Alpinism, fabulous and silent, at Castello Provenzale
On 23 December Ivo Ferrari and Dario Spreafico repeated Lo Spigolo Maria Grazia on the East Face of Castello Provenzale (Valle Maira, Hautes Alpes). The report Ivo Ferrari.
"We’ve pitched the tent on the col, sheltered from the winter winds. Now we’ll wait for evening… above us the tower and Castello Provenzale! Fabulous and calm." Every now and then I get messages like this. And, inevitably, I think (with a tinge of envy) that at the end of the day, this is the real meaning of alpinism. To be found in these places, and in moments like these. In being "out there", exposed to nature and the mountains. There’s no need to look for anything more. Nothing else to understand. No grades, commitments or all the other things we tend to discuss. It's all about being enraptured by this wild beauty. It’s for all of this that we asked Ivo Ferrari, the author of the message, to give us a little Christmas present. To share his little adventure. To remind us that things, like true loves, are simpler than you think. All you need to do is live them.
ALPINISM, FABULOUS AND QUIET AT THE CASTELLO PROVENZALE by Ivo Ferrari
As I walked back to the Valley last September, I knew I'd soon return in Winter to enjoy its silence even more. I wasn’t after a first winter ascent, what I wanted was to reach the summit and observe the white horizon, dotted with beautiful Mountains to me unknown. The opportunity came just a few days before Christmas, at work I simply told Dario that the place is so beautiful it seems unreal... and our rucksacks were packed immediately.
We ascend up to the Col Greguri beneath the East face of Rocca Castello, it’s a beautiful day, our approach is made easier thanks to the snowshoes, two hours later we pitch our tent and… wait for the new day, nights are long in the winter and make you think.
Outside a strong North Wind blows and helps us think, keepsus awake, " winter mountaineers" eat portions of stomach churning, freeze-dried food! We’ve brought three portions, one for us and two (after having eaten the first) for the numerous wild goats that roam the area.
Dawn... The wind hasn’t subsided yet, the first doubts begin to creep out of our down bags, the stove begins to melt the ice we’d collected the night before, tea, cappuccino, cookies, cakes, as good as the best five-star hotels. We get dressed and out we go. The wind is strong but so to is our desire to test our boots on the Rocca’s Quartzite rock.
We glance around and then opt for Spigolo Maria Grazia, we’re motivated further by the thought that the first winter ascent was carried out by Giancarlo Grassi and Alberto Re in 1970. A "classic", ideal for our need of verticality!
We set off, dressed like deep sea diver I take the first steps upwards climb slowly but the rock and "silence" around don’t seem to rush me at all! My fingers begin to freeze and I literally fall onto the belay terrace with pains I know all too well. I wait for the hot aches to restart the blood flow. Hurrah! Now they I’m fine... almost!
We continue, swing leads, numerous pegs show us the way and provide safety, the tips of our boot begin to gain confidence, now it’s not only our forearms who are playing the game, our whole body needs to read the moves. I’d like to see another team up here on the face, but perhaps it’s a lie! No one in sight! Just the two of us, happy to be just us.
The Summit welcomes us with the Winter sun, but the strong Wind forces us to bend double. I’m happy, now with during the abseil, as I feel the "relaxer" within me relax. The Wind has decided to accompany us all the way down, what we’re about to leave has found a special place in my heart, like love at first sight, I’ve fallen in love with this Valley, as narrow as it is, far removed from what is fashionable nowadays. I’ll definitely come back, maybe in Spring ... so long, Occitan mountains.