Roby project 8c/9a?
It all took place at Terlago in Valle del Sarca, a stone's throw from Arco, Italy. But the story Manolo tells about this project which no longer exists could perhaps have taken place at any old crag...
The first who dreamt about climbing this "impossible" piece of rock was Roberto Bassi. Then, after a long period of oblivion, a few months ago that dream was taken up by Guido dal Fovo and Manolo. But just when the end seemed near, the slate was wiped clean and it all began anew. Manolo and Guido removed that sikka (used to consolidate "4 crusts and a wrinkle") which had been heavily criticised and which prompted them to abandon it all. Their Roby Project no longer exists. It vanished into thin air, along with months of work, attempts, joys and frustrations. But only apparently so. Because dreams never disappear fully... they always leave a mark. The story Manolo tells is the story of a project which is no longer his, even if the bolts are still there. And it's the story of how, at times, we fail to dialogue properly and put things in their right proportions. Put simply, it's a story about climbing. But, if you want, it's something bigger still.
ROBY PROJECT 8c/9a? by Maurizio 'Manolo' Zanolla
I'd like to dedicate this route which doesn't exist to two friends: Roberto who sensed it was possible and Guido who almost sent it. We cannot erase the past but we can only attempt to not repeat it. This story really happened, it's the end of a project for which I take full responsibility, but I'd like to mention that Guido got one hold further than me.
Last spring I began to try Thin Ice and I noticed that some holds had been consolidated while one had been created completely with the use of sikka, but I reckoned this was normal. Also because throughout the entire Sarca valley the crags are full of consolidated holds, not only on hard routes, and Terlago certainly isn't sikka-free. Furthermore, during our attempts this practice continued, therefore confirming the tacit use of sikka. Free climbing (at least, that in the lower altitudes of the Sarca valley) had been definitively substituted (or blown away) by sport climbing and many routes had been re-equipped and tamed (some of which could be described as historic) with more bolts than the original.
No one had ever complained and the sikka had been tacitly accepted for twenty years. This however doesn't mean that debating its use and abuse necessarily leads to different levels of awareness. I wholly welcome conscious indignation of the use and abuse of the environment which, unfortunately, has become destined to profit-making activities only. Having said that, I believe it would be better not to criticise while travelling in that hot-air balloon of contradictory bubbles which we... alpinists and climbers, often use to glide over things.
After Thin Ice, Guido dal Fovo suggested we try one of Roberto Bassi's old projects, the line next door. Roberto had placed the first three bolts up high and then perhaps he decided the route was too difficult or perhaps he ran out of bolts... I simply don't know, but that idea petered out. The project was free for all, there were no objections... we could give it a go.
It was with Roberto, almost thirty years ago and before the roads of life separated us, that we bolted the first sport climbs in a valley which probably, for this reason too, is now completely different. That "creative" phase is something which still enraptures me at times, much more than simply investing energy into the numbers game. Perhaps it is because of this that, at the end of summer, I returned to Terlago to try "Roby project".
I didn't want to invest energies into an exaggeratedly difficult project by at times you don't "come across holds by chance" and the line immediately captured my attention. Our roads of life seemed to cross once again and the idea of giving it to a friend fed, together with the final gusts of the Ora breeze, a strong and different motivation. But my fingers, sliced by those treacherous razor-sharp holds, made me comprehend that the single moves were harder than expected and my pained forearms revealed that the endurance needed was truly intense. I needed diverse attempts to become accustomed to the pain of those millimetric holds and to unravel that sort of Mandala.
Perhaps it's because together we're 100 years old, but it wasn't easy to discover the moves and balance for the fluidity necessary to progress upwards. This difficulty increased when foot and handholds snapped, often forcing us to find new solutions. A couple of crusts and a wrinkle were truly precarious and we decided to consolidate them because there was no other way of getting past that completely smooth section - the consolidated holds weren't removed from their original position nor picked up by chance from the base of the crag, they were simply consolidated with a bit of sikka and I believe the largest wasn't bigger than half a centimeter. We removed the old pro and substituted them with new stainless steel bolts and finished the line right down to the bottom.
In short, I considered (and still consider) "consolidating" four existing crusts on a route of almost fifty moves, closer to 9a than 8c, an acceptable compromise. To get a better idea of it all, I think that all the sikka used to weld those crusts isn't enough it glue four, five bolts or to mould one of the smallest artificial holds on the market. In any case, regardless of one or four, the principle remains the same.
When I managed to link all the moves from the third bolt onwards, it seemed obvious to me to think about the fact that we were restricted by a couple of holds from the neighbouring route (Thin Ice) and it seemed just as obvious to us to move the first to bolts to straighten the line and render it completely independent. The route seemed harder but, in the end, we were only playing.
For safety's sake we consolidated the first three fragile holds, also to avoid falling to the ground, but the sikka turned out to be disastrous, it mixed badly, was hard to work and furthermore was that sort of oily and greasy which didn't go away and it was also ugly to look at. We decided to remove it all and redo the job, with new sikka, and clean things up where possible. That day I was rushed for time, I didn't manage to clean things completely and not even consolidate the last hold.
A little while later, thinking about climbing only we managed to climb past that final hold but suddenly sikka was no longer tolerated at Terlago, not even by those who had used it up until yesterday. From one day to the next Pat Garret put a star on his chest and, without discussing things or warning anyone, began to shoot at people's backs... I wanted to tell him that he was watching the wrong film, that it was all too ridiculous, that perhaps all that was needed was to walk out with hands up and talk things over. I don't think he was paid by "Chisum" but it seemed to me that the only way to stop him was to erase it all... months of attempts by above all an extraordinary line and dream which I wanted to dedicate to a friend.
I now realise that we don't come across certain holds by chance, not even along certain routes. Roby Project no longer exists... and I've done nothing to defend it.
I've written these lines also so that information isn't always "cut & paste" and to express, without shame, my clear tolerance for sikka which, if used where really necessary, perhaps with good taste, could "consolidate" a bridge between the past and the future. Above all though I've written this to say sorry to the only one who really was impeccable, all my respect goes to him: he was just a step away from his first big route and he certainly didn't want to artificially facilitate things nor amass numbers. Guido has climbed numerous difficult routes (the latest being Mojado 8b and Thin Ice 8b/c) and almost no one knows this. He too is getting close to the 50 mark and he really climbs out of passion's sake and for fun... he's proved this by forgoing it all in a disarming manner. I don't know if I'd been capable of this. This really is a great lesson. hats off, indeed!