Sportsclimbing in the Dolomites – a Guidebook Review

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Photo: Vertical-Life

 

Personally, when you hear about climbing in the Dolomites, you might picture a bunch of Alpinist dangling 15 pitches off the ground in one of those exposed, foggy towers. Yeah, it’s still that way today. But you will be surprised to find a lot of sport climbing areas between those towers that has been existing for a long time too.

I fell in love with the Dolomites. Again and again. We went there multiple times last year. With the help of the new Guidebook from Vertical-Life we discovered many new places apart from those we have already known. A number of sports climbing areas in the dolomites flourished over the years and saw many international visitors coming, those with only sports climbing in mind.

The Dolomites Guide book

When I first saw the new guide-book during one of our trips there, I was euphoric.  I quickly found the address, and made my order over the internet directly at their office in Brixen and had the thick 432 pages guide-book on my table after a couple of days.

The first few pages of the book gives a clear and good overview of the sport climbing areas covered. Different regions grouped in different colours helps coming straight to the point without having to first search the index. Then, an abstract on the areas covered: the number of routes, difficulty, indication of its position, access time. I find them really important to be in the beginning of a guidebook.

The Dolomites guidebook comes in 3 different languages: english, german, italian – each well written and translated. A little history of each region is explained and the access directions, straightforward. There was now a reason to finally put our bits and pieces of information we have collected over the years in the drawer.

The Topo

The heart of each guidebook is the Topo. A photographic topo has advantages. With a glance, you know what kind of rock you are going to expect: its terrain, general character, style, etc.  With so many different types of rock found in Europe, this is by far the best method to visualize any crag and hit the nail on the head. The pictures taken in the guidebook are clear and has a high quality.

The routes in this guidebook are all marked with a number and it’s name is listed further below. Discussions and information, and the beauty of a route can be exchanged online through the App. Spectacular images of the most beautiful areas in Val Badia, Val Gardena, Val di Fassa, Cortina, Landro , Alta Pusteria that stretches up to Lienz in Austria inspires you to plan your next vacation almost immediately. There has not been a cliff in the book that has not been worth visiting. The index at the end of the book clusters the crags according to its beauty, cool  choices for hot days, family and beginner friendly, and rain sheltered crags.  Immediately, you have the impression that the book was put together by someone who knew what a climber is looking for.

Note about rain sheltered crags:  We have seen a few rainy days in the Dolomites. Sheltered crags there usually suggests that only a certain section of the crag is rain sheltered. So, you might be able to climb on a route, but maybe not always to the end. Also, many of the access are long, with Franchi being the shortest. In the Dolomites, if heavy rain settles in for a few days, it is better to hit another destination, away from the huge summits that traps the clouds, e.g. Lake Garda, in Trento.

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Photo: Vertical-Life

The App

The App makes your back pack 809 g lighter. Each guidebook comes with a unique code (for just one device) that unlocks all information you find in the guidebook. Once downloaded, the App will synchronize the regions and areas you want to have in your smart phone.  Info, access, topos, routes, and a feature that enables you to comment on any route in your personal account assures important information and facts shared between those who are registered and logged in.  You can save your favourite crags and you can access them offline, provided you have synchronized them once before. The App works smooth, has no hiccups (unless you have a very poor network connection) and has a clear, easy to understand interface. The visualisation of the Topo depends on the screen on your Mobile device. With a screen resolution of 320 x 568 px, you have a good idea of the crag section and you can zoom in too.  I love the idea that you can purchase other regions or single crags through the App, without having to buy the whole book. That saves on  money and trees.

You can download the App here.

VerticalLIfe_App

My Verdict

The guidebook has failed to disappoint. It has everything in it to plan a sports climbing trip to the Dolomites. Not all sectors are new, but it has the best from the region. Older sectors in the book lists the new routes at the time it was written. A few selections we saw will be coming up in my next post. Stay tuned.

What could be better:
We came across two instances ( Chapters 4.6 and 5.2) where “left” should’ve been “right” and vice versa that caused a bit of confusion. Luckily it was so inevitable that you couldn’t have really gone very wrong.  In another case, too little clues were given for the crag in 5.3, it was difficult to distinguish the right access without the help of some local climbers. We found ourselves ending up in a totally different terrain with new bolts, new sectors, and no clear signs of the other trial we were looking for. Every guidebook excels as good as the precision work of its authors. There is some room for improvement here.

More and more climbers travel far for a climbing vacation, and as the value for logistic information rises, I would love to see more details to the following, which might suggest extra information or some listing for the next copy:

  • Information for budget lodging and accommodation, general situation of the region
  • Information of the address of the various Tourist Information offices
  • Address of sport climbing shops, or hints where to find some in the region

I see the role of a climbing guidebook today to not only focus on giving information about the crag and routes that exists, but also be filled with logistic hints for international climbers coming from near and far and taking sustainable responsibility for its environment.

With their Motto: “Every day is a perfect climbing day”  Vertical-Life has laid a good basis for the future. A tray of guidebooks in the other parts of Italy and Austria can be found on their website here.

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A Spring Topo Goodie for you**

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Exclusively for all my readers and followers, download the CODE for the climbing region
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Photo: Vertical-Life

 Who is Vertical Life?

Since its foundation in 2012, the start-up Vertical-Life GmbH has become innovation leader in the segment of digital climbing guides and the combined publication of content in books, app and web. During the first two years, the young South Tyrolean company published five climbing guides and established important strategic cooperation with other publishing houses. With the system „app guide inside“ Vertical-Life managed within short time to create a new standard for the publication of outdoor guides.
Vertical-Life has not only revolutionized the publishing industry, but has also developed innovative products. In July 2014, the brand presented a patented training device for climbing: with its associated application, the Zlagboard enables climbers to schedule and control their training in an innovative and highly accurate manner.

The young company Vertical-Life from South Tyrol has specialized in the development of smart products in the climbing and fitness sector. Besides publishing several climbing guides with a digital version for smartphones, Vertical-Life has also developed a mechanism for training boards, also with an associated application. For its innovative approach, the start-up from Brixen won four international awards (OutDoor Industry Award, ISPO Awards) during the last two years: for the innovative publishing concept, for the Zlagboard, a smart training device and the new competition mode, which was developed specifically for the board.

 Since 04.2015 The publishing house from South Tyrol has started a collaboration with the Alpine Clubs from Germany (DAV), Austria (OEAV) and South Tyrol (AVS) and from now on, users of the online platform can search for and use up-to-date information on sport climbing for free.

*Disclosure: Thanks to Vertical-Life for the sample for review purposes and the sponsered goodie. My opinion and views are based on my experience. 

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