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Barbara Zangerl climbing to victory at Melloblocco 2017
Photo by Klaus Dell'Orto / OpenCircle
Melloblocco 2017:
Photo by Klaus Dell'Orto / OpenCircle
Jorg Verhoeven, joint winner with Anthony Gullsten of Melloblocco 2017
Photo by Mirko Sotgiu / OpenCircle
Melloblocco 2017: the award's ceremony
Photo by Klaus Dell'Orto / OpenCircle

Melloblocco 2017: Individually, Together

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Melloblocco 2017 seen through the eyes of Maurizio Panseri. After having climbed in Val Masino and Val di Mello for 30 years, the Italian alpinist now took part in this, his first-ever, grand bouldering meeting.

I’ve climbed in Val di Mello for more than thirty years and during this period I’ve repeated countless climbs up the valley's huge granite walls. After descending from the routes, I sometimes attempted some of the historical boulders problems located on lush green meadow on the other side of the river. Obviously without a crashpad and, as far as I'm concerned, with pretty oor results. The game, as far as I saw it, was always sharing a rope with a friend in order to spend the day up high, admiring the valley as it slowly but surely got smaller and smaller.

I would never have thought of traveling to the valley just for the sake of bouldering and consequently leave my ropes, harness, nuts and friends at home. I’d never have imagined having so much fun and not feeling nostalgic about the lack of void and silence I search for when climbing multi-pitch routes. So at this point I’d like to thank those who convinced me to have a go at this game and enjoy the beauty of this valley from a different point of view, not just from above but also from down below.

The rules of the game obviously change, all you need here is a bit of chalk, some climbing shoes and a crashpad. You can climb completely alone, in pairs or in big groups, that special bond that's created when you tie into the same rope isn't needed, everything becomes more fluid and flexible. If you reach a problem on you own, seconds later you’re trying the moves with a group of people you’ve never seen before as they suggest the beta and carefully spot you. You start climbing with just one friend, moving and repositioning the crashpad after each move, then all of a sudden the ground is littered with a multicolored bed of mattresses. Slowly but surely some climbers manage to send the problems, some come and go, others offer advice while someone else brushes the holds. And of course some watch and rest while others bask in the sun on the meadow next to the stream, close to the children who run around and play carefree.

There are groups and groups of climbers, many are extremely young, and then there are families, top climbers and absolute beginners. Everyone finds their own dimension, their personal problem to play with, the line they want to climb, however easy or difficult this happens to be. And then you chance across a youngster climbing barefoot with such remarkable ease that the moves seem simple; but when you touch the holds that appeared so generous you realise you’d just witnessed an martian climb.

The most amazing thing of all though is that during this 14th Melloblocco there are nearly 2500 participants, to which one needs to add those who come to climb on their own accord, those who travel up here to see what it’s all about, to simply have a walk or enjoy the party. People come from all over Italy and from across half of Europe, the languages ​​mingle and blend at the base of the problems surrounded by the breathtaking nature of one of the most beautiful alpine valleys of all. D’you have any idea what it means to have 2500 climbers all in the same place at the same time? It’s spectacular! But if you’re after some peace and quiet, don't worry, all you need to do is get off the beaten track and you’ll soon bump into a boulder problem just for you.

As I watch all this taking place I like to believe that everyone is claiming a small part of their own individuality as they search for their problem, seek the right balance to succeed up those moves and send a problem at the limit of their possibilities. I like to think that for everyone out there this takes on a particular and intimate value, thanks to the collective dimension of this great open air celebration. Everyone can satisfy their desire and need for freedom in nature but, unlike on a rock climb, without all the gear needed for safety. If you make a mistake here, or if you’re pumped, coloured mattresses at the base cushion your fall and all you need to do is rest a bit before trying again.

In this game, your choices and decisions don’t affect the others in any way whatsoever. When you stand beneath a problem with a group of people you wait for your turn, and everyone is keen to let the others try as they wish, in a positive mood marked by trust, even among those who don’t know each other but, in that moment, share the same interest and solidarity. Who knows what Zygmunt Bauman would have thought had he been to Melloblocco, just once. Perhaps his collection of texts "Individually, Together" might even have included something about this meeting and the unique social phenomenon it represents. Melloblocco, too, is the art of living together.

by Maurizio Panseri

Info: www.melloblocco.it

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