A Dolomite DOC climb reinterpreted in winter
Francesco Salvaterra reports about the winter ascent, carried out together with Marcello Cominetti, of Hrushka up the East Face of Mur de Pisciadù, Sella, Dolomites, Italy
The barmaids at après-ski bar "Peter" in Arabba are exactly like the girls drawn on the front door,
beautiful and with two Oktoberfest jugs. "Estamos palmados" as one says in (lunfardo) Argentine slang, we’re frazzled, exhausted but content with that sort of happy fatigue you get after a busy day in the mountains. In my slang I’d say "ho la poiana”, which means “bird of prey” but it basically bills down to the same thing.
Marcello and I use a sort of Spanish-Argentine slang because we spend more time climbing together in Patagonia than here at home. We’ve just descended from the East Face of Mur de Pisciadù in the Sella massif after having repeated a climb called Hrushka. It was Marcello’s idea since he’s often out and about round here and had kept a watchful eye on conditions. Thirty years of guiding in these mountains has transformed him into a living “garmin”, ready to teach a layman like myself who, apart from not knowing much about these parts of the Dolomites, has a poor memory when it comes to remembering the names of these mountains.
The place is beautiful, also because the approach is short, less than an hour. The route follows a chimney that cuts straight down the entire peak and in the first half a veritable cascade of ice had formed. We climbed this using ice axes and crampons , placing ice screws as pro. On a pitch of thin ice we stumbled across some old pegs, we knew an old route climbed this line and the idea of retracing the footsteps of those who adventured up here in the 1930’s, now in winter, added a special charm to our ascent. We didn’t know if others had climbed this route in winter before us. At a certain point the chimney became really tight and led to a belay comprised of a wedged block, a kind of pulpit, and from here we then rejoined what should be the summer line.
The wall faces north and this grade 4 climbing doesn’t feel easy, with all that snow, big boots and numb fingers, but that's the beauty of it all. The col on the summit leads us down onto the other side, showing us a close-up view of Daint de Mesdì, a very photogenic tower. We scramble down, then down climb and make three abseils to reach three chamois, enormous in their winter garb. As soon as they notice the two of us hanging from the ropes, all dressed up in colorful clothing, they flee to quieter areas without breaking into the snow and at breakneck, enviable speed.
Keeping our crampons on so as to avoid slipping down the steep descent in Val di Mezdì we quickly return to the car and enjoy a good Weissbier, exhausted but happy.
This original route was first climbed by the pharmacist from Brunico M. Hruschka, together with E. Lunz and R. von Zieglauer back on 28 September 1933. 500m high, it’s classic Dolomite chimney climbing breaches difficulties up to classic grade V . Reinterpreted in winter, in our opinion it is a really nice climb, by no means trivial, fun and adventurous. Seeing that the approach is easy and the ice often forms, it deserves to become a winter classic.
by Francesco Salvaterra
Marcello thanks: Patagonia, Ferrino, S.C.A.R.P.A., Salice
Francesco thanks: Ferrino, Zamberlan, Climbing Technology.
TOPO: Hrushka, Sella, Dolomites