|South Pillar, a.k.a. “Mariakante” || |
The start of the route is in a gully system that is undercut by a few feet. To verify you are in the right place, look up for a small tower to the left and the main wall on the right.
Pitch 1 (20m): Getting off the ground is one of the cruxes of the route due to the undercut start. Once established on the rock in the gully, head up and slightly left clipping a few pitons to a big single bolt anchor with rings in the gully. Careful with the loose rock in the gully—your belayer will appreciate it.
Pitch 2 (32m): Climb mostly easy face climbing well left of the gully passing a couple pitons to a short, steep section. Pull through the steep section on good jugs (crux) to easier climbing above to a big, spacious ledge with a beefy single bolt anchor with rings.
Pitches 3 and 4 (50m): These two pitches can be combined easily with a little bit of care regarding rope drag . From the big ledge, make fun moves up a crack/flake directly off the belay. This section protects well with a #2 camalot. When the crack ends, move quite a bit to the left on a ledge until you find easy passage up the faint arete. A few pitons protect the climbing up this next section to the bolt belay atop P3. Continue up the airy face climbing clipping a couple more pitons to the big bolt belay anchor with rings atop P4. Note: protection on these pitches is not very abundant so the leader should be comfortable on run-out, airy 5.6 terrain.
Pitch 5 (15m): A short, right-trending traversing pitch protected by a couple of pitons and a fixed nut to a big, grand view ledge with a big bolt and rings belay anchor. The people on the tram will have an excellent view of you here on this exposed ledge so be sure to wave as the tram cruises by.
Pitches 6 and 7 (58m): These two pitches can be combined and this is recommended. Traverse right and slightly up towards the back of the gully separating the tower you've been climbing from the main face. The climbing is easy with only a couple short sections of very low fifth class. A number of thread opportunities are found on this pitch. Continue up the face left of the gully to a big boulder in the notch between the tower and the main face. This boulder would be the end of P6, typically (no fixed belay anchor), but it's only another 20 feet or so to another big belay anchor bolt with rings that you should now be familiar with. From the top of the boulder make an unprotected and committing, but solid, step across to the main face using good jugs and climb up to the ledge with said belay bolt and rings.
Pitch 8 (28m): Traverse the ledge to the right and slightly up a dark colored, water-worn gully. It might look tempting to head up this gully/dihedral but keep traversing right while you move up looking for a piton or two and a couple of good thread opportunities. Move further right than you might expect to gain a faint, very exposed arete and a piton. Pull a committing move up to gain a good ledge/hole with a belay anchor bolt and rings. Be sure to take advantage of the threads on this pitch to protect your follower.
Pitch 9 (50m): Climbing the airy face via relatively easy climbing to a ledge/tiny amphitheater. You could belay here but it's very reasonable to climb a crack/corner just up and right and then move back left through one final steep section to an exposed ledge just right of a bulbous block on the ridgecrest. A single piton and .75 link cam in a pocket serve as a fine belay anchor here.
Pitch 10 and cruising terrain to the top (200m): Chimney up a very short section to third class terrain with lots of loose rock. From there head up and to the left of a large gendarme on an easy ledge to the last scree-filled basin below the now-visible handrail at the top by the tram station and cafe. If you're comfortable on easy but loose third and fourth class terrain, unroping from the top of P9 and cruising to the top is recommended. Cruise up through the final bowl as the tourists above watch and take photos and hop over the rail to safety.
I've posted a photo album of our climb at bit.ly/Mariakante
From the parking area at the top of Pordoi Pass, follow a trail just uphill from the tram leading towards the base of the south face. As you get close to directly across from the base of the south face, follow a climbers' trail left across the scree to the base of the route. As you hike up, take note of the obvious gully you'll want to climb just to the left of because once you get to the base, it's harder to discern where to start. The approach hike takes about an hour.
10 to 12 slings consisting of a few double-length runners for threads and a light rack of nuts and camalots from #.3 to #3. Many pitons are in-situ. All belays are from bomber, single bolts with rings.
The descent is made much easier and faster thanks to the tram. 6 Euros per person (2009) will get you a spot on the descent tram that runs every 10 minutes (tickets available at the food counter inside the cafe at the top.) Alternatively, you can hike down the marked trail to Pordoi Pass. The scree skiing is reportedly awesome on this descent should you choose to hike down.
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