Terza Torre del Sella (2696m), via "Vinatzer", VI-, ~350m

Luigi and I drove up the now familiar "commute" to the Sella pass. Our objective today was an 11 pitch, 350 meter route up the third Sella tower. It would turn out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip to the Dolomites. A short approach got us to the base of the climb. Unfortunately we were just minutes behind another party of two who set out to climb the same route as us. So the day started with some waiting around until they got off the ground. A couple, where he was leading all of the pitches and she had only very little outdoor experience. In the end it turned out to be a lucky coincidence for them that we were behind them as we could coach and encourage her. She was very near her limit from the start and a few times got very close to freaking out. Especially when her partner was out of sight and out of earshot. It worked out, but at the end of the day, she was utterly exhausted and at the very end of her nerves. When we finally said goodbye after a long and arduous descent all she could do was sit down on the spot and recover for a while.

On the approach. We climbed up the center of the leftmost tower.
Luigi in an overhanging section of beautifully structured and juggy rock.
The second Sella tower. You can see a tiny yellow speck in the center, climbing the Messner route.

We also had a party of three following us. Japanese. They were even scarier to watch. While they obviously had some experience and climbing prowess, they also seemed completely reckless to us. They'd come up to an anchor and all they'd use for protection was a single quickdraw clipped to an ancient rusty piton. Good luck having that setup hold a party of three. This wasn't an isolated incident either, all three of them would build this style of "anchor" every pitch. Now you might think that this route was so far beneath their climbing level that they consciously decided to basically free solo it, but that was not it. On one of the pitches I helped their lead back on route. He was about ten meters above his last (shitty) piece of protection and way off route. Shaking from exhaustion and no idea how to proceed. Worst thing is that they didn't even seem to be aware of the risks they were taking. Crazy.

Luigi on a bit of an improvised anchor because we were still waiting for the party ahead of us to clear the next one.
Me in a resting position underneath the roof at the end of the splitter crack. There was lots of old gear stuck in the crack and I clipped most of it, hence the overly generous protection you see here.
Giving Luigi the finger after he was mocking me for being an old fat man hanging from the roof. Clean on-sight you fucker!

Anyway, for Luigi and me it was a perfect climb. Fantastic pitches at just the right level of difficulty. I got to lead the crux pitch, a perfect splitter crack leading into a small roof. When Luigi followed through that and joined me at the anchor he was beaming and exclaiming that he just had a climbing orgasm. He couldn't get over himself and what a genius Vinatzer, who discovered the route and made the first ascent, was. His over-excitement and enthusiasm for the route led to some mild amusement with me and the woman still waiting with us at the anchor.

Just look at this! Fantastic cruising terrain.
Still steep. The ropes are hanging free off the anchor.
Funky crystals and rock formations make for good holds.

After celebrating a bit on the summit we of course had to get back down again. I think the descent for this route was the worst we had of all the ones in the Dolomites. And that is saying something. Tons and tons of loose rock to scramble down on over huge exposure of sometimes hundreds of meters. No protection, very few rappels. Some traverse on "trails" that don't really deserve that name. Nasty and super risky. I feel like bringing a paragliding wing might be the better strategy. The summit was wide and flat enough to allow for a comfortable launch as far as I can tell. Anyway, overall it was another great adventure and beautiful route and day!

Rusty pitons backed up by a bomber cam.
The Japanese lead fuck-up after he finally made it to a ledge that allowed him to rest. He's a few meters (climber's) left of where he should be. He's also way above his last piece of gear. Falling from here would make him fall way past the anchor.
Luigi looking content with his lot in life.
The wall opposite our summit. There are routes leading up there. Imagine topping out and having to scramble up this unprotectable pile of loose rock and scree over hundreds of meters of vertical exposure. Yuk!
The start of our descent. Luigi scrambling around, trying to find the first rappel anchor (which is right next to him in this picture).
More unprotected scrambling on the descent. Hunting for the next rappel anchor.
The "trail". Slide down the loose scree, dive under that overhanging rock and follow the small band to the outcrop on the right.
More "hiking trails" on the descent. Are these for garden gnomes?!
A vertical panorama shot. We spent quite a few rappels in this canyon. We offered our ropes to the party of two that was ahead of us initially, but who we caught up with and had to wait for multiple times. Since she was basically done with the world at this point we streamlined their descent somewhat.
Rappelling into the ice box. It was hot all day, but the canyon was shaded enough to still have the winter's snow.
Me coiling ropes on the final scree field after emerging from the canyon. The next day's objective in the background ;-)

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