of metres to traverse right to climb the crack. Again this was polished and the holds were even worse! Luckily there was ample protection in the form of old pegs, until I saw one shiney bolt on the face, and just gunned it out until I was clipped in. After this it eased until I was at the belay above! It had been a tough bloody pitch and I had grunted my way through, whilst moaning the whole time to myself and Jess about how shit it was!
I felt as though I was tired in my mind and body to be struggling at such a low grade, when only a couple of weeks ago, I was heaving myself up under a cave roof in Sardinia, at a much higher grade, and here I was struggling. On the belay I could feel jess on the rope, luckily for me, but not for her she was also stating how shit it was. She even asked me for some beta, which I could not give as I did not remember, I’d only been on it a couple of minutes before, and it was the section I had just gunned through to the bolt, and could not for the life of me remember anything about it. Soon enough she overcame the problem and we were at the summit after a short scramble!

At the summit

We didn’t spend long here, as it was getting late and we still needed to make the descent, and that was also not very clear. It said we could abseil the route we just climbed, which seemed a stupid idea, as each belay only consisted of a crappy old peg at best. On the picture we could see sport routes that claimed to have lower offs, although I had not climbed them, and as this page in the guidebook seemed full of errors I did not trust it, so we went for the walk off and bumped into another couple of climbers who were sat smoking and in no rush at all given the hour! They said we were going the right way, and eventually we followed the path that contoured across the faces until a large cairn signalled the fork in the path and the down climb.

On the traverse before the down climb

Again this part of the climb was by far the most dangerous, one slip or a fall could lead you to the bottom of the face in a couple of seconds. I was tired and so took more time than usual, ensuring I always had secure holds to down climb on. Eventually I got to a bolted belay, and we set up the ropes and did an abseil to the foot of the cliff, I was much happier on this than what we had been above. At the foot of this I wandered around while jess descended and could see a few plaques on the wall in memory of those who had died, I’m not sure how, but I felt in danger on the descent so I wonder if any had been from this?

This picture was taken as we walked the final path to the car, nearly head torch time!
The sun setting as we descended

We walked back following the path, and the sun was setting in the distance, leaving trails of pink and orange waves over the summits in the distance. At one point there was a short section of via Ferrata cable that seemed pointless given the way more dangerous sections of descent we had already been on that were unprotected. As we were tracing our footsteps at the foot of the cliffs, we were beginning to need head torches, and if the path was any longer we would have needed them, that said, we were nearing the road with artificial lighting to help the way. We stopped for a chat with a couple of Germans who had been paragliding, there had been a flock of them flying all over the skyline throughout the day! This was the latest we had got back to the van, at about 7.30. Now it is definitely time for a rest day, recuperate and come back for more!

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