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Ossola: the italian crack climbing paradise!

I had heard a lot for many years about Cadarese, I dreamed about it, but I had never took the time and the chance to visit it. Riky, a good friend of mine, who helped a lot to develop the area, kept on talking about it, telling me the big potential and all the 5 stars routes that were there. Well, if you compare only the grades with a “normal” sport climbing area, the routes are supposed no to be very hard there… I thought that normally I should be supposing to warm up on those grades… but I soon realized that I was wrong ;)

When I first met him during our trip to “La Reunion”, I had no glue of what crack climbing was; I tried to jam for the first time there and I remember how much I struggled on a 6a crack pitch…luckily I lay-backed the whole way up, otherwise I would have fallen off for sure! ;) That feeling of being “unable” to do something that was supposed to be very simple annoyed me, but at the same time gave me the motivation to learn this “new” aspect of climbing.

When I came back, I immediately started to look for a place where I could learn how to crack climbing, but it didn’t take me too long before I realized that Indian Creek was exactly what I was looking for. We booked our flights, we started this new game… and we quickly got addicted to it.

That’s basically the story of how I got into crack climbing.

There is not so much crack climbing around where we live, so except for some stuffs in Ticino,  we basically always just travelled to the US to improve our jamming skills.

One evening of this summer, after another day spent hanged under the rain in Tre Cime, I got fed up with that weather and I suddenly jumped into my car: direction Cadarese! I had heard so much good feedbacks about it, that I had to check it out by my self.

Within a night, I changed from the choosy wet rock to the perfect and dry granite: the long drive was definitely worth! I was lucky,on my first day I had the best guides for those areas (thanks Riky, Andrea and Stefano), that decided to show me Yoesigo, a less known, but 5-stars wall close to the more famous Cadarese. It was funny, already during the coffee break at the bar, talking with them I felt like back in the US!

After a long hike we finally reached the wall; I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw tons of  perfect 40 meters long splitter: it was the paradise…and way closer to my home than Indian Creek ;)

I teamed up with Andrea, the super local of that area, which started directly on a 45 meters long hand crack…placing just 4 pieces of gear; I immediately understood why everybody was telling me not to ask him about the gear I had to use! I felt a little bit rusted, as I hadn’t crack climbed in the last 6 months, but I enjoyed every single meter of that line; I felt like in a new playground.

They showed me around and we spent the day laughing, climbing, and re-climbing, the classics of the sector. It felt so good to do something different after so many weeks waiting and struggling with the weather in the Dolomites; I could immediately found my motivation again. We ended up the day top roping a really crazy off width, which ends with a 15 meters long chimney, where you can just crawl inside, literally without seeing any “light” ;) It was fun! I really would like to thank the guys for the welcome and for the huge work they did there!

Everybody left and on the next day Riky decided to finally show me Cadarese. At the first sight from the parking lot, the walls don’t look so nice; you can basically see just different big ledge systems with some good looking rock in between… but it doesn’t seem anything special compared to Yoesigo. Riky had to leave in the evening and I planned to stay for 4 more days, so I was a little bit worried for the next days as I didn’t know if I would have found someone to climb with… but just after some minutes (and in the evening), a lot of friends showed up by chance: that was a perfect timing! So we ended up to be a really big crew and we spent the next days climbing and hanging out all together.

As I was wrote before, the walls didn’t look so good from far, but once I got close to them, I realized how good the area actually was. There are really a lot of good lines and still a big potential. Riky guided me around, and already during the hike he showed me some possible projects; I immediately fell in love with a slopy outstanding arete between the first two sectors, which looks pretty much impossible to climb, but incredibly good looking. I promised to my self to have a look on it during the next days…

We warmed up on a tricky corner and we moved on to the main trad sector. Riky kept on talking about “Mustang”, a thin and short crack, that he brushed some years ago and which is supposed to be on of the best of the area….for sure, at least at the first sight it looked like that. I went for an on sight attempt, but failed pretty quick, just at the end of the first tricky part… I forgot that it was different from sport climbing ;)

The moves were really cool: after a first technical stemming section, you have to layback and jam in a really thin crack, finishing with a dynamic move to an horizontal break.What a route! While the others were climbing, Riky showed me some other lines around and than I quickly jump back on “Mustang” as it started to rain. Luckily everything felt smooth and I was able to clip the chain just before it started to rain too heavily. So we spent the rest of the day hanging out and having dinner all together.

The next day I was pretty tired and I decided to rest and hang out with the others. In the afternoon, the project that Riky showed the day before immediately came back to my mind; I run down to the car, took a static rope, some gear and a brush, and I rapped down the line. It was way steeper than it first looked! At the first sight it seems to be impossible, but I slowly started to find some really thin and sloppy holds, which could make it possible to climb. I got over motivated for that and I spent all the evening, and part of the night by headlamp, to clean it and aid my way down to the ground. The idea of maybe climb such a proud line just on gear excited me. I went back to the campground over stoked about that project.

The next day Riky showed up again and we spent the morning doing some filming. In the afternoon we hiked up to what is for sure the most famous line in Cadarese: “The Doors”. I remember that I first saw that  crack in a video, where Matteo (Della Bordella) climb it on gear (definitely the more logical way) after having chopped the bolts. It looks so good, that it’s impossible not to want to climb it. Michele (Caminati) and Gianluca (Boldetti) were also there trying it, so we hang out a little bit together and than I went for an o.s. try. Unsurprisingly I fell on the tricky section in the middle… I suck so much in on sighting cracks!… but once again on the second go everything felt smooth and easy :) It was definitely a cool end of the climbing day, but I still finished the evening brushing my project.

I spend the last 2 days brushing and starting to try the new line on top rope, which is going to be really hard! After two evening of tries I could do just a few moves, but I was confident about more with colder conditions.

I left Ossola as I had to go back to work, but I was sure that I would’t have to wait too long before to make another visit to the valley.

So, after the first route setting period, I drove back to Cadarese for two days, to work a little bit more on the project and make some filming done. Together with Riky and Michele, we spent the first morning taking some footages and climbing on some really good new lines. In the evening I hiked down to work again on the project; I made a small progress, but it was still too warm to hold those thin and slopy holds.

The weather was supposed to be very bad during the next days, so together with Riky and other friends, we decided to drive to a “new” area, where they were starting to bolt and clean. We started the long hike in the rain and fog, without any expectations and with random gear in the backpacks. We couldn’t see much cause of the fog, so when we arrived there I was pretty surprised to see so much rock coming out from nowhere! I wasn’t so motivated for clipping bolts, so I started to walk around looking for some trad lines. I stopped just 10 meters from where we put all our stuffs, when I saw a short, but really good looking line, with some crack features on it…”it should work on trad”, I thought. Riky was climbing close to it, so he put up a static rope and I started to clean it and check the protections. I could place just really few and small gear, but the rock looked bomber; at the first sight it looked easy…I thought it should be something around 7a+…a first easy part and a little section at the end…but it ended up to be a lot different. I decided to first try it on top rope, as there are some points where you can’t fall and I wanted to check out the gear placements better. Luckily I did like that! The first “easy” part was already hard and it took me half an hour to manage to do the upper section…it was pretty hard for 7a ;)

I had one more lap on top rope, placing the gear, and I barely did the last long moves. It was late and the only small protection on the hard section is tricky to place, so if you fall from there you hit the ground; I started to hesitate about having a go from the ground, but as I wasn’t sure to go back there, I decided to give it a go. First I was a little bit scared, but I managed to focus just on the climbing and everything went well and felt smooth. I don’t care about grades so much anymore, but it wasn’t an easy one :)

To end a day like that is always good, it definitely should be more often like that! That exactly the summary of what makes climbing special in the last period: good friends, new rock, adrenaline…and no bolts.

After that I flew to Kalymnos to join the TNF Kalymnos Climbing Festival, which was a lot of fun again. It was great to see the “legends” climbing and to hear their stories: it was really inspiring.

When I came back I had to set one more week and than I finally went back home to Babsi :)… but only for 2 days! We decided to go climbing somewhere and, as the weather seemed good there, we ended up in Cadarese again. She had never been there before, so I tried to guide her around to show her the best lines. She obviously made a quick work of all the classics (machine!) and I started to made some really good progress on my project. We climbed for days in a raw, and everyday we did some new lines to warm up, the classic “Grazie Riky” (and “Django” for me), it was a lot of fun….”easy” cracks could be really hard sometimes! I’m really glad that, thanks also to the colder conditions, almost every “piece” of the project came together; I still have to do 1 1/2 move, but at least it’s getting real. I can’t wait to go back to Cadarese and try it again!

We spent the last day filming “Super Cyrill” in Ticino; I climbed it back in the spring and it was really interesting to see how the crack pitch felt easier after some time spent in Cadarese… I’m slowly learning how to jam :)

I really want to thanks all the people I met/climbed with during my visits to Ossola, I had an amazing time there! Thanks BABSI, Riky, Elena, Gnerrone, Andrea, Lilli, Michele, Gianluca, Tambo, Spini, Bruno, Gio, Camilla, Fabrizio, and all those I forgot. See you soon.

Now after some more setting, I’m recovering from another finger injury… I just hope it will heal soon, ’cause I have a lot of projects to climb!

Have fun.

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