A Cold Early December Yields New Mixed Route In The Dolomites

This past week, Simon Gietl and Andrea Oberbacher established an impressive new route in the Dolomites.

On Dec. 10, the two South Tyrolean guides announced the first ascent of Avatar, a mixed climb up the northwest face of Sasso Pordoi. It will likely be one of the most impressive climbs in the Dolomites this season.

Avatar is located about 50m to the right of Via Snowboard, established in January 2022 by Josef Hilpold and Norbert Weiss, Planet Mountain reported.

The website wrote that Gietz and Oberbacher climbed in classic alpine style, using no bolts on the route. Instead, the climbers placed six pegs, three at the belays, one on the first pitch, and two on the fourth pitch. Apart from that, they used ice screws and a set of nuts and Friends.

Graded M6, the first pitch proved the most difficult, the climbers told Planet Mountain. The second pitch is a WI4, the third WI5+, and the last WI4+.

Avatar — that’s what we call our new ice line that mother nature gave us!” Gietl wrote on Instagram. “It’s a fantastic climb that comes highly recommended.”

Gietl partnered with Vittorio Messini to establish Pandora on the same face in 2019. In keeping with the theme of the just-released James Cameron film, Gietl and Oberbacher decided on Avatar.

Stitches required

It wasn’t a painless ascent, either. On the pair’s first attempt last Thursday, falling ice hit Gietl in the face just 20m from the base of the climb. Gietl received eight stitches, rested for a day, then returned on Saturday for the send.

His hardiness and dedication aren’t surprising to those following Gietl’s career in alpinism. Earlier this year, the guide completed the first-ever traverse of the Rosengarten route in the Italian Dolomites. He accomplished the feat alone and in the dead of winter.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.