I have a sweet tooth. I have always had a sweet tooth. This has led to most of my teeth having been filled, and those fillings become old and disintegrate.
That happened to one of them this week, so as usual I called the dental practice at 9 o clock. As usual, the phone was answered quickly, and the receptionist asked if I could come straight away before realising it would take me 15 minutes to get there. So we settled for a couple of hours later and my tooth was repaired in the usual efficient manner. Thank you dentist Sue and the efficient team at Stretford Road Dental Practice. Nuff said.
And so to Via Ferrata Ettore Bovero.
I was able to brighten this grey November day by sorting through some photos from earlier in the year. On July 17 we spent a fine day on this Via Ferrata, which leads directly to the summit of Col Rosa, a fairly small but pointy hill just west of Cortina. The above photo was taken this year, but it seems a shame not to reprint Nick’s eloquent report of his effort (and it was an effort) in getting up this route back in 2001:
Ettore’s ‘e’ grade – travelling the Via Ettore Bovero on Saturday 21st July 2001
It wasn’t how I’d planned to spend my last day in the Dolomites. I stalked around silently with my own thoughts as I thought of the challenges ahead. I’d rather fancied a stroll around the plateau of Monte Piana, and the thought of an ‘e’ grade via ferrata with its vertiginous drops was perhaps more than I could stand. But as I lay in my tent thinking of the day ahead, I visualised how I would feel on the top having completed the ‘walk’ and decided it was better to try this than walk off on my own.
The day dawned bright and clear – the kind of weather we’d prayed for all week, but I couldn’t eat much breakfast at the thought of the rigours ahead. Linda had already told us that everyone feels nervous before a new climb – and the threshold at which you feel it gradually changes. Mine was about to be increased.
Parking at Camping Olympia (alt. 1300m) was the easy part – not much negotiation was required to be allowed to park all day in front of the No Parking signs. We set off through the shady woods, my pack all the heavier with the rope that I had insisted we take – ‘just in case’.
I knew it was a big climb up to the Passo Posporpora. After all, we’d descended from there into Cortina only a couple of days earlier, but the easy gradient and the multitude of zigzags made it a steady plod. Not quite enjoyable, but bearable – even with six days of walking in our stiffening legs. Pausing at one point in the shade for a sip of water, I wondered whether my dented litre Sigg bottle would really be enough for such a hot day as this.
We paused at the col (alt. 1730m) to look for the mouse we’d seen earlier, but despite (or perhaps because of) copious poking about with Martin’s stick our little brown friend failed to surface. Now began the real climb up to the start of the via ferrata at around 1900m. This path was much rougher than the gentle amble up to the col – and even the lower stretches were not for the faint-hearted, being somewhat exposed. I asked 'why the pause' at a particularly dodgy section – ‘to look at the beautiful view’ was the reply. It was, but I wasn’t in the mood. A little higher we scrambled on to a rather wider ledge. I felt confident enough to take out my camera for a few wide-angle shots way up the valley of the Rio Travenanzes towards Tofana and Falzarego.
Onwards and upwards, the waymarks now taking on more of a climbing feel, with red arrows pointing around corners and upwards. There were a few awkward moments – luckily for me Linda just in front was able to point out some easy handholds that made the route finding easier. Martin, a little further behind, paused for a rest at this point. (Actually, he stopped because he was stuck! – Ed)
It was a relief to finally reach the bottom of the route. The wires snaked up the white rock into the brilliant blue sky. We climbed into our harnesses. Linda proffered some nuts which I had difficulty swallowing. But it looked do-able which was good – I had pictured in my mind some vertical blank wall.
Rupert led from the front, followed by me and then Martin. I pulled up the first part, hearing words to take small steps but ignoring them in my anxiety to get up. Much of the route up was completed in a daze. I looked out at the view with incredulity – not believing I was there. The worst part was always unclipping at the end of a wire while walking over ‘easy’ ground. I rushed for the next wire to make me ‘safe’. Rupert offered quiet words of encouragement. I wished I dared take out my camera to record the moment. Rupert took shots downwards where I dared not look. Then came a moment I couldn’t believe.
Just up ahead the wire disappeared horizontally around a corner. But where to put my feet? Rupert suggested I go ahead so he could take my picture – but even this opportunity failed to encourage me. Instead we had to execute a rather tricky manoeuvre on a very tight ledge. I was shown the controls on the camera, but all I could do was hold on tightly to the wire. I dared to let go with one hand as Rupert swung out onto the wire. One-handed picture with much camera shake, while Martin waited just below with his nose pressed to the rock. Moving around the corner was easier than expected, so we were soon on some easier ground below the summit rocks. There was a call for lunch but Martin, I suspect like me, wanted to be on the top. There were then several sets of ‘stempels’ – big iron staples drilled into the rocks, before I finally saw the small wooden summit cross ahead to my right.
It was just as I visualised. We relaxed on the summit at 2166m, enjoying our lunch and taking in the wide-ranging views as the sun baked us. Many summit photos.
Then off down the long walk back. The conversation was light-hearted – and we laughed as one of our fellow ‘mountaineers’ skipped past with a video camera slung over his shoulder as his only equipment! Much more in the way of war remains on the way down. Chris made a fine model poking his head out of a tunnel window 50 feet above us. And Sue made a fine sunshade with my hat so I could record the moment.
The rest of the journey down was uneventful, save for a rather ungainly scramble down a tree trunk, and some sarcastic comments from some Germans who looked rather disdainfully at our rope.
Ice creams were only noteworthy by their obvious absence at the entrance to Camping Olympia, so instead we returned to Cortina for a welcome beer.
The day finished in style with a communal meal of highlights and leftovers from the week: seafood pasta, sausages – expertly cooked by Chris and Rupert – with a very large salad, a lovely Barolo wine, and yoghurt with strawberry jam to round things off. And no rain.
In the middle of all this, Linda helped a small German child go to the toilet.
Nick Gray - 23rd July 2001