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!
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