La Banda del Buco, new route on Monte Pellegrino, Sicily
On 5-6 April 2011 the Italians Rolando Larcher, Luca Giupponi and Nicola Sartori established La banda del buco (175m, 7a+/7b max, 6c+ obbl.) a new route up the North Face of Antro della Perciata on Monte Pellegrino (Palermo, Sicily).
Yes, it's them again. Here goes the second episode of the Sicilian tour undertaken by Rolando Larcher, Luca Giupponi e Nicola Sartori in early April this year. After establishing Pompa funebre, the "second half" was dedicated to another new route "La Banda del Buco". This takes a stunning line up the Perciata grotto on Monte Pellegrino and offers spectacular views onto the Gulf of Palermo... As with Pompe Funebre, once again the route name didn't come about by chance. And once again this is an absolutely special line. Better stil, Banda del Buco is one of those routes which prove that the intrinsic beauty of climbing cannot be measured solely by a single grade. We'll let you decide: the route is 175m high, overhangs almost 60m(!) and requires a maximum difficulty of a mere 7a+/7b and 6c+ oblig climbing. Surely this is ample to prove that his is a unique, rare route which, in the words of Larcher, is absolutely "exciting and impressive!"
La Banda del Buco by Rolando Larcher
As soon as we finished Pompa funebre, Luca, Nicola and I could have relaxed and enjoyed the last two days doing sweet nothing, but this isn't our style. There are too many plum lines on Monte Pellegrino to be taken and right from the outset we hoped to have a bit of time on our hands to climb this unparalleled, futuristic cliff.
As soon as possible we moved the "building site" from Palermo's Arenella quarter to Addaura, more precisely to the so-called Antro della Perciata. The Perciata grotto is infact a double cave shaped like an enormous overhanging amphitheater. The cave is particular due to the shape of the actual overhang and also since the arch on the left has an enormous opening and after 120m this leads out onto the grassy summit. Much like the other wall, this too is practically untouched, apart from Moby Dick established by Roby Manfrè on the far right and the abseil descent used by cavers from the cavity.
Never before has a rock face surprised and amazed me as much as this one, not only because of its shape but also because of how we eventually managed to climb it. From below we managed to make out a row of stalactites and buckets, but it was too overhanging for us to hope in a fast ascent. The biggest question mark was on the third pitch, was getting past the forest of stalactites. The first two pitches might go, via the central pillar which supports the weight of the grotto, but then...?
Our arms were still sore from "Pompa funebre" but we were curious and so we started up this new game right away. The ambient is so unusual that the team's enthusiasm gave way to a religious silence, perfectly suited to this natural temple. Gippo set the ball rolling on pitch 1 and produced a selective compulsory section up excellent, slightly off-vertical rock. Nicola took over the lead and more and more tufas and stalactites began to appear. The pitch overhangs a fair bit and heads off sideways with a diagonal traverse. We aimed for the small palm tree beneath the big roof and Nicola established a belay there.
Now it was my turn, and I climbed into the "glass shop"... I didn't want and couldn't be an "elephant", but I much to my disappointment I had to do a minimum amount of cleaning for safety's sake. I dislodged only what was absolutely necessary and advanced with relative ease through this incredible overhang. I reached a narrowing and before trying to climb past I bridged out into a no-hands-rest... incredible.
I continued past two great columns and then on past some good tufas, heading towards the 15 square meter slab where I planned on establishing the next belay. A last, holdless section barred the way but as I moved upwards I came across an unexpected series of pockets. Every time I discovered a hold I squealed with delight until I reached the slab, on the only vertical island lost in this overhanging ocean.
This belay gave me a strange sensation, almost one of isolation. Perhaps it's because it's 80m off the deck, or because just as many meters separate me from the top, or it's the 25 horizontal meters which separate me from my partners. I calmed down only when Nicola reached me, his eyes beaming with joy and astonishment for what he had just seen and touched.
The day ended with us abseiling down the static rope, like two spiders into space, and we reached Luca at the base. Only now did we reflect and realise we'd achieved far more than we had originally hoped for. We were also amazed limited difficulties, were it to continue like this then the route was bound to become something truly sensational. Two challenging pitches lay in store, but these looked more "traditional" and didn't scare us any longer. Perhaps we'd be able to finish it the next day, despite the plane leaving at 17.00. which meant a super alpine start on the final day of our holiday!
After a short sleep we returned guided by the light of our head torches. Our time limit was 14.00 and we warmed up by darting up the 80m static rope. Gippo was the first to climb. After yesterday's experience on the stalactites, this morning he climbed more fluidly. He climbed past the roof above the belay, disappeared from sight and continued rapidly until we excitedly shouted down that we should join him. As we ascended we discovered another spectacular pitch, 10m overhanging and never harder than 7a. Magnificent, that way the average difficulties remained the same!
All that was missing was the final pitch and it should have been Nicola's turn, but he generously let me take of due to time constraints. I thanked him and set off as quickly as possible, promising to get to the top within out "time limit". The rock was always good and magnanimous and thanks to its numerous holds and threads I managed to keep my word and quickly reached the top.
I belayed in a flowery meadow, on yet another thread and as I belayed the other two I enjoyed the warmth of the sun and being back in the horizontal. The others joined me joyfully and we celebrated our success of this surreal route.
A busy week had ended in the best possible way. The new team has worked great together, we understood each other and were highly motivated. We had enjoyed each other's company and we'll certainly repeat this experience again somewhere, on some other beautiful rock face.
The result of our toils was a truly unique route. Unique because of its setting, the quality of the rock, but above all because I had never come across such contained difficulties on an overhang as big as this one. The route overhangs almost 60m with difficulties in the region of 7a+/7b. It's a spectacular journey which many will be able to undertake and which alone justifies a trip all the way to Palermo.
|La Banda del Buco||
7a+/7b max 6c+ obl
gear: Rolando: La Sportiva, Montura, Petzl, Totemcam / Gippo: Five Ten, Mammut / Nicola: La Sportiva, Marmot