Roda di Vaèl (2,806m), via Dibona, 400m, V

This year's trip to the Dolomites started with a week at the Agritur Agua Biencia, an organic farm & restaurant & hotel in the beautiful val di fassa. We were familiar with this from previous visits and knew it to be extremely kids friendly with free roaming farm animals and huge adventure playgrounds everywhere. This would give Anita, Leonie, Lukas, Silvia and Marzia something to do while Luigi and I would get our workout in the mountains.

How's this for an old men's approach?
The humongous red (I'd call it yellow) face on the top left. Our route goes up between the face proper and the tower to its right.
Luigi on lead.

For our first outing we decided to head for the Roda di Vaèl, the red wall, an area we hadn't been to yet. Limestone turns gray when it is exposed to the weather. Thus whenever you look at a limestone wall and see red-ish/yellow-ish tints you know you are looking at a formidable climbing challenge - a wall steep and overhanging enough that it is mostly sheltered from the rain. That is true for the Roda di Vaèl: an intimidating enormous limestone face that is continuously vertical or overhanging. The direct routes through this face are graded IX- with colorful names such as Moulin Rouge and are consequently reserved for a different class of climber. We had to contend ourselves with repeating a route that sneaks up at the edge of the main face and avoids most (mind you, not all!) of the overhanging parts. Opened by one of climbing's grand names, Angelo Dibona, it still represents a fantastic and difficult line. Some people consider it sandbagged.

Me leading one of the crux pitches. The difficulties are just around the corner...
Damn! Just look at this beauty!
Growing exposure.

The approach is shared with a popular via ferrata so we could comfortably float up with a chairlift and then hike the remaining few hundred meters of altitude on a nice trail. Standing under the massive wall makes you appreciate the audacity of Dibona, daring to even start up with the primitive gear and weather forecasts of his time. The first few pitches are unremarkable and chossy. We have no idea if we are even on the proper route. There is no fixed gear anyways, so we find our own way up. That changes as soon as we hit the dihedral and system of chimneys that characterize the route. Here the line becomes obvious and follows the natural weakness of the rock.

Me working up one of the chimneys. Note the (lack of) protection - falling would have been ill advised. Not pictured: I'm about to climb out of the chimney back onto the ridge on the right.
Luigi coming up.

It is great climbing and far too soon, after around 4 hours, we top out. The descent is shared with the via ferrata with a few sections still protected by wires and artificial metal rungs. We queue up with the crowds and overtake most of them by scrambling or running past. We don't bother protecting this part. Compared to the climbing we just did, or a usual Dolomites style suicidal descent, the via ferrata is positively tame, even without protection. We enjoy drinks at the hut at 2pm, with a comfortable distance between us and the predicted afternoon thunderstorms. Great start of the vacation!

Well deserved summit sausages.
A bunch of grannies on the via ferrata during our descent. That's how you grow old in style! Chapeau!
Toasting at the wall - mission accomplished.

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