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40 anni rifugio Falier, Marmolada, Dolomites
Photo by arch Mittersteiner / Renzler
40 anni rifugio Falier, Marmolada, Dolomites
Photo by arch Mittersteiner / Renzler
Nino and Agnese del Bon
Photo by arch Igor Koller
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40 anni rifugio Falier, first free ascent by Mittersteiner and Renzler in Marmolada


Roland Mittersteiner and Oliver Renzler have carried out the first free ascent of "40 anni rifugio Falier", established by Igor Koller and Dino Kuran in 1993 with the use of aid and now graded 7c+.

On 4 August the South Tyroleans Roland Mittersteiner and Oliver Renzler, after 2 previous attempts, freed and updated the route "40 anni rifugio Falier" on the South Face of the Marmolada in the Dolomites. The route is located on "Dorso dell'Elefante", the elephant's back, and after freeing the entire line (the third pitch was freed after having reached the top of the route) the duo substituted the 20-year-old original 8mm bolts with 10mm bolts. Furthermore, on the second 7c+ pitch they added a bolt immediately after the belay for safety reasons.

Mittersteiner and Renzeler describe the route as offering " beautiful climbing, up rock which is almost always extremely solid. The first four pitches mustn't be underestimated (!) and act as a "warm-up" to the system of cracks which, with interesting and varied climbing, lead to the top of the pillar." Mittersteiner and Renzler also point out that the difficulties they encountered were substantially different from the original difficulties found in the guidebook - check out our updated topo for the current grades.

Almost 20 years later, first ascentionist Igor Koller now recalls those August days: "The route is beautiful, difficult, up a vertical, at times overhanging face, atypical for the Marmolada. The history of the first ascent is interesting as this was carried out over three days. On our second day we climbed high on the crux pitch (third from the top, editor's note), but night set in and we had no choice but to abseil into the dark. On our third attempt two days later we abseiled in from the Don Quixote ledge and we then climbed the crux pitch and the last two pitches from below. We didn't place any gear from above, but it is important to understand that the first ascent and the actual climbing wasn't carried out in one continuous push from the ground. I have to mention that my partner Dino Kuràn, one of the best alpinists from Slovakia, is renowned for his climbing talent and his hard grading. I'm certain that, at the time, climbing the 5th pitch from below was an outstanding performance."

So, in extreme synthesis, after 17 years finally the first free ascent of a route which will certainly be talked about in the future. One thing is clear: Roland Mittersteiner and Oliver Renzler's recent ascent is important. And, as you can gather from the report below, sooner or later someone will adventure up the route to produce the complete single push redpoint which is still missing. We've got the feeling that, just as the nearby La Cattedrale has become an instant modern classic after Pietro dal Prà's free ascent, this new stimulus will open the floodgates. For good reason. Over the years climbers' ability level has improved, not only at the crags but also in the mountains. Dramatically so.

40 anni rifugio Falier by Mittersteiner and Renzler

The route line is impressive, the crack which cuts through the central pillar can be made out from the hut below. Two years ago Roland attempted the route for the first time, but since his girlfriend was tied in to the other end of the rope, he didn't have the "balls" to climb past the first ten meters - on the first pitch. He returned with Oliver, his climbing companion since 1986, and they quickly reached the first difficulties. One again though they didn't have the "balls"... A long run-out needed to be negotiated from the second bolt... they needed to be certain of what they were doing. But, to see whether the upper section of the route would go free, the two climbed a gully to the right (up Enola Gay) and they soon reached the top of the pillar. They located the belay and abseiled down, checked out the moves and estimated it to be 8a, with a 6m run-out from the belay.

Another year, another attempt. At the start of August they were on the rock face once again, but although it was too late in the day, this time they had a hammer with them. Highly motivated, Roland immediately freed the first two difficult pitches. They he placed some mediocre pegs, reached the first bolt above the belay and... abseiled off. It was 19:30.

4 August. We set off at 6.00am from the car, walked for 2 hours with hevy rucksacks. Swinging leads we free climbed up the the difficult pitch. But this time we immediately placed a bolt above the belay. Why take risks without thinking? Then, with some rests, Roland explored the entire pitch and cleaned the rock. A great little corner let to a Dülfer crack which, in turn, led to some other, more articulated cracks. Climbing second Oliver found an easier sequence and sent it straight off. But before redointing the pitch we wanted to reach the summit. The next pitch required total concentration, too. A 40m 7a crack protected by friends. this was then followed by a easy, 6a finale, then we abbed off.

We didn't take the drill up to the last two belays. As we abseiled down the pitch which still needed freeing we placed some friends and nuts where necessary and substituted the old bolts. We were tired. But this pitch wasn't going to stop us. In the end it wasn't 8a, but 7c/7c+ - but harder that the 7c on "La Cattedrale" and that on the Larcher-Vigiani. A just missing out on the redpoint, Olivier gave up and let Roland take over: with one final flurry he climbed past the difficult 15m section and then continued on to the belay! Finally! That was lucky! It was 19:30 once again. We began the descent and quickly substituted the bolts on the first 7c+ pitch. And we also placed a bolt on each belay. Now the route is demanding, but safe. Good luck to the next climbers! We expect an on-sight soon - by people with balls!






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