Climb Europe

Rock Climbing in the Dolomites

The Dolomites are a challenging and beautiful range of steep limestone peaks situated south of the Austrian/Italian border. Many of the peaks are over 3,000m+ high, giving long and demanding big wall routes up to 800m long. Some routes can be over 20-pitches long, however the vast majority of them can be done in a single days outing or with an overnight stay in a mountain hut or lodge.

The range and style of rock climbing routes that can be experienced in the Dolomites is unique and varies from

  • Single pitch sport routes
  • Lots of long moderate alpine routes up to 800m long
  • Imposing big wall routes such as the north face of Cima Grande arguably one of the great north walls within the Alps.

The Dolomites are particularly appealing to the pure rock climber for the following reasons when compared to their western Alps neighbours:

  • Impressive vertical limestone rock rising out of Alpine meadows
  • Relatively short walk-ins from the road to the base of the climb - this can be typically less than an hour
  • Majority of the routes can be climbed in a single day, reducing the amount of kit to be carried on the route, or with an overnight stay in a mountain hut or lodge
  • No ice fields or glaciers to cross to access the routes.


All of this along with its abundance and variety of rock faces makes the Dolomites one of the best places to go mountain rock climbing in the world.

The area is vast stretching some 50 miles (80Kms) east of Bolzano, which is split into different groups linked by a good road network making it easy to visit several of these areas in one trip. It would be impossible to describe all of the areas in detail here, though some of the more popular areas are described briefly below.

The imposing north-face of Cima Grande

The imposing north-face of Cima Grande.

The Dolomites – Rock Climbs and Via Ferrata GuidebookThe Sella Towers & Piz Ciavazes have a reputation for short approaches, easy descents, and well-protected routes that are not too long. However just on the other side of the Sella Pass is the Sassolungo area, where the routes are a much more serious undertaking and have an "alpine" experience about them.

Between Cortina and St Kassian is the Falzarego Pass, which offers some of the best rock climbing in the Dolomites. There are plenty of south-facing mid-grade routes; with short easy approaches; uncomplicated descents; and solid, well-protected routes.

The highest mountain in the Dolomites is Marmolada, with its impressive 800m high and 3km wide south facing limestone wall. All of the routes on this face are long and serious, and unique to the Dolomites, may take longer than a day to complete. Hence it is wise to pack a bivouac bag. Unless you catch the expensive last cable car from the summit then the descent is down the north side of the mountain, which has the only glacier in the region! It is therefore recommended that in-step crampons and lightweight boots be worn.

Brenta Dolomites rock climbing guidebookThe north face of Cima Grande is one of the great alpine north faces and is breathtakingly steep - a real big wall. At 450m & 16-pitches long, and graded at UIAA V11- (UK E2 5c or French 6b) it is very sustained for long periods and therefore demands the prestige attached to it. However as with many of the routes in the Dolomites it is possible to aid across the difficult sections, which reduces this route to V1/A1 (UK E1 5B or French 6a).

The Dolomites - Logistics

There are numerous different rock climbing guidebooks covering the Dolomites that can be bought from our shop. A couple of selective guidebooks are the Dolomites – Rock Climbs and Via Ferrata by Rockfax, and Sport Climbing in the Dolomites by Vertical-Life. Buy various rock climbing guidebooks for the Dolomites from our shop. The Alpen en Bloc 2 guidebook covers 12 areas to the north and east of Bolzano in the Dolomites.

Sport Climbing in the Dolomites GuidebookThe best time of the year to visit the Dolomites for rock climbing is the summer months of July through to September. However it is not possible to guarantee good weather during this time - after all this is still the Alps! During prolonged periods of bad weather it is possible to escape to the superb rock climbing area at Arco which is only a 2.5 hour drive away.

With regards to equipment it is sensible to bring duel ropes if you are going to attempt some of the longer routes. Though a lot of the routes are bolted it is advisable to bring a full rack of nuts and friends.

The nearest international airports are Venice and Verona in Italy or Munich and Salzburg to the north. As the Dolomites area is vast, it is advisable to hire a car in order to easily travel around the different areas.


Western Dolomites 1 guidebook

Western Dolomites 1 guidebook describes 51 mid-grade traditional rock climbing routes with each routes described over 4 pages.  Buy this guidebook from our shop.

Buy rock climbing guidebooks for the Dolomites from our shop.