First ascents & new challenges
Alpinism in the Sesto Dolomites has 150 years under its belt.
150 years during which, time and again, new, crazier, ever bolder mountain ascents have attracted attention. A long time filled with heroic tales, famous summit conquests and the occasional failed attempt. It was not uncommon for the pale giants to demand merciless tribute. It is a story of great adventures, master climbers, human ambition and a grand passion: mountain climbing.
The history of alpinism in the Sesto Dolomites can be roughly divided into four phases: the time of legendary first ascents from 1869 to 1890 were followed by years during which ambitious young mountaineers and climbers, above all Sepp and Veit Innerkofler, sought out new and ever more treacherous ascent routes: over rock faces and ledges, through chimneys and cracks. But eventually they had their fill of this. What followed next could perhaps be described as the alpine “sturm und drang” (storm and stress) period. The pale giants would now be forced out by the sheerest of steep faces. Partly even without climbing aids such as ropes and hooks. Masterpieces in terms of climbing technique that brought the mountaineers fame and heroic status: Sepp Innerkofler, for example, by conquering the north face of the Cima Piccola became, at a stroke, a living legend and probably the most sought-after mountain guide. The “Preuss Crack”, one of the loveliest climbing routes to the summit of the Cima Piccola still reminds us today of this exciting period.
With the 1930s came, finally, the “grade 6” period, the highest level of difficulty in alpinism. And the moment of glory of the Sesto climbing brothers, Toni and Franz Schranzhofer. With their spectacular ascents via the northern ridge of the Croda dei Toni and the wall-like Western peak with its sparse handholds, they soon made a name for themselves on the scene. Shortly thereafter, the north face of the large peak (Cima Grande) was cracked by an Italian two-man team. And it seemed almost as if every challenge that the Sesto Dolomites had to offer had been overcome. Almost. The contest between man and the mountain was not yet finally at an end. The mighty summits of the two larger peaks were yet to be conquered, and were considered to be insurmountable. At least until, in the 1950s, a new, extreme mountaineering generation was able to approach the rocky overhangs with bolts. Soon the north face of the Cima Grande was climbed along the fall line and so the two routes “Direttissima” and “Superdirettissima” were laid down – an extreme alpine achievement! Finally, in 1968 the last bulwark of the Sesto Dolomites, the 40 metre horizontally protruding overhang of the Western peak, was finally ascended with an extreme technical effort.