Cortina d’Ampezzo and sport climbing
The many sport climbing rock faces around Cortina give climbing lovers around two thousand pitches to try out, a truly significant number and one which is growing thanks to the constant hard work and undoubted passion which has always been a feature of those working to provide climbers with a new and ever changing playground.
But it is certainly not just the number of pitches which attracts climbers from all over the world: sport climbing in Cortina means being in one of the most beautiful places in the world, set in a natural environment capable of treating visitors to indescribable views and unforgettable thrills.
Ernest Hemingway, who had seen a great many places, wrote thus in a letter to E.Walsh: “Cortina d’Ampezzo is the swellest country on earth. The people are good and square too. We spent the end of a winter there once, at the Hotel Bellevue. Liugie Menard proprietor. It is the loveliest country I’ve ever known”. (see here)
Yes, a beautiful place where forests and meadows have been collectively owned by the original community for centuries and the area has been carefully protected from building and abuses.
But let’s get back to sport climbing, the main theme of this post.
Crags and sport climbing
The crags offer pitches of various difficulty and complexity levels and everyone can find a climb suited to their abilities from beginners to the climbing greats.
The highest grade is 9a and there are plenty of 8c+ and 8c and lots of 8a-8b.
Type of climbing
There’s really something for everyone! From the smooth slabs at Son Pouses to the overhangs of Becco d’Ajal, from the short and intense pitches at Sasso dei Finanzieri to the long and sustained pitches at Rio Gere and Setsas.The sport crags around Cortina feature a variety of different rock types and features: crimps, pockets, slopers; yellow, red, grey and black rock.
There are no ribs however, these are not really found in the Dolomites.
All the walls are well-equipped with bolts and chains at the rest places. There are very few pitches with obsolete equipment and these will, in any case, soon be put right. I advise 80 metre, or at least 70 metre ropes.
On some faces, such as Cinque Torri, for example, where there are both sport climbing routes and traditional multi-pitch routes, helmets are advisable.
Otherwise you need normal sport climbing equipment.
During the summer period, from the middle of June to the beginning of August, the climate is pleasantly warm during the day and fresh during the night.
From July to end-August there are sometimes thunderstorms in the afternoon. A warm sunny day can transform in a kind of hell in less than an hour. Considering the wind-chill factor, temperature can fall up to 15 degrees. I suggest that you always wear suitable clothing, however.
There is a specific page on climbing rock faces in the Cortina d’Ampezzo area but it is, in any case, an incomplete list. If you want to climb in this area I would recommend that you buy this guide to Cortina’s crags and sport climbs.
Guide to Cortina’s Sport Climbing
As far as climbing guides are concerned, last year Falesie a Cortina d’Ampezzo was published, an excellent book which I wrote a thoroughgoing review of here. The review is in Italian, but the guidebook is in three languages: Italian – English – German.
Respect the environment
Although it should not be necessary to remind mountain and climbing lovers of the importance of respecting the environment I’ll go over of a few rules here:
- never leave litter;
- do not put up tents near rock faces. In the Cortina area camping is allowed only in authorised and equipped camp sites;
- don’t park on the grass;
- don’t light fires;
- avoid leaving excrement near climbing walls for hygienic reasons and out of respect for your fellow climbers;
- do not alter the equipment on the rock faces in any way.
When to go to the Dolomites?
The best time is from late May to October but November can be good too if snow has not yet fallen.
Whilst there are exceptions, Cortina’s winters are generally too cold for climbing.
How to get there
Cortina d’Ampezzo is in the north of the Veneto region, 44 km from the Austrian border. There are no trains to Cortina itself and the nearest train stations are Calalzo di Cadore to the south and Dobbiaco (Toblach) to the north. From these stations you will need to get a bus to Cortina (40 minutes – 1 hour).
By car the town is less than an hour from the A27 motorway (Pian de Vedoia) and an hour and a quarter from the A22 Brennero Bressanone-Val Pusteria exit.
There are also bus services to and from Venice, Treviso and Bologna airports.
The Cortina Express Bus (www.cortinaexpress.it) and AVTO Bus (www.atvo.it) operate direct buses from Venice to Cortina d’Ampezzo. Go to the web sites for schedules and more information. The bus takes about 2-3 hours.
There is a huge range of hotels and B&Bs and four camp sites in Cortina. It is also easy to rent an apartment (but you need to book ahead or very little is available). More general information on the FAQ page.