Gabriele Moroni, Lumignano and a step back into climbing history
Last weekend Gabriele Moroni visited the historic Lumignano Classica in N. Italy and returned home with a climbing sweep-stake: flash ascents of Boomerang 8a+ and Atomic Café 8a, and a fantastic 2nd go ascent of Mare Allucinante 8b+.
Do specific disciplines still exist in climbing? Or, better still, how many secrets do the rocks still hold and how much satisfaction still lies in store? These are the questions that spring to mind when thinking about what Gabriele Moroni got up to in Lumignano last weekend. For those to whom Lumignano means nothing, you should be aware of the fact that this Italian crag played a fundamental role in the early stages of sport climbing, like a few others such as Buoux. During the 'legendary' 1980's the limestone walls in Lumignano were an unmissable destination and at the same time a sort of vertical laboratory. The bulges, pockets and streaked tufas were the canvass for true works of art signed by the likes of Michele Guerini (to name the most active new router) and important guests (and true champions) such as Martin Scheel from Switzerland, Heinz Mariacher from Austria and the Manolo from Italy. They all left a lasting mark of their creativity on routes which even today are authentic little jewels. Comparable almost to a climbing mantra, on which in all these years climbers have invested endless days and infinite dreams...
But let's go back to where we started from. Gabriele Moroni visited these ancient and noble walls and climbed three highly symbolic testpieces. The following is how this 'new' chapter began: the climber from Novara didn't wait to be asked twice and, breaking the rule which states that all those who come to Lumignano go home empty-handed, immediately struck gold. After a short warm-up on Saturday morning he made an incredible flash ascent of 'Boomerang', the beautiful route bolted and freed by Martin Scheel during the era in which sport climbing was making its first tentative steps towards the higher grades. It's almost superfluous to say that this is probably the first time ever that someone has climbed this 8a+ so quickly and convincingly. This performance would have been a great result in its own right, but Gabriele had greater plans in store...
The real strike came shortly afterwards. Obviously on incredible form, the winner of the Italian Bouldering Cup 2008 climbed "Mare Allucinante", the most symbolic route of the crag, second go. This is an unbelievable achievement up a magic sequence, bolted once again by Martin Scheel and freed by 16 year old Pietro dal Prà way back in 1987 and then repeated by another Lumignano master, Mauro dell'Antonia. Regardless of the (perhaps deceiving) 8b+, readers should note that in its 22 year history the route has only been climbed a dozen or so times... There must be a reason for this, surely? Nothing else needs to be added to underline the stunning performance of Moroni, apart from the fact a few weeks ago another Lumignano exert, Luigi Billoro, managed to repeat the line, as did Silvano Finotti from Bologna.
Quite clearly conditions were perfect last weekend, and obviously climbers are getting better fast. So much so that we're watching out for an explosion towards heights hitherto thought of as... impossible! Confirmation of this came about on Sunday when Moroni, not content with his Saturday fest, picked up a flash ascent of Atomic Cafè 8a, another "piece of history" signed by Heinz Mariacher.
In the following report Moroni recounts about his trip to Lumignano, after which you'll find out attempt to list all the climbers who have got to grips with Mare Allucinante... our apologies in advance for any possible (dazzling) misses ;-)
Lumignano: a comparison with the history of sport climbing
by Gabriele Moroni
Christmas holidays, a trip to Spain! I departed for Siurana with a group of friends mad about climbing... we landed with sky-high motivation but this hit rock bottom when we were greeted with severe weather throughout out trip... snow, rain, fog, cold... we tried to climb but conditions were simply too extreme!
I returned home with a big hole inside of me and I wanted to let off steam... I phoned Silvio (Reffo, editor's note) and told him I'd be coming his way this weekend! Destination Lumignano! I'd always heard of this crag, shrouded in history, with its difficult classic routes and painful pockets! We reached the crag and were greeted by a number of locals. I started to warm up extremely slowly and couldn't understand if I was on form or not, seeing that I hadn't touched rock since Spain. I'd planned to climb some easy routes that day to get used to the style of climbing but one line really inspired me... the famous Boomerang, an 8a+ bolted by legendary Martin Scheel in the mid '80's. Silvio recommended I try it flash... why not!
The sun was still high and it was hot but the air was dry. Silvio explained the moves and I set off. The start was aggressive and trusting the two finger pocket needed a bit of time... I stuck it and rested a second beneath the crux. Then I set off determined and somehow managed to climb past the crux despite some very risky snappy footwork! After a good rest on good pockets I climbed past the last moves and clipped the chain! Great flash, one of those that really leave their mark...
Excellent, I was really on form. Good. Now it was time to rest and wait for the sun to set before attempting what I was really interested in... the 'Reason' why I had come to Lumignano! The route of the crag: Mare Allucinante! Silvio and others had always talked to me about this route, about it's history, variety of moves and incredible holds... The sun lowered and the temperature sunk significantly... conditions were perfect!
I set off on a flash attempt but I ground to a halt immiately at the first section: two vertical microedges that just weren't for me... too small for my taste. I tried around and discovered a solution which suited me better, one which was definitely more chancy and hard to set up: a ninja dyno, right my style! From here onwards the route became more climbable with a strange two-finger boulder problem, but the individual moves weren't all to difficult. Linking them would be a different story!
I realised that I could send the route immediately so I rested for a quarter of an hour so as to avoid my fingers getting too cold. Then I set off on my second attempt and reached the ninja dyno immediately. The hard bit about this is moving your right leg out from beneath the roof while stepping onto a left foothold... you have to be reactive and at the same time extremely co-ordinated! I got ready, dynoed and held the sloper... uff, only just... now all I needed to do was remain concentrated and not make a mistake! I climbed smoothly and easily reached the chain with a big smile on my face. What a highly satisfying route! While lowing off my thoughts went to Pierin (Dal Prà, editor's note) who freed the route the year I was born (1987) at just 16 years of age, just like Silvio managed to do 20 or so years later, creating one of the first 8b+ in Italy which has had only a handful of ascents even to this date.
The next day I woke up with ruined skin and zero motivation, but to finish the weekend in style I managed to flash a classic 1980's 8a, Atomic Cafè. First ascended by Heinz Mariacher, this extremely short and bouldery line is a super route for those who like this sort of climbing!
I returned home and during the drive I thought about all the emotions I had felt during these last two days discovering such an old crag where the 'history of sport cimbing' is still palpable. I tried to imagine those days many years back when top climbers and not so top climbers helped develop such an innovative discipline which, one day, transformed into a sport, one like so many others and a little less genuine!