Vajolet Towers (Dolomites, Italian Alps; 9,148' (Delago Tower))

Admittedly, kitschy photos of the Vajolet Towers can be found in huge numbers of motel rooms, but this should not distract from the fact that they are amazingly impressive formations that provide superb alpine rock climbing of moderate difficulty. For me personally, climbing a Vajolet Tower had a special significance since I had been dreaming of doing so ever since I first saw the towers at age eight. Forty years later I finally did it. The Delago arete (or "kante" in German) on the westernmost or Delago tower is said to be the best route on all of the towers; given the almost perfect rock and the unbeatable position I believe it without hesitation. All belay stations are equipped with double bolts (a rarity in the Dolomites), and there are quite a number of fixed pins, but a rack of cams and stoppers still comes handy. The exposure, especially on the second pitch of the Delagokante, will put the fear of god into you no matter how good the protection is.

A word on alpine ratings .


Delagokante ( IV+ )


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

The Vajolet Towers from the Rifugio Alberto

Date: July 29, 2004

Party: Dietrich, Paul, and Monique Belitz

Route: Delagokante

Equipment: A rack of cams and stoppers

Comments: We took the shuttle bus from Pera di Fassa to the Rifugio Gardeccia

Time: Start of route - summit: 3 hrs 30 mins
Summit - Rifugio Alberto: 1 hr 30 mins
Roundtrip from Rifugio Alberto: 6 hrs
Roundtrip from Pera di Fassa: 10 hrs

Trip report:

Climbing a Vajolet Tower had been one of my childhood dreams, which finally was going to become reality. We took the shuttle bus from Pera di Fassa to the Rifugio Gardeccia, and shortly after 9am we were on our way. The `path' to the Rifugio Vajolet is actually a pretty good highway by Colorado standards, and indeed sees some private 4-wheel-drive traffic, although it is closed to general traffic. The trail from the Rifugio Vajolet to the Rifugio Alberto is more of a real trail, and sports some (entirely superfluous) fixed steel cables. Shortly before 11am we were sitting in front of the Rifugio Alberto and admired the view of the towers. The approach from there is a short climbers trail leading to third-class terrain, so we put on rock shoes, packed everything we wanted to take into one pack, and left the other two packs at the Rifugio.

Paul led the first pitch (IV), which consisted of short (100') face climbing with an interesting section up a finger crack. I took the second pitch (IV+), which after a few feet leads around the corner to the left side of the arete. Quite surprisingly, the dropoff to the left is a cool 2,000 vertical feet! The easiest way to tackle the arete is to layback it, smearing with your left foot and putting your right foot on good holds on the arete, which is very efficient in driving home the exposure. Taking Monique in the middle as usual, we swung leads again for the third (IV) and fourth (IV+) pitches, respectively, which we found easier than the first two, but maybe we were just getting used to the type of climbing. On the fourth pitch I found, to my surprise, a belay anchor about 30 vertical feet short of the summit, which I decided to use since the remaining part promised to produce some major rope drag. Paul led through on easy but exposed terrain to the summit, and soon all three of us straddled the knife-edge summit ridge. I was elated, as is clear from some of the photos below.

After admiring the views and taking lots of pictures we started the descent. We rappelled on our two 60m ropes, which cut the six raps down to three. The rappel route goes down in between the Delago and Staebeler towers, and it is almost as impressive as the climb. While pulling the ropes after the second rappel, the ropes dislodged some rocks, and a two-by-two-by-one-inch piece grazed off of my helmet and hit me on the shoulder. Fortunately, it had bounced off of the walls a couple times, which absorbed some momentum, and my helmet absorbed some more, and so I got away with a bruise. It was a good demonstration for why helmets are a good idea, though!

Soon we were back on easy terrain, scrambled back to the Rifugio Alberto, and then hiked back down to the Rifugio Gardeccia. After waiting for forty minutes, and suffering twice through the hassle of forty people trying to board a twenty-seat van that is typical for Italy, we were shuttled back to our car on the valley floor.

A COOL climb, probably the overall best we've done so far in the Dolomites.

Photo Gallery:

Click the thumbnails to see a higher resolution image.

The Vajolet Towers from Rifugio Alberto or Gartlhütte Paul leading the first pitch Dietrich following the first pitch Paul at the first belay Paul following the second pitch Monique starting the third pitch

Monique on the third pitch Paul approaching the summit Dietrich approaching the summit Dietrich on the summit View of Rifugio Alberto and Santner Pass from the summit Paul and Monique on the way down