I wake at about 5 am with the sound of raindrops on the tin roof of the rifugio. A few minutes later the pitter-patter turns into a downpour Noah would have thought was the start of the great flood. Thunder crashes and rolls across the hut. It sounds like we won’t be climbing Torre dei Sabbioni (the tower of Sabbioni) today! I tell Barbara what I’m thinking… that we won’t be climbing in this kind of weather… and that I’ll go downstairs and chat to Edi to see if we can rearrange the guide for the day after.
Edi says the rain is not a problem. It will be gone in a few minutes and then shows me the forecast for good weather for the rest of the day. He says Alessandro will come up on his Vespa as soon as the rain stops. Which it does a few minutes later!
Shortly after I hear the sound of a Vespa straining up the mountain road. And a bit over an half an hour later, Alessandro arrives at the rifugio. We chat for a few minutes about what climbing experience we have, what equipment we need to take along, and what technique we’ll be using on the route. Then we’re off.
As we come over the top of Forcella Grande, we stop to admire the impressive Torre dei Sabbioni. Alessandro explains to Barbara where the route goes and how we’ll get there. And then we set off to do the traverse around the base of the tower to the start of the route, encountering a herd of Chamois along the way – possibly the biggest I’ve seen in the Dolomites! It was at this point I discovered my camera battery is nearly dead…
At the base of the climb we’re joined by two other climbers who will be on the same route as us. Barbara and I have our paninis while we get our climbing harnesses on, and sort out the slings and karabiners we’ll take along to tie on at belay stations.
Then we rope up. We’ll use a short-rope technique on the easier pitches – the grade 3s – in order to save time, and pitch the grade 4+ crux pitch, the long traverse and the final vertical wall. The 4+ crux pitch is an approximately 1 meter wide vertical crack about 4 to 5 metres high with a huge boulder jammed in at the top of it, making for a super hard and awkward exit… despite Alessandro making it look dead easy…
The crux pitch is followed by another short-roped section which brings us to the start of the 30 odd metres of horizontal traverse – the finest in the Dolomites according to Alessandro! Turns out to be every bit as good and exciting as the best on Table Mountain (Cape Town) with its multitude of horizontal rails.
We short-rope the next section, and then, less than 2 hours after we started, we top out on the vertical wall section and make our way to the summit cross! High fives, handshakes and hugs all around to celebrate our success.
As we are about to start our descent, the other two (Paulo and Francesco) are making their way up the final vertical pitch. As soon as they’ve cleared my descent path I start rappelling down. I tie into the belay station and shout up that I’m safe; Barbara follows and we tie her in and shout safe and then Alessandro rappels down last. We pull the ropes through and then the process is repeated until we land on the wide ledge just above where we started. We down climb the final few metres and then celebrate again with another round of handshakes and hugs!!
As we walk back to rifugio San Marco we get peppered with a few random rain drops. Enough for us to take the precaution of putting rain covers over our backpacks, but not enough to bother putting raincoats on ourselves. Across the valley though it looks a lot more dramatic with what looks like a torrential downpour creating a curtain of mist which obscures the distant mountains…
More celebrations follow at rifugio San Marco with Tania being very happy that we’ve finally climbed the tower for another perfect mountain day!