Three separate parties have recently made top standard free ascents on the great walls of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Italian Dolomites
In early July Kurt Astner made the first free ascent of his own (with Christoph Hainz) route, Pressknodl, on the exposed North Face of the Cima Ovest left of the Squirrels' Arete. Two days later Hainz made the second free ascent.
The pair put up this route over a four-day period in August 2009 but were unable to free it at the time. Climbed in 14 pitches, the line features well-spaced bolt protection but needs intermediary natural gear (mostly cams).
After an initial pitch of 6a+, three of 7b followed by one of 7a+ lead to the sixth and crux pitch; 7c. Above, the climbing is relatively easier, but the line is independent to the exit pitches and shows that the famous north walls of the Tre Cime are still far from worked out.
A little later, during a spell of unsettled weather in mid July, the Spanish Basque brothers, Eneko and Iker Pou, managed the fourth ascent of Alex Huber's Pan Aroma, which breaches the huge Bauer-Rudolph roof on the North Face of the Cima Ovest, left of the Aster-Hainz route.
The brothers spent three days working the route and then started up the face at 7:00am on day four.
In only three hours they reached the start of the 60m sixth pitch (8b+). Iker led this free with no falls in 45 minutes. However, the following 20m pitch seven (8c), which presents very fierce climbing in a sensational position, took five attempts before the successful redpoint.
Two easier pitches led them to the Cassin ledge, where they arrived after 6:00pm in worsening weather. Like the first ascensionists, they opted to make an unplanned bivouac, sitting out an uncomfortable night with little warm clothing, in order to complete the ascent to the summit next day.
Just a few days later the tried and tested Slovenian partnership of Andrej Grmovsek and Luca Kranjc made the first free ascent of the Sandro Pertini Route on the West Face of Cima Grande.
This route, which lies on the steep wall left of the classic 1913 Dulfer Route, was first climbed in September 1981 at UIAA VI+ and A1 by Umberto Marampon and Renato Piovesan, who used pegs and hand drilled bolts for protection and aid.
The Slovenians found the rock to be surprisingly good and climbed the 35m fourth pitch, over large roofs high on the face, at 7c. However, the rest of the route has nothing harder than 6b.
Two days later they became possibly only the fourth party to make a free ascent of the magnificent 650m Via della Cattedrale (c21 pitches: 8a or 8a+) on the South Face of the Marmolada.