Punters top ten tips to the Dolomites

My recent trip to Dolomites was a massive learning curve as I have been climbing for over 5 years but only on Sport or bouldering trips.
The vibe was very different to a sport trip where you are just rocking up with a rope + draws and just trying to bone down on some tiny crimps or shake out on a tufa fest.
Everything feels a bit more serious, the fear of getting caught up on a tower in a lightening storm.. the falling rocks.. the climbing becomes a small part as you need to be able to focus on reading the route, placing gear and moving quick (The aim is 20 minutes a pitch including building a belay and bringing up the second).

Here are my top ten tips:

  1. Go Trad climbing especially multipitching to practice your belays, the belay's in the Dolomites will/should be equipped but sometimes need backing up. Also I found we were loads quicker at building a belay because we had built so many pure gear/natural ones.

    Picture of the a really bad belay
    One of my first belays after a stint of sport climbing.

  2. Have a go at just using a large sling to build your belays, this means your rope is not in the system making it easy for a leader to do two pitches back to back. This saves time on switching over gear and means you both stay a bit warmer.
    Petzl have a nice article here.

  3. Prepare for scree warfare, people told me about the chossy rock on the wall but no one mentioned that a lot of the approaches involved long walks up scree paths then if you are unlucky you will have a long scree walk out. Basically pack decent appoach shoes.

    Picture scree walk ins

  4. Prusiks, not one but 2+ or at least know how to tie a Klemheist. I may have abseiled off a tower which should have only been 50 metres but it ended up being more like 70 metres with only one Prusik, no knot in the end of the rope.
    This was super stupido and luckily someone passed me a couple of Prusiks otherwise I would have needed to call mountain rescue. Also remember guidebooks make mistakes.

  5. Carrying on from my last point the reason I made that mistake was I was freezing cold cause I hadn’t worn enough warm clothes. Pack warm clothes and don't rush decents.

  6. leave your short draws at home. Most pitches are broken so you will end up extending most placements.

  7. the queues are real and great to watch.

    Picture of the crazy queues on climbs in the dolomites

  8. This is more of a general trad tip if you try and place marginal gear three things will likely happen:

    1. You will get pumped.
    2. Your brain will start telling you that if you fall now that won't hold.
    3. It will most likely come out and you will hear it rattling down the rope.. at this point point 2 will really kick in.
  9. We started out carrying loads of gear and quickly learnt that most pitches are protected on the cruxes with pegs/instu gear. Because of this we would only ever use a couple of pieces when going over easier ground. Mostly this meant we would only carry the following:

    • 3 mid sized cams, we went for the ones with the biggest caming range.
    • 6 mid nuts, just the odd ones.
    • Roughly 12 long quickdraws, the Comici requires 16!
    • The rock is full of threads so loads of slings (at least 3),

    Picture of our minified rack

    (Please don't follow this tip blindly, this worked for us but you could get on a very different route)

  10. Always wear sun cream

This is what I learnt from 10 days in the Dolomites but remember these tips were written by a punter who nearly abbed off a rope so please seek professional advice before acting any of them out.

Written on September 25, 2016