venerdì 9 dicembre 2011

- Autumn on the rocks

After the end of competition's season it's time to get back on rock trying to enjoy and develop some less known areas in Italy such as Val Daone or Monte Amiata but even to make a quick trip to Fontainebleau and Belgium... let's see what happened.

First focus has been in Val Daone, where I had a couple of nice projects to be climbed before annual closure of the road during winter period. The first and easier one was "Big Bamboo sitstart", which consists of a hard and physical start to an old problem on this blank and slopey arete just next to "l'Avenir..." at Dos Dei Aser sector...

The problem gave me more trouble than I first thought and it took me 4 days to complete it, so I didn't worry to give it 8a+ and wait for future repeaters' opinions. The other project consists of slightly overhanging granite shield, crossed by a tiny finger crack where I struggle to make my fat fingers go inside... I tried many and many times always falling on the last dynamic move to a slopey crimp, which I was able to hold just one or two times trying the single move. Nothing to do, the project is still there and I will have to wait spring for the road to open again... temperature are dropping a bit, time to move on to Fontainebleau!

Unfortunately in Font weather was still quite warm but I had the pleasure to climb a few good lines I had never tried before (thing that is getting harder as years pass), like Vague Patatras, 7c+ at Saint Germain or Art and Nature, 7c+/8a at Cuvier Est, but I had to move to Belgium soon where I had the pleasure to take part in Bleau Open Bouldering Sensations 2011 (see the beautiful pictures of Stef D'hoore) a really fun competition at the bouldering gym "Bleau" of Ghent.

After 4 hours of qualifications on these round shaped boulders I made my way to the finals where I still had to fight hard to take (as usual ahahha!) the second place after Mr. Glairon Mondet... pretty happy in the end and really fun climbing. Now destroyed was time to relax, visit city center and drink a good beer before going back to Fontainebleau.

Back in the forest I was joined by my friend Kakko and we spent another week there. Weather has been quite good at first but soon became quite humid and foggy and had to give up the idea of completing "The Big Island" where I dropped almost at the mantle last year... anyway I have been able to climb two stunning problems which has been in my dreams for a while: the first one is a powerful rounded arete called "Bleu Sacré", a hard 8a+/8b opened in 2010 by Antoine Vandeputte, and the second one is the legendary "Merveille", a high and technique 8a+ opened back in 1991 by mr. Le Ménestrel...

...old school vs new school, huge slopers vs sharp "grats". Luckily I got some good beta for last move from my friend Ned, and was able to send it second time I passed the crux in the middle... probably the best boulder I have ever climbed, nothing that any 8c out of a dump cave will ever give you... (and it's a pleasure to hear that Adam Ondra just went flashed it! Too many beautiful boulders just don't receive the right attention because their grade is not "hardcore").

Then shut down by the fog all we could do was hiking through wet boulders, picking up mushrooms, buying some local cheese at the market of Milly la Foret, going last time to our favourite pub "La Tete des Trains" in Tousson... good bye Fontainebleau. At the moment I'm writing from my small house in  Siena, exploring never stops and at Monte Amiata is full of new rocks to be climbed and new stories to be told... I'm just getting too much pictures and videos,  no time is left after climbing, but I will try to give a video update soon.

Greetings from Tuscany.

mercoledì 2 novembre 2011

- Picture Galleries and PhotoStore

Finalmente dopo tanto lavoro notturno tutto sembra funzionare... ho raccolto e catalogato un po' dei miei scatti preferiti raccolti negli anni, suddividendoli per temi, e ho anche creato qualche raccolta relativa ai miei viaggi di arrampicata in giro per il mondo. Il tutto da sfogliare e gustare a schermo intero. Se vi piaceranno, avrete la possibilità di acquistarli ad un prezzo simbolico sul PhotoStore, per poterne stampare ingrandimenti, creare locandine per eventi o manifestazioni oppure semplicemente salvarli come sfondo del computer.

Finally after late night working sessions everything seems to work... I gathered some of the my best pictures and arranged them by themes, I've also made  some collections about my climbing trips around the globe. Everything to be browsed and enjoyed in full screen. If you like them, you'll have the opportunity to buy them for a symbolic price on the PhotoStore, to make prints, posters, or just use them as desktop wallpaper.

Intanto le gare proseguono con i soliti risultati: secondo in Coppa Italia Boulder 2011, secondo al campionato Italiano Boulder 2011, sembra che sia proprio affezionato a quel numero 2... in effetti la media aritmetica delle mie posizioni in gara negli ultimi 5 anni è qualcosa come ‎2,66666666666667.
In fondo posso anche ritenermi soddisfatto, dopo tanto tempo sarà giunta l'ora di darci un taglio e dedicarsi a tempo pieno alla roccia? Mi sa di si... quindi aspettatevi a breve un bel resoconto da Fontainebleau!

lunedì 19 settembre 2011

- Rocklands 2011 - Part 2: Back Home

Back home... hard to get back to normal life when you've been climbing and staying into the wild with friends for 58 days, and even worse if you return from bone dry African winter and find yourself in the middle of a boiling September here in Italy!

Time runs quickly when you are on a trip, and when I try to look back at our experience everything tends to mix together, giving quite a messy and cheerful sensation, made of people, sceneries and smells from a far and previously unknown country.

Red, red was color of land and rock, green were bushes and plants and deep blue were the skies above us. Almost sunny every day, sometimes quite warm, but always dry with some little breeze. Shorts periods if rain here and there made you realize even more how good weather was and let your body have some rest from climbing and hiking, in order to restart fresh and focused  the day after.

Climbers came from all over the world and everywhere you went you could meet people sharing with you the enthusiasm of being exactly on the trip they always dreamt to be.  Moving around you could hear a strange language made of English, German, Afrikaans and yes, also a hint of Italian.

We stayed well,  every day we woke up, we had a satisfying breakfast  and then we went out with our old cars to explore as much as we could of the area, trying to find out and repeat all the most beautiful problems among that endless amount of rock we had in front of our eyes. Evenings just came too quickly and many times we were obliged  to stop just to go in town to do shopping before closing time.

The place itself is vast and amazing, with a hint of wilderness but at the same time really friendly and peaceful. I tried to record our best memories with pictures and videos and now I'll let them speak, hoping they'll give you inspiration for planning next trip.

There is also something else I want to talk about. Rocklands is for sure one of the best climbing destinations I've ever been and for sure one of the most famous, but I have to say it also shows some limits. First of all when you get there you can really feel how poorly black people live comparing to white men. Even if they're usually smiling at you it is hard not to think you're just there for climbing and having fun, when you see such poverty around and you're frequently asked for food or money... of course you can't help everybody and you end up living your holiday, I just hope all this tourism will help to promote the development of the region under every aspects.

Another strange fact is that despite all the amount of rock you can see around, just a small portion is actually good for climbing. Sometimes it is either holdless or too juggy, but most of the times it is just loose and bad rock. You may have to walk quite a lot between these before reaching a good sector, but the hike is always nice and when you finally get there you're always impressed by the quality of the climbing.

The style is quite crimpy and it's full of overhangs with strange holds, so climbing tends to be quite basic and powerful, at the expense of balance and technique, but sometimes it also offers tall brilliant aretes and even a few slopey gems you can find here and there... be careful that this sandstone can be really hard and "glassy" and slopers may have a really bad friction! Anyway the variety of holds and shapes is fantastic and I found it second only to Fontainebleau under that aspect. (Yes "Le Coeur" is still unbeatable).

Reading the guidebook I found that first sectors were developed starting from 1994 and since then many strong climbers came to search for projects in the climbing mecca, starting from Fred Nicole, Klem Loskot or Bernd Zangerl... nowadays it seems that most of the beautiful lines gathered around the main climbing sectors have been already climbed, and if you want to find your own project, one that really stands out, you have to walk further and further... maybe even 50 minutes uphill like did Nalle for "Livin Large", but I can say it was definitely worth it! Much more possibilities are left for short routes, which can be found here and there on the faces of the tallest boulders, many of them would be perfect as hard and scary trad projects. We tried a couple of amazing lines but found them too hard or demanding in time to be worked and so we preferred just to keep on bouldering and explore all the sectors around for this first trip.

There was just a thing which I found quite odd about the climbing there and this were  GRADES. This summer I wasn't sure in the best shape of my life but during this trip I would have climbed 34 problems above 7c according to the guidebook, of which eight 8a+'s an 8b and three 8b+'s... by far the best I did in my climbing career, especially comparing it to last winter in the Peak District where in two months I was just able to climb 11 problems above 7c including just two 8b's. Not to mention that many grades had already been revised in the guidebook! So what happened? Are the big stakes you could find in Clanwilliam especially good for climbing performances? Or it is just the whole system that has to be revised? Is it possible to have a common grading scale all over the world?

I'm not referring here to first ascentionists, as it is always hard, and maybe impossible to give a correct grade when you climb on your own and have to discover every single trick, but more to the climbing community itself which seems to be always happy to record the given grade, without bothering to think as much as they do when they climb in their home crags here in Europe for example, where grades seems to stabilize quite soon around a common "standard". The problem I think is that we want to succeed, and to do so we need to climb numbers. How any times have you heard: "I climbed an 8a+" and only after the name of what have actually been climbed? Like if it was less important? Well to me is still a big difference to hear: "I climbed Nutsa in Rocklands" or "I climbed la Merveille in Fontainebleu", after both names there's written 8a+ in guidebooks, but if I saw climbing Nutsa almost twice everyday I still have to climb or see anybody climbing that thing in Fontainebleau, and you can't tell me it is just because it's rubbish...

Anyway here is a list of what I climbed during the trip, with the official "guidebook grade" and the one I thought was appropriate. Again it is always hard to be rational... especially when you climb so many days in a row, but when you feel 7 grades out of 10 wrong there should be definitely something odd going on.

Tomorrow I will be Gone7c7b+
Bacs pour Nini7c7c
Kingdom in the Sky7c7b
Cedar Spine7c7b
Il etait une fois7c+7c
Black Mango Chutney7c+7c
Macho King7c+7c+
Pinotage Sit7c+7b+
The Shark7c+7c+ soft
White Mazda Clan7c+7b+
Stretched and Pressed7c+7b+
Gliding Through the Waves like Dolphins8a8a
Out of Balance8a7c+
Pendragon8a8a soft
Royksoop8a8a soft
Double D Bras and Shiraz8a7c
Witness the Sickness8a8a
Solar Power8a7c+
Green Mamba8a+8a
Shosholoza8a+8a soft
Black Shadow8a+8a+
Barracuda sitstart8a+8a+ soft
Armed Response8a+8a+
The Amphitheater8a+7c+
30's the new 208a+8a
Fragile Steps8b8a+
Mooiste Meisie8b+8b
Derailed8b+8b hard

I'll leave you with this nice little video my friend Marco edited, which I think captures really well our  African experience, with its people, its landscapes and its climbing. This winter I hope to go back to Fontainebleau and Peak District, to keep on climbing truly inspiring lines as I could do here in Rocklands. My ranking will suffer a little bit but I'll try not to bother much. ;-)

sabato 16 luglio 2011

- Rocklands 2011 - Part 1: Arrival

It's done, we got here! After endless hours spent on airplanes playing tetris, watching movies and vainly trying to get some sleep, we finally landed in Cape Town.

The car rental man was already waiting for us with two quite old Toyota Tazz: 4 gears, no power steering, but enough space for five of us, baggage and pads... quite a good deal for 330€ per month!

So after a quick research for a universal laptop charger (yes I did burn mine on the airplane's plug), we moved out of town heading north towards Clanwilliam and the rock we have been dreaming on.

Landscapes were at first quite green and familiar, but they got more brown and rocky as we approached our destination, leaving us astonished when we drove at sunset trough Pakhuis pass and what we could see was only endless fields of strange rocks brightened by the deep red sun light.

We got to our house that was already dark, ate some badly made pasta in order not to starve and just died in our beds, hoping to recover for next day. 

Next morning we were woken up as usual by some noisy sheep and barking dogs, but it was already 9am and we've been almost sleeping for 11 hours. Just time to have breakfast and take some pictures and we were already walking along the road towards Roadside sector, pads on our shoulders and smiles on our faces.

Yes, at first we did feel a bit shit, but it was a very nice place where to feel like that...
The first two days weather has been quite chilly and perfect for climbing, but it soon got warm during the day. Not a big issue as it's still really dry and we just wanted to visit a few sectors and get familiar with the place.

We've been climbing for 6 days now and visited most of the sectors at the Pass, 8 Days Rain and Dihedral Boulders, but there is still too much to see... I'm glad I've already climbed some great classic lines on this beautiful rock that stands in between Hueco and Fontainebleau and I'm getting to like every day more.

At the moment I will recommend "Barracuda", "Out of Balance", "Green Mamba", "Gliding through Waves like Dolphins" and "Tomorrow I will be Gone".   If you also like to get a bit scared you can't miss the big black slab on the way to roadside sector, we made an easier route with few gear up the obvious crack and a slightly harder direct solo... one of the best rest days I've ever had.

Now I won't bother you with grades and speculations... just watch some pictures and try somehow to feel here in Rocklands if you can't stand Europe's summer heat! Stay tuned...

mercoledì 18 maggio 2011

- An Italian on the Grit

Balance It Is - E7 6c

It's more than a month since I came back from Sheffield and I've been quite busy doing many things around here in Italy... now I feel is time to sum up the experience, remembering the most beautiful episodes and trying to explain what it meant and what changed in my mind.

Brad Pit - 7c

At the beginning of february I left from Paris, where I've been visiting my friend Nicola. Weather was not so nice and I soon realized I was quite bored to try hard on the same boulders. I've been doing this for ages: keep on trying almost on my own some boulder problems I liked, in a place I knew well and felt like a second home. So I was happy to be with friends, but I ended up to be stuck on the same climbing. I needed to experience something different, something that could give me new psyche and help me become a better climber.

Ulysse's Bow - E6 6b

Time was for Lorenzo to team up and leave together for a new adventure. Nothing was really planned but we were heading to Sheffield : I really wanted to climb on gritstone and Lorenzo was quite psyched about anything from Brad Pit to the old school problems of Parisella's Cave or Raven Tor. We were ready to enjoy english weather as well as english beer, and in case it rained too much we would have gone campusing like beasts at the climbing wall. I knew there wouldn't be any 8c to try, but I was sure I could find loads of amazing lines that would kick my ass and make me try at 100%. 

During the first days we were kindly hosted by Rich and his wife. Weather was constantly changing and we managed to have some lovely days at Stanage  as well as many sessions at the Climbing Works, which was just down the road... At the beginning my skin was quite soft to try anything hard on gritstone, so I soon focused on some easier routes: I found myself quite scared in the middle of Archangel (E3 5b) on my very first day, and kept on for glory to the top of Satin and Pressure Drop even if my legs were shaking... everybody was climbing so naturally at these heights I just told myself I had to learn. The best way was to switch my brain off and think about climbing: trying to feel my body under control, in order to be safe and easy on every move. But sometimes I just couldn't feel safe at all, like on my first tries on Ulysse's where I had to jump off several times before my sore ankles warned me to stop ... I wasn't ready yet !

Gaia - E8 6c8 Ball - 8b

After getting scared is always nice to come back to bouldering, and there was quite a lot I had to do. I started to repeat some nice classics like Help the Young sitstart (7c+), West Side Story (7b+) and Western Eyes (7c+), and even a couple of nice highballs at Froggatt edge like Sole Power (7b+) and My Orange (7c+) which helped me to raise a little bit my "fear height". Bouldering on gritstone can be quite frustrating as rock is usually really sharp and needs cold and dry conditions in order to stick all little quarz grains under your skin. Sometimes weather is ace and you can just levitate crimping everything, even the worst Font sloper, but most of the time is just avarage and you end up killing your skin on a cheese grater without getting anywhere... I really had to learn when to rest and how to preserve skin, but that was probably the most difficult thing to do!

Angel's Share - E8 7a

Meanwhile Lorenzo went for a trip to Wales and I moved to the house of the "guys". These were Dave, Dan, Ben, Ned and Rich, with Nick always showing up as a special guest. I won't mention surnames but I don't think to exagerate saying that is probably the strongest "climbing house" in Britain, and I was really proud to be part of it sleeping on the floor of what was the music room. The lovely dirty house had everything a climber would need: from a training cellar full of Beastmaker boards to a huge selection of climbing videos, but most important of all it was full of nice people who would share with you their time, being it climbing or not.

There were a few hard lines which most of all captured my attention. These were The Ace, Careless Torque, Unfamiliar, 8 Ball, Angel's Share and GaiaEach one was a kind of dream (apart from 8 Ball which I got stuck into...) , expecially Gaia and Unfamiliar were pure unknown terrain as I seldom ever wore a harness in my life and I had no idea of how to approach them.

the Roaches

Every day I went out (pretty much every day it didn't rain) I headed up to one of these boulders and fought hard to find a good beta... sometimes it happened to have a revelation but most of the time I just made no progress so I finished myself soloing or highballing something easier with friends. Watching them in action was really inspiring, many times I thought : "Are you mad? No way I'm going up there...", but then after some hesitation I found myself struggling my way up... if it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger ;-)

Careless Torque - 8aUlysse's Bow - E6 6bUlysse's Bow - E6 6b

Then there was the CWIF, the international climbing competition held every year at the Climbing Works, it wasn't really a priority to me but I knew it was great fun and I tried to do my best, despite my skin was trashed by a week pulling on wet gritstone. I joined Beastmaker team and led by captain Ned Feehally we managed to get a pretty good overall second place just after the Climbing Works hired "dream team" of Hukkataival, Becan, Landman and Sandoz ! I also made my way to the semi finals but the next morning I climbed pretty badly and found myself quite dipappointed in 10th position. It was just 2pm in the afternoon and outside a nice sun was shining: "I won't get to the finals today, but I will climb Ulysse's Bow". I was angry enough. With a team of unfulfilled climbers like me I sat off to Stanage to complete my task, then we got back just in time to have a pint and watch the finals. 

Burbage South

I was starting slowly to complete my projects: I fired The Ace (8b) on my first try of a cloudy and cool morning after I figured out how to do it with a hill (as there is always saving a heelhook). I managed to get almost frozen to the top of Unfamiliar (E8 6c) after fighting 10 minutes to place cams on a freezing windy day (luckily my friends were spotting and encouraging), and somehow walked on top of Angel's Share (E8 7a or font 7c) after 4 days of sliding and falling off it's slabby green surface. (almost ruined 2 pair of shoes there!)

Angel's Share - E8 7a

At that point spring was coming and weather started to become quite warm. I was still shut down by Careless Torque, was close to complete 8 Ball, and  still had the dream to try Gaia. As it was too warm to go bouldering I tried as many routes I could, not just to prepare for Gaia but because I really loved being out to enjoy climbing and rock in a complete new way. In fact I tried to flash The Knock (E4 6a), Nosferatu (E6 6b) and Balance It Is (E7 6c), but the last gave me some thrill when I took a huge fall ripping a small wire out of the rock desperately trying to jump to the top.

Renegade Master - E8 6c

Fortunately last week turned out to be quite windy and I didn't miss the chance to climb 8 Ball (8b), being literally blown up by the wind! Then it came time to try the big one: the thing that made me dream about climbing for many years and now I felt finally ready to try. We set off to Black Rocks on a pretty warm sunny day (almost 20°!), a nice breeze was blowing and it was just perfect to keep me cool without being annoying (I hate to be up a scary route with strong freezing wind!). After some practice on a top rope I found an easy way to do the crux move at the bottom (which at first seemed quite hard sweating in the sun), and I soon felt ready to try, as I could easily walk up the upper section. So I did: I left the ground and thought only about the moves till I found myself looking down with a big smile; my feet safely laying on the final sloper. It was a great feeling, not as challenging as trying something ground-up but I finally brought up there the 14 years old boy who first saw "Hard Grit" on a dusty VHS in the climbing gym of Parma.

Time was running out and when you start to feel home you always have to come back to your real one. Careless Torque was still laughing at me and the list of things I wanted to try was growing every day bigger and bigger. I had the chance to climb Renegade Master (E8 6c or 7c+ boulder) with visiting John Partridge, and to see Dan's efforts on what later became Dandelion Mind, but my time was really over. I crossed the channel back on the 8th of April together with Dan, psyched to show him my projects and willing to bring back to Italy that feeling of "life" I found in England, in its climbers and in its climbing.

See you next year Sheffield!

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