The Alpine Line in the Dolomitis

Sass Maor – Supermatita – ED+ – 1200m

This is a quick translation of Yann Bornet’ account of his Supermatita journey with Nicolas Magnin

Nico dans super matita

It’s is a route that quickly became a dream and an obsession … A week ago we climbed the Biasin route on the same mountain, which avoided all the bottom of the face by the Solleder ramp. Yoann taking a little time off with his girlfriend, that’s Nico Magnin who joined me to go on an new adventure. When I sent him the topo, his first reaction was “don’t you have a thing a little easier to get started?”. Indeed, it was his first contact with the dolos! I easily convinced him that there was a perfect niche for this line which, as we looked at the few related stories and writings appeared to be exceptional. Exceptional by its length as it crossses the 1200m on the East side of Sass Maor, exceptional for its logic because it’s completely straight, exceptional in the commitment it requires due to its rare protections causing a retreat to be very problematic because of the lower part length, and the incredible negative slope of the top, finally exceptional for its difficulty and poor rock quality in key lengths. In short, reading this sentence in the only existing account on the web ( got us “mouth water”:

“i gradi not dicono niente (a manolo, a quanto pare, meno ancora ……. 😉 the relazione “così, tanto per …”. Who bisogna lasciare a casa tutto, portarsi solo un pò di umiltà, di voglia e tanta, tanta voglia sognare di Tutto il resto è which. the estetica della linea del Sass Maor the maestosità it viaggio in parete, the esperienza alpinistica my prima di tutto, umana Indimenticabile …… “

An element of mystery and myth was surrounding this route. His openers, including Zanolla Maurizio (Manolo) climbing icon, had used only 7 pitons for its opening in 1980 !!!! And when we talk about supermatita to an Italian climber, his eyes begin to shine … It became then necessary that we went to see it by ourselves!
Tuesday morning, 3am, as always, we hardly emerge from a too short night. No time to hang around, it will be a long day! We are so eager to engage our struggle with the mountain that we are completely soaked when arriving at the foot of the climbing way. The sun is just rising when Nico attacks. The first 750m are on large holed gray slabs becoming progressively steeper as you climb! The protections options, relatively good, are often remote, and you really climb between points. It’s a climb I much like as it requires a tight and continuous focus. Another feature of this pathway is the difficulty to find the right path. Its necessary to tack through a huge shield of almost vertical slabs where no logical line is distinguishable. It is a kind of continuous bet on the presence of holds and protections, very hard for our mind, but paradoxically it gets very exhilarating when a track is discovered! We keep raving about the beauty of this carved rock… “The speaking alone syndrome” has greatly affected us in this first part! We reached the ramp of the Solleder route that marks the end of the first part. Then it is under light rain and a soggy dihedral that we reach the famous yellow and overhanging portion synonymous of trouble and bad rock!
Le vide de super matitaTo go faster, we divided the route in blocks of 5 pitches, and it’s now my turn to climb first. I’m leaving on a beautiful holed rock, perfectly vertical. The monologue resumed and quickly changes its tone as we progress, the rock becoming really bad! The end of the length gives me a glimpse of what I will have to face over the next 3 ones. I feel mentally drained. This is the beginning of what I like and what I seek from time to time in the mountains. The determination that must be fetched within oneself when the only way out is up. It’s only the mountain which gives me this type of challenge and allow me to transcend myself!. During the second length, a traverse crossing seems impossible to me. Even when I thoroughly look, mobilizing all of what remains of my lucidity, trying to find a solution … For a while I find nothing … Deap in my heart I know I will eventually find the key, but fatigue makes me completely ineffective.
After a few minutes, a small pendulum will allow me to go for a few doubtful holds and to join a less steep area, but the rock is still as bad as it was. Two more pitches of similar style , which require of me a lot of determination, and we came out on a small glass, under a beautiful gray rock wall. I feel holding the right end. I can finally relax a little pressure, and I come out of this trance state that pushed myself during the previous lengths. It is already late, we spent a lot of time climbing the overhanging 4 pitches. Now, we find a vertical wall but most of all good rock. Nico arrives as the sky darkens gradually.
At the moment it farts on San Martino’s north walls, and the storm arrives right on us. Without losing time, I still make a great length on this beautiful rock that finally inspires me confidence and serenity! The detonations are becoming stronger. I have just enough time to make a good relay, wearing gore-tex and B-dry pant and to put the equipment away from me before a good rainshower hits me. The elements are unleashed, the lightnings burst just above our heads, followed by a deafening noise. I sit quietly though. The tension is rising a notch, but I do not stress, for my helplessness is total, I can’t do nothing but wait … A small waterfall is forming soon in front of me … I also want to fill my water bottles, as for the last 5 lengths I only drank one sip to save the small amount of saved water . I swallow straight a liter ! It feels so good! A blessing in disguise of that storm! Obviously, I wish it spares us because the adventure has been so intense so far for my taste. Add to that the power of the storm and the prospect of climbing at least 2 V lengths on a wet rock, this hardly inspires me … After getting some large hail, rain starts to fall again.
Yann dans Super MatitaTension makes me completely losing track of time, but it seems to me that I am hanging here and waiting for about an hour. Finally the rain stops. I calls Nico to join me. I do sense he is not very motivated. I understand that, because he must get across a waterfall. (Then he confessed later that he could lie on the small relay ledge, sheltered by large roofs, and could even take a nap. He could see us having a bivouac there. This option did not even cross my mind as going for the top was my only goal.) He joined me, and goes for the next length. During all of this time waiting, I meticulously inspect the next possible moves. I can’t see much from here, but it seems that after the little steep wall overlooking me, the slope becomes less vertical. After crossing the small ledge 1 m above the relays, we should be able to reach the thread of a small spur. If we are lucky, the rock will lie down and it will be over … But the topo still indicates at least two V lengths, but our recent experience of the Dolomite quotes makes us wary, especially on a wet rock !
I see the rope spinning at a good speed, and I begin to believe it: we may be already in the last 150 meters of grade III! … This is the case. We do not hang around much because the storm is coming right at us, this time from the south-west. At the top, we embrace each other. We did it! We’re both thrilled! At the top super matitaBut no time to relax, bees buzzing at my fingertips and on the little summit virgin, signs of the nearby storm. Last week I made the descent, but I am unable to find the first anchor. We absolutely must go below because if it farts, it will be here on the top! We find a makeshift relay and make a 60m rappel. Nico will have heart stroke when he sees the rope bouncing back to him, thinking that I reached the end of the rope not noticing it. I actually jumped on the small ledge just below the rope end. After another long rappel, we finally find the regular descent. The storm seems to calm down, and now we can take our time. In my head, the red lights are still on though, because even if this becomes easier, no fall is allowed. I repeat myself continually “red lights” to remain mobilized and gather the little concentration left in me. A few more rappels and climbs down, and we reach the cacciatore trail.
A trail equipped as a via ferrata, where you must still be careful. We lose once again the notion of time. It is 0:30 when we finally arrive at the foot of the route, more than 19h after attacking! The descent seems very long. We feel we did not cross a forest like that this morning… We had to miss the right trail somewhere, yet it is still a big one! And then suddenly, while we thought being almost at the car, we came on this wide path … We had to be really pissed this morning !!! A good plate of Alpina pasta, a good cool bath. For the latter, I had to gather more motivation than for the bad pitches on the yellow rock! At more than 3am, Nico started fishing for crayfish in the lake where we swam! Let’s eat them? Uh, Nico, it’s 25 hours that we are up, you do not wanna go to bed? In my heart, I felt sorry for these little critters, I really prefer to see them in the water lake rather than plunged into the Jetboil boiling water!

As in the Supermaria route in Crozzon di Brenta (a great and beautiful adventure shared with Ana), I feel to have hit some kind of grail, having gone into the deepest part of my soul. These “Super” climbs will remain unforgettable in my memory, and are undoubtedly the ascents that have marked me most during this crossing!