Pizzo Badile, first solo of Memento Mori by Rossano Libera
On 17 and 18 July Italian alpinist and mountain guide Rossano Libera made the first solo ascent and second repeat of the Direttissima Memento Mori route up the NE Face of Pizzo Badile. A route and ascent which many define as the "most hair-raising" on the entire face.
"I waited for two or three days just to enjoy it, without telling anyone anything..." These were the first words Rossano Libera used to described his 17 and 18 July first solo ascent of the climb Memento Mori on Piz Badile in NE Italy. A legendary route, better still "crazy", established from 24 - 26 August 1980 up the NE Face of Pizzo Badile by Czech climbers Josef Rybicka, Jan Simon and Ladislav Skalda. The circa 850- 900m line is graded VI+ A3, but these numbers mean little were we to omit that this trio belonged to that generation of exceptional alpinists for whom these difficulties represented the absolute limit, the "end of the scale". Also because their Direttissima takes a direct line up immense overhangs and roofs to then breach the headwall, on truly fearsome rock. Through "choss", with a fair chance of being bombarded from above which only those extraordinary Czech alpinists could even envisage risking. The seriousness of the route is confirmed by the fact that prior to Libera's solo the only repeat of the aptly named Memento Mori dates back to winter 1982 by Frantisek Bauer and Jan Doubal. Yes, two climbers from the former Czechoslovakia once again! It goes without saying that all of this provides plenty of food for thought and some may argue that these ascents - and solo ascents even more so - are senseless and not to be recommended. At the end of the day though what remains is that alpinism is not only this, but also this. There's simply no point denying it. Just like there's no point underlining, once again, that ascents of this magnitude aren't for everyone. Better still, aren't recommended in the slightest. Although one mustn't render them mythical, instead one must accept and respect them for what they are: an extremely personal, individual choice. An inner drive which cannot be ignored... It is worth remembering though that Libera is no newcomer to feats of this sort, and defining him a great solo alpinist certainly doesn't miss the mark. Of his numerous solo ascents, it is worth remembering that he was the one who carried out the first winter solo ascent on the Cassin route. Unsurprisingly, once again up the NE Face of Badile.
The only thing that is certain is that for ascents of this sort something "different" is needed, something which goes beyond alpinism even. One needs an abnormal drive and motivation , combined with a total knowledge and acceptance of the risks involved. What is needed, in short, is a pure awareness, almost mystical to use an old mountaineering term to define Libera's alpinism. What is needed is a ceaseless, visionary drive, by definition inimitable. In other words an unrepeatable experience. Such as that on Memento Mori which Rossana Libera shared with us during an intense and electrifying phone call.
A VISIONARY ASCENT by Rossano Libera
Perhaps it isn't even the hardest thing I've ever done. Or rather, I can't really talk about the difficulties because it was an experience that went far beyond the numbers. Yes, I know this sounds strange and that maybe some might not understand, but for me this was above all a quest, a mystical search... Apart from the difficulties, and well beyond those completely rotten and poorly protected roofs and corners, what I experienced here was something different, I sensed something different... and that the right time had come. I felt this was an encounter I couldn't do without. And I knew that this could happen on this route only. In truth I'd been toying with this idea for more than twenty years, between Luca Maspes and myself this had almost become a joke. We knew that the route existed on the Badile, that "Memento Mori" had only been repeated once in winter when the risk of rock fall was reduced. And so, almost as if we were making fun of each other, we said all that was missing now was a solo ascent... Yes, it was a stock phrase, thrown in for a laugh. A joke which needed almost 25 years to mature. Then , all of a sudden, the time had come for me to give it a go. Righty from the outset I felt its call. All the while it was as if I wanted to ask the mountain, Pizzo Badile, the question "you and I, are we still in love?" So I put myself into the hands of fate. But I wouldn't recommend this route to anyone. As I set of I knew and felt that I was in the hands of the mountain. The rocks kept falling... yet for me there was no choice: I had to do it. I wanted to be there, nothing more, nothing less... this was the place to be. On the first day, on the final pitch just before the bivy, up there above the band of roofs, after having breached the first overhanging section of the route, I was hit by two rocks, the first on my helmet, the second on my wristwatch. I know that at this point someone might smile, but I interpreted those two rocks as proof that somehow the mountain was accepting me, that I had interpreted her correctly, that this was the right moment. I thought about the fact that never wear the watch when I climb and that if I hadn't worn it, the rock would almost certainly have broken my wrist... and that from there, from where I was, escaping with a broken wrist would have been very difficult indeed, if not impossible. It was another sign that that's where I should have been. While knowing full well that had I been hit, had something gone wrong, then someone would most certainly have said that I'd got what I'd deserved. The rocks continued to fall throughout the next day, and I continued to leave it up to destiny, focusing only on living as profoundly as possible that what I was experiencing. I felt that that was my "beyondness", my unspeakable frontier. My illumination... so much so that in truth I don't even know what to recount nor its true meaning. I only know that when I reached the top I never felt so accepted and connected to the mountain. I leaned over to look at the line I'd just lived through for two days... and cried with emotion."