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Cima Grande di Lavaredo, North Face

Ines Papert (belayed by Wasti Schondorfer) on the first female free ascent of the Camillotto-Pellesier (5.13c/d, 500m), north face, Cima Grande di Lavaredo (2999m), Dolomites, Italy. Papert’s free ascent marked the third free ascent of the route overall.
[Photo] Rainer Eder

In 2004 Mauro “Bubu” Bole made the first free ascent of the Camillotto-Pellesier (5.13c/d, 500m), the most difficult free route on the north face of Cima Grande di Lavaredo (2999m). That same year I met Kurt Aster, who had belayed Bubu during his free ascent. “It’s an unbelievable line,” Kurt told me. “Two hundred meters of sustained, severely overhanging climbing, mostly with solid holds, lead to one final roof, where there’s nothing but thin air below you.” Would I be interested? I was, at first. But once Kurt began to outline the specific difficulties–the only protection consisted of old six-millimeter pins–I almost changed my mind. Thanks to Bubu, though, at least the belays were now bolted.

In early summer, 2005, with a static rope and a heap of quickdraws, I went through knee-deep snow to the starting ledge. That first day aroused my enthusiasm for the face and for the route. However, in July, I fell on the south face of Marmolada, and multiple fractures of my lower leg meant I had to postpone my plans for one year. Meanwhile, Kurt made the second free ascent of the route without me. I was very happy for his success, although at the time I was lying in a hospital.

It took a long time for the 2006 summer to start. Heavy storms in June forced me to retreat from the route a couple of times. With the help of Monika Kalsperger, I was able to fix the last difficult pitch; from this moment on, I could climb the face independently. Nevertheless, rain continued to slow my progress. After about ten days alone on the route, on July 16 I attempted to lead all the pitches in one go. I fell on Pitch 6, and though I found a better solution for the roof, all my strength was gone.

On July 20 I came back with Wasti Schondorfer and photographer Rainer Eder. This time I felt well prepared. The day before I’d clipped some quickdraws at the cruxes and even cleaned the dust from the holds. At 8 a.m. the rock was still cold and my fingers clammy. On the first 7c+ pitch I used every one of the scarce rests to shake out–the crux pitch still awaited. Rainer (above me with his camera) and Wasti (from the belay below) shouted encouragement as I battled with a small roof: one almost nonexistent undercling, then a Gaston, then, as I began to fall, a two-finger hold… stabilize my body, snatch a flake–that’s it!

My initial tension was gone. To conserve energy, on average I clipped every second pin, trying to avoid the ones that bent downward.

I continued to the crux: Pitch 6, the 8a+/8b roof, with 200 meters of air beneath my back. Then–pop!–I found myself dangling from the rope a few meters lower. A foothold had broken. Wasti lowered me to the belay, and I immediately started up again. With a heel hook, I pulled myself over the edge, snatched a side-pull and a sloper and pushed up. About to topple backward, I reached a jug and held on. “Done!” I shouted with joy.

A few easy, broken pitches led to the northeast ridge, and at 6 p.m., July 20, we stood on the top of Cima Grande, finally able to rejoice.

In conversations with Bubu, I learned that he had climbed the cruxes via more direct sequences than I had. The broken nature of the rock also makes it hard to determine the grades, so I make my minor suggestions without claiming complete accuracy: the second pitch may be 7c+ (instead of 7c), the third pitch 8a+ (instead of 8b), the fourth pitch 7c+ (instead of 8a) and the sixth pitch 8a+/b (instead of 8a+).

–Ines Papert, Bayerisch Gmain, Germany