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Lama and Verhoeven Free 29-Pitch 5.13d

Jorg Verhoeven leads Pitch 28 (5.13c) while David Lama belays on Brento Centro (5.13d, 29 pitches), a more than 1000-meter route up Monte Brento in Valle del Sarca, Italy. The two climbers freed the route on May 25, after previous attempts in 2008 and 2009. Calling it a “horror,” Verhoeven explained that Brento Centro consists of very bad rock and delicate climbing with 90 percent of climbing on the headwall rated at or above 5.12b. [Photo] Heiko Wilhelm

Dutch sport climber Jorg Verhoeven and Austrian David Lama, of recent controversy, have freed a longstanding project in the Valle del Sarca, Italy. The line climbs the east face of Monte Brento, a wall of brittle rock as tall as El Capitan, and steeper.

The first attempts were made on this conspicuous overhang in the 1970s: the most successful attempt was abandoned only 150 meters up the crumbly 1000-meter face. It was this line that Lama and Verhoeven climbed to its logical conclusion, via aid in 2009 and then free at 8b or 5.13d this spring. Six of its 29 pitches are 5.13c or 5.13d.

Their first attempt, in 2008, ended after 450 meters; they spent a night hanging from their harnesses, then bailed the next day. Verhoeven said this first contact with the wall was a disaster. “Two days in the wall, no portaledge, no horizontal place to be found, and every hour a new thunder storm,” he wrote on his blog.

The team returned in 2009, this time successfully aiding the route and slowly working toward freeing it. “Only after we knew we had everything checked out really well, and that we were fit enough to climb it, we gave it a real try,” Verhoeven said.

It took the pair 11 days of work over three years to free what they call Brento Centro, a route that intersects other existing lines: Universo Giallo, Vertigine and Grande Incubo. Verhoeven said that Brento Centro is more than 1000 meters long with a base climb of eight pitches (up to 5.10 on bad rock) over 400 meters. The headwall above consists of 21 pitches on even worse rock, with difficulties up to 5.13d.

Brento Centro (8b [5.13d], 29 pitches, ca. 1000m). The route intersects other lines on the face including Universo Giallo, Vertigine and Grande Incubo. [Photo] Heiko Wilhelm

They free climbed the wall in a single day, May 25, over 13.5 hours.

Verhoeven explained that the team chose the easiest and only viable line through the overhangs on the middle of the wall. “For the record,” Verhoeven said, “the wall is said to be overhanging no less than 150 meters, mostly in the upper part, where 20-meter horizontal roofs pile up after each other.” Lama and Verhoeven reverted to maneuvering between the roofs on very steep dihedrals.

The main problem with this route is the quality of the rock, Verhoeven said. Most of the holds aren’t solid, making the easier 5.12 pitches “delicate and scary.” The pair faced precarious climbing on the six hardest pitches, which came after 900 meters of chossy rock.

Verhoeven reported that he and Lama were tired and relieved after topping out. “Every hour was sheer horror,” he said. “Exposed climbing on loose rock, all belays hanging, 3,000 feet of air below. It just got tiring in the end…”

Sources: Jorg Verhoeven,,,

Verhoeven belayed by Lama on Pitch 21 (5.13d), the hardest pitch on Brento Centro. [Photo] Heiko Wilhelm