A test run of “Mamma Sandra”, val di Zemola (above Erto), in the area of the Dolomites known as Oltrepiave.
Level of difficulty: 7b
This wonderful route was established by Daniele Geremia, Nicolò Cadorin and Maurizio Fontana in March of 2017. We are in a forgotten valley overlooking the south face of Mount Duranno, in the area of the Dolomites known as Oltrepiave; the lower part is sheer and rough, made up of excellent limestone, while the second part is vertical and is almost completely smooth.
When we organized this outing, there were three of us, but when it was time to meet up before the climb, there were only two of us—myself and Mirco Grasso. I met Mirco and chatted with him for a bit. He’s a good guy with a great deal of enthusiasm for life and the world. I truly owe him for his help in this first climb.
I am coming off an injury that kept me side-lined for a month. With my left arm in a cast, I wasn’t able to take advantage of the warm early autumn, which offered ideal conditions for climbing. Today is going to be quite a battle to get back out there because I am unable to fully close the fingers on my left hand.
It is cold, very cold. I wear my heavy down jacket as we prepare. Mirco confirms that the temperature is 3°, but it feels much colder to me because of the light breeze. But we don’t think about the sun because it will go down early anyway, and we know that we have set up an excellent bivouac at the base.
The pitches follow one after the other. I begin to struggle a bit due to my recent injury. At one point, right when I’m dreaming about having a beer, I watch helplessly as my left hand attempts to grab a notch. It opens slowly. I’ve had quite a few falls—from not so serious ones to more dangerous ones. But now, at this point, with the rock so rough and pointy, I really have no desire to end up down there.
I can no longer climb so I throw my good right hand blindly around a corner. I have a flashback: Tempi Modernissimi at Sasso delle Undici, Marmolada. That time I’d reached my limit as well, and I was looking for a handhold where seemingly there was none. Fortunately, it all worked out.
I close my eyes. I feel a handhold in the rock. I squeeze with all of the strength I have left, and I continue the climb. Lady luck is on my side this time as well.
We finish the climb quite easily, with Mirco leading the pitch ably; we then abseil down the route, with the last two abseils in the dark, before heading to the bivouac.
We light the fire, roast hot dogs. We’ve got bread, mattresses and sleeping bags. In other words, a luxury bivouac.
I would like to offer a special “thank you” to Mirco who was my partner in this adventure.
By Mauro Zannoni.