Hard mixed at Val de Landro

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Scott Muir - 26/05/2005

The evening before I headed to Val de Landro in the Italian Dolomites, I got a short email from Mauro 'BuBu' Bole saying he'd just finished a new M12 'Big Ben' in the cave. Already buzzing to repeat his route from last year La Via est Bella M11, I headed out even more psyched for a blast at this other new line as well.

On arrival, conditions were tremendous, with an Austrian team insitu raving about the place. I got on with onsighting Kurt Astner's Silent Memories M9-. I swung onto the top stalactite a bit pumped and feeling very sketchy on my first sport mixed route of the season. Kurt Astner's other line at the crag, Fly in the Wind was the next target. A thin ice smear leads to the roof that is about 12 metres horizontally to a massive Ice fringe that this year, had touched down. Only a few hours earlier I'd stood at the bottom thinking and looking up at the pillar with eyes to lead it, but thankfully I'd been distracted. As now, hanging from the last bolt working out a sequence that might go, I tapped it gently, unexpectedly bringing the entire thing down. Had Malcolm been 1 metre closer, he would have been wiped out (see photos). I now looked at the one metre ice roof I'd just created and could have wept.

The last moves of 'Fly' are now much harder, like 'White Out' at Isenfluh since holds broke a while back making it solid M10+ instead of M10, and what would have been an easy finish on the ice now turned into a redpoint battle. With much relief I eventually topped out despite several fruitless attempts at rocking over onto what was left of the fringe.

Unfortunately La Via est Bella is currently in bad shape and I didn't have the time in 5 days to re-equip it with new pegs so I got on with what I thought was Big Ben. Its so hard to get good info on these crags and I was acting on experience, in that the shiny new bolts and obviously long route 22m of horizontal roof in front of could only be Big Ben - how wrong I was. I had infact made a quick and early repeat of Kurt Astner's new route 'M11 The Astner / Hainz' in mistake for Big Ben. I found this out at Val Daone during the Ice World Bouldering Championships whilst talking directly with Kurt. To my complete astonishment I discovered that Big Ben actually starts up La Via est Bella, goes to the last bolt of this route, then down climbs another route to the ground. Now, hopefully I can be forgiven for making this glaring mistake, but I have never known such a contrived line to be claimed as a route. What is even more ridiculous it that it can also be climbed in reverse at the same grade and as the same route, well I suppose at least you have a top rope for the second half of the route! Maybe climbing the Eiger North Face to the summit and then reversing it back to the ground is the new way of increasing difficulty. What games are to be played next?

Politics aside, the routes that go from the ground to the ice, are well worth a visit. Along with the unrepeated Music and Magic M10 in nearby Sappadda they provide a great week's hard sport mixed climbing in a beautiful part of Italy.

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