Dolomites—Selected Climbs. Ron James. The Alpine Club, London, 1988.
(Distributed by Cordee, 3 De Montfort Street, Leicester LE1 7HD,
England.) 60 pages, black-and-white photographs. $22.50 (post paid).
Bravissimo to the Alpine Club for being midwife to this fine guide to the Dolomites. For many years, English, but not Italian-or German-speaking climbers, have had to make do with J. Brailsford’s two-volume Dolomites East and West, also published by the Alpine Club, lately out of print. Many is the climber I’ve met who would like to meet Brailsford up a dark alley with an ice axe aimed at his heart. Sitting around huts wailing about the books’ inaccuracies of line drawings and descriptions has been an inevitable part of the Dolomite experience, as have feelings of envy for those who can read the refugio’s encyclopedic guides in Italian and German.
Ron James’ Dolomites—Selected Climbs has no less than 426 routes in a package the size of a prayer book. Les Swinden, the capable editor of this series observes, “For a modem guide book to an Alpine region, it must contain a larger number of routes that the author has climbed than any other in the English language.” And it is true. Every page has the flavor of the writers’s direct experience.
Sample the difference between Brailsford and James on the Rocchetta Alta di Bosconero, a magnificent and unfrequented region not far from the Tre Cime or the Civetta.
Brailsford: ROCCHETTA ALTA DI BOSCANERO
South Face. Geihs and Goedeke, 1965. The climb follows lines of weakness, which although less direct than the other routes on the Rocchetta, give fine free climbing on good rock. The route ascends the small, yellow-grey S Face. It trends in a rightwards direction by way of cracks, chimneys and walls to finish in a chimney-gully on the R of the summit wall. 400 m. IV + with one pitch of V-, 4-7 h.
James: Rocchetta Alta di Bosconero 2412m South Face
Geihs, Goedeke, 1965
An elegant and exposed climb following a line of least resistance rightward up this narrow, yellow-grey buttress which is well seen from the road between km 116 and km 115 S of the Lago di Pontesei.
Base hut—Casera di Bosconera 2hr to start 400m 4 hr From the hut take the path towards the N face but leave it on the R; cross under the W wall over scree and grass. Ascend a snow and scree gully to the F Rocchetta Bassa (1950m) between the Alta on the L and the Bassa on the R. From the col descend 100m on the S side to a gully. Climb the R branch of the gully (II, III) to its upper limit and traverse across the wall on grass and vegetation for 200m to a prominent pillar covered with dwarf pines. Start at the col between the pillar and the S face.
35m Climb the wall to a ledge below a yellow OH and traverse 20m L to a chimney and cairn (II)
25m Climb the chimney (III) to a big ledge
30m Climb the black wall (IV+) finishing L under OHs to a stance
30m Climb obliquely R up a wall (IV) and cross a grass-covered ledge R to the foot of a black comer with a small roof, on the L of a loose crack (II)
20m Climb the black comer (IV) and go L (IV+) to a stance below a chimney
35m Ascend the chimney (IV) and the gully above (II) to a terrace
35m Move L (II), go up to a ledge and up a chimney to a yellow niche (V)
20m Now climb a thin partly OHing crack to a black OH (V-) and traverse diagonally R to reach a chimney (IV)
40m Climb the chimney (IV+) and a cracked dièdre with a flake (III) to a big ledge below a yellow wall
50m Walk R until below a big dièdre gully
180m Climb the gully and ledges L (II, III, II) then the ridge above (II) for 50m to the summit.
With the publication of this excellent guide, American climbers have fewer excuses for their neglect of the Dolomites.