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Climbing pitch two of Schirata. Piz Ciavazes (Sella, Dolomites)
Photo by Manuel Stuflesser
Via Schirata (IX-, 235m, Manuel Stuflesser, Martin Riegler), Piz Ciavazes, Sella, Dolomites
Photo by Manuel Stuflesser

Schirata, new route on Piz Ciavazes, Dolomites by Stuflesser and Riegler


In winter 2011-12 Manuel Stuflesser and Martin Riegler established Schirata (XI-, 235m), a new route up Piz Ciavazes (Sella, Dolomites). The report by Stuflesser.

Although it may seem impossible, it's true: there is still enough room on Piz Ciavazes to climb something new. In many respects this face in the Sella group is the most popular in the entire Dolomites and offers a real network of routes, but virgin territory was discovered this winter by the South Tyrolean climbers Manuel Stuflesser and Martin Riegler. The two forged and freed Schirata, a new line between the routes Zeni and Non ci resta che piangere, the latter having been freed by Riegler in January this year. But Schirata didn't come about thanks to this ascent, but due to a cheeky squirrel. Stuflesser explains why.

Schirata, the squirrel's climb
by Manuel Stuflesser

In mountaineering literature you often come across the fact that alpinists, on reaching the summit, already have a new goal in mind. The summit I reached was the top of my route "Batajan" on the west face of the second Sella tower: it was in 2009 while finishing off this route that I first took a close look at this section. It was cold and windy day so we decided to climb "Via Zeni" and then continue up "Batajan" in the afternoon. While waiting at the belay my eyes strayed right to the overhanging face and I began to winder whether it would be possible to climb it one day. Three years went by but the question remained unanswered.

On 20 November 2011 I climbed "Via Italia" and once again my eyes drifted right, in the hope that it hadn't yet been climbed, but I discovered some pegs and slings where there shouldn't have been anything. I studied the routes and guidebooks but failed to find anything. So there was nothing left to do but give it a go and find out for myself whether it was an unknown route or merely an attempt. I told Martin Riegler about my discovery and a few days later we were at the base of the face. We climbed up the first pitch of "Zeni" and then we reached the start of the unknown line. Pegs, slings and old bolts indicated the way up. Martin set up a belay and discovered, hidden behind a boulder, a dozen old pegs. We felt relieved, because now we new that the other climbers had only reached this point and that the rest of the face was unclimbed.

I climbed the next pitch and was surprised to discover that, compared to the one below, it was relatively easy. I wondered why the unknown climbers hadn't continued. Martin climbed the next pitch, then darkness set in and forced us to retreat. We returned to the base the next morning, happy to be able to climb a new route, but we were still tired from the previous day and didn't make much progress. The weather certainly didn't help, winter had finally arrived!

On 9 March 2012 we made another attempt and this time we reached the Cengia dei Camosci, the large ledge at mid-height. Because of the difficulties we had climbed some sections with the use of aid, but Martin was convinced it would all go free. I began sketching the topo and realised that there was still room for a new first pitch, which would mean not sharing the start with Zeni. Climbing this new start didn't cost us too much time and we used the remaining hours to try the moves on the hardest pitch. Martin was engaged on pitch 6 when he suddenly shouted "a squirrel!" I looked up and saw the animal running along the face. We felt rather miserable, we'd just been burnt off by a squirrel running lightly up this vertical face where we proceeded clumsily with all our heavy gear. This is why the route had to be called squirrel, in Ladin "Schirata".

On 31 March we finally went for the free ascent. We alternated leads but both wanted to free the crux pitch. Martin gave this a go first, but before setting off he anxiously studied the line. The sun hadn't reached the overhanging crack yet but Martin climbed smoothly to the rest where he warmed his frozen hands. I shouted up words of encouragement and he succeeded. I lowered him to the belay and we switched roles. It was now up to me: I climbed the cracks until I felt my arms getting tired and my hands started to freeze. At the rest I tried to relax and warm up and then, determined to give it all I had, I continued up and reached the rescuing belay! I shouted for joy! A pitch later, up on the ledge, we relaxed, content for having established a demanding and beautiful new route which had impressed us with its logical sequence of surprisingly good holds through the steep overhang. Schirata, the squirrel's climb






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