Very fun climbing in a variety of interesting situations, long + committing, big views, rather difficult – especially for “free” rock-climbing moves, Gamma 2 ranks with the very best in the Dolomites.
Good things about this route … - Lots of fun interesting moves in variety of situations on rock rich in positive holds (and not much polished). - The limestone rock is mostly sound (except of course some loose pieces on ledges). - Non-long approach from top station of “funivia” / mechanical lift. - Non-long descent on trail #10 back to top station of lift … (or option to go to summit hut for snack). - Rather long amount of climbing (though with many breaks between sections). - Big and interesting views up + down + around, both along the way and from the top.
Not so good … - Some of the more difficult sequences are not well Protected if a climber falls - (see below under Remarks). … (This hazard is also present on many difficult VF routes in the Dolomites and other regions). - The method of connecting the chain / cable to the rock (throughout this route) does not use modern best practice for safety - (see below under Remarks).
Free rock-climbing: Of course most VF climbers normally grasp the installed hardware with their hands, and stand on it with their feet. But this route offers another option: To climb many interesting sequences in “free” rock-climbing style – at difficulty in the 4b - 5b range – including several “3-dimensional” outdoor situations. “Free” meaning to make the climbing moves with hands and feet in direct contact with the rock, clipping the chain only for Protection, not using the chain or other installed hardware for Aid. Indeed there are no more than ten moves in the whole route which are harder than 5b (so likely would require using Aid from the installed hardware).
Chain instead of Cable: VF routes in Dolomites + Austria + France normally install steel cable along all or most of the route. This Gamma 2 route does the same, but with steel chains instead of cable - (see below under Remarks).
Approach: Quickest is to start by the top station of the mechanical lift, called “Piani d’Erna”, which is most easily reached by purchasing a round-trip ticket and riding up on the “funivia” lift - (or could reach this point by first climbing up VF Gamma 1). Walk SSE 60m down to snack bar, then turn sharp left and walk NE 300m down to the pass Bocca d’Erna (N45.8663 E9.4503). Tricky next, instead of going up the other side from the pass, turn Right / SE and go further down on trail #5 about 800m to junction with trail #1 (likely this point could be reached without first riding up the lift by hiking up from the funivia bottom station Parking). Next start upward on trail #1 SE for 250m. Then the trail turns NE (left) and immediately a cross standing beside the trail. Another 70m East see sign for Via Ferrata (N45.8585 E9.4605). Turn off sharp Left from trail and scramble up about 40m to bottom of VF chain. … (about +120 vertical meters uphill over 1.5 km distance from top station of lift).
Climb: There are at least seven separate sections with difficulty at least at the level of thoughtful scrambling, for which some people will be glad that the chain is present. In between are sections of easier scrambling or hiking - (the “herd” track as of 2017 is sufficiently worn so that following the route is straightforward even where there is no chain present). Before the final three serious climbing sections, there is a long gentle walk NE then SE at least 200m. The overall terrain is complicated, so it is hard to guess how far from the finish, which adds to the sense of commitment. Navigating the non-easy-scrambling climb sections is straightforward (so needs no description here): Follow the chain. … (about +260 vertical meters total of climbing harder than easy scrambling, which suggests that the … . length of the climbing is around 300 meters, because of the separations between the seven climbing sections).
Escape? There might be an (unmarked) escape about 20% of the way through ? perhaps might be around (N45.8598 E9.4602)? near the memorial to Carlo Mauri? After that the party is pretty committed.
Descent: Quickest and simplest is to go down W about 120m to meet the main ridge trail #10, then N (left) 200m to a notch, then W (left) on trail #10 down steep about 500m (with some short sections with a chain to grab). Then trail curves right NW for about 800m with some rugged ups and downs to a wide grassy slope, then down this W to the pass Bocca d’Erna (N45.8663 E9.4503), then uphill 300m on road SW then S to snack bar, then turn sharp right NNW to top station of mechanical lift “funivia” - (If did not purchase round-trip return ticket earlier, can still purchase one-way-down ticket at the top station, 6 Euros in 2017). … (about +30 vertical meters uphill over 2.2 km distance from top of Dente del Resegone back to top station of lift). … warning: the word “funivia” on most hiking trail-junction signs means the bottom station of the mechanical lift, where you parked your car. To get back to the top station of the mechanical lift, look for “Piani d’Erna”.
GPS useful waypoints: - Parking at bottom station of mechanical lift / “funivia” . (N45.8625 E9.4275) . (elevation approx 585m) - top station of mechanical lift - “Piani d’Erna” . (N45.8646 E9.4477) . (elev ~ 1325m) - pass that you first walk NE down to from lift top station - “Bocca d’Erna” . (N45.8663 E9.4503) . (elev ~ 1305m) … from here go down right (SE) on trail 5 for a ways, if want to reach VF bottom. - down trail 5 to meet trail 1 at . (N45.8603 E9.4578) . (elev ~ 1240m) . low point on approach - turn Left off main trail 1+5 to scramble up to VF Gamma II . (N45.8585 E9.4605) . (elev ~ 1330m) - bottom of first chain section VF Gamma II . (N45.8599 E9.4389) . (elev ~ 1360m) - Dente del Resegone - top of VF Gamma II . (N45.8615 E9.4642) . (elev ~ 1805m) - notch at top of trail 10 descent route (sometimes called “VF Carlo Villa”) . (N45.8630 E9.4647) . (elev ~ 1735m)
Could be preceded by climbing the interesting “via ferrata Gamma 1 al Pizzo d’Erna” (instead of riding up the funivia lift).
Afterward continuing on and over to the the highest summit of Monte Resegone and Rifugio Azzoni adds a substantial amount of hiking on loose limestone, especially noticeable on return.
Chain instead of Cable: VF routes in Dolomites + Austria + France normally install steel cable along all or most of the route. This Gamma 2 route does the same, but with steel chain instead of cable (as of 2017). The chain requires less strength to grasp for Aid, but need to be sure the carabiners in each VF kit are large enough to easily fit around the links of the chain. The carabiners of a commercial manufactured kit should be OK. Use of chain also makes it more difficult to implement modern best practice for attaching cable or chain to the rock - (at least one other VF in the Italy Lakes region now has a cable installed in addition to its chain).
Aid hardware: Other than the chains, the installed hardware such as rungs / stempels is minimal. Even if grabbing the chain with the hands (in the normal via ferrata style), climbers are expected to be experienced and clever at finding spots on the rock surface to place their feet. No ladders.
Protection? . This is a tricky point, since it is not accurately assessed, and not carefully explained (as of 2017) by most Via Ferrata guidebooks or web pages or phone apps. The confusion is that the chain (or cable) is always present for any non-easy-scrambling section of this route, so it is always available to be grasped for Aid in making a move. But that does not say what happens if a climber actually falls while making a move, or while trying to clip a carabiner to a higher part of the chain. Since this is a very difficult via ferrata route, falling is a serious possibility for many climbers.
What determines the result of taking a fall … (a) How far down below is the last point where the chain is attached to the rock; (b) How long and how much stretch in the leash or lanyard or “cow’s tail” of the climber’s Via Ferrata kit connecting the carabiner to the climber’s harness; (c) What protruding rock, or aid hardware, or protruding chain-attachment post the climber will hit before the VF kit and chain-attachment-to-rock stops the fall; (d) What spinal or pelvic injuries the climber will suffer from the sudden force of the stopping of a long high-velocity fall, even if they will not hit anything protruding).
The fact is that on this route (as of 2017), there are several cases where the nearest lower point of attachment of the chain to the rock is rather far below the site of one of the more difficult climbing moves or sequences. Therefore if a climber falls on one of those more difficult sequences, they will most likely get hurt. Not unlikely to get seriously hurt … like helicopter evacuation … lots of days in the hospital … and other stuff. … (This fact is also true for many difficult VF routes in the Dolomites and in other regions of Europe – just not talked about much).
Another hazard: Actually there is still another factor which determines the result of a climber falling: (e) if both of the carabiners of the VF kit break from the impact of hitting the steel post which connects the chain (or cable) to the rock. So then the climber keeps on falling all the way down to gentler ground. To address this hazard, some modern via ferrata installations are using two new strategies. One is to place a cleverly-shaped rubber bumper on top of each steel post that attaches the chain or cable to the rock – so that the impact of the first carabiner is spread over a wider area and so it takes a softer hit. A problem with using chain instead of cable is that the width of the chain does not permit using as “clever” a shape of rubber, so the impact is not spread so much. The second method is to install the cable or chain much more loosely, so its lowest “bend” droops down to roughly as low as the attachment post. So then most of the impact comes onto the bend of the cable or chain, and only a little onto the rigid steel post. The big disadvantage of this method is that not having the chain at least somewhat tight between a pair of adjacent attachment posts makes it much more difficult for a climber to use the chain or cable for Aid by grasping it and hauling up – or even just balance – because the climber’s body tends to swing over to one side of the other.
As of 2017, the installation of this Gamma 2 route uses neither of these modern methods. … (also true of many VF routes in the Dolomites and other regions). Climbers could address this by being careful to clip both carabiners of their VF kit to the chain in a situation where there is any risk of taking a fall. Also it might reduce the chance of both failing if they are attached with gates facing in opposite directions.
Strategies for dealing with this serious hazard: a) Get lots of experience on easier VF routes, and lots of strength and endurance at indoor climbing gyms, and become so expert and strong that you’re sure you will not fall. b) Join a party with a Leader who is very expert and strong on via ferrata climbing (best is a certified professional mountain Guide), and who brings a short climbing rope and a couple of slings and carabiners and a belay device (or special HMS carabiner for belaying with a special knot (“demi-cabestan” / “UIAA knot” / “Italian hitch” / “Munter hitch”) - (and is also expert and well-practiced in using that equipment) - to give the less-strong climbers rope-belay protection from above as they climb through the more difficult sequences. c) Try to clip a carabiner attached to the climber’s harness through one link of the chain which is much higher than the closest lower chain-attachment-to-rock point. The problem with this strategy is that the carabiner on a commercial manufactured Via Ferrata kit will not fit through a link on this route, because most of the links are too narrow for that. A variation would be to bring along two smaller carabiners, but those would not fit around the chain for many situations where the climber wants the VF kit to automatically move upward with their climbing, instead must waste time manually unclipping from tight fit in chain-link hole. Yet another variation might be to use the non-small carabiner of a normal commercial manufactured VF kit, but (?) only hook the “nose” into the link (?) – and hope that it does not get knocked out from the hole in case of a fall. Anyway this might not work with the carabiners of some commercial VF kits, either because even just the nose of its carabiners is not small enough to fit into the chain-link hole, or because the fit is so loose that the nose too often pops out already as soon as the climber starts moving up.
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