B&B - Azione indecente, new dry tooling crag at Cogne
Enrico Bonino introduces B & B - Azione indecente, a new dry tooling area Cogne (Aosta), Italy.
During the last few years it's becoming a habit to start the ice climbing season in the Aosta valley with a hint of something new, fresh, a good omen for the upcoming months. Gian and I started early this winter and set off into Val di Cogne to explore it and come up with some new ideas. A beautiful project immediately caught our eye: an ephemeral icefall that jettisoned straight down from a massive arch, 60m all the way down to the ground! Absolutely unbelievable! But during the time needed to equip the rock and mixed pitches to reach the icefall, the fickle weather started to melt it! Arrgh! What a shame! It would surely have been... (and it will be... because our encounter has only been postponed, nothing more) a true pearl in this valley! Due to the general lack of ice and cold conditions I decided to concentrate on some dry tooling. So I returned with Hugues and Viviana to the drips Doccia Fredda and Favola di Alice, the idea being to sort out the in-situ gear, the clips, and to do a bit of gardening and get rid of the overgrown weeds and bushes! The place is sorted now and ready for action: enjoy!
But lets now concentrate on us and "B & B - Azione indecente": about the where, when and how! It all began with a reccie day into Valeille. The weather continued to make us sweat and work on our tan rather than freeze and it should have done, my work season was about to begin and so I thought I'd better plan ahead and work out how to deal with the next few days. Tuborg: not in condition, Tutto è relativo: very thin, Stella Artice: not formed, Pattinaggio: the start of a tiny sliver. Hmm... Cogne was going to host the ice climbing opening this weekend and there was precious little to do. I even found myself examining frozen pine needles in the hope of finding something to do! And that's how three drips sprung into view, up there all alone, almost sad, to the right of "A la memoire des bouquetins" that, strangely enough, had almost formed completely all the way to the ground. I quickly walked up though the entire valley towards these drips, like a fighter plane with its sights set on the enemy! So there I was, at the base: WOW! WOW! WOW! A beautiful amphitheatre, 25-30 metres high and circa 60m wide, with a series of logical lines traced by my imagination. I immediately took a couple of photos, one of which entered my iPhone and exited on Gian's. "Yes, hello?!... OK, let's do it." This is what our phone calls are usually like :-).
Two days later four of us (friends and acquaintances we'd just met that morning!) were ready for action, each with their own background and experience. The only one who'd already seen the place before was me. Gian, Hugues and Giulia (editor's note respectively Giancarlo Bazzocchi, Hugues Bonnel and Giulia Venturelli) took my word and were thrilled. We teamed up and got to work straight away. Giulia and I set off up an obvious line of cracks and overhanging corners festooned by ice driplets that led to the dagger on the far right. Gian and Hugues made their way up the opposite side of the crag, via a smooth wall broken by mini cracks that led to the drip on the left. In just a couple of hours we established "Per iniziare" M7 and "L'analfabeta" M6+, ground up. This really was a great discovery, just waiting to be developed further.
During the following week I returned once with Gian to equip an obvious line of corners that reached the drip on the left, this time up the righthand side, via the curtain and finishing up steep ice to reach a belay. We discovered a peg and nut in the back of the corner and found out later that, perhaps due to our boundless enthusiasm and lack of attention, that this was actually "Azione indecente", first climbed by Massimo Farina in 2004 in trad style, together with Fabio Elli, Ezio Marlier and Francesca Chenal. After discussing this for several days with the local climbers we all agreed to leave it in its original condition and to give it the credit it deserves. But it came natural to equip a variation that, after the first curtain, traveresed delicately right up rock to climb the central drip! This is called "Saltimbanco" M6 WI6...
Not tired of being a carpenter (and I assure you that bolting ground-up isn't relaxing... even if having a drill might lead you to believe that it is) Hugues and I returned to bolt the hardest route of all, that still needs to be freed but it's somewhere in the region of M8/M9 WI6. This pitch proved to be a great challenge: the rock is truly compact and overhanging and offers no obvious line of weakness from below. But the line was there, logical in its own right, with a sequence of holds at the very limit of climbing perversion. We've called it "Mosca cieca" and, compared to the other pitches, it's slightly more demanding, even on the icy sections.
These first routes are all long and demanding and therefore not ideal for warm-ups, unless of course you're superbly strong and fit (unlike us!). For this reason we did us, and you, a favour by bolted a short, fun and easy pitch ideal to get your foremarms pumping: "Medusa" M4+. All things said and done, I reckon that with five independent routes and an acrobatic variation, the crag is a great little number and ready for action. All routes have been equipped with stainless steel bolts with the following idea: this isn't a crag for children, but nevertheless we don't want to get hurt... and we climbed all the routes ground-up. All quickdraw clips are fairly easy and to climb the routes all you need is a single 60m rope, a set of quickdraws and ice screws. When it forms, the crag is completed by a drip 10m to the left called "à la memoire des bouquetins" WI5+ 30m. A bolt belay allows for this to be climbed top-rope. Those who want to try "Azione indecente" should bring some trad gear to add to the in-situ pegs and nuts. This is a radically more serious undertaking compared to the other climbs nearby, but those who have fun on "Per iniziare" might find this a great stimulus to discover more. The route was orginally graded M5 WI5 by Massimo Farina... for us, with our more modern approach and comparing it to its French cousins, it's more like M6 WI5+.
All of this work, the maintenance and the new routes, are the fruit of our time and personal funds, so that we could have fun but above all to leave something for everyone else to enjoy. We're not writing this to be thanked, but to ask for our efforts to be respected and to deter those who might want to steal the in-situe carabiners and quickdraws.
I would of course like to thank all those who have helped me establish this crag and wish everyone lots of fun!
Enrico Bonino - Mountain Guide
Thanks to the sponsors Scarpa, Patagonia, Baroli Sport for the gear and equipment.
Access: per la A 5 fino al casello di Aosta Ovest. Proseguire per la statale fino al villaggio di Cogne e ancora Lillaz. Parcheggiare nei pressi del Camping al Sole.
Approach: Seguire la pista pedonale battuta che si inoltra nella Valeille fino a passare il ponte. Proseguire in piano fino a superare un enorme roccone solitario e a reperire una piccola diga che permette di riattraversare il torrente verso la destra orografica della valle. Costeggiare ancora il fiume per circa cento metri fino ad oltrepassare la colata di “Inachevé conception” e a puntare alla candela iniziale di “A la memoire des bouquetins”. B&B is located 10m to the right of the drip. Circa 40 minute walk-in.
Grade: From M4+ to M8+ (?)
Routes (see topo):
1. Medusa, M4+ (First ascent: Enrico Bonino and Nicolas Meli)
2. L'analfabeta, M6+ (First ascent: Gian Bazzocchi and Hugues Bonnel)
3. Azione indecente M6 WI5+ (First ascent: Massimo Farina 2004 with Elli, Marlier, Chenal)
4. Saltimbanco (variante), M6 WI6 (First ascent: Gian Bazzocchi and Enrico Bonino)
5. Mosca Cieca, M9/+ WI6 (First ascent: Enrico Bonino and Hugues Bonnel. FFA: Ramon Marin)
6. Per iniziare, M7 (First ascent: Enrico Bonino e Giulia Venturelli)
7. A' la memoire des bouquetins WI5+ (First ascent: Pierluigi Perona and Beppe Rubin, 1996)
Gear: complete rack for drytooling and ice climbing, 8 quickdraws for the bolt, + those for icescrews, slings, screwgate carabiner for toproping, a single 60m rope, helmet. A set of friends up to #2 BD to climb "Azione indecente".