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Ilio De Biasio in his kingdom, the Pale di San Lucano
Photo by archivio Toni Zuech
Ilio De Biasio and Cepo Conedera before the chimneys on Via Flora, Seconda Pala di San Lucano, during the first winter ascent on 23/02/2008 together with Toni Zuech.
Photo by archivio Toni Zuech
On the summit after the 2007 winter ascent of the Agner Spigolo nord (via Gilberti Soravito), Civetta, Dolomites: Toni Zuech, Ilio De Biasio, Lucio Faccin and Stefano Conedera.
Photo by archivio Toni Zuech
Ilio De Biasio and Lucio Faccin at the bivvy during the 2007 winter ascent of the Agner Spigolo nord (via Gilberti Soravito), Civetta, Dolomites
Photo by archivio Toni Zuech
PORTFOLIO / gallery Portfolio: For Ilio De Biasio

For Ilio De Biasio


Ilio De Biasio, one of the strongest climbers and mountaineers in the Dolomites, died aged 59 on 9 April 2014 during a ski mountaineering trip to Monte Pavione, Alpi Feltrine, Dolomites. The thoughts by Toni Zuech.

There is a widespread prejudice about mountain folk being grimly suspicious, closed people, almost prisoners within the hostile environment and its implacable laws. Ilio De Biasio perfectly embodied the exact opposite: in fact, if I ever met someone whose vision towards the rest of the world was truly wide open, then it was him.

I'd like to say many things at this point, too many for this short space, which one should say about him. I'd like to mention his ancient-looking face. His sparkling eyes, out-of the-ordinary intelligence and good-natured sense of humour and irony. His spontaneous smile. His generosity and hospitality that rendered his happy home at Cencenighe a place where everyone was welcomed with pen arms. Just like, when he was born, his home at Pradimezzo where together with his brothers Ettore and Silvio he had learned from his parents, even through difficult times, the warm and happy laws of hospitality.

Ilio was a serene, balanced person, a friend of the world, constitutionally a stranger to conflict, to harsh judgment of others. And this was reflected in his mountaineering: he had a formidable instinct, the one that only true mountaineers have. This was honed as a young child when he accompanied his first teacher, his father, on hunts across the rugged Pale di San Lucano. Up and down for the third and fourth grade ledge systems, perhaps covered in snow, following the prey's dizzying and exhausting tracks. And always under the watchful eye of this elders. Hunting chamois, like a chamois.

His father had built Ilio's first skis and it was he passed on Ilio's extraordinary ability to interpret all types of snow, making him one of the most efficient and admired skiers of all. Even on steep terrain, extreme even, were it not for the fact that this adjective is intrinsically alien to the Ilio's profoundly balanced character. Balance was in fact the key to Ilio's personality and this transpired in his mountaineering, in his art of climbing. Those who were lucky enough to climb with him know how much natural skill, how much strength and resistance, how much experience and technique made up his out-of-the-ordinary climbing wealth.

This is neither the time nor the place to make long lists or publish a curriculum. Others, I hope will will tell of his explorations in his native Pale di San Lucano. Of the countless first ascents and first winter ascents. Of the great ski descents he merely mentioned as his friends listened in disbelief. Of the mountain rescues (and what rescues..!) in both summer and winter, on Monte Agner, up the NW Face of Civetta... My Val Gardena friends could certainly tell a story of two, if they wish to do. In short, he was prince of the mountains: nobility without vanity, true aristocracy.

I had the good fortune to share two outstanding winter adventures with such a man: Spigolo Nord, - Northern Arête - of Agner in January 2007, and Via Flora up the Second Pala di San Lucano in February 2008.

Of Agner, I foster first and foremost wonderful memories of my climbing companions: Ilio and Lucio Faccin, a strong climber Montebelluna. I remember the night journey towards Cencenighe, with the car windows down to beat the onset of sleep.

Preparing our rucksacks at Ilio's home (we'd only met recently) and the approach through the freezing cold San Lucano valley.

The difficulty we had in finding somewhere for our first bivouac (the speed with which Lucio had led that first day meant that we reached our planned bivy spot in the early afternoon and thus found ourselves at dusk on steep, snowy and hostile terrain).

The glorious stars that accompanied us throughout the night as we told jokes and shared intimate moments of our lives: it was in that extraordinary place that we began to learn about each other and become friends! What a wonderful gift mountaineering is and (in the words of someone else) what a tremendous opportunity for friendship!

The fiery dawn and the arête that, like a sundial, marked the hours of another intense day, in slow motion, high above the void opposite the Pale di San Lucano: Ilio's enchanted childhood playground.

The arrival at the summit, where we we joined by Stefano Conedera (nicknamed Ceppo, a great friend of Ilio and now also a great friend of Lucio and mine) and a friend of his. We stood there in silence and admired in astonishment as the great Dolomite mountain basked in sunlight, all around Agner's pyramidal summit: light within the light.

Then down we sped, all the way down, Ilio cheering as on, giggling as he claimed he'd had enough of my vegetable soups and that he wanted to eat something decent that evening. Finally at home with Marinella, his partner in life, as she cooked game for us and a whole load of other godly delicacies.

Ilio and I joined forces a year later, this time together with Ceppo, to make the first winter ascent of Via Flora ( Flora was Ilio's beloved mother: Lorenzo Massarotto, the first ascentionist along with Ettore De Biasio wanted to dedicate this route to her as he knew all about her hospitality at Pradimezzo...)

I remember a long, exhausting day: from 4 am to nearly midnight. We had brought bivy gear, dark had set in and I insisted we stop, all around us nothing but pitch black and the unfathomable void. And it was at this point that I really understood his true valor: like a protective god he led us through that vertigionous labyringht of snowy ridges, hidden gullies and impossible traverses. I was impressed and at the same time I admired by his masterful tranquility, the calm and playful tone of his voice that gave us strength and confidence. At some point – we'd all lost track of time – the doors to the Ambrosogn opened – the enormous journey through the night had ended.

Now even Ilio's earthly journey has come to an end. He has moved on into the unknown, beyond doors we cannot follow. There is nothing more to say other than goodbye and thank you, wonderful friend.

by Toni Zuech





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