Simon Gietl free solos Lacedelli (7a) on Cima Scotoni
On 18 October 2018, Simon Gietl free soloed the Dolomites classic Via Lacedelli on the south-west face of Cima Scotoni. After initially keeping quiet about his achievement, the 34-year-old top alpinist from South Tirol has chosen to speak about his ascent. He is only too well aware that his decision to climb the route free solo would provoke a wide range of reactions. Apart from the fact that the route is a hard Dolomite test piece, 450 metres high, involving climbing up to 7a, he had to consider his willingness to accept a degree of residual risk and the impact that his decision might have on others.
Simon Gietl is not known for undertaking risky solo routes. This is what he said about his decision: “In my opinion, this is the one of the most beautiful routes in the Dolomites. I climbed it for the first time back in 2003 – it was the first, long, difficult exposed route I did. Three years ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying a client on the route and I started to think about how it would be to climb without a rope. During my ascent of “Can you hear me” on Cima Scotoni, I kept looking over at the Via Lacedelli and wondering what it would be like to climb it in a lightweight style with nothing except climbing shoes and a chalkbag. I didn’t tell anyone about my project, but I studied the Lacedelli very carefully. More by chance than anything else, I was able to climb the route again at the start of October with a friend, Klaus Gruber. And It felt good. I returned one more time on my own but with a rope and harness and looked at the route again, particularly the crux pitch and the holds that I would have to absolutely trust in. Obviously, there’s always a degree of residual risk, but I was completely convinced I was capable of climbing it free solo. So, I returned three days later. Everything was perfect. I was able to fully enjoy climbing this beautiful route. I knew every single handhold and foothold. I had worked to keep the residual risk to a minimum and I had made very careful preparations. This is a difficult subject, But with hindsight, I can say that I’ve climbed routes with a rope and harness that were more dangerous.”
Cima Scotoni (2874 m) forms the western shoulder of the middle peak in the Fanes Massif (2989 m). It’s steep and exposed south-west face is home to some of the most extreme routes in the Dolomites. The Via Lacedelli is a classic hard Dolomites test piece, first climbed in 1952 with 17 pitches by Lino Lacedelli, Luigi Ghedina and Guido Lorenzi.
Simon Gietl returned a few days later with a photographer. During his free solo ascent, he didn’t wear a watch – because he wanted to live the experience more intensely and not be distracted by time. However, he knows how long he took – 1 hour and 32 minutes to the second great ledge that marks the end of the route – because he filmed himself with his GoPro camera.
“This free solo was really special and important to me and I wanted to go back to have it documented and capture the moment. So I returned with photographer Christof Ursch and he took pictures of me on the crux pitch.”