»Base & Climb«
SOUTH TYROL / ITALY
The Tre Cime Marathon
Words: Thomas Huber
A word that perfectly fits the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Dolomites: Unique. Their steep faces hold a crucial place in alpine climbing history. Paul Preuß, Comici, Cassin and my brother Alexander had all found their challenges here. Because of the special shape of these mountains and with a bit of imagination I found my personal adventure on the Tre Cime.
My idea was to link all three summits of the Tre Cime. Three routes, three summits and two base jumps in 24 hours. The starting point was on the Cima Piccola and the goal was the top of Cima Ovest.
In 2006 the actual plan was ready: The first route had to be climbed at night. Ötzi trifft Yeti, 5.12a, on the Cima Piccola, then a BASE jump from the Cima Piccola. Next was the Phantom der Zinne, 5.13a (today after much aggressive cleaning it is 5.12d at most) on the Cima Grande North Face and again back down the quick way over the north face. Then came the third and last route, the Swiss Route, 5.12c on the North Face of Cima Ovest, to the summit. More than 50 pitches of steep climbing at 5.10, 5.11 and 5.12.
I was able to convince the excellent climber and BASE jumper Dean Potter from the US to join forces on this project. We trained together and wanted to redpoint the link-up as a team. At the beginning, everything went according to plan: We had no trouble climbing Ötzi trifft Yeti on Cima Piccola during the night, the early morning BASE jump also went according to plan. Same for the Phantom der Zinne and the second jump. Then, my foot slipped on the first pitch of the Schweizerführe. In an unfortunate series of events, I luxated my left shoulder. A painful tendon rupture in my shoulder was the consequence. We were forced to accept defeat.
Dean Potter had his sights set on other projects during the following summers. I was determined to bring the adventure to a good end. In 2007, I again had to postpone the undertaking because of a training injury.
In 2008, things finally turned around. Hard training, great motivation, and my tenacity finally paid off. In mid-August I had perfect conditions. A stable high pressure system was above the Dolomites.
My plan has changed since 2006. Different belayers will support me and I will try to redpoint everything. I also redefine the »routing«. The start was now to be the Cima Ovest and the goal of the vertical marathon was the summit of Cima Piccola.
MY SUPPORT - MANY THANKS!
Peter Gambs, my BASE partner: He climbed the regular routes up the Cima Ovest and the Cima Grande and jumped with me. Peter Anzenberger belayed me during the night on Cima Ovest. Alexander, my brother and partner on Phantom der Zinne. Martin Kopfsguter, who kept me psyched on Cima Piccola and kept me from falling asleep at the anchors.
More than 1.500 meters of climbing, a total of 48 vertical and overhanging pitches, some at 5.10, mostly 5.11, and several at 5.12 .
August 15th, 22:30: I start up the Alpenliebe with Peter Anzenberger. Everything works out perfectly, we are fast and I manage to redpoint everything, until… towards the end of the crux pitch (pitch 10/5.12d) it’s suddenly pitch dark… the battery of my headlamp is empty. I have no chance at all to climb to the anchor in the dark. On my second try a hold breaks and fall into the night. A little bit unnerved I send the pitch on my third attempt. The way to the summit is now free. We summit at 4 am.
At 6 am, Peter Gambs and I jump off along the Scoiatollikante. 5 seconds of free fall, a suboptimal parachute opening, but I can adjust well, the landing is ok.
At 7.00 am, starting up the Phantom: I know it well and easily dispatch everything up to the crux pitch. At the crux, three BASE jumper pass us on their way down. What an awesome sound! I climb to the anchors on my first try. Oh yeah! I am psyched! While I climb the upper 5.10 pitches, which are quite demanding, I start noticing my fatigue. At 2.00 pm Alexander and I reach the summit of Cima Grande.
After a short break I jump off Cima Grande with Peter Gambs. 8 seconds of free fall, a good opening and the landing is ok.
At 3:30 pm I start climbing up the last route with Martin. Even though Ötzi trifft Yeti is only rated 5.12a, I have to give everything. Martin has to wake me up several times at the anchors. There is barely any energy left. It’s a true fight and I have now found my challenge.
Around 7:30 pm I reach the summit with Martin. I have reached the goal, I have arrived. A long emotional journey with many highs and lows ends - happily - now.
TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Italian for "the three peaks of Lavaredo"), also called the Drei Zinnen (German, literally "three merlons"), are three distinctive battlement-like peaks, in the Sexten Dolomites of northeastern Italy. They are probably one of the best-known mountain groups in the Alps.
The three peaks, from east to west, are:
- Cima Piccola/Kleine Zinne ("little peak")
- Cima Grande/Große Zinne ("big peak")
- Cima Ovest/Westliche Zinne ("western peak")
The peaks are composed of well-layered dolostones of the Dolomia Principale (Hauptdolomit) formation, Carnian to Rhaetian in age, as are many other groups in the Dolomites.
Until 1919 the peaks formed part of the border between Italy and Austria. Now they lie on the border between the Italian provinces of South Tyrol and Belluno and still are a part of the linguistic boundary between German-speaking and Italian-speaking majorities. The Cima Grande has an elevation of 2.999 metres (9,839 ft). It stands between the Cima Piccola, at 2.857 metres (9,373 ft), and the Cima Ovest, at 2.973 metres (9,754 ft).
North Face, 2.973 m
Dolomites, South Tyrol
500 meters, 17 pitches, 5.12d
1996, Christoph Hainz and Kurt Astner
From the top of the Scoiattoli,
ca. 5 seconds of free fall
2. PHANTOM DER ZINNE
North Face, 2.999 m
Dolomites, South Tyrol
PHANTOM DER ZINNE
500 meters, 17 pitches, 5.13a
1995, Christoph Hainz and Kurt Astner
From the Cima Grande,
ca. 8 seconds of free fall
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2. ÖTZI TRIFFT YETI
North Face, 2.857 m
Dolomites, South Tyrol
ÖTZI TRIFFT YETI
300 meters, 10 pitches, 5.12a
2000, Christoph Hainz and Kurt Astner
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