Innerkoflerturm (3081m), via "Calice", VI+, ~450m

The grand finale of our Dolomites trip nearly got cancelled. Marzia, Luigi's daughter and Leonie's best friend, broke her femur. I know what you're thinking: of course, that's what happens when you take two year olds climbing. In reality she just fell on the terrace of a restaurant. Tripped over the cord of one of the sun umbrellas. Fortunately no surgery required. "Just" a two year old with one full leg, her hip and half her good leg in a stiff cast for six weeks. A test of patience for the entire family. Luckily Luigi and Silvia had family visiting and thus could share the burden of entertaining the kid and running a household. The accident meant that they'd return home sooner than originally planned and in an ambulance to boot (can't put the kid into a regular children's car seat with the cast on). But we could still sneak in a day of climbing - thank you Silvia!

Langkofel group. We climbed the one on the left, but from around the back in this photo.
Early morning views of the valley.
Sören on the ridge.

Luigi chose the "Calice" route up the Innerkofler tower. A great classic in the area. 13 long pitches up to VI+ difficulty. With 450 meters of elevation gain this is among the longest routes I have ever climbed. Thus we started earlier than usual: after driving up and hiking in we were at the base of the climb around 8 in the morning. The route features three crux pitches: a smooth corner in the beginning, a slightly overhanging face and finally another dihedral just before the exit pitch. I got to lead the first two while Luigi finished off with the last one. The climbing is diverse, sustained and a lot of fun. The first crux was made hard by the fact that the rock hadn't been hit by the sun yet and our fingers and feet were freezing cold. It's hard to balance on delicate footholds when you can't feel your toes.

Our route goes straight up the black/gray pillar in the middle after starting in the yellow eye on the left.
Luigi on the final few meters of the first crux pitch. The actual pitch is in the corner on the left, you only traverse out at the very end of it.
Luigi on the sharp end on a beautifully structured V-something pitch.

By the time we reached the second crux halfway up the wall we were fully exposed to the sun. So while I was complaining about cold fingers before, I was now struggling with sunscreen running into my eyes. I actually had to pause midway through the pitch to get sunglasses out of the backpack. Annoying, as it would have been a clean lead otherwise. And while I'm huffing and puffing my way through that pitch I saw another party of three cruising up towards us as if it was nothing. We met several times on the route and it turned out that their leader is a professional mountain guide on vacation with his best friends. He was leading every pitch and is a veteran of such routes as "Moderne Zeiten" on the Marmolada (1000 meters of VII-VIII climbing). This made me feel slightly better about my abysmal performance compared to him. One thing that really impressed me is how effortless and quickly he could improvise bomber anchors out of seemingly nothing. He'd never trust the existing pietons or knots (for good reason!) and whip out perfectly balanced 5 point anchors in less time than it took me to close a screwgate carabiner. Practice does make perfect it seems.

Topping out the route left us on a complex fractured ridge with no clear path to the summit. We decided to rappel into a steep couloir and scrambled up for almost another hour before finally gaining the summit. From there we still had to find our way back down, which, as I was now accustomed to, was another adventure on its own. Rappels interspersed with steep unprotected scrambling and crazy traverses before we finally rappelled onto a steep scree slope in a canyon. Slipping and sliding down the scree was annoyingly difficult and poised to sprain your ankles. Anyway, we made it back down in one piece. The next day we celebrated our exploits and the end of a great vacation with a big barbeque and beer. Thanks for always being great company Luigi & Silvia & Marzia!

As I'm writing this, Marzia is already walking again and is almost back to her normal cheery self. She'll make a full recovery.

Topping out on the ridge.
View from the summit.
Finding our way down.
Scrambling on the way down. It's technically easy, but on bad rock and often very exposed.
Final rappel into the canyon.
It's hard to see, but I was standing on the torso sized boulder in the center of this image. Luigi was rappelling straight below me when the boulder suddenly moved and the crack you can see opened up. Quite a jolt of adrenaline. This would have been a definite widow maker. On the last 10 minutes of the descent, no less.
This looks easier than it was. Getting down this pile of loose rock meant half the time you were sliding down in some sort of mini rock avalanche.
Mission accomplished!

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