Dave and I have had a tiring 3 days of climbing and travelling home so my day to day account is all wrapped up in the one blog. As you may have guessed by the title of this post on our 7th day on the wall and last climbing day in our 10 day trip, Dave and I made an ascent of Bellavista. If that is your only interest, skip down the page a little. If however you have been following our progress day to day then read on.
Bellavista Day 6: Fear & Loathing in Le Dolomiti
After ripping out 2 of the pegs high on the crux pitch on day 5, day 6, which happened to have the best conditions on the pitch yet was turned into a day of admin. Dave felt that to stand a chance of a redpoint on our last day in the Dolomites he would take a “rest day” from the crux pitch. But we had to get the pegs back in and I wanted another session on the crux before Dave’s big day. I arranged the borrowing of a hammer from the Refugio and a little later than normal we headed round to the wall. Reaching the crux pitch we decided upon our regearing tactics. This would involve me first leading out to the highest remaining peg, then Dave going up the static to the belay and tensioning/aiding/backleading his way across to the point where the gear had come out.
Although I couldn’t go all the way out the pitch this time I was keen to get to know the moves better. The starting traverse, though not quite dry was the best it had been and I felt good on the individual moves. But the previous days whipper and a night’s worth of dreams of ripping out every peg on the pitch had me totally gripped. I did make progress with the moves, but I did not feel like I could move freely on the pitch. I had taken a step back mentally and after the day was done trudged back to the refuge pretty unhappy with myself. I had after all thought I had turned it around. If I was going to ever climb this pitch, which I know knew I could, it would only be if I could release the tension and anxiety which I had allowed to creep back into my head. Happily though, after a while Dave had managed to get a cluster of pegs in, equalised and better than what had ripped out. He had a chance the next day of a redpoint and we had a chance of an ascent of the whole route. Analysing our chances we had them down pretty low. We had had so little quality time on the pitch that it seemed unlikely we would be successful and I think we both doubted the crux would even be dry.
Bellavista Day 7: How the Cima Oveste Was Won
Our last and final day was possibly the coldest we had had yet. With a very early flight to catch the next day, there was no chance of topping out the Cassin-Rati to put the cherry on the cake but we could at least attempt Bellavista to it’s end (and junction with the Cassin) and spare ourselves being benighted on the ice covered gully of UIAA grade III and IV terrain by retreating back down the route.
I was up first, back to the frightening (E6ish) first 3 pitches for the first time since day 1. I was happy I knew what to do but this time I was viewing every peg with suspicion, which doesn’t help when they are all well spaced and with little back up in the way of other gear. It was freezing, literally below 0, and I had to get us off to a good start, even if Dave was talking as though this was just a mission to strip the gear out. I was desperately blowing warm breath on my hands with every single move, pressing them against the warm flesh of the back of my neck and getting none the warmer. About 15m up at peg 3, I had a little moment, outwardly expressing my dissatisfaction with where I was:
- “It’s F**%$%^ so cold”
- “I don’t want to be here”
- “F%^* sake, this is so $%&t, nothing gets my hands warm”
- “these pegs are all so F%&*@£$”
I was tense and needed to get that off my chest but inwardly I wanted to do this, I did want to be there. I wasn’t going to be the weakest link and I was damned if the fact I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes was going to stop me. I made it up to the crux move, when fortuitously a sudden rush of blood came to my fingers and I pulled off the hard move with ease. The cold returned instantly but I knew then I was going to make it to the belay. I relaxed into the climb and suddenly the pegs no longer seemed so bad, nor so far apart. The rock was still crud though.
Dave followed up and passed through onto pitch 4 and 5. He looked so cold and unpsyched. Being the man he is though, he got there, up to the roof, donned the belay jacket we had stashed there and got some food in. I cleanly followed up, feeling a little warmer and so much happier than I had been in the same place on day 2. I could sense it was coming back, this hard won, easily lost head of mine. Dave though, still didn’t look like a man who believed.
We were there and Dave wasn’t not going to try. He went out the initial traverse for a warm up. He looked at ease on the holds and reported what we never thought would happen. The whole thing was dry and there was even FRICTION! Inwardly I was gutted it was our last day as I was ready for more attempts and wanted that pitch for real now but I was so psyched for Dave to have a chance of a fairytale ending.
After a quick return to the belay to warm the fingers, he went off, this time for real. He disappeared out of sight cruising the crux moves just at the limit of where I could see him. Seeing that I thought, he could do it, as long as he could keep warm enough on the pitch. Knowing the pitch I could visualise where he was from the changing rate I fed out the rope.
-”Go on Dave” I whispered.
A power scream, I recognised as the “undercut move” which we had marked as a potential deal breaker. The rope never came tight. I could sense from the delay he was at the rest. It wasn’t far from there to go.
-”Go on Dave”, I whispered. ”Go on Dave”.
The rope moved more and a little more, he must be nearly there. Then elation, raw, screaming elation with a Glaswegian accent echoed through the Tre Cime, bouncing off every rock wall. I could imagine the tiny figures of the ramblers and tourists down below craning their necks to figure out what exactly was going on. This was it, we were going for it.
-”Dave you absolute legend”.
I gathered up the gear, the belay jacket and down trousers, the belay seat, Daves gloves etc and hastily lowered myself out the static to jumar up to him, to take this thing to the top. The man was a smiling, shivering wreck by the time I got to him. I patted him on the back. Handed him the warmth and then noted that I had left the second rope behind. Could we make it down, without the second rope for abseiling and how would the upper pitches be for drag? Time was of the essence and we decided to go for it, taking the static rope with us as far as the slack would allow and hoping for the best.
I was up. 8a time. Having stripped the pitch earlier in the week I geared up. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go down, I hadn’t tried to lead the pitch when we had been up before and looking at them I was reminded of the peg-ripping experience. As I started out, though, the fear of stepping away from the belay was replaced by the enjoyment of being up there, leading, climbing freely on DRY ROCK! The weighty static rope seemed to drag me down as I thrutched at the one hard move on the pitch. I tickled the hold, but no success. I climbed on to the next belay, dumped the static rope, and abseiled back to Dave. I pulled the rope back down and went again instantly. As much free from the weight of the static, the weight of my nerves now gone the pitch was dispatched with no fuss at all (and not at 8a, but lets not spoil it).
-”Man”, I thought, “give me a tiny bit more time and I could actually climb the crux pitch too”.
But we were going up and then home as fast as we could.
Dave linked pitch 8 and 9 together and I joined him at the penultimate belay with Cassin-Rati in sight. I enjoyed every last move on the 10th and final pitch. A brief moment of congratulation in the sun, which had joined us at the belay was followed by as swift an exit as we could muster. The sun coming onto this face signified only one thing the, looming darkness. Some inventive rope manoeuvres and a handful of abandoned biners got us back to the roof and the sanctuary of our static rope. A night-time descent wouldn’t be right without a bit of faf, so the wind conspired to get me tangled in our lead rope as I descended the huge loop to take us back under the roof. But we got down just as the sky turned black and delightedly packed up to hurry out. We didn’t say much to each other at first. I don’t think either of us could quite believe Dave had pulled it off.
-”Dave, you absolute legend”, summed it up well enough.