giovedì 8 aprile 2021

- Virgolo Cracks

Quest'anno è stato un anno veramente particolare per chi come me era abituato a viaggiare un  sacco sia per arrampicare che per lavoro. Trovarsi chiusi in un comune che nonostante sia circondato dalla natura comprende ben poco di quest'ultima all'interno dei suoi confini è stato ancora più difficile.

Per fortuna un piccolo monte con un po' di rocce lo abbiamo anche all'interno del comune di Bolzano, e il caso vuole che sia proprio dietro casa. Così da un anno a questa parte le esplorazioni sono state parecchie, in un primo momento in cerca di blocchi, ma con il passare del tempo sono riuscito a trovare anche una piccola falesia che mai era stata presa in considerazione.

Photo: Claudia Amatruda

L'accesso non è certo tra i più semplici e nemmeno il posto tra i più comodi, ma la fortuna ha voluto che in pochi metri di parete si concentrassero ben cinque linee in fessura che aspettavano solo di essere pulite. In fin dei conti l'ambiente della parete è perfetto per chi ha voglia di avventura, o comunque qualcosa di diverso dalla solita uscita in falesia.

Così a Novembre ho iniziato i lavori di pulizia. La roccia è talvolta ottima, qualche altra un po' meno, le fessure si presentavano poi spesso parzialmente ostruite da sassi o terra. Ci è voluto un gran lavoro per preparare tutte le linee, e uno forse ancora più lungo per preparare i sentieri e le corde che consentono di arrivare alla base della falesia e spostarsi da una fessura all'altra.

Non so quante volte ho fatto avanti/indietro carico come un mulo per il ripido sentiero di Virgolo, quante ore a martellare per togliere i sassi dalle fessure e quante a segare arbusti. Per mesi praticamente tutto il tempo libero che avevo a disposizione non lo ho dedicato all'arrampicata ma alla pulizia. E' la prima volta che dedico così tanto tempo a qualcosa che non sia un mio progetto. Qualcosa che in fin dei conti è più per gli altri che per me stesso, dato che i gradi di queste vie non sono certo elevati.

Photo: Tristan Hobson

Sicuramente comunque mi sono divertito a preparare e salire questi itinerari, non difficili ma certamente avventurosi. Ho messo infatti solo le soste, e salire dal basso con le protezioni, richiede sicuramente più sforzi di quelli che il grado suggerisce... soprattutto la più larga "Fessura del Gufo" che necessita di parecchia attenzione e sangue freddo.

Photo: Tristan Hobson

Vi lascio quindi una piccola guida per andare a scoprire queste fessure. All'interno troverete tutte le indicazioni necessarie all'accesso e le informazioni sul materiale che è necessario portare per arrampicare. Vi prego di rispettare la roccia e la natura, la falesia potrebbe vedere anche la nascita di qualche itinerario a spit al di fuori delle fessure, ma vi prego di contattarmi se foste interessati allo sviluppo. Buone arrampicate!

Le vie:

-Mezzogiorno di fuoco, 6a+
-Larga ma non troppo, 6b+
-Fessura del Gufo, 6b
-Variante delle Civetta, 6b+
-Black Mamba, 6c
-Fight Club, 7a

lunedì 23 marzo 2020

- Greenspit

My personal story with Greenspit starts back in 2012. At the time I was mainly a boulderer, but being one of the first Italians to have done some hard gritstone routes during my visits in the Peak District I was invited to the international trad climbing meeting promoted by CAAI in Orco valley. At the meeting climbers from all over the word would team up to climb the most famous trad routes in the valley, and it was a great occasion for me to discover something new... in fact all the experience I had was placing one or two pieces of gear to protect a tall boulder where it's best not to fall!

In that occasion I met Pete Whittaker, and one day together with him and a small crew we went to Greenspit, as he'd done it the previous year and wanted to take a few pictures on the route. That day I also tried Greenspit myself; back then I was probably stronger than now, but I knew nothing about crack climbing: I obviously found the thing desperate! I could just do a few of the initial moves, which are by far the easiest, but I was fascinated. From that day I decided I wanted to learn how to crack climb, to see if one day I would also be able to climb Greenspit. (At the time probably the hardest crack in Europe and the icon of this climbing style)

So I began my apprenticeship climbing as much as I could in Cadarese, at the time a newly developed trad climbing crag in Ossola valley. With lots of pilgrimages over a couple of years I managed to repeat all the classic lines such as "The Doors", "Book Cake", "Turkey Crack" and "Mustang", building confidence in my jamming skills and gear placement. Now time had come to go back on Greenspit!

It was in 2015 or 16 when I went back on the route and started to try it properly. I have to say everything was difficult: first of all it was not easy to find somebody willing to come and try it (there's almost nothing else to climb nearby), and secondly it was quite a long way from Parma to Orco valley. Three long hours driving, which I've done a few times there and back also in a day. I have to say I could see progress: I was now able to climb efficiently through every section, but there was especially a thin one near the end where I really struggled to jam due to my big hands. It's not even the crux, but every time I got there from the beginning it would just spit me out.

Then it came 2017, a year that changed my life quite a bit. In March during a new trip to the Peak District I had a ground fall while I  was climbing "The Elder Statesman" at  Curbar. I fell from something like 14 meters, the rope got cut by the sharp edge of the arête, and I found myself on the ground together with my belayer Claudia whom I hit on the way down. The results were broken heel and wrist, and it took four painful months of rehab before slowly being able to climb easy stuff again. In the meanwhile I also decided to move to Sheffield to live with Claudia, and of course that put a temporary stop to my story with Greenspit. A stop which I feared could be permanent, as my wrist never recovered completely from the injury, and its limited flexibility makes me struggle a lot with undercuts, such as the key finger lock on the route!

At the end of 2018 we moved back to Italy, precisely in Bolzano, and the desire of climbing Greenspit came back to my head as strong as ever. Will I be able to do all the moves on the route again? A short session with a friend was a happy surprise for me: I could still do every move including the crux! Fortunately it doesn't involve jamming every finger in the crack, the index stays out, so I don't have to bend the wrist all the way.

The season was almost over, so I had to wait until spring 2019 to come back and try the route seriously. Bolzano is even farther than Parma from Orco, 4 hours and 30 minutes drive, so this time I had to organize everything in advance. The first occasion was Easter holidays. I Planned one week in Orco together with Claudia, but I just managed to try the route for three days before it started to rain heavily and we had to leave the valley.

During those days I met Matteo della Bordella and Francesco Deiana who had just climbed the route placing the gear while climbing. It was not just inspiring to watch, but it also helped me a lot: a better beta using a small crimp instead of a jam, and better gear strategy that saved me from placing one piece at the start. Pretty useful stuff! I was now able to climb the route placing all the gear without too much effort, and on my best go I fell doing the crux from the beginning. It was a shame I was forced to leave the valley earlier, this time I felt really close to victory!

I then managed a couple of short sessions in summer, but warmer temperatures didn't help and I was still falling at the crux near the end of the route. So I decided to leave it for next autumn, trying to plan a longer stay in the valley: I needed to try the route with fresh body memory, but also some time to recover in between sessions, as it's quite intense on your skin and bones.

So last October I finally had the opportunity to stay in Orco one week. Conditions were perfect but it was quite cold and I found out I could not just warm up on the route as I usually did. It would take me at least three tries before getting warm enough, and by the time I was already exhausted . Time was running out, just two days remaining to try the route, I had to change something! So we thought about climbing some easier routes in the sunny crag of Bosco before going to Greenspit, and it turned out to make the difference. On 9th of October I finally managed to climb the route with the gear already in place, and two days later, on Friday the 11th, I did the redpoint placing it all on lead.

I don't think that placing gear makes a huge difference on Greenspit, but it makes it for sure a bigger challenge. There's more that can go wrong when placing friends: you may drop them or they might get stuck. The result is always a waste of energy, not to mention you have to get them out as well! In addition I had to skip a placement near the crux (I could barely clip it if already in place) and do the exit relying on a single piece, which made everything more thrilling...

I have to thank a lot Paolo Seimandi for all the help and the beautiful pictures. Without him probably Greenspit would still be a dream for me! Now I feel very happy, but at the same time empty, I'll have to find something else that keeps my motivation so high... I'm sure it won't take long though!

lunedì 17 aprile 2017

- Peak 2017 - The Elder Statesman

The last two years I didn't manage to travel much. Apart from some short trips to Ceuse, Albarracin or Verdon, I spent most of my time climbing near home and I was starting to miss that feeling of extreme freedom a long trip gives you. This year, as I had some changes in my life, I felt it was time to hit the road again and come back to a place I was missing so much: Sheffield and the Peak District, where I have some of my best memories.

Short stop in Font on the way to Sheffield...

Fortunately a friend would help me, and a plan was made. Getting to Sheffield for the CWIF and remaining there a couple of weeks to get the most I could out of gritstone. Then back to Fontainebleau on my way home, where I would join Italian friends to spend the last week of my holiday.

The Cork Stone - Photo: Claudia Amatruda

The CWIF was fun as usual, and it was a pleasure to compete in the Wild Country team together with friends. I soon realized this time I was there just for fun and no longer had the competitive spirit or will to succeed I used to have back in the years... all I was thinking about was getting back on the Grit as soon as possible!

Burbage Valley infrared

The first days after the competition were quite chilly and rainy, but I still managed to get out for some bouldering sessions in the evening, to get the feeling back with this strange rock and with proper English weather too! I also tried to get back to Voyager once... but it was still dripping wet :(
Weather improved quickly, and it soon got nice and warm... time for some routes?? I had many in my mind I wanted to climb, and I was lucky to meet Claudia, who was off from work, to go climbing with.

On the way to Voyager...

We decided to get to Millstone as a first day to get some practice with routes, as both of us haven't been trad climbing for quite a long time. I spotted a rarely repeated E7 by Ron Fawcett called "Scritto's Republic", while Claudia could test her skills placing gear on the classic crack of "Embankment 3". As we first got there the wall was still dripping, but the heat was crazy and the sun quickly dried everything.

Claudia on Mark's Roof Left Hand

After a couple of top-rope inspections to check the gear and the moves I decided to give it a go. It was quite late, the temperature had dropped a bit and the sunset light made everything orange, exactly like four years before when I climbed the nearby Master's Edge. I set off, but at first I could not commit on the crux of the route way above the two tiny pads we had and jumped off. "Well, here we are again, I know this feeling...". Five minutes later I found myself past the crux and above the first unsecure piece of gear: I didn't work the top part that well and I forgot I had to change hand on a mono!!! Easy on top-rope but on lead it's totally different ;)

Scritto's Republic - Photo: Tom Randall

I somehow managed to close my eyes and do that, and I was now past my last runner which I did not trust too. Just one more tricky move before better holds, but this time I could not make the position work: "How did I manage to get to that pocket!?? Shit!". I was already in the state of mind of taking a fall when I managed to jam a finger in a small crack just below the pocket and reach it with the other hand... what a moment! "Yes, this is Gritstone as I remembered".

Sunset from Curbar Edge

After an easy day soloing at Stanage I decided to step up the game a bit and went to Curbar to finally try "The Elder Statesman" HXS 7a. I had this line in my mind since I saw James Pearson's video on it. With only three ascents to date and a cool scary dyno at the top it seemed the perfect mix of something hard but not too dangerous I could start with.

The Elder Statesman - Photo: Jake Thompson

The first day was quite frustrating: I managed to hold the dyno something like two times out of five, but I still struggled to get into the jump position from the crack, that looked just too far away... at the end of the day I managed somehow to do every single move but with such an effort it would have been nearly impossible to stick the jump. The next day the unexpected happened: thanks to a new pair of Otaki shoes and a better sequence I managed to do twice the crux on top-rope, so after Claudia worked Elder Crack I didn't think twice and went for the lead before it got dark!

Victory!Photo: Mike Hutton

On the lead everything went smooth, I was not too scared and I was focused on the moves. I still did not know whether I would hold that jump or not, but I gave it a real try and I soon found myself screaming with joy at the top of the crag! I could not believe it, I've done the route and as usual I didn't have a single picture of it...  Yes pictures... I had already planned to have a small shooting for Wild Country out on grit, so why not getting back on this route? It's really stunning and I would have loved a picture on it.... "Yes, I'll get back the next day". I was almost disappointed I didn't have the chance to test that scary but "safe-ish" fall!

Photo: Jake Thompson

The next day weather was quite grim: dark clouds on the horizon and a strong wind blowing at the top of the crag. "Do I really want to do this again?" Anyway I made people come here, now it was time for action. I set up the belay and did it once more on top rope, then back on the ground to sort out gear and get ready. It was quite cold. We arranged to have some slack as usual, as I was worried of hitting hard into the wall on the right if the rope was too tight. That's all I was afraid of... I trusted my gear and knew it would have been a long sideways fall, but nothing too dangerous.

my wrist after surgery

Once I got established in the jump position I was quite cold. Friction was good, but I was not feeling confident I would do it again. I tried, but could not stick the good crimp this time and I found myself flying horizontally towards the right wall. I remember thinking: "I'm not in the best position to hit that wall..." then something happened, and I was lying on the ground in pain. It took me a while to realize what happened. The rope cut. I hit Claudia, and we both fell on the ground. I was feeling a strong pain to my left hand and when I looked at it I saw it had collapsed into my forearm, very bad looking, but I could still move my fingers. The right ankle was also painful, I probably broke that as well, but it just didn't look as bad as my hand.

at Hard Grit Live event

Luckily for me Edale Mountain Rescue Team came quickly and they carried me till the car park where an ambulance took both me and Claudia to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield where I had an operation to the wrist the next morning. Claudia suffered several bruises but she was fortunately fine. My friend James managed to get in touch with my parents who took a flight to London and got there the next day.
I have been lucky. I just didn't think that could happen to a rope, and I didn't even know Steve McClure climbed it with three cause of that when he made the first ascent... you always learn something.

Claudia on La Coquille - Fontainebleau

I stayed in hospital three days, and they discharged me just in time to be at the Hard Grit Live event in Sheffield, which was quite fun! ;). Then I drove down with Claudia and my parents to Fontainebleau, where my friends were waiting for me... this time not for climbing together unfortunately.
I have to thank the rescuers, my parents, and everybody who helped me. Special thanks to James and Claudia for their help: without them I wouldn't have had the opportunity to live this experience and tell you this story. Yes, it's been a positive experience anyway. This trip gave me back feelings I had almost forgotten and made me realize once again how much I love this place and its climbing. It will take a few months to recover now, but I can't wait to be back... there are still a couple of routes I miss on the Hard Grit tick list! ;)

Above is the video of the fall. Be careful of what can happen to a rope in that situation. You live and learn.

lunedì 23 novembre 2015

- Bavella, Delicatessen

E' da tanto tempo ormai che sognavo di mettere mano su questa mitica via aperta da Arnaud Petit nel lontano 1992... nel mare di granito delle cime di Bavella, in Corsica. Purtroppo però non avevo mai trovato l'occasione per andare a provarla, così la ho sempre tenuta li, come una di quelle cose che prima o poi mi sarei messo di impegno per fare...

Finchè un giorno di questa estate, parlando con Federica a Ceuse, ho scoperto che anche lei aveva questa via nel mirino... allora ci siamo subito detti che la cosa andava tentata!

Cinque giorni, non di più. Questo è il tempo che avevamo a disposizione per salire la via. Non avevamo idea se sarebbe stato tanto o poco, ma eravamo determinati a fare del nostro meglio.

Arriviamo lunedì notte e ci accampiamo in uno spiazzo vicino alla strada che porta al colle. Essendo ormai buio non avevamo bene idea di dove ci trovassimo, ma lo spiazzo sotto ai castagni sembrava comodo, e montate le tende siamo subito andati a dormire curiosi di vedere cosa ci avrebbe aspettato il giorno successivo.

Alle sei di mattina circa veniamo svegliati da rumori di grugniti, castagne masticate e respiri affannosi che si spingono fin quasi dentro la tenda... all' inizio rimaniamo un po' impietriti, pensando che si tratti di un branco di cinghiali, ma quando finalmente alle prime luci dell' alba decido di alzarmi e guardare, scopro che sono solo un gruppo di innocui maiali selvatici che stanno facendo colazione proprio accanto a noi... respiro di sollievo!

Il primo passo ora era quello di avventurarci nella foresta fino all' attacco della via. In molti ci avevano descritto il sentiero come difficile e intricato, ma per fortuna riusciamo (quasi) al primo colpo a trascinarci fra piante, rovi e salti di roccia fino alla forcella sommitale fra punta U Corbu e Teghie Lisce... da li il panorama è incredibile e la via si staglia davanti a noi in tutto il suo splendore.

Arrivati all'attacco capiamo subito che sarebbe stata dura: faranno circa 18°, la parete è in pieno sole e il granito è ormai caldissimo... pian piano riesco a trascinarmi in sosta alla prima bellissima lunghezza di 8b, ma mi rendo conto che per passare in libera ci vogliono ben altre condizioni.

Fessure rovescie con i piedi splalmati, canalini svasi da rimontare con i palmi, enormi piattoni e terribili scagliette di granito da tirare più su in placca, sperando di salire ancora qualche centimetro prima che ti scappi quel piede spalmato e ti faccia inesorabilmente volare di sotto...

Il secondo e il terzo tiro per fortuna sono un po' più abbordabili. Proseguiamo in alternata, e con un po' di fatica riusciamo comunque a fare tutti i singoli di queste due lunghezze. Come tipologia di arrampicata sono abbastanza simili alla prima, ma almeno presentano sezioni più facili dove si riesce a prendere un po' fiato...

... Ok: fessura svasa in dulfer, (nessun incastro possibile quindi mi è concesso! ;) ) tettino, tallonata e ribaltamento di ginocchio...  ora ci troviamo nella grande nicchia sotto il tetto del tiro finale di 8a... troppo tardi ormai per tentare pure quello. Ci godiamo dall' alto il mare di nuvole che si è chiuso sotto di noi, lasciando intravvedere solo la cima di qualche guglia circostante, poi ci caliamo tra le nuvole per affrontare di nuovo il sentiero, al buio non sarà certo cosa semplice!

I giorni successivi proseguono un po' fotocopia del primo: il sole scalda la parete durante le prime ore della giornata, poi per fortuna arrivano un po' di nuvole, ma spesso non basta a raffreddare la roccia che sembra un enorme calorifero di granito rosso....

Il secondo e il terzo giorno sono dedicati a lavorare i tiri centrali, su cui abbiamo buone possibilità di riuscita, e ad andare in cima alla via. Scopriamo che le difficoltà del quarto tiro di 8a, non stanno certo nel passare i grossi tafoni per superare il tetto, ma sono tutte concentrate in quattro spit di placca appoggiata, con quasi nulla per mani e piedi... praticamente un incubo con questo caldo!

Il quarto giorno, complici anche un po' di nuvole che arrivano a mascherare il sole prima del solito, riusciamo finalmente entrambi a salire in libera i tiri di 7c+ e 7c.

Sul primo tiro abbiamo fatto progressi, ma c'è ancora una sezione in placca che è un rebus irrisolto... l'ultimo tiro di 8a per ora non ci siamo nemmeno messi a provarlo seriamente, necessiterebbe pure di una bella spazzolata per via del muschio!

Ok ultimo giorno di avventura, ormai siamo un po' affaticati dal sentiero e dalle ore di arrampicata. La pelle delle dita rimasta è poca e rovinata, ma non vogliamo mollare dato che la giornata sembra almeno partire con il piede giusto: nuvole fin dalla mattina e roccia presumibilmente fresca.

Si, oggi finalmente si sente qualcosa sotto le mani e non solo quarzi di granito caldo e sudato! Riesco a fare un buon link sul primo tiro, superando il canalino svaso e arrivando in placca con un solo rest. Qui riesco finalmente ad arcuare due croste che mi permettono di superare quella malefica spaccata da cui nei giorni precedenti non eravamo mai riusciti a tirarci fuori... ormai so che il tiro viene tutto... fosse stato così anche gli altri giorni!!

Ok proseguiamo spediti fino al tiro di 8a, con l'intenzione di guardare seriamente pure quello... in effetti scopriamo che pulendo un po' le fessure svase dal muschio e guardando bene gli appoggi si riesce davvero a passare, anche se la sensazione di precarietà di fondo rimane tutta.

Insomma, cinque giorni su "Delicatessen" sono volati. Siamo riusciti a salire in libera tre dei cinque tiri, abbiamo lottato contro il caldo e improvvisato movimenti da boulder in parete... ci siamo persi nel bosco al buio, graffiati con i rovi e preso pure qualche zecca. Ora sappiamo però che questa via è davvero alla nostra portata... insomma il sogno continua, magari la prossima volta con un po' più di fresco! ;)
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