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Giovanni Massari climbing at Punta Figari in the '80's
Photo by archivio G. Massari
Giovanni Massari climbing L’orologio senza tempo (2012)
Photo by archivio Paolo Seimandi
Cresta Figari and Forcella Provenzale
Photo by archivio Paolo Seimandi
The route line of L'orologio senza tempo at Punta Figari
Photo by archivio Paolo Seimandi

L’orologio senza tempo, Punta Figari and Giova Massari's 50th birthday


Last August Giovannino Massari and Paolo Seimandi re-equipped L'orologio senza tempo, the historic rock climb established in 1982 by Massari and Andrea Parodi up the East Face of Punta Figari (Gruppo Castello - Provenzale). The report by Paolo Seimandi.

em>I repeated L’orologio senza tempo - the timeless clock - back in 1984 and it was one of my first hard routes. As elsewhere, we had made our way to Punta Figari thanks to 100 Nuovi Mattini and that photo of Sergio Savio getting to grips with a VII grade move. Sergio was one of those slightly mysterious types, surrounded by a legendary aura which often gleamed through the pages of 100 Nuovi Mattini: as far as I'm concerned, seeing that I was never fortunate enough to meet him personally, that legend has remained unaltered. At the time Giovanni Massari enjoyed a similar reputation and he, "Giova", was a sort of "Manolo of the likes of you and me" in Italy’s North West. Word had it that he'd done some difficult free solos, even first ascending up to the limit of 6c (at the time this was considered something out of this world, seeing that bolts hadn't been introduced yet), that he'd climbed some terribly dangerous ice falls with complete disregard of the dangers involved. We rumoured that Giova, affected by a terrible illness, had decided to live his last days to the full and that he just didn't care if he died in the mountains during one of his free solos. Shy but cordial, fit, fingers of steel, with an elegant, flexible climbing style, “Giova” was (and still is) a legend for us in Italy's Piemont, perhaps on a par with Marco Bernardi, but decidedly less famous. I finally met Giova in 1986 in his kingdom of those days, the conglomerate cliff Bagnasco, where he could take the liberty of climbing up and down all the routes, some even without a rope. The sport climbing wind of change blew strongly in those days and together with his friend Andrea Gallo he would soon become the discreet protagonist of the first 8th grade (read 10th) on the Pietra di Finale crags. We chatted about his route, l’Orologio Senza Tempo in the Castello-Provenzale group, one of those places he loved most. I took some pictures but didn't tell him that, on the day of my 20th birthday, perhaps driven by the wish to emulate him, I celebrated by free soloing a new route up the Torre Castello. At the time I only just struggled up grade VI routes, so this was a bit like playing Russian roulette... Perhaps we were more modest back then, but some things simply weren't talked about, and so I didn't mention my first ascent to anyone... except to Giova himself, years later. For the same sense of modesty many of Giova's routes have remained nothing but memories; others are fairly well-known and have retained their reputation of being difficult, great free ascents with little in-situ gear. Giova is now 50 years old and he too has decided to celebrate this anniversary on the rocks he loved most. Together with his new friend Paolo he has lifted the dust off one of his most beautiful jewels, that Orologio Senza Tempo which first led me to him. Today, just like yesterday, Giova remains an extremely discreet climber and - were it not for the friend we have in common- perhaps we wouldn't even have remembered him. Happy birthday, grande “Giova”!
Maurizio Oviglia


The train began to slow down and less than three minutes later I found myself on the platform at Mo i Rana, a grey industrial town at the edge of the Arctic Circle. The previous week I had just found the time to briefly greet my mountains and then I raced back home to cram my jeans, work gloves and water-proof jacket into my rucksack. I really risked exceeding the Norwegian Airlines weight limit but certainly didn't want to leave without my Miura and a bit of climbing gear: despite being out of shape and having little time to spare, I'd be less than 400 km from the Lofoten Islands and I really hoped that some artic-trucker might give me a ride there.

The weeks passed by but the only things I could try to climb were the wooden robu walls and the swaying, red aluminium stairs. In June the days never end and often it was only my aching muscles which told me it was time to hit the sack. Sometimes though my arms weren't that tired and I did some pull-ups in the barn, more out of nostalgia perhaps then for decent training.

The end of July arrived, I had to wait for a small job Småland and grabbed the chance to return home for a bit; I'd become really impatient to crimp some small holds and at the same time the thought of squeezing into a Velco 40.5 made me squirm. A few days later I called Giova, we organised to go climbing at the crag and ended up talking about Castello. Although that mountain had brought us together, we'd never actually climbed there together. "I'd like to climb a route on Figari” I said “but I haven't been climbing seriously for a while, I think I'd just end up shaking on every move." Giova replied "I've got a project that I'm really keen on and to do it you don't need to be in great shape. Perhaps this is just the right occasion!"

A few days later we reached the base of Punta Figari, the idea was to reach the crest via Camino Est, the eastern chimney, and abseil in to Orologio senza tempo, the route he established in summer 1982. Giova wanted to clean it a bit and make it more attractive, put it into a modern perspective. I hadn't even clipped the rope into the ATC belay device and Giova had already reached the first Camino belay... oh well, I thought, it'll be somewhere in the region on III+. The next pitch was easy, steep, damp and… mine.

Giova exclaimed "Do place something" and I couldn't help but laugh: was a really giving the impression that I simply wanted to take the rope for a 40m walk?! A strong wind picked up as we reached the Forcella Provenzale col and the dark clouds seemed to threaten our project. Well, we certainly weren't about to make some sort of massive undertaking, but that day was important to the both of us and we knew we wouldn't have been able to join forces again that season.

Fortunately the roaring thunder in the distance turned out to be a bluff, the clouds disappeared behind Chambeyron and we managed to reach the black rock gendarme on the crest where the route ends. We established the first (or rather) last belay and began the abseil; I continued almost mechanically, chopping bundles of slings, removing old pegs, brushing here and there and, slowly but surely and without even realizing it, I began to carefully study the compact wall and its blind cracks. I tried to imagine what it would have been to be there, at the start of the '80's, without a clue of where to go, with nothing more than a "series of nuts up to #8" as Giova had candidly noted in his old guidebook. I think then and there I managed to identify myself more with the first ascentionist than ever before, mora than on harder routes where I was so concentrated on the moves or placing gear that I never had the time to sit back and think.

In the end we only had time to climb the first pitch: beautiful yes, but I knew that that day I wouldn't have been able to lead the whole route, free and sufficiently at ease, and I was saddened by this. But Giova was there, to celebrate his 50th birthday, precisely 30 years after the route's first ascent, probably with the same twinkle in his eyes he had had that summer many years back. So I thought, who cares? Maybe I've still got some more time to spare after all.

Paolo Seimandi

TOPO: L’orologio senza tempo





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