Endure slabby beginner sport climbing routes at Sass de Stria in the Italian Dolomites

Sass de Stria near Cortina d’Ampezzo and is one of the most popular sport climbing crags in the Italian Dolomites due to easy accessability near the road and plenty of routes from grade 4c to 6a. This is a perfect beginners crag or if you want to warm up for tougher climbs in the Dolomites
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 Sass de Stria 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.

Overview of the Sass de Stria crag in the Italian Dolomites towards Cinque Torri

Catching a glimp of the Cinque Torri and Avenau from the Sass de Stria crag

Another factor for choosing this crag was that it is close to Cortina d’Ampezzo, where we camped and we would like as less time approaching the crag as possible as our time in the Dolomites was limited. We spent about 30 minutes in the car from the camp site to the parking lot near Passo Falzarego. Finding this is really easy – just follow the SR48 from Cortina d’Ampezzo westbound towards Passo Falzarego. There are roadsigns along the way to guide you to the pass. There is a huge parking lot near the refuge, where we decided to park, but there is also a smaller parking lot just next to the crag near a very big boulder on the left side of the road if you continue driving towards Passo Valparola. The crag is easy to see from the parking lot at Passo Falzarego and hiking from the car takes about 15 minutes.

According to our guidebook the crag is supposed to be sunny only during the morning, but actually we climbed most of the afternoon as well. We left the crag at 15:00, where the sun still covered most of the crag, so it could be worthwhile spending the whole day at Sass de Stria. When arriving the crag was occupied with other groups and we shared the crag with maybe 12 other people leaving plenty of room choosing whatever route we would like. We came a Saturday in early September, but I would imagine that visiting this crag during summer holidays, it would be packed with people.

During our four hour stay at the crag we managed to climb four sport routes, me leading and my girlfriend top roping. We did ‘Osso di Banana’ (5a), the first pitch of ‘Black Rain’ (5a, 4c), ‘Blowing in the Wind’ (5c) and ‘Super Trombetta’ (6a). All routes ranging from 18-20 meters, except ‘Super Trombetta’, which is around 25 meters. There only two two-pitch routes in the crag, but 26 single pitches located just next to each other. The routes we climbed are all well-bolted with around 1,5 to 2 meters between the bolts, and I consumed approximately between 8 and 10 quick draws on each route skipping a few bolts as I was confident about the climb. Compared to Frankenjura in Germany and Charmonix in France I am surprised how well bolted the sport climbing crags in the Italian Dolomites are. The crags I have visited in the Italian Dolomites all have quite new bolts and anchors. Speaking of anchors, at the Sass de Stria sport climbing crag, there are fixed dual-point anchors made of two bolts and a chain. There are two strong steel rings, where I installed two DMM Phantom screw gate carabiners and clipped the rope in that for top roping. The rings where in brilliant condition and I had no second-thoughts rappeling down from them, when cleaning the anchor, when switching routes.

The routes are good fun. They all slab, so you have the benefit of leaning your body towards the rock to gain stability. However ‘Black Rain’ (5a, 4c) and ‘Blowing in the Wind’ (5c) were a bit technical as they start on a fairly smooth surface with only a few good hand holds. The smoothness stops at around halfway through the routes, where it is substituted with huge jugs and pockets, which makes the rest easy climbing. The cruxes are definitely at the start. The ‘Osso di Banana’ (5a) is nearly only huge jugs and pockets, which makes excellent hand holds and and excellent feet. The final climb, the ‘Super Trombetta’ (6a) starts with a small overhang and is more sustained in terms of difficulty, where the others are quite easy with a very obvious crux. The crux of the ‘Super Trombetta’ (6a) is on a overhang near the anchor.

The Sass de Stria sport climbing crag near Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomites is a great crag for beginners. My girlfriend had a few days of rock climbing experience when visiting the crag and she did absolutely perfect top roping the routes and she strengthened her technique. At this point in time I consistently lead 6a-6b on rock, so I reckon this crag being great for gaining more experience with small risk of falling, so you can try out different styles. Definately worth visiting.

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