Piz de Ciavazes (2828m) via "Micheluzzi & Buhl", VI, ~250m

We spent our summer vacation in in the Dolomites in South Tyrol. The idea was to escape the oppressive heat in Zürich to higher altitude. The plan worked out perfectly. Anita found us a beautiful place to stay, the Agitura Agua Biencia, a small family run wellness hotel and active farm in the Fassa valley. They produce their own cheese and thus have a bunch of cows. They also have pigs, chickens, donkeys, turkeys and free roaming ponies and alpacas/llamas. The valley also features the most spectacular and biggest children's playgrounds I have ever seen. Combined with a hotel pool and hot tub Leonie didn't know where to start. Which was of course the plan. Keep the kid busy so daddy can go climbing ;-P

Leonie improved her own climbing tremendously on this trip. In fact, the playgrounds are often surrounded by high rope parks and we had to constantly be vigilant so that she wouldn't just sprint up one of the obstacles. Unfortunately they were only allowed for kids above 120cm in size and 6 years of age.
"But daddy! That mountain is even bigger!". Oh yes! And we are very much gonna climb it together! ;-)
Playdates of a different kind.
Ponies would share the playgrounds with the kids.

Luigi, Silvia and Marzia stayed in the same valley at Luigi's parents' vacation home. Which provided me with a climbing partner, Anita with company and Leonie with a playdate. As the closest thing to a local, Luigi was in charge of picking the routes. For our "warm-up" climb he chose the Micheluzzi & Buhl route: 250 meters of grade VI trad-climbing up the Piz de Ciavazes (2828m). The fact that the route carries climbing legend's Hermann Buhl's name should have tipped us off to the fact that this would not be a walk in the park. Before the day was over we started swearing "fuck the ghost of Hermann fucking Buhl!". This became somewhat of a meme throughout the rest of the vacation - whenever the going got rough and we felt overwhelmed it was "fuck Buhl" and "fucking Buhl would have just walked up here". Conversely, whenever we felt strong we'd commend each other with "Buhl would be proud of you!".

The wall and route.
Luigi negotiating a small overhang.
Gaining height.

The first few pitches of the route went pretty much according to plan. We had to get used to the Dolomites style limestone and protecting the climb ourselves. One aspect of which, that I initially underestimated, is actually finding the route! Usually you can just follow the line of bolts up the wall. But what do you do if there are only very few bolts? You have to study the topo carefully and read the rock for the "natural" line. The path of least resistance that simultaneously offers options for placing gear. Takes some getting used to, but I really enjoy this type of climbing and wish for there to be more of it near our home in Zürich.

Still on the first half of the route. Good weather, good progress, good mood.
Luigi leading the crux traverse. Harder than it looks. There were lots of slings on the wall where you could tell people used them as holds.

Our choice of route stitches two different routes together. Only the second half joins the Buhl route and finishes with the famous Buhl dihedral. While we had the first half of the route to ourselves we got stuck behind a slow party of three for the second half. This was super annoying and even dangerous as we were racing the afternoon thunderstorm and dark clouds were already looming above us. Getting stuck on this wall in the rain would at minimum be severely uncomfortable. The party of three was led by an old guy who climbed with confidence and the elegance of long decades of experience. Turns out that he opened a few of the routes on this wall some 40 years ago. His climbing partners were an entirely different breed however. They were in way over their heads and struggled on every single move. Pulling on all the gear they could reach and taking every shortcut and cheat available to them they'd still struggle up the wall at a snail's pace. Super frustrating for us.

The road leading up to the Sella pass.
In the Buhl dihedral.
Yes, this is steep.

We finally topped out just in the nick of time when it started raining. Some twenty minutes later and the wall would have been unclimbable. The final few pitches up the dihedral were proper survival climbing where we were just going for speed and ignored elegance (still climbing in good style though and not cheating!). As is typical for the area the trouble doesn't stop at the top though. Getting down the mountain requires negotiating a long, exposed, via ferrata style trail and a few rappels. As I'd learn later, this was already as comfortable as descents get around here. I'd come to hate Dolomite style descents on later climbs - they are frequently by far the most dangerous and risky part of the entire climb.

Weather moving in. Afternoon thunderstorms are a very typical weather pattern here. They never last long, but are still enough to ruin a climb.
Getting wet on the hike out.
Mission accomplished.

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