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Melloblocco & Pains au chocolat aux amandes

As every year, the first weekend of May means that it’s again Melloblocco-time!…and… as every year, after weeks of perfect weather and sunshine, just before the event starts, the bad weather arrives. ;-( …But well, that’s also part of the Melloblocco! Anyways the coolest part of the event is to meet again a lot of people, so it doesn’t really matter if we have to take some rest days due to the rain and hang out all together.

So, after a couple of days at home to rest from the route setting, we left on thursday morning for the Val di Mello. The weather forecast didn’t look bright for that day, but once we arrived, we got positively surprised buy the sun and the good conditions. We immediately took advantage of this exception, and we spend the whole afternoon climbing around in the valley. Simone and his team did once again a great job, and they cleaned a lot on new (loooong) problems.

In the evening we hanged out, as usual, at the Centro Polifunzionale, where a lot of climbers gave lectures or showed their videos. I also presented my video #evolve.

The weather forecasts for friday were right: it rained the whole day. As every year, that meant a lot of Cappuccinos, chats with friends, internet surfing and chilling. Highpoint of the day was a walk in Bagni to check out the position of the boulders…not a bad idea, as Simone’s map is not always easy to understand ;-)

In the evening, together with other BD’s athletes, we had a small talk about the “Clean Climbing Idea”, or better some “rules/behaviors”, that every climber/person should respect while playing outside. The number of climbers is growing every year, but our playgrounds are always the same: it’s our duty to preserve them!

On Saturday we were lucky again, as the sun was shining when we woke up. After a day spent drinking coffee inside, we were all super motivated for some climbing… so we jumped out from the beds and went straight away outside, looking for some dry lines. We basically started all together on the same boulder, as it was the only one dry in the morning, and then we moved higher up in the valley. I actually enjoyed a lot to hang out again with Gabri; we used to climb quite a lot together in the past, but due to some big changes in my life, we don’t see us very often.

I was so happy to be outside again, that I climbed the whole day until it was almost dark.

The evening we had a funny dinner with the BD crew in San Martino, followed by some (almost) party.

Unluckily it rained cats and dogs the whole night, so everything was wet in the morning. We tried to spot some dry lines, but after a quick warm up, we opted for a coffe session with some friends, in order to wait for the prize giving ceremony. It was again a long waiting-day and at the end we were even more tired than on the previous day after a lot of climbing.

Melloblocco was once again, not only a great event, but a nice way to meet a lot of new/old friends, hang out and climb all together, hear inspiring stories during the slideshows and spend time in a beautiful valley. Even if I normally prefer to climb with just a few good friends, in a quiet place, I’m somehow already looking forward to the next Melloblocco: it’s always fun!

We actually wanted to leave straight after the event, but we ended up staying one more night there and we left on the next morning. We had still quite a long drive to do, as we didn’t plan to go back home…but to go to the VERDON Gorges for one week :)

We were both super motivated for that. I had been there just a few times before, but I had never had the time to check out the big potential of the Gorges…. so I was pretty excited to discover more about this famous place. Babsi had never been there before, so she was even more curious than me!

After a looong drive, we finally arrived in La Palud, where we quickly put up our tent in the main camping, just before to finish off the day drinking a beer on the top of “les escales”. Seeing all those perfect rocks, made us super syked for the next days!

We woke up without a real plan, so we opted for a short route for the first day.

We quickly realized that sometimes can be complicated to find the right rappel stations ;)… But after some searching, we finally found our way down. I had always heard a lot about the famous “Take it or leave it”, so we went to check it out. I was a little bit surprised by the chipped holds, but the climbing was really good. Unluckily Babsi couldn’t find a solution for the long jump move on the crux pitch, so she was kind to second all the pitches and I red pointed the entire route.

In the last years one route of the Gorges has became really famous worldwide… not only for the quality of the climbing, but mainly for the beauty of the line. A lot of climbers went to do it and tons of beautiful pictures started to turn on the web, making every climber dreaming about it.

I had the pleasure to climb it during my last trip, but obviously also Babsi had the route in her mind, so on the second day we decided to go to “Tom et je ris’”. We started once again pretty late, and even if I had been there before, we struggled a bit to find the belay of the route. Due to the long hike and that we got “lost”, we rappelled down pretty late and the route was already in the sun. Babsi opted for a warm up try to check out all the beta, while I enjoyed the sun hanging at the belay. Even if it was hot, after some rest, she decided not to wait the shade and to give it a go. Luckily everything worked out perfectly, and she could climb the route straight on her second attempt: machine! We were both happy that she also had the chance to do this beautiful line, and after I cleaned the route, we enjoyed the sun at the top, just before to hike back to the car. It’s such a nice place there, as you have a perfect view on the canyon and all the classic routes of the other (famous) side of the Gorge.

The day after were not sure about what to do. I wanted to check out the “Ramirole” sector, but some locals told us that it could be wet. At the end, we decided to check it out, and after a looong drive we hiked down to the wall. It seemed to be dry!

As it was late, we opted for the “shortest” and easiest route of the wall: “Papy qué dévers”. It didn’t look very nice from the ground, but we were confident about some better upper pitches…

…but we were wrong…

The route turned to be a wet and dirty gully/corner, full of birds smelly ****…a real pleasure to climb ;) So we ended up aiding the last hard pitch and we were both happy when we stood on the top of the wall. I’m sure the route is funny and interesting to climb when it’s dry, so I don’t want to scary anyone, but we definitely chose the wrong moment to try it ;)

Anyways the wall looked so good (and almost dry), that we definitely wanted to go back there to check out the other famous lines!

It was funny, because we were both expecting to climb on technical old school slabs, and we ended up in a super steep wall, full of tufas, and big corners, were everything was involved except small crimps and tiny footholds ;)

We spent the following day resting and enjoying the life in the small villages, eating a lot of good french specialities (I had to say that I missed them quite a lot!) and relaxing. Life could be harder.

The next day we went back to the “La Ramirole” sector, where I gave a quite poor on-sight attempt to famous multi-pitch, which gives the name to the sector. I’m not the best “tufas climber”, and the dirt didn’t help me, so we ended up checking the pitches and we planned to go back on the next day for an attempt. The route was actually really cool, way better than the one we tried the time before, and it was pretty funny to do a multi-pitch on such a steep wall.

So the day after we went back there and I led the route, while Babsi seconded working out the betas again. I felt tired from the day before and a little bit sick in the morning, but with a little bit of luck, sore knees ;-) , and some improvised betas, I managed to red point all the pitches. While climbing I was impressed by how steep the wall actually was… but luckily Babsi found a comfortable way to belay me ;-) (check out the pictures below…).

So, after that the plan was to take a rest day, and go back to the wall for Babsi’s red point attempt. She said that she struggled a lot on the previous days, and that she wasn’t really confident about a red point ascent… but every time she says that, I know that things will go differently! As planned, we took a well needed rest day at the lake, spent paddling around with a canoe and enjoy once again the good local food, in order to “recharge the batteries” for the next day…our last in France.

The next morning we were back again on the wall. Babsi started her red point attempt, and she immediately looked way stronger and more confident than in the previous days. She crushed all the pitches, and I seconded everything , so we quickly stood on the top of the wall again…with still a lot of time to spend in the village :)

It was the perfect end for such a trip!

Unluckily our time in the Gorges was over. The next day we packed up everything and jumped into the car, ready for the looong drive back home. I really enjoyed to spend some time again in France, especially in such a beautiful place! I had been there a couple of times before, but this time the Verdon Gorges completely blew my mind. The place and the never ending potential are just impressive! I’m sure it will become one of our yearly destination ;)

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