Dolomites double for the Riegler brothers
At Easter Florian and Martin Riegler carried out two noteworthy ascents in the Dolomites. On 7 April the South Tyrolean brothers made the first on-sight of "Karies" on Sassolungo while on 11 April they repeated Zauberlehrling on Cima Scotoni, all free and in a single day
During the Easter week Florian and Martin Riegler dedicated their energies to two exceptional routes in the Dolomites, Karies on Sassolungo and Zauberlehrling on Cima Scotoni. These are two important routes, selected for good reason and first ascended by South Tyrolean masters: Karies had been forged by the late Karl Unterkircher and Adam Holzknecht in 2003, while the "classic" 750m Zauberlehrling boasts the indellible signatures of Christoph Hainz and Oswald Celva from 1990. Circa a decade ago this route had received a solitary ascent, with the help of some aid, at the hands of Pietro dal Prà and the Riegler brothers described this feat as "simply outstanding!"
The fast repeat of these two routes is certainly a promising start for the season to come... whilst striving for the art of climbing without bolts.
Karies (Langkofel/Sella) grade 7c, 300 metres, 1st on-sight ascent
With one hand on the wheel and the other on the phone, my brother swung the car towards the Sella Pass. We’d heard there was a difficult trad route on the Zahnkofel and needed to get more information from Adam Holzknecht. Adam and Karl Unterkircher had first ascended Karies in 2003, at the time the most difficult route in the Langkofel group.
We skied to the start of the route that would take us to our ultimate goal. The route was yellow and looked steep and difficult. It was pleasantly warm and we started the climb. The first few metres were brittle, then the rock got better. The climb was very interesting and it was very difficult to place gear! Tense and fully concentrated we gained meter by meter. The hard winter training paid off and I managed all 8 pitches on-sight. We reached the summit exhausted. The weather had deteriorated and heavy snowflakes started to fall. We abseiled down through the fog from belay stations held in place with by poor gear – the final nerve-wracking moment of the day.
Zauberlehrling (Cima Scotoni/Fanes) grade 7c, 750 metres, 1st one day redpoint
We’d heard a lot about the extreme conditions on this renowned Cima Scotoni climb. Far more challenging than the “Fish Route” on the Marmolada, a real gem in the Dolomites and one which has never been repeated redpointed since the first ascent by Christoph Hainz and Oswald Celva 19 years ago.
11 April, 2009, 4.30am. I’ve been excited for days and now, just before we set off, I can hardly wait to finally get going. We ski to the base. In the grey light of dawn we check our equipment one last time. We discuss everything in detail and reduce our equipment to the bare minimum. We’re facing a 750-metre climb with grades of VII, VIII and IX. It’s ice-cold and we climb like stiff robots. We move slowly and carefully over the rock which is very brittle in parts. The sun hasn't hit the rock face yet.
On the crux pitch I notice that my energy is slowly being sapped. I’m so drained that my hands open against my will. I fall and thankfully the pro holds. Martin lowers me to the belay, I pull in the rope and, after a short break, try it again. This time everything goes smoothly and I'm able to climb the pitch. We reach the first ledge after 7 hours. After a short break, we step back in to our tight climbing shoes and we’re off again. The next 10 pitches are really tough. The route is difficult and the rock fragile, route finding proves a lottery. The climb is psychologically difficult and tests our nerves to the extreme. We reach the second ledge after 11 hours but the summit just doesn’t seem any closer. It gets dark and cold and some passages are wet. We put on our headlamps and step up the pace! But after 15 hours, my concentration starts to fail. I no longer feel anything, neither pain nor joy. I just keep on climbing. At around 10.30pm we reach deep snow. The summit, finally. We’re too tired to be happy and immediately start our descent. We reach the car at 1am. We cook spaghetti and are finally able to take it in: we completed the Zauberlehrling, redpoint in a single day.
Caries - Dente al Sasso Lungo
First ascent: Karl Unterkicher & Adam Holzknecht, 2003
Zauberlehrling, Cima Scotoni
First ascent: Christoph Hainz & Oswald Celva 10, 11, 12, 18, 19 & 25/08/1990
First solo ascent: Pietro dal Prà
Grade: IX (7c+)