150 years since the first mountain guide in Cortina: following the footsteps of the pioneers
In 1871, Cortina d’Ampezzo laid the foundation for alpine tourism with the first mountain guide. The classic routes are still considered real highlights.
The story of a pioneer: Exactly 150 years ago – in the early days of alpinism, – when the steep rock faces were reverently admired from the ground – Fulgenzio Dimai became the first mountain guide in Cortina d’Ampezzo. This was the time when tourism flourished in the mountain town in the middle of the Italian Alps: hotels were built, infrastructure was developed for guests and more and more climbing routes were opened. Thirty years later, the Eötvös-Dimai route took climbers for the first time over the imposing south face of the Tofana di Rozes (3,225 m). Meanwhile, the route is not only an absolute classic, but also one of the most spectacular of the over 1000 climbing routes in the region.
Nadia Dimai (60) – Cortina’s first female mountain guide – climbed the Eötvös-Dimai route several times, also with clients, and tells of the long alpine tradition of her hometown in the heart of the Dolomites.
800 meters and seven hours. Hands and knees tremble, but it was worth it: The Eötvös-Dimai route is done and the summit of the Tofana di Rozes (3,225 m) is almost reached. Like then, exactly 120 years ago. When the two Hungarian nobles Ilona and Rolanda Eötvös, together with Antonio Dimai – the nephew of the great pioneer – climbed up the awe-inspiring South Face of the Tofana di Rozes for the first time. And after the climb certainly admired the fantastic view of the Cinque Torri.
Today, a Dimai still climbs the mountains around Cortina – Nadia Dimai, a mountain guide in Cortina, who settles down on the rock and pulls the helmet off her head. “The Eötvös-Dimai route is a masterpiece,” she enthuses about it. Climbing such a gigantic wall for the first time and finding the best routes requires a great climbing talent and logical thinking.” The mountain guide knows her way around; she is a member of the Scoiattoli (Italian for “squirrels”) – a group in which only the best climbers of the small town are admitted – and she has climbed many walls and set some bolts.
Her personal favorite route is here on the Tofana di Rozes: the Primo Spigolo – the first edge of the mountain. With its 450 meters and three and a half hours, it is about half-shorter than its 120-year-old “sister” route, but it is still technically demanding with its many overhangs and cracks. “Another area that I love are the Cinque Torri” says the expert, pointing to the five striking rock towers that emerge from the sky in the distance. “Over there, I like to climb with beginners.” The Cinque Torri climbing area is considered one of the best in the Alps: over 200 secured single and multi-pitch routes of various difficulty levels between 3 and 8.
When Nadia Dimai climbs with clients, she likes to tell them the story of her beloved hometown. She tells them of the first settlers, of the long the long tradition of mountaineering in Cortina d’Ampezzo, which was the first form of tourism in Cortina and it contributed significantly to the development of the destination and to defining its very identity. “We have had many gifted alpinists over the years. Thanks to their often daring ventures, we have such a large collection of fantastic climbing routes today.”
Nadia Dimai also made history in mountaineering in Cortina: she was the first female mountain guide here in 1995. In the Gruppo Guide Alpine Cortina, the mountain school for which she works, there is only one other female colleague today – for a total of 25 guides. “This is probably due to the physical challenge and the great responsibility,” says the 60-year-old lady. “In addition, a good part of luck is also part of it: it helps if you have grown up in the mountains and met the right people.” The mountain guide gene often runs through the families for generations, or at least – as in Nadia Dimai’s case – through a big name.
If you want to follow the footsteps of the famous alpinists of Cortina and would like to climb the traditional Eötvös-Dimai route yourself, you will have the opportunity to do so this year, for its 120th anniversary-year: On 25 July and on 8 and 22 August with the guides of the Gruppo Guide Alpine Cortina. The degree of difficulty is between 3 and 4, but due to its development of 1,000 m and a vertical gain of over 800 m, very good knowledge of alpine climbing is required. For two people, the price is 430 euros per person, for one participant the experience costs 570 euros.
Further information and early booking at www.guidecortina.com
Find out more about climbing in Cortina at cortina.dolomiti.org