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Photo by Damiano Levati

Photo by Damiano Levati

Photo by Damiano Levati

Photo by Damiano Levati
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Hervé Barmasse, the new Matterhorn route and the exploration of the Alps

22.04.2011 by Planetmountain

On 9 April, after 4 days on the wall and three bivvies, Hervé Barmasse reached the summit of Picco Muzio via a new 700m route up the great pillar located on the South Face. This is the first stage in a trilogy to explore the Alps during which Barmasse plans to climb Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa.

"An idea, a concept, an idea which remains an idea is nothing but abstract. Were I able to eat ideas, I'd have started my revolution..." is what the great Giorgio Gaber sang a while back. "Eat ideas", render them real... is exactly what Italian alpinist Hervé Barmasse managed to do with his new route established solo up Picco Muzio, the beautiful pyramid which on close examination stands out overbearingly in that fantastic rock jungle on the South Face of the Matterhorn.

Barmasse started with a project, an idea which began on his backyard mountain, the Matterhorn. And which will continue via new routes up Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa. Three great mountains, three symbols of the Alps, the mountain range where alpinism came to life and where, according to Barmasse (and we agree with him), the game of exploration can and must continue. Inventing new visions and journeys, accepting the risk and not taking for granted that everything has already been climbed. This can be done by investing in ideas... or, as the alpinists say, living dreams.

This Matterhorn stage for Hervé Barmasse is nothing but the start of a greater journey. A beginning which, as he himself explained, was carried out alone via a new route because he felt this sort of experience was missing from his repertoir. Previously he had soloed other routes such as the Casarotto Grassi, Deffeyes, Direttissima and Spigolo dei Fiori, but now the time had come to explore his own, on his own.

The South Face of Picco Muzio had obvioulsy already been explored in the past.By the Ragni di Lecco Annibale Zucchi and Giuseppe Lafranconi for example, with their beautiful and bold 900m line graded VI A1. And then vie'Padre Pio prega per tutti', established by Patrick Gabarrou and Cesare Ravaschietto which however stops on the shoulder, circa 200m beneath the Muzio summit. But no one, prior to Barmasse, had climbed directly up the 700m high overhanging pillar. It was a project with a big question mark - apart from the absolute steepness and the obvious final overhang – namely, the hallmark Matterhorn poor rock quality. The quality of the rock could not be trusted therefore. And to this one had to add the approach: those 400m up a steep snow gully exposed to the massive rock falls and which lead to the base of the pillar.

It all began on 8 March with a first attempt which lasted just two days and which had been preceded by solo trips to haul the gear to the base. This first attempt failed due to poor weather and rockfall. But the idea was now set in Barmasse's mind, he continued to mull it over and so on 6 April the Mountain Guide from Cervinia set off once again. Four days and three bivvies later he reached the summit of Picco Muzio, where he was joined by whom he describes as "my maestro", his father. The two then bivvied once more and descended together.

Marco Barmasse simply hadn't succeeded in sitting around and waiting at home. He simply couldn't stand the thought of everything falling, of what could have pounded onto his son's head... And he wasn't wrong, seeing that this was one of the routes which tested Hervè most, in particular from a psychological point of view. "When I reached the top of Picco Muzio the stress and fear of failing or dying beneath all that rockfall gave way to joy and a feeling of inner peace" Barmasse wrote on his blog. "I was aware I'd achieved something unique, something difficult and unrepeatable, but the biggest joy of all was no longer having to climb up chossy rock..."

The rock is so chossy and untrustworthy that, as he stated on numerous occasions, Barmasse doesn't recommend his new route to anyone. The rock is too friable, the undertaking simply too dangerous... And this is also why he didn't want to give the route a grade. It's worth underlining that - seen from the comfortable viewpoint of the helicopter cockpit - the 700m high pillar is truly impressive, and not only because of its poor rock...

The time has now come to think about the future. About the other ideas in the project. The project entitled Exploring The Alps. The next stage will be on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. The plan is to establish a new route together with the Spanish brothers Iker and Eneko Pou. After which Barmasse junior will head to Monte Rosa, this time with his father, to forge another new line. Hervé has planned an entire year to complete his tour. A great journey to live out an idea and dream.

"Hervè Barmasse is a member of the Global team of The North Face athletes. The project EXPLORING THE ALPS is sponsored and promoted by The North Face together with the region Valle D'Aosta."

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