The iconic Campanile di Val Montanaia in the Friulan Alps
A TRUE STORY by Dan Perti – It happened July 16, 2012
My wife Liz and I have been climbing with Enrico since 1999 when he took us to the Cinque Torri for a full day of testing our skills on four of the towers, all rated between IV- and IV+. We’re most comfortable at IV+… anything easier is not challenging enough, anything more difficult might result in an epic. We don’t climb in the States any longe.
The only decent climbing area on the East Coast near where we live are the Gunks, and even they are over 250 Km away.campanile val montanaia
Areas closer to our home in Pennsylvania, such as the Delaware Water Gap, are simply too dirty and vegetated.
My wife is extremely sensitive to poison ivy and so we simply can’t climb nearby.
We only climb once a year when we travel to the Dolomites; if the weather co-operates we do a couple of climbs with Enrico, a few Vie Ferrate by ourselves, and many long hikes.campanile val montanaia
I suspect Enrico always gave us more credit than we deserved in choosing the climbs, and early on we did some challenging (for us) routes on the Col dei Bos, the Terzo Spigolo della Tofana, Campanile Dulfer, etc., all rated at V to V+.
It’s a measure of Enrico’s skill and self confidence as a guide that he always chose routes that tested our mettle without leaving us crying in the middle of a wall. The early part of July 2012 was a particularly bad start to the summer, even judging by the fickle standards of Dolomitic weather. It rained almost every day and, though it did not really affect our hikes and climbs on Vie Ferrate, it was not possible to schedule any climbs with Enrico.
It’s true that Cozzi and Zanutti got past the crux of the climb, the famous Cozzi crack, but they did not or could not go beyond. The two Austrians, armed with some beta from the two Triestini, made it past the Cozzi crack and pioneered the daring traverse to the bottom of the Glanvell-Saar chimney, which they also overcame. A couple of easier pitches later they were on top. Having climbed it myself, my hat goes off to the two Austrians for having the guts to follow the traverse and make it up the chimney, no easy feat.
From Cortina, it’s about a two hour drive to the Pordenone Hut. Down the Piave Valley, past Longarone, up to the infamous Vajont Dam, past Erto, on to Cimolais and the Val Cimolaia, and finally to the parking area ten minutes away from the Hut. We left Cortina at about five o’clock in unsettled, drizzly weather. I did not give the climb much of a chance, but even the hike up the rugged Val Montanaia would be a good day’s excursion, and staying in a mountain hut is always an adventure.
Once in Cimolais, we headed north up the Cimolaia Valley for the 13 Km drive to the Hut. The road starts out as a narrow paved road, but later becomes a dirt road which crosses many streams. It was clear early on that the heavy rains of the past few days had exacted a heavy toll on the road. Each time we crossed a wash, the ruts got deeper and deeper.
We parked the car on the side of the road, loaded all our climbing gear on our packs (ropes, harnesses, helmets, biners, etc.) and continued to the hut. We were hoping that dinner would still be available by the time we got there. An hour later, sweaty and hungry we arrived at the hut.
The hut keeper managed to serve us some extremely coarse, heavy polenta, which nonetheless tasted very good, but also informed us that he had given away our rooms, reservations be damned, when we didn’t show up earlier.
He did have one room remaining which could fit three people. Faced with a long hike back to the car and Cimolais, we gratefully took the room. Two beers later we hit the sack and fell into a deep sleep. We had met a group of five climbers from Trieste the night before. I had lived in Trieste for a time and it was good to be able to speak Triestino dialect again.
On the morning of the climb we woke up early hoping to beat the Triestini to the start. After a hurried breakfast, we were on our way at 7:00 am. Most climbers had already left ahead of us… the only group behind us was a group of three from Udine that had driven to the hut the same morning. So much for our early start.
During the night a cold front had come through, and the morning dawned bright, brisk, and cold. The steepness of the hike and Enrico’s usual fast pace kept us sweating. An hour into the hike, we caught our first glimpse of the mesmerizing Campanile. We could only see the upper third poking its head up above the evergreens lower down, but it exerted an almost hypnotic spell on us. Liz and I simply could not take our eyes off it. I was sweating profusely and wasn’t feeling particularly well. I asked Liz how she was feeling but she said she was fine, just a bit cold.
Obviously we would have to call off the climb and make it down while we still could.
All of a sudden I started vomiting all of the coarse polenta and whatever I had eaten that morning… I continued for several minutes until I had nothing left. Strangely, I immediately felt better.
I took some water to rinse off my mouth and after a brief conversation with Liz I started climbing. I figured if I felt sick again, I could just as easily downclimb from the top of the pitch.
On our way back to Cortina we stopped for pizza in San Vito. By then I was famished and pizza never tasted better. Throughout the day my lovely wife was her usual encouraging self and performed splendidly.
In July 2013, having passed my 70th birthday, we had another adventure with Enrico on the Anticima della Croda del Rifugio, but that’s another story…