Valle dell'Orco, Rolando Larcher climbs new granite on Torre di Aimonin
Rolando Larcher recounts the beauty of trad climbing in Italy's Valle dell'Orco: the video (by Riky Felderer) and the report of two new rock climbs on Torre di Aimonin: "Cani & Gatti" (8a+), first ascended with a mix of trad and bolts by M. Oviglia and P. Seimandi and freed by Rolando Larcher and "Conosci te stesso?" (E7 6c or 8a), a trad pitch first ascended by Larcher.
Trad Climbing Meeting CAAI 2014, a pleasant day is about to come to an end, with people who’ve travelled from around the world to discover the delights of Valle dell’Orco. I never miss the chance to climb on granite and this Italian trad meeting, thanks to its setting and the climbers who take part, is quite simply unmissable.
Dinner’s almost ready at Ceresole but there’s just enough time for a final burn… so I ask Mauri (Maurizio Oviglia) if there’s something curious nearby. He suggests I have a look at the upper part of his route Cani & Gatti, a pitch that hadn’t been freed yet that tackles the most repulsive side of the marvelous Torre di Aimonin.
I immediately set of with Herman (Zanetti), up the first beautiful and pumpy trad pitch, quickly set up the comfortable belay, then continue up the crack until this gives way to a compact overhanging sheet of granite, where Friends are replaced by bolts. I climb a pumpy sequence, but the holds then run out and I stop, disheartened, on some micro-crystals. Giving up seems the only option, but all of a sudden I notice a ledge two meters to the right of the last crimp. A flashback provides me with a daring solution: mentally I relive all those scenes of massive desperate dynos that my son Alessandro keeps showing me.
Dynos aren’t exactly my cup of tea but nevertheless I decide to give it a go, moves like this are simply too beautiful! So I take aim, make the first timid jumps, worried about trashing my skin on the sharp arete I’m aiming for. Down below Herman gives me a hand, synchronising my leap and paying out just the right amount of slack and then, after a couple of pendulums, I manage to coordinate things properly and stick the hold. Great. Fantastic! All I need to do is continue to the belay, but now I’m far away from the line of bolts… Fortunately I manage to find all the crimps I need and I excitedly reach the belay, yes, it’s time for dinner now!
The meeting comes to an end and we return home, but the dyno plays in my mind and at the end of October I return with Max (Zadra). The idea is to work the beta and then free the route in spring. I wait for the sun to hit the tower for and then, quite unexpectedly, things run smoothy on my first go, probably due to the exceptional friction and my better shape. Since I’m here I may as well give it another attempt, but after just 40 minutes the sun mockingly dips behind the mountain. The cold is piercing and even before the dyno I tumble into the rope, hands completely numb. They warm up quickly though, so I set off immediately for another try and to my surprise I stick the dyno and reach the belay without further falls.
Excellent, what a superb surprise, one 1000km journey less to do, although now I haven’t got a granite "toy" to play with this spring. But the great thing about magical Valle dell’Orco is that this valley still offers plenty of potential for those who know how to see it. And while Max lowers me off and congratulates me for the successful redpoint, I notice an apparently untouched line of incredible beauty immediately to the right. So this’ll be my game for spring 2015, the one that might perhaps make another dream of mine come true: discover and free another demanding and beautiful trad climb.
So here I am once again, together with Andrea Giorda from Turin, a good friend and aficionado of the valley. Armed to our teeth with trad gear I start discover the sequences, above all though I check out how to protect the climbing adequately. luck is on my side and I decipher the complete theory of moves and where to place my Friends and micro stoppers in the small and mid-size cracks. I try the route a couple of times then return home with thrashed skin but highly motivated.
You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot, and a short while later I embark on the 1000km journey once again. This time I’m alone for only half the way, at Milan I pick up the expert granite climber Andrea Sommaruga. Andrea and I have only known each other a short while and this two-day stint gives us the chance to get to know each other better and also to hear some authoritative thoughts about the project. As usual we reach Noasca late at night, we sleep in the car and then in the morning we make our way up to the route to start play.
Things run smoothly, after my first attempt I manage to find just the right beta for the moves and gear. On my second attempt I fall high on the route, then suss out a better sequence for the finishing moves, if only I’d seen it earlier! I rest before my third attempt and begin to feel fatigue setting in but can’t wait too long as the sun is about to hit the tower. I set off determined, things go well, I even begin to think that maybe today will be the day but then I get pumped just when I think I’ve done it. We call it a day and start the return journey home, more km’s await in the hope that it won’t get too hot, seeing that it’s almost June.
At home I try to organize another trip, but none of my fiends manage to get enough time off for those 28 hours. I’m about to postpone things until autumn when Alfredo (Mendini), now called "Salvation", tells me at 20.00 that he’s free. We hit the road at 21.00, heading west.
The next morning is a mere formality… The usual warm-up and then up I go, easy and determined, reaching the top on my first attempt. I knew I’d do it! I descend content, thanking Alfredo once again for his help. The day is still young and so, once we’ve coiled our ropes, I repay my friend for his kindness by driving up this splendid alpine valley, almost all the way up to Col del Nivolet where the snow bars our way.
My new route joins the many others in the valley, and I’ve called it "Conosci te stesso", know yourself, with or without a question mark, you can chose whether to use one or not.
Climbs of this sort, apart from the obvious athletic preparation necessary and their unquestionable ethical purity, have an important introspective value. They allow you to know and control your fears and how you react under stress, enabling you to get to know your personal limits and realize how much you’re willing to push your own boundaries. They provide the opportunity to better comprehend and improve the intellectual side of things, while experiencing the rewards of placing trad pro. It’s as if you’re in immersed in a psycho-physical bubble of autarky, were it not for your climbing partner down below… And then, if you add a question mark to the name and call it "Do you know yourself?" then a route like this one transforms into a warning, but also an invitation to discover trad climbing and this unmissable style that forms part of the wonderful world of climbing.
Rolando Larcher CAAI
Thanks to the numerous friends who helped me on these two climbs: Maurizio Oviglia, Herman Zanetti, Massimiliano Zadra, Andrea Giorda, Andrea Sommaruga and Alfredo Mendini.
Thanks to my sponsors for their suppor: La Sportiva – Montura – Petzl – Totem
Thanks to Riky Felderer for the video
Valle dell'Orco – Torre di Aimonin
Cani & Gatti
First ascent: M. Oviglia and P. Seimandi, June 2009
First free ascent: R. Larcher on 29 October 2014 after attempts on 20 September 2014
P1: 6c+ P2:8a+
Gear: a set of Friends to #4
Conosci te stesso? Know Yourself?
First ascent: R. Larcher on 23 and 30 May 2015
First free ascent: 3 June 2015, R. Larcher
8a trad o E7 6c
Gear: twin set of Totem + #3 + #4 + small and mid-size wires