Piz Lavarella West Face, first ski descent in the Dolomites by Francesco Tremolada and Andrea Oberbacher
On 10/04/2013 Francesco Tremolada and Andrea Oberbacher made the first ski descent of the Piz Lavarella West Face (Conturines - Lavarella), Alta Badia, Dolomites. The report by Francesco Tremolada.
After having skied the South Face of Conturines (and the more classic West couloir) our attention turned to the large slopes on the West Face of Lavarella. The problem was understanding how to reach the final south-facing couloir which was only way down the lower section of this face. During the last few years we'd used binoculars and examined photos to carefully study the ramp which connects the large summit slopes with the couloir, but we never really understood whether that section could be skied entirely...
Two years ago it seemed as if conditions were good, the wind had swept snow onto the most critical sections but we never managed to find the right combination of weather, snow and work conditions to make an attempt. This year though is a special season in the Dolomites, we've got plenty of snow, the quality has always been excellent and only now - with the ski lifts closed and with fewer work commitments - we've finally got spring snow and the chance to try more complex descents up in the mountains.
We set off early on Wednesday morning up the classic Lavarella ski mountaineering route to reach the drop-off point. It was still cold when we reached the summit so we waited for about an hour to give the sun the chance to shine onto the face and transform the snow slightly.
The first section was fairly straightforward but impressive nevertheless since you ski down wide open slopes with the massive drop below. The snow conditions were variable and we quickly reached the ramp that leads to the final couloir. The first section is fairly wide and skiable, but alternates some exposed sections with hard-packed snow. We still couldn't see the last section, the one which worried us most since it was hidden behind the rock face, but we had a 60m rope, a 100m cordlet and gear for an abseil just in case.
As we skied past the final arête we were greeted with a surprise: the final slope was steep, narrow and exposed and led perfectly to the final couloir! We skied a section that had iced up due to water dripping off the face and entered the gully; we felt as if we'd overcome the biggest difficulties and it seemed too good to be true that we'd be able to ski the entire face without needing to abseil. Shortly afterwards though things turned out differently, a small, unexpected drop forced us to a make a short rappel. But after this final obstacle we managed to ski the rest of the face without further difficulties, despite the icy conditions. No longer tense, we skied down joyfully between the pine trees, on perfect spring snow, down into the valley.
Just like other descents we've done, this isn't a great undertaking; but they're "our projects", ones we study carefully, mull over and dream about until we manage to do them, having fun with friends. In doing so these become some of the nicest memories we have.
Lavarella, West Face
1000 m - AD - 5.2/E3
by Francesco Tremolada
For more steep skiing, freeride and ski mountaineering itineraries check out the books Freeride in the Dolomiti and Ski mountaineering in the Dolomites
For more photos check out www.proguide.it.