The Pou brothers climb "Pan Aroma"


Wednesday, 11 August

style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal">THE POU BROTHERS CLIMB “PAN AROMA”:

style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal">THE TOUGHEST ROUTE IN THE ALPS

Barely a month passed between our ascent of SOLO PER VECCHI GUIERRIERI 8c/150 m and our next climb, PAN AROMA 8c/500 m. Between the two we only needed a few days of rest at home to recharge our batteries before getting back to tackling our ambitious project in the Alps this summer, which is no less than to climb the region’s most difficult routes.

It took us three days to climb the route that is considered – with its adventurous style – the most difficult one in the Alpine mountain chain. PAN AROMA bears the unmistakable stamp of Alex Huber: a difficult route over “rotten” rock with dubious safe holds and a highly futuristic layout that crosses the largest scaled roof in the world.

For some time we have wanted to do battle with the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, one of the most important mountaineering areas in Europe. It is a climbing scenario that requires a process of adaptation, basically because on Tre Cime the wall breaks off in lumps and climbers have to mentally adapt themselves to these adverse conditions. In spite of everything, we arrived and, without any prior reconnaissance, we tackled its most difficult route. It was scary, but after three days we managed it. We had climbed one of the most spectacular routes in the world, with that massive roof that gives you the shivers every time you look at it.

While in recent years we have always tried to carve out our own path, and even to raise the international bar a little higher (as we did with ORBAYU 8c+/9 a/500m), when we have to repeat a route we always keep in mind what the German brothers have done. In our opinion, their routes are almost always synonymous with a “job well done”.

So far, we have spent half the summer in the Alps and we have already successfully climbed its two most difficult and emblematic routes: PAN AROMA and SOLO PER VECCHI GUERRIERI.

We spent three days on PAN AROMA, as follows:


We arrived at the Tre Cime parking area at 11:30 a.m. We started climbing at 13:00 p.m. We ascended the first five pitches slowly owing to our lack of experience on this rock (Pan Aroma is the first route we have climbed in the Dolomites) and because the route is a very exposed one. Our conclusion after climbing the first part was clear: better not fall!

When we reached the roof, it was an amazing sight: a futuristic overhang on a pitch route! As we weren't carrying jumars, which would have enabled us to carry out the right manoeuvres on the overhang, we had to be satisfied with Iker having just one try at the first pitch on the overhang (L.6 8b+. The first pitch is the key one on the route. 7 parabolts fixed at a distance from each other and five pitons at the beginning of the fissure. 60 m.). Then we had to go back down again.


It was 8:45 a.m. when we reached the base of the wall. We met up with Kurt Astner and Massimo Da Pozzo, who wanted to try Bellavista. They started first. When we got up to the big roof, they set off for Bellavista, while we made for Pan Aroma. As we wouldn't be able to try the 8b+ with them in the middle of the same pitch, we made use of Ouer’s fixed ropes (he did his first repeat climb of Pan Aroma a week before we arrived), and using them we made our way up to the second pitch, the seventh of 8c. Jumaring over the enormous drop turned out to be difficult, very complicated, and very scary, on Ouer's old rope and 200m up from the ground. One of the most hair-raising manoeuvres we've ever done on a wall!

L.7:8c: 4 parabolts and 20 m. Perfect roof. Very physical and very explosive. Iker tried it first and got the footholds right. On the second try, just when he was about to complete the pitch, he slipped on two wet rocks. We were exhausted. We went back up the fixed line, first abseiling and then climbing (it’s in the form of a kind of loose, V-shaped zip wire), and we climbed down to the bottom of the wall. That was enough for today.


We started climbing at seven in the morning (there are possible storms forecast for the afternoon). In just under three hours we completed the five pitches as far as the big roof, and we were ready for the first serious obstacle of the day: the 60 m, 8b+ pitch. This is not the best kind of pitch for Iker, as he prefers them short and intense, but we were both sure that we could bring it off. 45 minutes later, time proved us right. He completed the pitch in the first attempt of the day, despite the fact that all the rocks on this very long traverse were very wet.

Time for the 8c. In theory it's the difficult one, but we were scared of it because it was Iker-style: short and explosive, overhanging and aerial.

With the first attempt, we realised that the previous day hadn't clarified everything for us as much as we would have liked... The next three attempts also failed, one after another, until finally, on the fifth attempt, he hit upon a simpler method that enabled him to complete the pitch successfully.

An electrical storm was threatening in the sky above. Also, "technically" the route ended here, after the overhang... But we weren't convinced: Pan Aroma might finish here, but the fact is, Alex hadn’t continued the route up to the summit because there wasn’t room, which meant for us that if we wanted a “10 out of 10” score for this climb, we’d have to go over the top.

Two more 6c+pitches and we reached the Cassin-Rati turn (the first route of the north face of the western summit). The time was 18:15. What should we do? The storm was looming above and we still had another 12 pitches and about 300 m to go. There were approximately 3 hours of light left, and we didn't know how long it would take us to go up, and even less so how long to go down.

We decided to spend the night there. We didn't have anything to make a bivouac with, and we hardly had anything left to eat: two gels, 4 ounces of chocolate and a shot of Red Bull. The result of our decision was that we didn't get a wink of sleep all night, despite the fact that we were holding on to each other the whole time... It was freezing up there! It rained at different points around where we were, but not a drop fell on us. At 4:30 a.m. the sun finally rose and at 5:30 a.m. we began climbing. At 9 a.m. we completed the Cassin-Ratti and we hugged on the summit. Even though the descent wasn't easy – crawling on all fours in the snow, both of us very tired – we got back to the parking area at 11 a.m. In the evening we celebrated in the Auronzo mountain refuge, as the occasion deserved.

All pictures: Damiano Levati.

 Pics: Damiano Levati

Pics: Damiano Levati

Pics: Damiano Levati

Pics: Damiano Levati

Pics: Damiano Levati

Pics: Damiano Levati

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