Jollies in the Dollies

By David Robinette

The plan was simple, get the ice climbing mileage in time for smashing out the late season Ben Nevis ice routes. We couldn’t decide on where to go, Kandersteg, Rjukan, Cogne. In the end, we settled on Serrai di Sottoguda based on a couple of UKC articles and a recommendation from a few locals.

We were advised to fly to Innsbruck to ensure we got a winter tyre equipped car at a reasonable cost. Apparently, in Italy, it can be a little more difficult as they are not necessarily required, depending on where you pick the car up from. Flights were pretty cheap from Manchester and the plane was empty! We picked up the car, psyched when we were told it had 6 km on the clock and with significantly more frills than our cars at home. Despite being warned, we still messed up with the snow chains, the ones we were given were broken and by the time we realised the office was closed. Nevermind, we were excited to get on the road.

Serrai di Sottoguda is fantastic, like a roadside gritstone crag but full of Ice! Wandering through the gorge everything looked steep, long and scary. Pete and I figured we were seasoned Scottish winter climbers so got straight on WI3+/4 Cascata del Sole. Optimistic is one word for it. Either way, we puntered up the 60 m icefall in a few more pitches than the guide book suggested, getting pumped out of our minds. It was harder than most of the ice we had done in Scotland and it turns out, ice climbing wizards we were not. Fran and Jamie had a more conservative start to the trip on some WI2/3’s further up the gorge.

We decided to explore some other nearby routes too. Visiting Cascata di Digonera, which has a 10 m walk in from a bridge, we left 2 to climb here, then went in search of Cascata di Moe. We never found Moe (still not sure how),instead following the same path to Cacascata del Inferno. It wasn’t in great condition higher up, but we still got a couple of pitches in before abseiling off. Still in the Scottish mentality of long routes, we headed to Val Corpassa for Cascata del Nevara;a long classic route that follows a frozen stream bed with some fun steeper steeps dotted along it. The guidebook says you would have to be blind to miss it. We nearly did, awkward… Walking up the frozen river with varying steps of ice, most of which we could happily solo, was great for a long day. After the final steep ice pitch, we topped out into deep powder and buried trees requiring a lot of wading to get up and over two cols before finally heading down.

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