Conquer the Cinque Torri for fun and challenging single-pitch sport climbing in the Italian Dolomites

Cinque Torri is one of the most classical and iconic traditional and sport climbing crags in the Italian Dolomites. Five huge towers form this spectacular rock formation accompanied by several other minor towers and boulders. This is a must-climb-crag in Europe!

The Italian Dolomites are one of the most beautiful places I have ever climbed – or actually been. The huge rock formations tower the mountain range with spectacular views across picturesc valleys. The region has dozens of minor villages with Canazei and Cortina d’Ampezzo being the biggest towns. The latter has a quite posh image though with local restaurants and high-end brand stores. Both Canazei and Contina d’Ampezzo are create bases for an outdoor holiday with several camp sites, hotels and B&Bs. Both towns have supermarkets and stores where you gear up with shiny new climbing gear.

I visited the Cinque Torri crag in early autumn 2016 with my girlfriend on a two day lay-over in the Dolomites while travelling home from holidays in the province of Liguria in northern Italy. We were looking for beginners and intermediate single pitches as my girlfriend only had a few days of rock climbing experience, while we also considered this a recreational exercise rather than hard training.

Climbing Cinque Torri is one of the best sport climbing experiences I have ever had!

Climbing Cinque Torri is one of the best sport climbing experiences I have ever had!

Approaching Cinque Torri can be done in several ways. You can part at Rifugio Cinque Torri, but getting there by car includes a really bumpy drive up a narrow dirt road. You can also parking at Baita Bai De Dones and hike or take the chairlift to Cinque Torri to Rifugio Scoiattoli a few hundred meters from the rock formation. At the picture above you can see the view towards Cinque Torri from Rifugio Scoiattoli. I would recommend parking at Baita Bai De Dones and hike the way up. It is a pretty tough hike as you climb several hundred meters, but it is nice and it gets your body warmed up for climbing Cinque Torri. To get to Baita Bai De Dones from Cortina d’Ampezzo just follow SR46 towards Passo Falzarego. You will see the big dirt parking place to the left, when the roads turns into a series of hairpin-turns just before Passo Falzarego. This is, by the way, the same road that will lead you to Sass de Stria, another sport climbing crag close to Cortina d’Ampezzo.

School of Rock

We tried out several spots on Cinque Torri. We started at a wall called ‘School of Rock’ on the northern face of Torre Terze. This is a beginners crag with only grade 4 sport climbing and one grade IV- traditional two-pitch route. Furthermore all sport climbing routes on School of Rock are single pitches. We decided however to start our day here to try out how hard Italians interpret the French grading system that is my preferred reference and to start soft. It was quite spot on of what I would expect from a grade 4. Adding to this School of Rock is very well bolted – there are perhaps 1 to 1,5 meters between the bolts. As both the name says and what our guidebook told us this is a set of routes targeted at beginners. Climbing here is quite nice, but all routes are in the shade – all day! This means that the face is rather cold, so climbing can actually be a quite cold experience for your hands. Belaying is a bit cold as well – even though we visited Cinque Torri on a day with around 20 degrees celcius.

Torre Grande Cima Ovest

As we got a bit tired of the cold at School of Rock we switched to the single-pitch sport climbing routes on Torre Grande Cima Sud. The sport climbing routes on Torre Grande Cima Sud are grade 5a-6b+ with a height about 16-20 meters. All routes are facing southwest, so all routes are in the sun – the whole day. We did several routes, starting with ‘Slabs Left’ (5a), ‘Slabs Right’ (5b) and concluding our sport climbing on Torre Grande Cima Ovest with ‘Rosamunda’ (5c).

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Torre Grande on Cinque Torri is massive! It consists of three towers, Torre Grande Cima Ovest, Cima Nord and Cima Sud

The first two routes, ‘Slabs Left’ (5a) and ‘Slabs Right’ (5b), are very similar in comparison. What is cool about these two routes are that they are sliced through several times by open cracks. This means that several minor overhangs have formed adding to the fun of the routes. They have nice hand holds and feet as well, so they are great for beginners. Judged on the expressions of my girlfriend, climbing these routes with great success, her obvious feedback was pure awesomeness – and being modest experience sport climbing at this point of time, I really had a great experience tool. Both routes are pretty technical – but not insanely difficult – so you can really harden your skills. They are well-bolted as the rest of Cinque Torri. They are good fun and a couple of routes that I would really like to go back to. There are other routes on Torre grande Cima Ovest like ‘Mimosa’ (5c) and ‘Fra Fra’ (6a) that are sliced through as well, but the grading are a bit higher – next time I will go for these.

Me, planning the climbin up 'Rosamunda' (5c) on the southwest face of Torre Grande Ovest

Me, planning climbing ‘Rosamunda’ (5c) on the southwest face of Torre Grande Ovest

The ‘Rosamunda’ (5c) is built on the corner of a huge crack that splits Torre Grande into three seperate towers – Torre Grande Cima Sud, Torre Grande Cima Nord and Torre Grande Ovest. All three towers are packed with multi-pitch mixed traditional and single-pitch sport climbing routes. The ‘Rosamunda’ (5c) starts really smooth and both my girlfriend and I struggled even getting started – I must admit that the crux must be at the beginning of the route. You set up from a huge boulder, clipping in the first bolt, and then traverse a couple of meters left on the route, where you will find some good handholds in terms of jugs. This is a quite daunting experience as you are clipped into a bolt to the right of you with 3 meters of air below you, and the huge boulder to the right. In case you should fall you swing directly into the boulder! The middle section of ‘Rosamunda’ (5c) is also quite smooth, but it softens up with better holds. This section is really well bolted and at one point of time there are three bolts with about 60 centimeters in between. Actually this added to the challenge. Coming from climbing a lot in Frankenjura in Germany this summer, I was getting used to a distance of 2-4 meters between the bolts, so adjusting meant that I had to learn to economise my rack. On the ‘Rosamunda’ (5c), which is about 20 meters, I actually consumed 12 quickdraws with 3 additional bolts that I did not clip in. In Frankenjura I experience routes of 18 meters with 4 bolts.

Massi

We concluded the day on Massi – three gigantic boulders that at some point of time had made out a sixth tower at Cinque Torri. The boulders fetures several shorter sport climbing routes of between 12-16 meters. Routes here grade from 5b to 7a+. As it was getting pretty late and our stamina was getting worn out form a whole day og sport climbing I went for ‘Blob’ (5c) – a route of 12 meters that follow a wide crack from the bottom to the top of the bolder. The crack is the second line to the right on the boulder to the right that the two people are standing on.

Climbing smooth faces on Torre Massi, which is a sixth tower that at some point of time has fallen for the immense powers of gravity

Climbing smooth faces on the gigantic Massi boulders, which is a sixth tower that at some point of time has fallen for the immense powers of gravity

The route is a technical experience, where you can really practice side-pulling. You can actually apply this technique throught most of the climb. The crux is sitting about after 8 meters at an overhang. The rest is pretty easy.

You might get the idea that ascending from behind the boulder would be a nice experience, but I would not recommend this. The anchor is solidly bolted 30-40 centimeters below the top of the boulder and there are several huge cracks on top of the boulder as well.

Still considering visiting Cinque Torri?

Answering this question is pretty straight forward – do it! It’s worth the hike. It’s even worth detouring for! Views from Cinque Torri are extraordinarily beautiful and the sport climbing routes are fun. Safety is absolutely spotless with between 1 to 1,5 meters between the bolts and flawless, shiny anchors.

Are you as extatic about Cinque Torri as I am? Leave a comment below.

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