Sasha DiGiulian Describes 5.14b North Face in Dolomites
8/13/13 / Updated 8/15/13 - "After climbing through a big storm for the final pitches, and spending a bitter cold, wet night at the top of…[Cima Ovest], I'm down and happy to report the First Female Ascent of Bellavista, 8c, a 2-year dream of mine to climb!" So reads a post early today on Sasha DiGiulian's Instagram and Facebook accounts, reporting a successful ascent of the landmark Alexander Huber route on one of the Italian Dolomites' steepest faces.
Huber established Bellavista (5.14b) over four days in the winter of 1999, using aid (A3/4), and then redpointed the route two years later after weeks of work. The overhanging line on the westernmost of the great Tre Cime di Lavaredo ascends 10 pitches before joining older routes, and includes five pitches of 5.12 or harder, with a wild crux traversing through huge roofs. Perhaps even more impressive, Huber added no bolts after his aid ascent, wanting to preserve the adventurous spirit of the line.
DiGiulian got the idea to attempt the route from Reinhold Messner, during a dinner hosted by their mutual sponsor Adidas in late 2011. She finally made it to the Dolomites at the beginning of August, along with the Spanish climber Edu Marin. After a warm-up route that ended with a 2:30 a.m. return to the hut, DiGiulian and Marin spent two days working on the lower pitches of Bellavista, with each trying the crux sixth pitch once. "If you fall on the route, you have to jumar back up the wall. Therefore, trying the route requires a lot of effort," DiGiulian wrote later at her blog. "The falls are intimidating and exposed. My first try, I definitely knew that I mentally had to relax more. I was over-gripping and nervous to fall off the pitons into a huge gap of air. However, if I didn’t accept the possibility of taking a big fall, there would be no way to try to send the route."
After a couple of days away from the route for rest and poor weather (DiGiulian flashed the route Pole Position, 5.13c, at Erto on the second day "off"), the two returned to try the crux leads again on August 11, and DiGiulian sent the pitch first try. Marin managed the pitch after two tries. They both successfully led the 8a (5.3b) pitch above, and then rappelled to the ground to prepare for a single-push redpoint. After linking the bottom five pitches (up to 5.12b) in two long pitches, Marin tried the crux 5.14b pitch first but fell. DiGiulian tried next and fell, but then worked out a new sequence and sent the pitch despite some wet holds. Marin jumared to the next anchor, and DiGiulian then led the 5.13b pitch.
Much easier climbing followed, but the north face is about 1,500 feet high, and a thunderstorm rolled in about 200 feet from the top. They didn't reach the summit until 9 p.m. After failing to find the descent route, DiGiulian phoned Alex Huber, who recommended they bivy on top rather than risk the hazardous descent. Dawn finally came around 5:30 a.m., and the two made their way off the peak and back to the hut, where DiGiulian bought three hot showers in a row.
"Climbing Bellavista opened a new door of possibility for me," DiGiulian wrote. "Edu taught me how to use a lot of new big-wall gear, I realized the capacity of human suffering is without boundaries, and we accomplished a long-time dream of mine."
DiGiulian's ascent follows repeats by well-known European climbers including Mauro Bole and David Lama. If the weather allows, she plans to attempt Panaroma (5.14b), a harder line through the same roof band ascended by Bellavista, also first climbed by Huber.
Date of ascent: August 2013