The Sella Massif and Sassolungo mountain range are two of the most amazing spots in the Dolomites for those who love climbing the classic trad routes. The Spigolo Gross ont Sass Pordoi and the Kiene route on Cinque Dita are two classic climbs up to grade V, almost the same difficulties but featuring two different style of climbing.
Aldo Gross back in the early Sixties first climbed the arete of Sass Pordoi South face, following a system of cracks and steep slabs featured with good and solid yellow-gray dolomite rock. It takes a bit of route finding to chase the correct line in the central pitches, but if you find little home made green pitons with a ring then you know you are in the right place, as they were placed (probably by the first climbers) on the key spots. You climb up the Spigolo Gross with 8 pitches, you generally short rope the last 100 meters to the summit, where dreamy eyes of the children and frightened ones of the adults have watched you since the last pitch. The way back to the car straight with the cable car is among the most comfortable descents in the Dolomites!
The Kiene route on Cinque Dita, Sassolungo, known by German climbers as the “Diagonal-Riss”, first climbed in 1912, follows that big gray-yellow crack that cuts the South face of the Cinque Dita from right to left. My big respect goes to Gabriel Haupt (he has always been on the sharp end, but he preferred all his routes to be named after his rope mate Kurt Kiene just to stay “in the backstage”) for the boldness and style he climbed this sequence of cracks and overhanging chimneys with, I would say it’s still a tough climb because climbers these days don’t practise chimneys a lot, I also heard climbers saying they don’t like the Kiene because the rock is sometimes covered with debris (I say it’s like climbing over breadcrumbs here and there). Once you get to the top of Cinque Dita, unlike the Gross on Sass Pordoi, you have to face the tricky descent along the normal route, with some abseils and short rope sections via the Index, the Thumb notch, the Palm, the steep face to the Demetz Hut and finally – grand and comfortable finale down the “coffin lift” back to the car
Like it or not, the Kiene is a “journey to the center of the Earth” in every sense, I’m always glad to guide and recommend this route to the true lovers of classic alpinism. It’s an adventure that takes you back in time, these days we could climb up here with a good set of cams, but in the end you don’t really need it. Just bring a bit of boldness and climbing technique with you, along with some fair respect that is always helpful and necessary when tackling this kind of historical climbing masterpieces.