Manolo sends Stramonio, Erba dei ladri in Val Noana
On 10 October 2010 Maurizio Manolo Zanolla freed Stramonio, a 30m route in Val Noana, Dolomites.
Next round, next route bolted and freed by Manolo. At a crag dear to the magician, in Val Noana - in the heart of the Primiero Dolomites - just a stone's throw from home and one of the most beautiful and secluded in the Dolomites. The style is his favourite: a 30m slab, one of those where you don't really notice at first but, hold after hold, it becomes steeper and steeper. And when you lower off you discover that you're 3m off vertical. The route requires plenty of endurance but also a fair bit of mastery, intuition and a touch of... faith. Manolo doesn't want to get the grade wrong and has put forward 8c, even if he believes it's more demanding than another similar 8c, Thin Ice at Terlago... The arduous task of casting a final sentence will be made with hindsight, by those who repeat the route, while we simply want to point out that Manolo believes the route is truly fantastic. And that he called it Stramonio, the name of a toxic and hallucinogenic weed also known as "thieve's weed". Perhaps there's a greater meaning to this?
STRAMONIO OR THIEVE'S WEED by Maurizio 'Manolo' Zanolla
Stramonio is the name of a great book but also a toxic flower, more commonly referred to as the Thieve's weed and which grows on rubbish... it seemed like a great name for this route. The rocky walls which tower above Val Noana are imposing, at times they lose themselves in vegetation while others tumble all the way down to the streams, but this one is very different. It seems like a basking balcony, a gigantic vase which pours a waterfall of beech and yex trees, hundreds of years old, onto the gully below. Ten years ago I had bolted some pitches but one remained an uncompleted project and over the years I continued to keep an eye on it, that crag up there was really something special.
Getting accustomed to the project proved to be quite an acrobatic experience because I no longer had any reference points on that inclined face. A quick glance and I realised immediately, unfortunately, that it was too difficult for me and so I placed the belay were things seemed acceptable. I've left the rest (definitely possible but for me unattainable) to the new generations.
At first those first thirty meters seemed excessive but after some hard cleaning some pockets and crimps reappeared which, despite often being wet, sufficed to justify the first shy attempts. De Gregori would have stated "the moves didn't feel that bad after all" but the sultry heat and the south facing exposure rendered climbing prohibitive. I was forced to wait for better conditions.
When the leaves began to lose their brilliant green and some began to fall, I returned to try the route, even if conditions weren't ideal. Zorten - whom I'd like to thank at this point - accompanied me and after a couple of attempts I managed to toprope it in one push, it seemed like it would be a quick affair... but things turned out differently. Once because of a foothold, another time because of a pocket, or because of the friction or simply because I wasn't up to it... but I kept falling there. I only managed to try the route once a week, there was no point trying more since I failed to recover sufficiently.
This was my fifth session and I didn't feel on great form, but it was a nice autumn day, the sun was a bit veiled behind the clouds... it was worth a shot. I climbed smoothly up the first section and today, finally, the rock was a bit drier than usual and when I set off from the crescent the crimps seemed just that little bit bigger. But on the sidepulls I felt heavy as lead, I really suffered the push move but nevertheless I managed to hang on, only just. But it all seemed over once again, I looked at the hold from where I had fallen numerous times before and I thought that once again I wouldn't be able to stick it. And certainly not on a second attempt.
Paradoxically, this situation made me relax, it was as if responsibility was lifted off my shoulders and I abandoned myself onto those small footholds, breathing slowly. And suddenly a bit of energy flowed back, joined by that light but treacherous feeling of tension. How strange, it should have been the opposite and while I tried to control and understand what was happening, my body moved, mechanically and, before stiffening once again, I finally seized that hold, I reached it and finished off those long seventy moves.
It really is a nice line, a vertical wall - or slightly overhanging - without any particularly nasty moves but which hides an insidious intensity which gradually, but relentlessly make itself felt on your forearms. At least, on mine... Perhaps the style of climbing is the one which suits me most and, searching for a comparison, Thin Ice springs to mind, but Stamonio is more intense, above all because it's at least ten meters longer.
The grade? As usual on routes of this angle this is a hard task. I reckon 8c, even if I'm tempted in giving it a slash plus, but my age advises me against this. The repeaters, quite rightly, will have the final word.
Thanks to: Grivel, Montura and La Sportiva
To reach the base of the crag first get to the sector Pindoli in Val Noana (5 minutes from the road) in the Dolimites, walk rightwards beneath the base and scramble up the obvious scree gully to reach the forest above the crag. From here continue up the narrow gully to the obvious path which leads to the crag. Stamonio is reached by ascending the fixed rope (walk-in: 15/20 minutes from the road). The crag is somewhat exposed and recommended for experts, as there are circa a dozen routes from 7b to 8c.