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For Your Eyes Only: Hard Alpine Ice in Italy

In late January as he proudly sent emails announcing the birth of his daughter, Giuseppe Ballico was awed by a friend’s image of a thin vein of ice descending Monte Pelmo. A few days later he pieced together a possible route from more emailed images. A continuous line of ice could be traced from high up on the face, down to a ledge a couple of hundred meters above Campi di Rutorto.

After a sleepless night tending to his newborn daughter, Ballaco set out with fellow climber Marco Milanese from the town of Zoppe di Cadore at the base of Monte Pelmo. The mountain is often referred to as “O Caregon del Padre Eterno” or “The Throne of God” as according to legend God sat down for a rest on the mountain after creating the Dolomites. The stiff snow conditions and the bright moonlit night allowed the climbers to ascend rapidly to the base of the climb. They were relieved when at dawn the route came into view and confirmed their hopes for good conditions. The first 200 meters of the climb was a mix of snow, rock and ice that brought them up to the steeper ice sections.

A full 60-meter overhanging pitch proved to be the crux of the route. After Milanese “huffed and puffed up the booming drip” Ballaco followed and joined him at the belay to admire “the paradise of peaks … from Antelao to Boscanero and, above all, the immense void beneath our feet”.

The next section tested Ballaco as his crampons “scratched against the rock, breaking the brittle veil of ice” supporting him. The pitch of ice was too thin for screws and Ballaco was forced to make do with a single nut below a 40 meter run-out before he could set up the next belay. “This pitch really tested me – with its thin vertical ice, marginal pro and the occasional chunks of ice which whizzed down close to me. I was tired but happy” Ballaco recalls.

The final pitch follows a perilous ice pillar that was broken and too dangerous to ascend. Instead of taking further risks after an already intense experience the pair chose to deviate to a side gulley of fun and challenging climbing.

Following a triumphant handshake at the top the climbers quickly abseiled down from V-threads they had left on the ascent. To celebrate his other great victory Ballaco decided “I’d like to dedicate it to my daughter Eleonora, born on the same day that I first heard about this great little jewel in the Dolomites.” The pair called the route Solo per i tuo occhi (For your eyes only.) (V, WI5+ X, 300m).