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The red line marks Back to the Future (X-/X or 5.13c/d, 170m) on the north face of Torre Putia, Puez-Odle, Dolomites, Italy. Brothers Martin and Florian Riegler made the first ascent of the route, which has no bolts–an anomaly in the Dolomites–on August 18, then returned to free it on September 16. [Photo] Christoph Vonmetz / Courtesy of

On the third weekend in September, brothers Martin and Florian Riegler made the first free ascent of Back to the Future, an aid line they established one month before in the Italian Dolomites. With a grade of X-/X or 5.13c/d, the route is one of the most difficult non-bolted free climbs in the Puez-Odle group–and the entire Dolomites range.

The line ascends a mostly vertical and overhanging crack system on the north face of Torre Putia. Climbing ground up and using aid and as few pegs as possible, the brothers initially established the line on August 18. Twenty pegs were used, half of them on belays, with seven protecting the crux, Pitch 1 (X-/X, 30m), the “marvelously steep entrance wall with a salient yellow crack.”

The two returned for a weekend in mid-September, aiming to redpoint the route. Their first day of work, September 15, ended early with a ninety-minute hailstorm that sent the brothers running from golfball-sized chunks of ice. But the next day they found good friction on the wall, which had dried overnight. On September 16, after two frustrating attempts on Pitch 1, they worked through the moves successfully, including the bouldery crux 20 meters up. “[This section is] without a doubt the physical crux of the entire 170-meter line,” Martin said. “The difficulties ease off after this first pitch, but the climbing becomes psychologically more demanding.” Four pitches, with decreasing difficulties ranging from 5.11d to 5.7, follow.

Dolomite rock usually lends itself to bolted lines. Known for their other routes in the Dolomites–El Negrito (7c) on Piz Ciavazes and King of dwarfs (IX) on Roda de Vael–the Rieglers said they were looking for a project that could be accomplished with natural gear and pitons alone. “The main problem is finding rock that has enough cracks to allow pegs to be placed. Cracks or pockets that take pro usually come hand in hand with larger holds and easier climbing,” Martin said. “In this sense our route was a stroke of luck, because it enabled us to climb hard but also to use traditional forms of protection.”

The brothers named the route Back to the Future because, as they explain, “we believe that one can create ‘something new’ with, above all, the use of ‘old things’ [traditional protection].”

Thoroughly pleased that they had freed the route, Martin devoured a quarter kilo of cookies that evening.

Sources: and

The Riegler brothers getting creative with placements on Back to the Future. [Photo] Christoph Vonmetz / Courtesy of