Sas Pordoi (2950m), Spigolo "Piaz", 360m, VI

The weather forecast for the day predicted thunderstorms starting in the early afternoon. Thus we opted against a big route. We especially wanted to avoid the crazy exposed and risky descents that are typical for many Dolomites climbs. Balancing on loose scree on narrow "trails" over steep drops is not fun in rain. For comfortable descents there is no better choice than climbing up to Sas Pordoi. The routes literally end on the terrace of the cable car top station. We've been there before and at the last minute decided to climb an easier route than the one we originally set our eyes on. So this was a good opportunity to "take revenge" and climb the harder "Piaz" route.

Floating up with the cable car. We climb the tower on the left, on the side that's still in the shade.
The huge plateau at the top of the mountain.
Familiar faces. We've climbed routes on all of the walls in this picture.

This time around we weren't intimidated by the fact that the route is only sparsely protected with a few old pitons. At this point we felt comfortable placing our own gear and were familiar enough with the typical limestone structures of the area that spotting and using natural features of the rock (hourglasses!) had become second nature. Thus the climb didn't feel particularly hard at all and we enjoyed the first pitches tremendously. Anchors are well chosen to offer comfortable belay stances and the climbing is challenging and exposed enough to be interesting but never intimidating.

Luigi starting with some full body jams. The human tricam.
Exciting and steep traverse.
Luigi on the short bouldery crux of the route. Protected by uncharacteristically many pitons. You can tell that many people aid through this section. We climbed it as a clean on-sight.

Unfortunately once you leave the actual tower and get onto the mountain proper, the pitches become far less exciting. The rock turns into a loose chosspile and the terrain is low angle enough that calling it climbing would be an exaggeration. We linked the final pitches and simul-scrambled them with hardly any gear at all.

Checking the topo and taking a selfie.
On the easier pitches towards the top of the tower. Characteristically for the Dolomites and this route: you can protect large parts of the climb by taking advantage of the many natural hourglass features in the rock. Bring lots of slings!

Topping out is fun again though. The final few moves are up the scaffoling of the cable car station and top out right on the terrace of the restaurant. Belaying Luigi while anchored on the railing earned us some surprised stares and people walked up to us, quizzing us about the route and where we came from. We enjoyed the attention with a beer and made our way back down to the car. This again offered a satisfying opportunity to show off a little. The trail is at the same time touristy enough that it has lots of day hikers and steep and difficult enough that many of them struggle on all fours. We literally ran past everyone at full throttle ;-) Feels good for a change. On all these crazy Dolomites climbing routes we usually compare ourselves to the grand names of climbing who pioneered and opened the climbs. Names like Messner, Vinatzer, Buhl. Compared to these icons of mountaineering, who accomplished impossible seeming feats, you can't help but feel inadequate. Even with all our modern gear, topos, accurate weather reports and additional protection added to the routes. So reminding yourself that there are "normal" people too serves for good grounding occasionally.

Exposed, but easy terrain.
Did I mention hourglasses?
Our last anchor was the railing in the back of this picture.
Running down the trail.
Lots of protein. Builds muscle ;-P

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