Dave Van Patten • August 28 - September 3, 2005

Dave Van Patten, who hails from New Hampshire, joined Mark for a week in the Dolomites. With no specific goals in mind, other than having a good time climbing and enjoying the great food, we did a number of classic fun routes. Besides the climbing, one of the more interesting aspects of the week was marveling at the extent of the ruins and relics of the Great War, World War One. A number of the routes we did climbed summits that were the site of hard fought battles, and heavily entrenched forces.

For about 2 years in 1916-17 the Italians tried to displace the entrenched Austrians along a front that wound through the Dolomites. But the terrain was so rugged and the fortifications and trenches so effective that neither side was able to make much headway against the other. A thankfully small number of soldiers were killed here. But the shear effort that went into defending positions, and what now remains of these efforts in the form of tunnels, trenches and via ferrata are mind-boggling in their extent.

Other Recent Trips

For the first part of our week we made the tiny village of Misurina, not far from the more well-known Cortina, our base of operations. A lovely little lake with great sunsets, several restaurants to choose from, and easy access to a number of fine climbs made this a fine place to stay.


On our first day of the week it rained. So we decided to ride the Telepherique to the summit of the Lagazuoi Pizo, a large peak just above Passo Falzarego. The top of this peak is a "war museum" where many kilometers of WWI tunnels have been restored.

The Austrians held this summit and were continuously burrowing new holes, hoping to get a better shot at the Italians below. Perhaps one of the most amazing wartime feats involved the Italians drilling a tunnel under those of the Austrians, filling it with explosives and blowing a large chunk of the mountain into the air. They had hoped to catch a number of Austrians in the blast, but the nervous Austrians, hearing all the drilling beneath their feet, largely vacated the area before the blast.


A machine gun emplacement in the Austrian tunnels.


With a fair bit of time on their hands, the "Alpini" of the 282 did some nice concrete work.


Some of the finer lodging in the Lagazuoi tunnel complex. This was probably an officer's quarters. Many of the rooms were left with cold rock walls. Life must have been pretty tough during the winter.


The weather cleared on Day 2 and we hiked up to the Fonda Savio hut to climb Torre Wundt, the large tower just over the hut.


Dave on the upper pitches of Torre Wundt. The start of the climb was in the shade, and it wasn't until about pitch 4 that we got back into the sun.


Rappelling off of Torre Wundt.


The Tre Cima di Lavaredo from Lago di Misurina.


For our second climb we chose the Northwest Ridge of the Paternkofel. In this view, the route climbs up close to the left-hand skyline, mostly in World War One Italian tunnels, then traverses right, gaining the right hand skyline for the last few, wonderful pitches.


The hike into the Paternkofel includes a near circumnavigation of the Tre Cime.


Another team on the last few feet of easy climbing below the summit. The pass below and to the right was one point where the front lines during the war were very close together.


Dave arrives at the summit of the Paternkofel.


A popular via ferrata ascends this peak and provides a fun and quick descent.


Back at the car park, near the Auronzo hut. The peaks behind are part of the group of summit which includes the Torre Wundt.


Fro our next day's climb we chose the SW Ridge of the Hexenstein, route marked in red. This is a fun route on great rock. Again, we found extensive trenching and tunneling on this summit. In fact, much of it is undergoing restoration and will become part of the very extensive war-time museum.


Dave climbing on the SW Ridge of the Hexenstein.


Flowers adorn an old cross near the summit of the Hexenstein.

After our climb of the Hexenstein we moved our base of operations to Canazei, a small town near the Sella Pass, near the western end of the Dolomites.


The following day we set out early for a traverse of the three Sella Towers, seen here. This is a big undertaking involving about 20 pitches of climbing with complex descents.


Dave on the "Kostner" route on the Second Sella Tower.


Topping out on the Second Tower. The Sassolungo Group behind.


Rappelling down off the Third Tower, a complex affair. The route we climbed on the Third Tower, the "Jahnweg" winds its way up the broad face above.


For our last climb, we headed for the Marmolada, the highest peak in the area and the only one with significant glaciers.


This route starts with a bizarre but welcome lift to near the glacier's edge. These odd cage-like platforms were "unique".


The normal route on the Marmolada more or less heads straight up from the top of the lift. We, however, elected to take the West Ridge route. This is a popular alternative that climbs a via ferrata up the otherwise very difficult ridge. Here, we are approaching the ridge.


On the West Ridge of the Marmolada.


There were lots of other folks on this route, but all moved along just fine. The steel cables of the via ferrata makes for quick and efficient travel.


And the views and exposure were fantastic.


Sure enough, there was a hut on the summit! The highest point of the peak is marked by a cross, a hundred yards behind the hut.


So, of course, we had to partake of a bowl of soup with a wee bit of sausage to fortify us for the descent.


The view north from the Passo Sella, which we crossed on our last day as we headed back to Milano.

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