First Sella Tower (Dolomites, Italian Alps; 8,305')

The Sella Towers are among the most accessible alpine rock climbs anywhere. A fifteen-minute hike from the Sella Pass highway gets one to the start of any route on the First Tower. The routes are accordingly popular, and the limestone is accordingly polished. Still, the climbs are amazingly impressive. The Trenker crack in particular is a route that I could not read enough about as a kid. (Luis Trenker was a popular climber and film maker in the first half of the 20th century.) Forty years later I finally climbed it, so never say never.

A word about alpine ratings .


Steger/Holzner (IV+)

Trenker (V-)


A. Köhler and N. Memmel, Classic Dolomite Climbs (The Mountaineers 1999)

S. Stuflesser, Klettern rund ums Sellajoch (Lochner Verlag 1997)

The Sella Towers from the Sella Pass

Date: July 26, 2004

Party: Dietrich, Paul, and Monique Belitz

Route: Steger/Holzner

Equipment: alpine rack

Time: Start of route - summit 3 hrs
roundtrip from Sella Pass 4 hrs 30 mins

Trip report:

We had just an afternoon on our first day in the Dolomites, and when we climbed the Steger last year (also on our first half-day) I had been so sick that I could not remember anything of the route, so we decided to do it again. This time we approached from the South, and found the scramble up to the notch between the `Locomotive' and the First Tower sufficiently technical that we roped up for the approach pitch. (The technical section proved to be very short, though.) The pitches are hard to define, and we wound up building anchors rather than using the cemented-in belay pegs, which unnerve us anyway, as the Europeans don't believe in backups. I led the approach and the first pitch, then Paul linked the second pitch and most of the third one, which produced some tremendous rope drag that slowed him down to a snail's pace. Monique went second, and I went third whenever Paul led (we usually climb as a three-person team on two full ropes; we don't climb as a three-some often enough to warrant learning double-rope technique). On the third pitch the second rope, that Monique had trailed, but failed to clip into the protection, got hopelessly stuck about thirty feet left of the route, and for quite a while I seriously thought one of them would have to rappel in order to free it, before I finally managed to shake it loose. This time I led the crux fourth pitch, which is very well protected even by my wimpy U.S. standards, and really cool. Shortly thereafter we were united on the summit, and after some summit photos we took the descent rappel/scramble on the East side back to the pass on our car. We just barely made it to dinner at our Pensione.

A good warmup for the area, and a great family climb.

Photo Gallery:

Click the pictures to see a higher resolution image.

View of the Marmolada from the approach Monique on the second pitch Dietrich approaching the crux Monique and Dietrich on the summit Monique and Paul on the summit, Langkofel in background Monique rappelling

Date: June 24, 2003

Party: Paul, Dietrich, and Monique Belitz

Route: Trenker

Equipment: alpine rack


Trip report:

Date: June 23, 2003

Party: Paul, Monique, and Dietrich Belitz

Route: Steger/Holzner

Equipment: alpine rack


Trip report:

This was our first route in the Dolomites. Unfortunately, I had caught the flu on the transatlantic flight, and by the time I got to the top of the first pitch I felt so awful that I happily relinquished the lead to Paul for the rest of the climb. I know that the crux pitch struck me as kind of cool, flu or no flu, but when I led it a year later I found that I remembered almost none of it.