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Photo by archivio Ermanno

Photo by archivio Ermanno

Photo by archivio Ermanno Salvaterra

I Tre Giganti, the Three Giants by Ermanno Salvaterra on Crozzon di Brenta


I Tre Giganti - the Three Giants - the route climbed by Ermanno Salvaterra, Matteo "Will" Bertolotti, Paolo Grisa and Chicca Boselli up the NE Face of Crozzon di Brenta (3118m, Brenta Dolomites. The story by Ermanno Salvaterra.

Sometimes you stumble across traces of others (pegs and whatnot) right there where you think no one has ever been before. And sometimes you simply can't gleam any information about it from guidebooks, from others' memories, about that particular climb. Could they be signs of failed attempts, never confessed? Small masterpieces even, which slipped by unnoticed? The fact of the matter is that these untraceable clues are always shrouded in mystery. This is exactly what happened to Italian alpinist Ermanno Salvaterra who climbed a line up the legendary NE Face of Crozzon di Brenta together with Matteo "Will" Bertolotti, Paolo Grisa and Chicca Boselli. The trio forged a route between the Frehel-Leprince Ringuet on Pilastro dei Francesi and a variation to the Preuss route, and during the ascent Salvaterra discovered a handful of pegs, Despite all his subsequent efforts, he failed to find out who had placed them and, above all, if the route had been completed. As some may remember, at the time and while waiting for possible "corrections" we too published news about this first ascent. And then, almost immediately, we were informed that the route was the same as Via dei Bergamaschi (850m, 4/5/5+) established in 1980 by Tiraboschi, Montanelli and Pesenti. Salvaterra asked us to remove the news item in order to make some further research and things are now clearer: Salvaterra has sent us the line of ascent while Tiraboschi, for his part, has marked the 1980 route which runs to the left of the Salvaterra, Bertolotti, Grisa and Boselli creation (see route topo). In addition, a chance encounter with Italian alpinist Aldo Leviti resulted in the discovery that the few pegs in the central section of the face were probably placed by Leviti during an early attempt, which ground to a halt due to a thunderstorm. So here it is once again, the new route which Ermanno Salvaterra describes as "a beautiful climb" called I Tre Giganti, the Three Giants in memory of Gianni Berta, Manuel Kofler and Paul Cavagnetto. To find out more check out Ermanno's engaging story.

by Ermanno Salvaterra

I've been thinking about it for a while but I don't remember that day when, descending to the Brentei hut after a climb, I looked at the Crozzon in earnest. I observed the broad band which lies between the line established by Jean Fréhel and Dominique Leprince Ringuet, that beautiful route first ascended back in 1965 which has come to be known as the French Pillar, and the variation to the historic climb established by the great Paul Preuss. A really massive gap with absolutely no routes... Well who knows! There was no mention about it in the guidebooks, nothing in the new routes book at the Brentei hut, no one knew a thing. So I set off to find out more...

A few weeks ago I found two friends willing to climb with me, Will (Matteo) and Paulo. We reached the base of Crozzon with our sleeping bags and examined the line that would lead us to the central ledge. We wanted to give it a shot. I climbed the first pitch, not too easy but fun nevertheless, but I discovered a thread and a belay. I descended and we moved a bit to the right. A yellowish-grey crack. Who's turn? Heads or tails. Paolo won and up he went. The pitch was great. Another couple of "easy" pitches as Will describes them led to the large ledge. We stashed all our gear here and descended off the French route. We spent the night down there, as I had done many years previously. At that place which, like the others I have here in the Brenta Dolomites, is a hotel. It's called Hotel Paganini, but it has nothing to do with the great musician. I had been there back in '86 with my great partner Ginella Paganini when we made the first ascent of Via Maria to the right of the French pillar.

The following morning we quickly climbed up to our gear. Paolo climbed another easy pitch at the base of the small corner which seemed to show us the way. It was now my turn. The corner was beautiful and the crack which followed even more so. I placed a Friend and traversed slightly left. I then carefully studied a difficult move and moved on up to a nice small ledge. I was greeted by a pressure bolt and a peg. Really old gear, not younger than the '60's. Which meant that certainly someone, even on the pitch we'd just climbed, had reached this point. We were a little disappointed and decided, crestfallen, to retreat. But I'd return!

A few days later I was back again. This time with a "bella bimba", a beautiful little girl. We reached the base in the afternoon and I climbed the first pitches up the Pillar to haul up our gear. At 5 am the next morning it was really cold and the snow flakes began to fall on our sleeping bags. Before this settles and reaches an inch in height - we thought - perhaps it'd be better to set off. Which I did, but when I reached my rucksack I climbed just a bit higher and then lowered off. We descended, but only back at the car at Vallesinella did we take off our jumpers. We gave it another go two day later, but this time in the early morning. We departed from Vallesinella at 3:30am. The weather was great, it wasn't cold and soon we found ourselves at the belay of old pegs. I was with the bimba again, Chicca. She really was hard as nails... Off I went! We had a selection of pegs, 4 Friends and a handfull of nuts. I climbed leftwards but had to give up after a dozen or so metres. I descended with difficulty and moved to a corner on the right. It wasn't easy and after circa 10 metres I stumbled across a peg. An old CAMP peg, those dyed orange. I continued up the next slab to an overhanging, yellow flake. At the end, on a ledge to the left, there was a belay with an old Leeper peg and a nut tied off with some rope and a peg. Perhaps an attempt I thought to myself. I also told myself that the person who climbed up here certainly had ba... Chicca seconded without saying a thing.I had taught her how to remove the pegs. Last time, as I climbed up with the gear, I had placed a peg so that she would learn how to remove it. She had been really pleased because she'd succeeded, in a quarter of an hour. After a relatively difficult move and then, with my usual luck, I managed to place a universal peg in a pocked. Almost like a bolt. Some hard moves past some wet holds. The slab above looked beautiful even if fairly steep. The rock was very compact. I came across another peg and on a sling with ring placed on a spike. the face eased off, then became steeper once again. After another fairly difficult move I reached a yellow corner which led me to a ledge. A strange thread and a peg were my belay. I was pleased with the pitches I'd climbed but also a bit disappointed. Who on earth had climbed here? It was only 13:30. Once again we decided to retreat, event hough…. Chicca told me she was a little tense because she'd never climbed so far above a void. But she then descended fast as a rocket.

Back at home we did some searching on the internet. Nothing. And there was nothing in the new routes book at the Brentei hut. My friend Postino told me about Polvere di Stelle, first ascended by the great climbers Tiberio Quecchia and Saverio Occhi but when I examined the topo I realised that they'd climbed much further to the left. So perhaps the in-situ gear were only remnants of previous attempts or mistakes. I spoke to Chicca, Will and Paulo... If I continue - I thought - and someone then tells me they'd already been there, then I'd congratulate him and apologise (Editor's note: as we wrote in our introduction, it later turned out that Salvaterra's line was a new route)

Only a few days pass by and on 2 August we're back at the Brentei hut. Back at Hotel Paganini under the Crozzon. While Chicca cleans the hotel climb up those 200 metres once again with the gear. That night it wasn't cold at all and we ate two crackers and drank those 250ml of white wine we'd brought with us. Fantastic! At 21 we were already snuggled in our sleeping bags. I fell asleep quickly while Chicca remained awake, counting the stars and sheep. We set off at 5. For her it was a new experience. Climbing with a headtorch. I knew the pitches well by now and we quickly reached our highpoint, shortly after 10. I climbed diagonally upwards to avoid a series of roofs. I breached an overhang on the elft and after a dozen or so metres a comfortable ledge forced me to stop. Chicca quickly seconded up to the bulge. She too was climbing with a rucksack and this wasn't particularly light. I heard a little scream. She'd fallen! I had to lower her for a couple of metres untile she touched the rock agan. Another attempt ended in another fall.. But she laughed, despite her fear as she started to spin. She exited the "roof" on her fourth attempt. As she reached the belay I congratulated her with a kiss. The face eased off now and a few easy pitches led to the base of the final, steep pillar. I gave it a go, failed, tried again and failed, then found the solution. A short 35m pitch led to the base of a comfortable pillar. The rock above was yellow, black and overhanging even. After gaining some height I placed a good Friend and, just above, a good thread. The rope came to an end and I struggled to establish a belay. We were out of earshot by Chicca understood and, slowly but surely she climbed up the overhangs to reach me. I took off her rucksack and let her climb up to the ledge above us. We were at the top... Her hands were ruined, her skin down to the bone with bleeding fingers. For the time being we'd call it a new route. And call it TRE GIGANTI, the three giants. They had been a trio and we'd been close friends. They were there on a course to become Mountain Guides. The terrible accident on Mont Blanc. Thirteen years ago. They were called Gianni Berta, the husband of Chicca, Manuel Kofler and Paolo Cavagnetto (Instructor), the partner of my gentle, sweet friend Lio. They were great, even in stature and... they were Giants.

A final consideration: I have always been criticized, in a positive manner, for my route grading. I always spoke of easy, difficult, very difficult. I don't really know why but extremely difficult meant, and still means, that I couldn't do it and so for me it was beyond comprehension. But when I established a new route I was obliged to provide grades and so I gave what I "felt". I'm no longer a child and perhaps I understand even less about grades. So for the time being my topo won't mention numbers, UIAA grades or whatnot. When someone repeats the route I'll ask them, they'll give me the grades and I'll write them down.





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