Swiss climber Dani Arnold set two solo speed records in Europe this summer. On July 18 he free soloed the Via Carlesso (7a+ or 5.12a 650m) on Torre Trieste (2458m) in Italy’s Dolomite spires in 1 hour, 8 minutes. Then on August 8, he free soloed the Via Cassin (6a or 5.10a 800m) on Switzerland’s Piz Badile (3308m) in 52 minutes. (For size comparison, El Capitan in Yosemite, California, is roughly 900 meters tall.)
Arnold climbed both routes twice with ropes and partners before free soloing them.
“I left two ropes and a harness on top of the Carlesso for the descent,” he said. “My friend did some live videos and checked the time. On the Cassin I down climbed the North Ridge (4 or 5.5). It was very important for me to do everything on my own. On the Carlesso we went back again for photos and film. Most footage from the Badile is live.”
“I wanted to climb a difficult route on a very alpine wall,” Arnold continued. “The Dolomites are so impressive and wild, which was the perfect goal for me. Of course the main goal was not the time–I wanted to combine the difficulty and the time. The Badile has a very nice shape and the granite is perfect. I hoped to climb it in less than one hour.”
It’s unclear what any previous speed records may have been. “For the Badile it was around 1 hour and 25 minutes,” Arnold said. “As for the Carlesso, I had never heard of anyone soloing it.”
Arnold is already a very experienced speed soloist–he beat Swiss alpine ace Ueli Steck’s records on the nordwands of the Eiger and the Matterhorn with times of 2:28 and 1:46, in 2011 and 2015, respectively–so it’s no surprise that he didn’t have to do much to prepare for his latest climbs. “I am more or less in a good shape the whole year,” he said. “But for the Carlesso with the grade 7a+ (5.12a), I had to rock climb more. Generally I am a weak rock climber. And to do a free solo on such a high grade like this was a real challenge for me. While climbing I was totally focused, no fear. One main goal was to enjoy the climb, and I did!”
The Carlesso route on the south face of Torre Trieste was first climbed by Raffaele Carlesso and Bortolo Sandri in August 1934. The two climbed up to 6a, or about 5.10, with some aid up to A3 in just 25 hours. It has been described as “an outstanding classic extreme route, solving the problem of the south face.”
The Cassin route on the Piz Badile was put up in July 1937 by Riccardo Cassin, V. Ratti and G. Esposito, who joined forces with another team that included M. Molteni and G. Valsecchi. The latter two died in the effort. The northeast face of the mountain is considered one of the great north faces of the Alps.