Goulotte fantasma on Punta Sant'anna
On 6 February 2011 the Italians Luca Maspes, Annalisa Bonfanti and Anna Ceruti climbed Goulotte Santanna (250m) up the South East Face of Sant'Anna 3171m, Val Porcellizzo, Alta Val Masino).
Luca 'Rampikino' Maspes plus two Anne (Annalisa Bonfanti and Anna Ceruti) and Punta Sant'Anna. Or rather, a very different offering with ice axes and crampons in Italy's Val Masino. A valley which offers a scenery which (due to laziness) at times seems reserved for Mont Blanc only. All you need though is desire to check out and see what's on offer and, above all, a good pair of legs, to discover those hidden lines, wedged deep within the granite, just waiting to be climbed. You need to be able to sense them. Climb them, with a bit of luck, at just the right moment, and a beautiful adventure is experienced... far from the crowds. This is the story of Santanna, the ghost gully on Punta Sant'anna.
Who knows how many ghost gullies there are... is what Luca Maspes wrote, while taking the opportunity to examine the icefalls lower down in the valley...
GOULOTTE "FANTASMA" in VAL MASINO by Luca Maspes
Today we've probably climbed the first official gully in Val Masino, I mean, up one of its South Faces. I'll stick my neck out and risk admitting this, because I thought long and hard during the entire descent: apart from some brief sections on rock climbs in winter, I had never come across such direct and wedged-in routes on the peaks in this valley.
It isn't a new route because someone had certainly climbed up these gullies filled with decomposed rock many years ago. These can be compared to the iced couloirs up Tacul, those gullies where you have to queue up and wait your turn, because so many others opt for a famous place, for its proximity to cable cars and the knowledge that a Sunday won't be wasted exploring who knows where.
Who knows how many other similar routes there are in the granite folds? I imagine them in Val di Zocca, Val Torrone, close by on Badile and I can even see one which rises up the entire SW Face. To climb them in just the right conditions them you'd need to reccie by helicopter every two days, a webcam at every mountain hut; being a local wouldn't suffice, these ghost ice lines are way up there, you can't see them and that's why when you finally get round to climbing them the satisfaction you gleam is three times as great.
There weren't any crowds down in the valley this weekend, via internet forums and sms I'd recommend against queuing up on the famous ice climbs since they were about to collapse due to summer-like temperatures. We only saw one team on Monte Lobbia's Gran Couloir and this was to be expected. This too is the result of the internet: all it takes is for someone to climb a route and say "OK, conditions were excellent" and you can be sure that the next day someone will repeat it. The history of this gully/icefall is curious: it was first ascended almost twenty years ago, written up in some local guide books and now that it has been rediscovered by the masses you even risk having to queue up to climb it.
Perhaps the same will happen to the small new drips I climbed a month ago on my first and only day of ice climbing this season. Located 10 minutes away from home, I observed them from my kitchen window, my personal thermometer for judging winter conditions. And after 20 years of observing I discovered that a dozen or so lines of all shapes and sizes had formed on that buttress, from drips to dry tooling routes, one next to the other, easy to get to and "gym-like" demands. Together with Ricky Sala I climbed just one two-pitch route before the sun destroyed the rest the next day.
To come all the way up here, way up high, without a precise objective I had to climb with the girls. They don't live for a particular route only and perhaps they manage to associate the long haul up into the completely snowed under, silent and cold Valmasino with something very unique, even if the outcome is anything but certain. And as dawn broke, when we saw the surroundings, we almost cried.
A 6 hour walk all the way up to see what the day held in store, alternating crampons with snowshoes and spending the night in the winter bivy at Rifugio Gianetti... all of this for a mere 250m of ice. We ended up spending more time on the abseils, placing insecure pegs, than on the climb itself. A route up Punta Sant'Anna, climbed with the two Anne… :-)
We had wanted to explore the Cengalo, but my friend Anna knows how "famous" I am for changing plans half-way through. But luckily things turned out for the best today, too, and we found our present.