The black pearl
After a rest day Sigi and Caro climb another challenging route on the black Dolomite rock of the Cima dei Lastei.

Perla Nera on the Cima dei Lastei

13.09.2019-14.09.2019 - While having breakfast with Kaiserschmarrn, applesauce and coffee, Caro and I discuss the further strategy. We decide to take the day off and to ascend to the Minazio Bivouac in the late afternoon. The next day we want to climb the 800 m long route Perla Nera (engl. black pearl, VI+, 18 pitches) on the Cima dei Lastei and afterwards we intend to hike to the Pradidali Hut. From there we plan to tackle another route on our final day. An ambitious plan which will take its toll.

Before ascending to the bivouac, the backpacks have to be packed for the coming days. This time we not only have to take the usual climbing gear but also food and water. We are not sure if the spring at the Minazio Bivouac still provides water after this hot summer. The way to the bivouac is long and steep. We are happy when we finally arrive in the light of our headlamps and can take off our heavy backpacks. While Caro studies the approach to the wall, I leave for the water spring. Luckily, there is water and we don’t have to ration our brought supplies.

The next morning we set off again in the darkness. The approach leads us through a narrow gap and a brittle gully with several rappelling sections to the foot of the Cima dei Lastei. We start climbing, but after the first belay we traverse to the neighboring route and follow one pitch. The rock of the original line is very wet and splintered in this section. We want to avoid the unnecessary hazard. On the fourth pitch the route takes its toll on me. I’m standing on a big rock slab which suddenly slips off. At the last moment I manage to catch myself with my hands, but the sharp rock causes deep cuts on my fingers. Bandaging takes a lot of time and the question of retreat arises. We decide to continue and make good progress. Meanwhile the fog has raised and limits the visibility to a few meters. On our way we only find a few pitons, but countless rock tunnels for protection. Occasionally, these are marked with slings and make it easier to find the way. In the upper section of the wall Caro also experiences a moment of shock. Far above the last protection she stands on a rock spur the size of a football which suddenly becomes loose. Fortunately, she is able to hold on. After about 7 1/2 hours we can step out of the wall and enjoy the breathtaking view over the fog.

The descent leads to the main summit and then steeply down to a huge plateau which is covered in thick fog again. Here we are looking for the first belay of the rappel route. It feels like an eternity until I finally hear the relieving call of Caro: “I found it”. After rappelling and a short stop at the bivouac, the trail continues to the Pradidali Hut. The last 400 Hm on the 4 km long path are not that tingling anymore. It is already late in the evening when we enter the hut and all the hiking tourists eye us with curiosity. Usually the dinner is long gone. But the nice daughter of the hut keeper, Klara, serves us a huge meal before we fall exhausted into our beds.

Lessons learned

  • No matter how little space there is in your backpack, you should always take a first aid kit and tape with you.
  • Despite a good description, a descent in fog can be a nerve-wracking experience.
Written by Sigi