The Pichl route on the north face of Sassolungo is one of the most amazing climbing masterpieces of grade IV in the Dolomites, and certainly the longest route of its difficulty on the whole mountain range. First climbed in 1918, with its 27 pitches for 1200 meters of rock climb the Pichl is the longest route of the Sassolungo mountain range, and it’s often climbed (even solo) by local people from Val Gardena. The famous alpinist and mountaineer Reinhold Messner considered it an excellent testpiece to check the fitness out for bigger and more difficult challenges. The “Mammoth”, this is how we have called the Pichl with Giovanni since we put this climbing route among our goals, and we were very close to loose the chance to send it this summer one more time, as the weather was not that stable on the first part of July. Then the high pressure finally came in the second half of the month, and we said we couldn’t miss the chance. I picked him up at 3.30am on one of those beautiful sunny days and off we went to Sella pass.
Finding the Pichl route is not a big deal for an experienced climber, the topo described on the Mauro Bernardi’s guidebook is very good, but take into account the scale of this big wall of Sassolungo. Having a chance to look deep into this face with a binocular it’s essential for when you’ll climb it, so you’re not gonna waste time looking for pitons or slings in situ that are normally there just on the key spots, or where they become useful for guides. When locals talk about the Pichl route the just say “the North Face”, but if you climb it on a beautiful sunny day you will never be in the shade, so I would say that it is more East facing. The rock is fantastic and solid all along the route, the climb is all about slabs and chimneys, I would say 50/50, the chimneys before and after the Pichlwarte are not difficult (they are rated around grade IV), even the two key pitches can be easily climbed with good approach shoes (your feet will be very thankful if you will leave your climbing shoes at home on a big climbing journey like this). You can make some pitches longer or shorter, but in the end it’s not very convenient to do less than those 27 pitches recommended on the guidebook. We took just over 6 hours to get on top, everything went smoothly all the way up to the summit, and I have to admit I was pretty happy too as it was my first time climbing the Pichl. The normal route you follow to get down from the top of Sassolungo shouldn’t be underestimated as always, the warm temperatures made us a little bit more tired than expected, but at 4pm we were already back down at the Demetz hut pounding a cold deserved beer, still one hour before the closing of the “coffin lift”. If I can give you a last advice,plan carefully your timing for the climb as it’s not gonna be nice to miss the last run of the coffins back to the car.
Congratulations to Giovanni for hitting another great goal together this summer.