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Dolomites: Riegler Opens Hard Mixed, Frees Rock

Florian Riegler on Illuminati (M11+ WI6+, 150m), which he repeated with Herbert Klammer on January 29, 2008, in Val Lunga-Selva Gardena, Dolomites, Italy. In the past two months Riegler also made the first ascent of Zauberflote (M10 WI7-, 100m) and the first free ascent of Vent Ani Do (8a/8a+ [5.13b/c], 350m), now the hardest climb in the Sella region. [Photo] Stephano Im

In January 2006, the strong Austrian mountain guide Albert Leichtfried established one of the world’s most beautiful, difficult and fragile multi-pitch mixed climbs: Illuminati (M11+ WI6+, 5 pitches, 150m), Val Lunga, Dolomites, Italy. Located in a 90-meter-high cave that resembles the Grande Grotta in Kalymnos, Greece, it overhangs 45 meters and is decorated with three ice drips. It went without another recorded ascent for two years, requiring very specific conditions and its potential ascensionist to be in peak physical form. Little did I know that my ascent would kick off a series of other adventures.

The ice pitches (called Mysteria) were freed in 1998 by two ice climbers from Bolzano. Illuminati, the two-pitch mixed entrance into the upper sections of Mysteria, were freed by
Leichtfried. After attempting the mixed pitches twice, on January 29 I felt ready to exit onto the ice, despite seemingly poor conditions (temperatures in the sun reached 15 degrees C). But I was on form; I felt good, and my partner Herbert Klammer agreed to climb with me. After a three-hour battle to climb the 90 meters, I exited, soaked but alive and happy. At the end of the day I felt the route was slightly easier than the grade suggests. Nevertheless it was, without a doubt, one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever experienced.

Riegler transitions onto ice on Illuminati (M11+ WI6+, 150m). [Photo] Stephano Im

In the same valley, Val Lunga, exist numerous unclimbed icefalls above 1800 meters; the high elevation allows the ice to stay in condition for a long time. I also like this special place because it is one of the last valleys in the Dolomites that has not been transformed into a commercial skiing area. A week after repeating Illuminati Hannes Lehmayr and I started again, this time on a virgin ice and mixed line at the end of this beautiful, wild valley. On February 22 we redpointed the three-pitch Zauberfl?te (Magic Flute: M10 WI7-, 100m), a perfectly formed icefall, thin like a flute and so technical and dangerous that an ascent nearly requires magic.

Ten days later, March 2, my brother Martin and I freed another nice line, this time on rock. Vent Ani Do (20 Years After, 12 pitches, 350m) was established three years ago at 6b [5.10d] A2, in the classic Sella area of the Dolomites, but had never been freed. The line is impressive, especially 200 meters up, where a hard ten-move boulder problem (8a/8a+ [5.13b/c]) climbs through a roof. It is now the most difficult route in all of Sella. Our adventure finished with a impressive sunset at the top of the wall.

Recently my brother, Martin, and I have two new projects in the Marmolada and in the Rosegarden, where we want to repeat difficult trad routes. Although we enjoy traveling–we’ve planned to try an unclimbed peak in Pakistan this summer–we most enjoy climbing important routes here in our homeland, the Dolomites.

Martin Riegler on the first redpoint of Vent Ani Do, which he climbed with his brother, Florian, on March 2, 2008. The twelve-pitch route featured a cruxy roof 200 meters into the route. [Photo] Florian Riegler