Cimbing on the Pale di San Martino
The wild, rugged, wide cliffs offer safe, enjoyable climbs
Passo Rolle, one of the most spectacular Dolomite passes, is the starting point for some beautiful climbs on the Pale di San Martino… and not only that! Do you have a few days to spare and do you like climbing? The Pale di San Martino are a wonderful place where to go climbing: the wild, rugged, wide cliffs offer safe, enjoyable climbs.
When you arrive at Passo Rolle, if the weather is changeable or it is late morning, you can opt for a climb up to Cima Tognazza (peak), on porphyry stone. Why do we find porphyry here? We are in the Dolomites! Yes, on this pass – on the last section of the Lagorai chain of mountains – there are also rocks of volcanic origin!
You climb up the route in the sun and in front of you are the beautiful cliffs, among which the Cimon della Pala and Cima Vezzana stand out (both are above 3000 metres). The landscape is stunning and you can walk there in half an hour. Most of the routes are modern-styled, pegged with bolts and suitable for mid-level climbers and not for beginners. The routes on the 250-metre high wall are pure bliss, featuring small holds and cracks and requiring feet in a smearing position (smearing technique) on the grainy porphyry. You descend along the path that takes you back to Passo Rolle, which is often crowded with tourist onlookers.
Already from this wall, turning your gaze towards the Pale (cliffs), you can see the Cima della Madonna and its famous and extremely beautiful Spigolo del Velo. It will certainly draw your attention and arouse your curiosity, so there couldn’t be a better route to try the following day!
From Passo Rolle you can quickly reach Malga Zighertaghe, where, if you gaze upwards in the afternoon, you can admire the lovely northwest peak bathed by sunlight only on one side. You must continue a short distance by car to reach the start of the trail, which first crosses the woods and then there is a short, easy ferrata.
The Rifugio Velo della Madonna (mountain hut) is situated in a magnificent site that can be reached in about an hour and a half and a 900-metre altitude difference. The start of the Spigolo del Velo route at the Cima della Madonna is very close: 15 minutes. It is often crowded so it is better to sleep at the mountain hut or leave early from the bottom of the valley.
The Pale are a very large mountain group boasting some of the most beautiful routes in the Dolomites, but the Spigolo del Velo has something about it that makes it extraordinary: it is amazing and lures everyone to try and climb it. Its rock surface is very beautiful and it is practically always a grade 4 and 5 climb. The ascent is 400 metres, while the descent is challenging but very enjoyable. Although it is a very popular trail, the rock is not at all greasy!
Often there is wind and clouds scurry across these peaks and the arête. The lights and shapes created by this offer a grandiose view: they seem to create a ‘veil’ that enshrouds the Cima della Madonna, like the very name of the route in Italian denotes (Velo della Madonna – Madonna’s Veil). With a few clouds above your head, the route becomes even more fascinating, but beware of the cold. It is important to have a duvet jacket, a headband and gloves with you because there is strong wind here, even when you least expect it!
The main sections the path are well-bolted and the route is easily identifiable, while the descent on difficult terrain requires careful attention! In order to get through an exposed climb, secure yourself with a rope and some double ropes. In a couple of hours you will arrive at the friendly mountain hut, where you can enjoy a good hot dish or delicious dessert.
This classic route is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and famous trails in the Dolomites, set in a spellbinding environment, where the clouds often create a light and shadow effect, making the place even more fascinating.
Written by Linda Grossi, a mountain climber and low-altitude mountain guide