Sass Pordoi (2952m) via Gross Führe (UIAA V-, 360m)

For our first "proper" climb in the Dolomites Luigi suggested Sass Pordoi. It features an extremely short approach via cable car and the climb ends right at the gondola, so the descent is equally comfortable. The route we originally had in mind was in the shade and a biting North wind made it bitterly cold. It also looked slightly intimidating and we preferred an easy route to get acquainted with the local rock and trad climbing. Routes in the dolomites are not bolted but feature only a few rusty old pitons so that it's your responsibility to secure large parts of the route. A fun challenge, but it does require some mental and technical training.

Comfortable approach. We'll climb the corner on the left just right of the pillar.
Marmolada in the distance.

Long story short, we changed plans and went 50 meters around the corner to climb an easier route in the sun. Our first choice, Maria, already had a party of five queuing for it. We watched them for a while and they seemed exceedingly clumsy and incompetent. The leader took not one, but two, falls to the ground right from the start. Luckily he didn't hurt himself, but we figured it would be better for us not to get stuck behind that party. This turned out to be a wise call as only on pitch two they dropped a rock on one of their own and the entire group aborted the climb. The rock smashed into the thigh of a woman in their group and she could hardly walk afterwards.

Hiking in. We were following a trail of blood stains to the base of the wall.
Luigi on the beautifully structured rock.

Instead, we started up on the Gross Führe behind an Italian party of two. After a few pitches they lost their way and deviated off route. We climbed back and forth a bit and regained the proper route. Lesson learned: if you only get a single bolt as a hint on a 40 meter pitch route finding becomes an issue. Especially if the terrain is easy enough that there's no single one obvious line but multiple possible approaches. Careful study of the topo is required.

A typical anchor: hour-glass, old sling and pitons.

We made fast progress and quickly become used to the splintering yet surprisingly solid limestone rock and placing our own gear for protection. Fun! The last few pitches were easy enough to simul-climb them and sprint up to the cable car. We were well advised to do so as thunder rumbled in the distance and the first few snowflakes were swirling around our heads. The final belay is literally the fence of the cable car station which leads to surprised stares of tourists in flip flops ;-) After a quick ride down we met with the wives and kids who were waiting in the cafe at the base. A great start!

The Italian party off route. They were super friendly and super chatty. Their leader was constantly talking to himself, the wall and us. He was commenting his own very move, seemingly to calm his nerves.
Easy but brittle scrambling terrain up to the cable car.
Experts call this bomber gear ;-)
Luigi coiling rope at the final belay stance.
Time to leave! Menacing clouds over the Sassolungo.