Tuesday, July 17
Climbing con Calore!
Mountains behind the hotel
today I had planned a ferrata which would be 'the next notch up' - a
'3C' ferrata on the Fletcher/Smith scale. Because we were still in the
Riva del Garda area for another couple of days, I chose something close
by. Not far to the north of Riva del Garda, past the historic old town
of Arco, is a small place called Pietramurata. This little town is
nestled under the big wall of the east fast of Monte Casale. The route
up this wall is called the Ferrata Che Gueverra, and is a fairly big
ascent, starting at on the edge of town, at under 1,000 feet (300m)
elevation, and climbing up to the top of 5360-ft (1635m) Monte Casale.
Given our rather late finish the night before on the Gaetano Falcipieri / 52 Tunnels route, we were again up not as early as I would have liked - especially given the heat. The day was yet again another hot and hazy affair, with high temps in
the Riva area of around 37 degrees C. Our guidebook specifically warns
about doing this route in high summer when the heat can be really high,
so we were somewhat concerned and aware of the heat -- but not enough to
dissuade us from giving it a shot. According to the guidebook, there
was an open rifugio just off of the summit, and we'd use that as a fluid
Start of Che Guevera Ferrata
The area surrounding Riva is the only area for which I did not have a
good topographic map, and that fact came back to bite me with this
outing (more on that later). Using the crude maps I had on-hand from
regional tourist handouts and the ferrata guidebook, I decided to park
both rental vehicles down in Pietramurata, one at the start point and
one at a point where the described route re-enters the town. Using the
two vehicles in this manner saved us a kilometre or two of road walking
at the end of our day.
A second sign
The start of the Che Guevara route is beside an active quarry operation in Pietramurata. Amidst
the clanking and clanging of heavy machinery, we hiked up towards the huge wall towering above us.
Right by the quarry
The trail initially has good markings, but near the back edge
of the quarry it became less obvious: there were several side trails
that were unmarked, and I didn't feel completely sure of the route the
guidebook was espousing, so I explored each one.
We ended up on a
faint path that led up to a very tiring talus slope ascent.
Fortunately, this awkward and off-route excursion did seem to end up
rejoining with the a more promising-looking path, but not without the
price of more wasted time (we were trying hard to get altitude under our
belts before the full heat of the day hit us) and a lowering of morale.
There's nothing more morale-draining than a frustrating
2-steps-foward-1-step-back scree slope!
Once up at the base of the cliff, we traversed right (i.e., north).
Soon we reached steeper terrain and the start of some very new-ish
looking silver cabling. We were still not absolutely-positively sure
this was the right route, but it did sort of fit with the guidebook's
Way above the quarry
We donned our ferrata gear and quickly headed up: The
eastward-facing wall above us was soaking in the heat from the morning
sun, and already it was quite hot. The heat drained a little
more morale from us, and thoughts crept into my mind about possible
retreat. Would our situation eventually dictate it?
The initial cabling went up over moderately steep rock, with excellent
handholds and footholds. It was fun climbing, but I was a little
worried about our late start, the heat, and our potential for being
off-route: was there perhaps a newer different ferrata that we'd
accidentally stumbled upon??
Quarry and Pietramurata
See the star?
After a few hundred feet of climbing on the new cables, the route
switched back to trail, and wandered up over weaknesses in the
ever-steepening terrain. Already the quarry was far below us,
dizzyingly so, but still more than close enough for us to hear the
clanking of its machinery.
Climbing to the start
Finally, after some more unsure route-finding, we came across a bit of
ferrata and route-marking that definitively matched a passage in the
guidebook. Whew... so we *were* in fact on the right route! Good -
this was a nice mental load off my mind. Now, if we could only get up
into some sort of breeze...
We plodded up through the stifling air, eventually reaching a sloping
plot of land with a small bit of forest. Above us, the trail clearly
wound up to the base of the 'real' part of the wall. We scanned back
and forth along the expanse of white-grey rock, looking for the telltale
spider-thin jointed black strand that would mark the path of the ferrata
wire. Eventually, we spotted it. Sure enough, it went pretty much
Just before the real start
The main wires
Main Start of Ferrata
The base of this wall (and a very large red-painted 'ferrata Che
Guevara' on the wall) marked the start of more serious climbing. It
was also the point of no-return: if we went up from this point, it
probably would make more sense to continue up and over the top rather
than to retreat downwards. We crouched in the shade of an overhanging
crag and discussed the pros and cons of continuing. Pu felt that his
Szechuan upbringing made him more than able to handle the heat, but he
was concerned about the rest of us, especially Jenn. In the end, the
tantalizing hints of breeze, the lure of higher, cooler terrain, and the
promise of some beer at a rifugio on top tipped the balance into
continuing the climb.
The next stretch of climbing was quite fun. The rock was very steep -
in most places not completely vertical, but still, very steep. In places
the wall was quite smooth, and with few holds - but in these areas there
were stemples and other aids to help. Overall, the climbing wasn't that
hard. The exposure was certainly big in places!
Pu's clean climbing
Climbing on Che Guevera Ferrata
Jenn and big walls
The guidebook warned of a long stretch with no shade, and this was the
section we were now on. Blessedly, a breeze started to caress us as we
moved higher onto the wall. It was a little cooler, too - no doubt the
effect of decreasing temperature with altitude. We were all fixated,
though, on a patch of forest and shade described in the guidebook that
marked the end of the major ferrata climbing. A chance to relax in a
shady spot again!
Stemples and Slabs
Up, up, up the wire went, zig-zagging back and forth along ledges in
places, and in others forging straight up some completely blank-smooth
slabs (although with stemples, so the technical difficulty wasn't very high).
Eventually, as predicted, we reached a patch of
steeply sloping forest, and we took a much needed break in the shade of the trees. From here on,
we knew, the ferrata was mostly over, and all that was left was some
steep hiking to the summit area. A cool drink at the Rifugio above was now a much closer prospect!
Pu high above
Beautiful valley floor
Finally - shade
A few tens of minutes later, we reached the route guidebook on a shaded
bit of wall. Beyond that, we arrived at a series of beautiful rocky
lookouts. The breeze was much stronger here, and and the temperatures
Approaching a lookout
Andrew at routebook
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