Cima Grande della Scala, first winter ascent of Lomasti - Mazzillis by Vuerich and Laurencig
On 13 and 14 March Luca Vuerich and Massimo Laurencig carried out the first winter ascent of the difficult Fessura Lomasti (400m, VI, pass. di VIII-) on the pre-summit of Cima Grande della Scala (Val Riofreddo, Julian Alps, Italy).
There are certain mountaineers who remain deeply embedded in our sub-memory. Ernesto Lomasti is certainly one of these; the mountaineer from Pontebba died in 1979 at a mere 19 years of age, struck by lightening whilst solo climbing the route Via del topo pazzo at 'Gruviera' by Arnaud. Lomasti was a true "Martian" of mountaineering in the 1970's. Or rather, a true explorer, one of those rare mountaineers who pushed the limit of what was possible, anticipating and paving the way for the "revolution" of the '80's. His numerous and important ascents prove just this, and many were carried out solo, throughout the Julian Alps and further still. Two prime examples are the first repeat and first solo ascent of Diedro Cozzolino on the Piccolo Mangart di Coritenza and his first ascent, carried out alone, on Piccolo Mangart. At the time the scale of difficulties went no further than Grade 6. Lomasti proved capable of vastly exceeding this threshold, in an era when boots were still being used and modern climbing shoes were still to be invented.
Another proof if this, should proof be necessary, is the recent first winter ascent of the Fessura Lomasti on Cima Grande di Scala at the hands of Luca Vuerich and Massimo Laurencig. The route was first climbed by Ernesto Lomasti and Roberto Mazzillis - another great mountaineer - in 1978 and after this first winter ascent (and yes, probably third ascent only) Vuerich and Laurencig put forward the grade sustained VI , with some VIII- sections instead of the original V, VI and VI+ suggested by the first ascentionists. But the climb is not just a question of numbers. Rather, it is proof once again of how progress in mountaineering passes via "visionary" research which is difficult, if not impossible, to judge correctly when they are first climbed.
Luca Beltrame dedicated a great book to Ernesto Lomasti "Non si torna indietro" (Vivalda Editori, 2008), while Luca Vuerich has now dedicated this first winter ascent to Lomasti and Ignazio Piussi for providing him with the inspiration. Proof of how, regardless of the grades, mountaineers such as Lomasti indicate a direction within ourselves, on a sub-level.
THERE'S NO TURNING BACK
Dedicated to Ernesto Lomasti and Ignazio Piussi who left an important trace in my way of climbing mountains
by Luca Vuerich
There's no turning back is the title of a book about Ernesto Lomasti but this could easuly be the "modern" name of a route he first ascended together with Roberto Mazzillis on Cima Vallone in 1978. Ernesto Lomasti was a meteor which illuminated the mountaineering world of the Julian Alps, but which burned out far too early at the Arnaud crag in Val d'Aosta. In his brief career he managed to leave an indelible mark on the mountaineering community in the Julian Alps and according to the always too modest Ignazio Pussi, Lomasti was the best ever mountaineer the Friuli has ever produced.
I've climbed almost all of Ernesto's routes but I believe this one, ascended with the talented Massimo Laurencig, is the most demanding which the young mountaineer ever climbed, both from a technical and psychological view. The line had been attempted by calibre mountaineers such as Celso Gilberti, Emilio Comici, Ignazio Piussi and Enzo Cozzolino but no one had got farther than the first pitch, from there onwards one cannot turn back, the crack traverses rightwards through the overhang for circa 300m.
Armend with a 40m rope, 15 pegs and 4 years of mountaineering experience, Lomasti and Mazzillis did not turn back and after 9 hours they reached the easy slabs and opted to descend via the easy north arete. The summit was unimportant, the crack was now named after the two young men who, I believe, with this climb added their name to climbing history. I know this crack since 1997 when, working at Rifugio Pellarini as a twenty year old, I too wanted to climb the Lomasti – Mazzillis. I walked beneath the crack on numerous occasion only to return home with a twisted neck, thousands of thoughts and no companion prepared to climb with me... I received various answers to my futile question... are you crazy, on that chossy rock, not even if you pay me...
In 2009 I finally met someone who like me wants to get to grips with routes which are committing. I met Massimo Laurencig while becoming a Mountain Guide and when I sent him an email with a photo and just a few words of explanation he replied enthusiastically, all we needed to do was decide when. We departed without a rush Thursday afternoon and reached the base of the climb in three hours where there is a comfortable bivvy directly beneath the route, well sheltered from the "bombs" of snow and rock which fall during the day. On 13 March we decided to climb at least 150m, fist the ropes and descend to climb the entire route.
Max set off, he said we had to start this way for good luck... I didn't protest and left him to climb the first pitches. I ascended with jumars so as not to tire us too much, then when the psychological difficulties increased I took over. I slipped on my shoes and climb the smooth chimney crack, placed a psychological nut and won a couple of precious meters. I traversed on the edge of the corner crack, looked out, saw the empty space and overhang, felt my stomach squeeze tight, placed a friend and a peg and launched blindly up the overhanging wall. Luckily the rock was decent and I managed to reach the belay on a terrace with some snow, the only which had managed to cling to the entire route.
It was my turn again, the crux pitch, and I found two friends with a quickdraw. Someone must have attempted and failed here, seeing that we came across no other gear higher up... worrying... I climbed the overhanging wall which is given 6+... we reckon it's at least 6c, impossible to climb using aid... I only manage to climb it because I know they managed years before me. In that moment I thought I needed to spend more time on my training board, stupid thoughts hanging on stupid holds, I looked at the pegs, half in half our which wouldn't even stop half a fall... stupid me, me and my stupid ideas... continue before you change your mind... exit on chossy rock, I drive in a peg, prepare the belay and that's enough... When Max reaches me we look at each other, words fail... We should have climbed all the hard pitches so we decide to descend, we're tired but happy, dehydrated and famished and back in our tent we fuel ourselves and drift off almost immediately.
We ascend the fixed ropes the next morning, the first pendulum into the void on an 8mm static rope takes our breath away but then things become normal. We reach yesterday's highpoint, Lomasti's topo says that things become easy from here... unfortunately for us this is not the case. I climb light headily, today it's Max's turn and the hard pitches ... smooth snow-packed corners, overhanging cracks and snow on the slab sections are all part of Saturday's climb.
We reach the finishing slabs in the afternoon, in 1978 Lomasti and Mazzillis headed off right at this point and abseiled down the North arete. We decided to descend via the route since we'd equipped all the belays just in case we'd needed to retreat. After some circus acts we reached the foot of the climb, minds free as soon as we set foot on the ground, tired but happy to have repeated such a line, friable and dangerous by fascinating like only certain routes manage to be.
Cima Grande della Scala, North presummit.
Via: Fessura Lomasti – Mazzillis (alternated leads)
Grade (according to us): sustained VI with some VIII- sections
Grade (according to the first ascentionists): V VI and VI+ ??
First winter ascent: (possible third ascent) : Luca Vuerich and Massimo Laurencig 13-14 March 2009