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Mario Prinoth and The Search, Dolomites
Photo by Mario Prinoth
Mario Prinoth paragliding above the Dolomites
Photo by Mario Prinoth
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The Search, a climbing quest by Mario Prinoth


This autumn Italian climber Mario Prinoth discovered, bolted and freed The Search, a 35m line up the smooth limestone face close to Capanna Bill on the Marmolada, Dolomites.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what climbers continuously search for. And it's just as hard to deny that it's exactly this quest which provides a concrete answer to their climbing. This certainly holds true for Mario Prinoth, his climbing and his new route, deliberately named The Search. This is a 35m line on the smooth limestone face close to Capanna Bill on the Marmolada which the climber from the nearby Val di Fassa discovered, bolted, cleaned and then, as a final act, freed one cold day at the end of autumn.

The Search is the fruit of a beautiful year which saw him repeat a large number of class routes including, amongst others, the famous "The big Mother" (8c+) at Erto, the must-do route "Thin Ice" (8c) at Terlago, the highly technical "Drumtime" at Fonzaso and "Venticinquesimo," first ascended by Rolando Larcher at Celva (by the way, highly recommended by Prinoth). At this point though something was missing. The complete quest, the creation of something new from start to finish. The Search was on for this new line.

The ensuing 35 meters offer extremely varied climbing, where friction "is the name of the game" and where a climber's stamina is tested to the full thanks to the slightly overhanging finish. Prinoth compares the route to Thin Ice at Terlago and Drumtime at Fonazaso, but believes it's "harder due to the endurance needed and the precarious climbing." So, we add, the route could be somewhere in the region of 9a. But this, as you'll no doubt have gathered, is less important than the greater experience of The Search, that research which continues to fuel the "master climber" Mario Prinoth.

The Search by Mario Prinoth

I like climbing in all its forms, climbing everything climbable and climbing has given me and continues to give me some of the most profound emotions I've ever felt. Like everyone else, I believe, I like new challenges and I like having the possibility to tell others about them, of sharing a love and emotions. With everything else I've ever done I've never felt that desire, almost a necessity, to search for my own limits, both physical and psychological, like I have in climbing.

Perhaps this is the essence and thrust which motivates us climbers to endure enormous strains and psychological stress for a single reason: to cross that line. In truth, this is never the finishing line, everyone knows that human nature is such that we're never 100% satisfied and we always want something more. This year, thanks also to the advice given to me by Alessando Jolly Lamberti, I managed to train well and have a highly satisfying time. After many great ascents including "The big Mother" at Erto followed by "Thin Ice" at Terlago, I set off in search of an almost perfect line where I could do what I'm good at while on great form.

This continuous search brought me instinctively to an old project of mine, and it also provided me with the name of the route at the foot of the Marmolada. The Search, 35m of extremely varied climbing, with a slightly overhanging finish where you need to dose your endurance carefully: my friend Stenico described these finishing holds as "Gilette". Apart from a couple of holds which I had to consolidate, all the rest is completely natural because my personal search also concentrated on this, either I could climb it like this or I'd give it to a friend.

I frequented Capanna Bill - this is what I called the sector above the refuge - assiduously during this splendid autumn and this enabled me to discover new sequences time and time again. Two precarious sections mean that friction is the name of the game and in almost winter conditions I managed to free the line.

It was a truly special moment because that day my daughter Alison was there with a video camera. She filmed me during the ascent so I can now relive those moments which have such a intense and particular meaning, because I experienced the satisfaction which only discovering, bolting, cleaning and then freeing such a beautiful line can give.

I've always been somewhat perplexed about grades, used more to measure the efforts of each individual climber than for their original aim, ie to give an indication about the route which everyone can compare to their own ability. Having said that, I feel that every route has its own value which cannot really be determined by comparing it to other routes, but if I had to describe the style and grade compared to others, or give an idea about the route to someone interested in attempting it, I'd say it's comparable to "Thin Ice" at Terlago and "Drum Time" at Fonzaso, but decidedly harder due to the endurance needed and precarious nature of the climbing.

I'd like to finish by thanking Heinz Mariacher who for more than 20 years has put "wings" to my feet and who, year after year, manages to create better and better climbing shoes. And Simone Moro, thanks to whom I've always got the right apparel which makes me feel at ease.





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