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La fessura del penultimo tiro, 6c+, Mares
Photo by Marco Farina
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Aiguille de la Brenva, Mares, first repeat after 8 years

11.08.2010 by Planetmountain

On 16 July the Mountain Guides Marco Farina, Matteo Giglio and Giovanna Mongilardi repeated Mares, 8 years after the first ascent up the East Face on Aiguille de la Brenva, Mont Blanc range.

"Mares" (340 m, ABO, 7c+ max, 6c obl., expo) was first ascended in summer 2002 by the erstwhile Italian army instructors Alex Busca, Massimo Farina and Erman Tussidor. Busca and Tussidor have taken leave, while Massimo Farina fell victim to an accident while ice climbing which profoundly shook the climbing community. For various reasons the route has never received much publicity and, as such, it was soon forgotten about... except by those who remembered the first ascent.

What little information there was to come by talked about a demanding, committing route established by climbers who expressed themselves as best possible so as to not make things easy for future repeaters. Marco Farina (Massimo's brother), Matteo Giglio and Giovanna Mongilardi realised this all too well when they repeated Mares eight years after the first ascent, confirming both the beauty and overall demanding nature of the climb.

“MARES” by Matteo Giglio

I'd been wanting to repeat this sunny (but mysterious) route up the East Face of Aiguille de la Brenva for years. Mysterious because, despite its vicinity to the Punta Heilbronner cable car, the area is hardly ever touched upon. In fact, until now, precise details about this face are few and far between. The most popular route, which only gets one or two repeats a year, is "Papa Giovanni Paolo II" (300 m, TD-, 6a max, 5c obl.), first ascended by Courmayeur mountain guide Arnaud Clavel, and this is currently the safest way to reach the base of the characteristic Père Eternel.

The rock face is ideal for spring climbing, seeing that it is located along a variant of the so-called Toula glacier towers; unfortunately though at the end of the winter season my rock climbing form is never ideal... to be successful on Mares your forearms and fingers need to be on top form! This is why the date with Mares slipped from one year to the next. This summer though the opportunity arose with Giovanna Mongilardi and Marco Farina, Massimo's brother. Marco had attempted the route two weeks previously but had been turned back by the 4th pitch... on paper the traverse looked relatively simple, but this is what gives the route the "expo" description. Here you don't just need to be capable of climbing that grade, you need a good dose of concentration so as to not think about the distance to the last bolt and the hypothetical, back-scratching pendulum! If half-way through the traverse you want to curse at the first ascentionist who couldn't find the right balance to place a box... then have a go ad Alex Busca who, highly concentrated and in total silence, climbed this first section while Massimo and Ermann had a laugh at the belay. Only when it was their turn to follow did they realise how precarious the climbing is here.

On 16 July, together with Giovanna and Marco, we managed to repeat Mares, confirming the beauty and overall demanding nature of the route which is due not only to the technical difficulties but also the obligatory protection, at times very severe indeed. The first vertical and compact section is followed by an easier angled middle section which enables you to recover slightly prior to the demanding and physical finish. For the technical details check out the route topo. I'd like to remind you the Mares is dedicated to the Mares Cesco Bolla, a talented short-track athlete belonging to the Alpine Training Center who died in an accident of the Breuil-Cervinia pistes.

I'd like to finish with a subjective thought. Repeating this route with Marco was particularly emotional as I felt, right from the outset, his desire to retrace his brother's footsteps. Although he was particularly close to Massimo, Marco never demonstrated this publicly but through many small gestures. Sport performance apart, this climb proved to be a beautifully personal and intense experience

Thanks to: Blue Ice, Camp - Cassin, Edelweiss, Montura, Salice, Scarpa

MARES MONT BLANC

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