Want to try a two days big wall attempt on a longer route? You could consider Via Transylvania (VI+) near Arco – if you can hold your head cool during some serious run outs!
Monte Casale near Arco in northern Italy features some of the longest routes in the Arco Valley. Arco is notoriously known for its fantastic single-pitch sport climbing lines, but also features an immense about of multi-pitch routes ranging from just a few pitches to Big Walls with with a number of pitches in the late twenties. One of these routes, Via Transylvania (VI+, VII, S4) is one of those Big Walls that a few friends and I chose to spend a couple of days on.
Prepare for serious run outs
The route is S4, which means that the route is bolted – will kinda bolted! You should consider “bolted” as being more of mixed trad with bolts for each 7-10 meters – and pitches between 50-60 meters. Falling on a S4 with out placing own protection will most like cause and accident and injury. One pitch I lead only included three bolts on a length of 60 meters. The guidebook says that you can manage Via Transylvania (VI+, VII, S4) with 12 quickdraw and a set of friends. That set of friends is definitely necessary. We also brought a full range of nuts, but did not really use them. Be aware that places to place your own protection is pretty sparse and you will experience serious runouts! The S4 grading is should not be underestimated. All belay stations have two bolts, but there are no chains or fixed carabiners, so bring your own carabiners and slings or a cordelette, so you can build your own anchor.
I have put together a video from the endeavour. Watch it below!
Plan for a couple of days on Monte Casale
If you are a group of three – as we were – you should plan for two full days of climbing if you want to succeed. We only had one and a half day as we struggled finding the route and probably also set out too late on the first day as we had to pick up gear and food for the climb. If you are a group of two and you go fast and light you could probably do the whole route in one very long day if you set out early in the morning with an alpine start.
We dragged up a haul bag so we didn’t have to carry all of our sleeping equipment, water and food in our climbing backpacks. Should I do another push on Via Transylvania (VI+, VII, S4) I would leave the haul bag on the ground and go lightweight. If you stay overnight on the wall you need at least a sleeping bag, sleeping mattress and a bivy bag, but you nights are warm in the Arco valley, so even in October, when we made our climb, it is around 12-14 degrees celcius during the night. I would also suggest bring 3-4 liters of water, a stove and some food. Carrying all of that in your packpack can be strenuous during the steeper pitches, but Via Transylvania (VI+, VII, S4) is pretty slabby, so hauling will be out of question as you will be dragging it the whole way. You could however consider packing a light Leader’s backpack and a backpack for the Second climber that carries the more heavier stuff.
According to the guidebook you should be able to complete Via Transylvania (VI+) in around 10 hours should you climb fast and light. We where three people on our team, so we had no change repeating that time. You should also consider whether you want to be fast or actually enjoy the climb.
Via Ferrata Che Guevara
The approach to Via Transylvania (VI+, VII, S4) can be a bit tricky. It is an adventure in itself. The guidebook will tell you that you should walk towards the Via Ferrata ‘Che Guevara’ until you reach a boulder with ‘Quota 550’ written in red paint. You should actually follow onto the Via Ferrata and climb quite a while until you reach that specific boulder. When you reach the boulder turn right off the Via Feratta and follow the path towards the main face of Monte Casale until you reach a large ledge. Follow that until you reach a cairn (that we established). The route begins there.
Essential gear for Via Transylvania (VI+)
Bring at least four screw gate carabiners and a 240 cm sling for anchor building. All anchors are well equipped with bolts. Bring two 60 meter half ropes. Most pitches are between 40 to 60 meters, so should you find yourself in a situation where you need to bail an abseil, you need that length. I would also recommend bringing a light rack of medium sized cams as you will encounter major run outs on several of the pitches if you don’t place your own gear. I mostly used my DMM Dragon Cam 2 sizes 1 and 2 (Black Diamond C4 size 0.5 and 0.75), but the bigger ones like size 4 and 5 becomes (Black Diamond C4 size 2 and 3) also come in handy. I brought a set of small sized nuts, but didn’t really use them.
Along side your abseil kit and breaking device I would recommend bringing:
- 2x 60 meter half ropes
- 1 x 240 sling for anchor building
- At least 4 x screw gate carabiners
- 12 x quick draws (some of these extendable alpine quick draws)
- 5 x medium/large sized cams
Considering giving Via Transylvania (VI+, VII, S4) a shot?
You should! It is a great route with lots of challenges, both technically, but certainly also mentally. It is a great introduction to big wall climbing as you can free climb the whole route, there are bolts, but you are also forced to place own protection, and you have great places to belay from and several ledges to sleep on. Via Transylvania (VI+, VII, S4) is fun!