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A great year has passed… but one even better awaits

2015rev2015 has been a great and intense year for me, as I had the chance to experience a lot of things, both in life and climbing. I also had to deal with a lot of small injuries, which sometimes gave me a hard time, but somehow helped me to understand the importance of be patience and don’t give up.

I enjoyed climbing in many of its aspects: changing from the warm crags of Spain, to the remote walls of the siberian tundra… from Yosemite’s big walls, to Ticino’s boulders…from ice to rock… from bolts to cams…

…but it doesn’t matter where I was, or what I was doing, I’ve always had the chance and pleasure to share those moments with nice people, close friends and important people (for me). Climbing El Cap with Babsi, and sharing all those moments together, was for sure one of the best moments of the year! :-)

It doesn’t matter if I failed, or I succeeded: I’d alway tried my best and learned something new… and that’s what I like the most about climbing: to be in the nature, to try my best and to share all that with other people.

After so many years of climbing, I’ve the feeling that I’m slowly becoming a more mature and experienced climber…even if, when I look around I realize that there are still so many other aspects of climbing to explore! Situations in which I would have to re-start from zero and get some slaps in the face, before to (maybe) slowly start to feel more confident with them. That’s actually what keeps my motivation high for the future :-)

Let’s see what the next year will bring… I have a lot of ideas and I can’t wait to see what’s about to happen!

See you around!

 

 

Some more trad climbing: “Psychogramm”

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“Psychogramm”8b+ trad, Buerser Platte – Copyright: Richard Felderer

“Psychogramm” was an old project, freed in 2014 by Alex Luger. It was then that I repeated “Prinzip Hoffnung” and on a couple of occasions I belayed Alex as he attempted the project. The route immediately grabbed my attention, but the season was coming to an end and at the time it seemed simply too dangerous. I’d promised myself I’d return the following winter but due to a finger injury I only managed to get back on it towards January, when Fabian made the first repeat.

After a couple of days I found some good beta for the crux section, and I self belayed the route toprope, placing the gear as I went. After some more toprope practice I felt ready for my first attempts from the ground, unfortunately though it’s not easy to find two belayers and due to various other obligations I only managed a couple of attempts. All failed towards the end of the crux section and so the project had to be put off once again.

Last week, after having climbed “Lapoterapia”, I decided I wanted to give myself another chance on “Psychogramm”. Conditions weren’t the best, at this time of year the sun warms the slab for only a few minutes each day, which meant it was very cold indeed… but I didn’t care: I was super motivated and felt strong mentally.

I checked the gear placements and much to my own surprise managed to climb it clean on toprope, self-belayed. After another self-belay session I was ready for an attempt from the ground. This time I felt particularly safe and opted to try with just one belayer, and prayed that the nuts that protect the crux wouldn’t whip out… you risk hitting the deck otherwise. Unfortunately my foot slipped off the crux moves and as it was cold I had to call it a day. In any case things had gone well, I’d felt completely safe and concentrated during the attempt.

The next day, last Friday, after two self-belay sessions to warm-up I set off on another attempt from the ground… and this went perfectly!

Apart from the actual ascent, what I’m particularly pleased about is the mental progress I’ve made in recent years. A route which not even two years ago seemed utterly crazy and kamikaze… had now taken on a totally different meaning. I’m curious to find out what the next step will be! ;-)

“Lapoterapia”

After our trip to Yosemite, my right knee started to hurt. I kept on climbing for almost a week, but than I had to stop because it was getting worse.

It always sucks to be injured, but this time I took advantage of the situation doing a lot of campus board and no-foot training… which turned out to be quite useful, as I felt that I had lost a lot of power and core strength after my last big wall-trips.

After 10 days without wearing the climbing shoes, the knee started to get better and I decided to join Riky (and friends) for a couple of days of sport climbing in Ticino/Ossola.

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“Lapoterapia”… clipping the bolts – Copyright: Riky Felderer

After a (crazy) cold afternoon at Ponte Brolla we moved to Ossola, where we were supposed to meet some friends and climb in a sunny crag called “Osso”. I’d never climbed there before, but I heard about it because of its hardest route: “Lapoterapia”. This beautiful 20 meters-long steep crack, bolted back in the years by Maurizio Pellizon, was first climbed some years ago by the strong and reserved local Alessandro Manini, which suggested the grade of 8c. In 2013 another italian climber, the super strong Gabri Moroni, made the second ascent of the route, while many others  were/are also trying to repeat the line.

When we arrived at the crag, I was surprised by the beauty of the line: I was expecting to see a nice route, but I couldn’t image to find myself at the bottom of such a cool piece of rock!

Seeing the thin crack, I immediately started to wonder if it could also be doable on gear, as this seemed pretty logical to me. I didn’t have any gear with me (and anyways I wouldn’t have started ground up just on gear!), so I decided to give it a go clipping the bolts.

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The crux move – Copyright: Riky Felderer

The climbing was as good as the look of the line, and it involved some powerful and tricky moves, which weren’t easy to link. The crux move requires a lot of body tension, and it was really important (for me) to find the right body position in order to get the good jam, from where the route gets easier.

I had immediately a good go, but I got numb fingers and messed up my beta… and I fell. Not that bad, as we were supposed to climb in the same crag also on the next day.

Luckily, after a “not so healthy” night, I managed to climb it on the next day :-)  I was obviously happy about my ascent, but somehow I felt that (for me) it wasn’t the right way to climb that piece of rock… so I drove back home thinking to come back as soon as possible with gear and pads: the idea to try to climb it on trad was just too tempting!

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After just one day at home, and a physiotherapy treatment for the knee, I was already driving back to Ossola! I arrived late in the evening, and, as I was alone, I decided to rap down the route and check out the gear placements by headlamp. I wanted to save some time for my attempts on the following days.

As you can’t place any gear until the fourth bolt, I decided to use two crash-pads to “protect” that section. It isn’t super hard…but I wanted to keep my ankles safe for the rest of the season ;-)

The first crux is protected by a small but good cam (if it pops you fall straight on the ground) and the following sections by some micro cams. Doing it on trad, the real crux becomes to place the small cams before the hardest section, as the placement is not so obvious and the holds aren’t really good. From there, you have to climb the hardest section (long runout) before you can place some more gear and do the last section.

I went back to the “Hotel Caddy”, prepared some food and went to bed thinking about the route; I was still wondering if I could do it on gear, and how much time I would need to hopefully send it.

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“Hotel Caddy”

The next day I met up with Riky and Fabrizio and we went straight at the crag. I was curious to see if the route would be much harder to climb while placing the gear, and how confident I would be with the cams!

I had a couple of goes trying to understand how to place the gear and testing some falls, before I surprisingly felt already ready for a real attempt.

I felt really focused, confident and safe while climbing, but I fell going for the good jam which marks the end of the hard section. I was pumped! …but luckily the gear didn’t pop. This was how I realized that you get pumped way faster when you have to also place the gear ;-)

The real problem was to protect the crux, as the cams aren’t easy to place and you have to do it from not so good holds… and you really don’t want to place that C3 randomly, as you have to do all the hard section before to place the next protection! ;-)

I figure out a smarter way to place the cams, and got ready for another try. I had a small problem before the first crux, as I broke a nut placement while testing it pulling on the rope…but luckily the second cam looked safe and I managed to stay focus on the climb. This time things felt way smoother and I reached the good jam… but I fell right after, where I first believed I couldn’t screw it up anymore!

It was time to call it a day and, even if I couldn’t send it, I was happy to see how things were going. I was already looking forward to the next session on the route!

 

 

When you travel alone, it’s not so easy to find a climbing partner…especially in such a small crag… so I wasn’t sure to be able to climb on the next day. Luckily a friend of a friend, Matteo, was keen to check out the that crag, and we decided to team up on the next day. Thanks!

I felt super confident and this time, after a quick warm up, I managed to climb through the crux and kept it together until the top! :-) Apart from the actual ascent, what I was particularly pleased about is the mental progress I’ve witnessed. I was super focused just on the climbing, ready to commit and I felt way more confident with the gear than ever before. This gave me a lot of confidence for the future and some other projects!

Big thanks to Riky and to all the friends who had supported me during those days: it wouldn’t have been possible without you!

“El Niño”… my first climbing experience on El Cap

From www.thenorthfacejournal.com

When you think about big wall climbing and huge granite walls, the first place that comes to mind is “Yosemite” National Park. It’s the place where everything began and it is the mecca for all those want to explore and practice the art of climbing. Since I started climbing, I’ve dreamed of visiting this place and this year it finally happened! After the successful #CommonGround expedition to Siberia in July, I finally felt ready and motivated to make my first visit to this iconic valley.Along with Babsi, we left Europe with the goal of climbing a route on El Capitan, a wall where decades of climbing history has been written. We spent our first week trying to escape the heat and the crowds of the valley, and doing some classic routes on some shorter walls, before focusing on our main goal of the trip: El Cap!

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The “Galapagos” pitch, El Nino (Yosemite )- Copyright: François Lebeau

We first planned to try a route on the west face, but as it seemed to be more quiet on the other side, we shifted our attention more east: “El Niño” (5.13c, A0, 800m – 30 pitches) became our new goal.

We carried our heavy haul bags to the start of the route and we tried the first 5 pitches, as 3 of them were supposed to be some of the hardest of the entire route The rain from the previous days had washed away all traces of chalk from previous attempts so it took some time to figure out the moves. The heat also made it a bit difficult to pull on the sharp crimps and to stand on the tiny footholds. It soon became clear that we would need to have an early start the day of our attempt, so we could get as much hard climbing done before the sun would hit the wall.

Once we were sure we could send this part, we were ready to give the entire route a try. The plan was to free climb all the pitches with a swinging lead at every belay. We packed enough supplies for 5 days, thinking this would be enough for our planned ascent.When that day came we started before sunrise, climbing the first hard pitches without falls. The climbing felt much easier in the morning shade, but the hauling was exhausting. I had never hauled such a heavy bag before and couldn’t really perfect the technique. That really slowed things down and we realized immediately that we were a little ambitious with our plans to finish the route in 5 days. We really hoped to have enough food.After 4 days on the wall of tough climbing and constant struggling with the heavy bags, we reached the second last hard pitch, a big roof called “The Black Cave”. It was supposed to rain that night, so we decided to set up our portaledge there.

We woke up the next morning surrounded by clouds and the sound of pouring rain. The right side of the wall quickly became a waterfall, and we started to worry about the situation. We didn’t want to rappel down after all of our effort during the previous day so we spent the day chilling and eating the remaining food in our portaledge. Luckily when we woke up the next morning, the sun was bearing down once again: yes!

The rock dried pretty fast and we worked quickly through the roof above us. The wall above was steeper but the bags were lighter, which made the hauling process easier and faster. We decided to set up camp on a big natural ledge, just a few pitches before the last hard section. We were now really running out of food so our plan was to top out on the following day.

With our motivation as high as ever to complete our “mission” and finally get our first proper meal in almost a week, we made our way up to the last hard pitches with the greatest of speed, only to find that they were completely wet! The last 100 meters are supposed to be relatively easy compared to the rest of the route, but this final, soaking wet, 10 meter section of rock was all that was stood between us and success.

At the beginning it seemed impossible to pull or stand on the wet holds, but after many attempts, we figured out a better way through the moves. I quickly managed to send the pitch, but Babsi had a really hard time with it, as my solution involved making a reachy move, which was way harder if you are shorter. We tried to dry out the holds with a T Shirt after each try, but the pitch didn’t seem to dry. After some hours of tries Babsi finally had a breakthrough and managed to make the move. What a huge relief. We really wanted to both free climb every pitch and it would have been really hard to accept failure after having spent so many days on the wall.

We were still a little way from the top and although we knew that it wouldn’t have been a problem to climb the last pitches it was getting too late to carry on. We would have had to sleep at the top anyway, so we decided to camp one more night on the wall, planning to do the last pitches early in the morning.

We ate the little remaining food and set aside one ration of powdered soup for the next day. The growling of our stomachs woke us up the next morning and pushed us to take an early start.

Around noon we finally stood on the top and our dream to climb El Cap had been realised! We celebrated with a hot cup of soup before setting off on our hike down to the valley and the grocery store.

I could not had wished for a better partner and end for my first experience on El Cap! It was so much nicer to share all that with Babsi :-)

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Yosemite: the never never land

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El Cap: THE wall

When you think about huge granite rock faces, the first that 99% of climbers think of is undoubtedly “Yosemite”! It is there that big wall climbing was developed, making “THE Valley” one of the premier destinations for this type of climbing worldwide. Everyone, sooner or later, visits the valley; those who climb its long granite cracks, those who play on the many boulders scattered across the forest, those who come here to trek, those who simply come to enjoy the splendor of El Capitan from the meadows below. In short, Yosemite is a magical place, shrouded in history, a huge playground for all outdoor enthusiasts!

Although I’d always postponed my visit to a later date, I always knew that one day I myself would play on these immense rock faces. All I was waiting for was just the right moment… Babsi had already been there once before, with Hansjörg (Auer) 5 years ago, and she was itching to go back. Convincing her wasn’t difficult :-)

Despite having climbed for more than 15 years, and having dedicated the last few years to long multi-pitch routes and crack climbing, I still felt quite intimidated by the routes on El Capitan. The stories I’d heard from those who’d been before me, the complicated logistics on the wall and the dreaded off-width cracks me scared me somewhat! So I left Europe without too many expectations; I simply wanted to have fun and gain some big walling experience.

After entering the valley and after having driven through kilometers of forests, Half Dome and the profile of The Nose finally came into view the first thing that sprung to mind was: WOAH !!! -D I was expecting a reaction of this sort, but I hadn’t imagined it all to be quite so impressive! The hundreds of other rock faces, and the thousands of boulders scattered across the forest floor, made it even more inviting. For a moment I felt like a child entering Disneyland for the first time! I immediately understood why this park is so famous. Its nature, rocks, animals, the vast outdoors, its history… are all factors that make this place so magical.

Unfortunately I also discovered that we weren’t the only ones in this never never land: thousands of tourists visit the park every day, making it far less wild than I had initially expected. You can be certain you’ll have to wait your turn in the queue, whether it’s for a cup of coffee, going to the toilet, camping … or even climbing a route! It took me a while to adapt to this situation but at the end of the day, given the beauty of the valley, it’s not surprising.

The first climbing we did was pretty traumatic. The easier routes, especially the crack climbs, were always a challenge, and the wider they became, the more difficult things got! No matter how strong you are on bolted routes, here it seems as if you’re playing a completely different sport :-) You have to start from square one and accept the fact that you’re dealing with a completely different reality. Often you find yourself repeating some historic routes (considered easy by most), wondering how on earth the first ascentionists managed to climb them, so many years ago and without friends, seeing that they hadn’t been invented at the time. In the end we worried more about the 5.9/5.10 chimney and offwidth pitches than 5.13 slabs!

We soon realised that big wall logistics are much more complicated than what we had expected; hauling bags, establishing the portaledge, working out how many supplies you need and dealing with primary “needs”… it’s not that simple and getting the hang of things takes a bit of time and humility.

But when you find yourself resting on a portaledge, with almost 800 meters of void below you, or when you finally reach the top of El Cap … all the hardship is forgotten about and this gives way to pure joy. And the desire to start all over again!

Find Your Way

LOCANDINA JACOPO

“GIOCHI IN PARETE”, 5-6 settembre 2015

Per maggiori informazioni cliccate sulla locandina.

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