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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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#EVOLVE

The new short edit of #EVOLVE is online!

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 ;)

A lot of route setting and “Helmutant”

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The last month has been a really busy and intense period. This time I tried to concentrate a lot of route setting work over a 4-weeks period, in order to get more free time in the next months, before to start for the expedition. I don’t know if it was a cleaver idea, as at the end my body felt completely destroyed… but now I’m happy that the work is over, and I can focus on my goals.

Anyways I can’t complain about my choice, as I don’t see route setting only as a work, but also as something that I really enjoy to do. This time I set a lot for the national teams (both youth and senior) and this was really challenging and motivating at the same time. I enjoyed to work for these climbers, trying to prepare something useful for their training, and with the idea of giving back what I got from the coaches in the past. I especially liked a lot to collaborate with the youth national team, as it made me remember when I was younger and I used to compete in their categories…it seems like it was ages ago!… I can’t hid that I felt a little bit old ;)

I had a really busy agenda, and I got always only a couple of rest days between the different events; for this reason I didn’t plan anything special for those days and I just used them to climb and hang out with some old friends in some local crags. Obviously Marco was the first person with whom I wanted to go climbing, and after a short discussion, we ended up in Saustal. I had been there for the last time 3/4 years ago, when I was trying an old project, that was later free climbed by Michael Piccolruaz. I remembered that I struggled a lot on that line, so I was curious to see if something had changed :) I went without expectations, as I was pretty tired from the route setting, but, after checking out the moves again, I unexpectedly could to the route with just one rest. I immediately got motivated again for it!

I came back the day after, but I couldn’t do better, and the heat didn’t help me. Anyways I felt pretty confident about a send. After another stressful route setting event, I came back with Angi early in the morning, to take advantage of the cooler conditions. Despite I felt dead tired, unexpectedly I could do the crux pretty easily. So, just before the sun hit the wall, I made an attempt and everything worked out perfectly :) It was such a good feeling to clip the belay of that route, not only for the difficulty and beauty, but also because it felt like the closing of an open circle, and it was great to see the progression over the last years. Sometime things happen, when we don’t expect them! A special thank go to Marco, who always find the right way to motivate me… in climbing and in life.