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Cerro Torre
Photo by arch. E. Salvaterra
Gasherbrum 1 at sunset
Photo by Polish Winter Himalaya Climbing 2010-2015
Iker Pou freeing Nit de bruixes 9a+ at Margalef, Spain
Photo by Alberto Lessmann/Red Bull Content Pool
Baffin Island 2012: Hansjörg Auer climbing The Door, Belly Tower East Face, Perfection Valley
Photo by Ricky Felderer

Alpinism and climbing in 2012 - part 1

02.01.2013 by Vinicio Stefanello

Part one of what happend, in alpinism and in climbing, in 2012. A summary, for obvious reason incomplete, of the climbs, the most beautiful achievements and also the most painful moments in 2012. In the hope that this résumé serves as a reminder and as a source on inspiration for the coming future.

ITALIANO
- L'alpinismo e l'arrampicata nel 2012 - prima parte
- L'alpinismo e l'arrampicata nel 2012 - seconda parte

January 2012
To interpret what shaped an intense and somewhat difficult January 2012, it might be worth starting slightly earlier, with 25 and 26 December 2011. The place, unsurprisingly, was Patagonia. The mountain was the south face of famous Torre Egger. The route Venas Azules. Climbed by Bjørn-Eivind Årtun and Ole Lied, the authors of a perfect undertaking that materialized as if by magic, up a line long dreamt of by many. One might define this as a luminous vision of alpinism, of Patagonia and their absolute, combined beauty. But as is well known, beauty’s simplicity is often opposed by the most contorted and problematic facets of alpinism. And so it was that in that very Patagonia, on 17 January 2012, the Cerro Torre bomb exploded. Or rather, the Compressor Route controversy and those pressure bolts planted in 1970 by Cesare Maestri was re-triggered. The fuse had been lit by Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy, two young, highly talented American alpinists who after having climbed almost all the route free (they used 5 of Maestri's bolts) decided to remove most of the bolts on their way down. The news immediately made its way across all websites and social networks. And the debate ... exploded. Scorching, tough and also "universal" almost like never before. On the one hand there were those who praised the bolt removal as a "heroic" act which righted a "dark chapter of alpinism" and a " mountain scar". On the other hand there were those who did not accept that someone might unilaterally decide which are to be the purest ethics, imposing them not only with "force" but also claiming the right to delete a chapter in the (albeit partially unresolved and controversial) history of alpinism. In between the two lay that impossible dilemma of making ends meet of a passion which should unite and be based on an alpinism of "achieving" instead of one which is necessarily "against" something or someone. The fact of the matter is that, just a few days after Kruk and Kennedy's bolt removal and while the controversy was in full rage, Austrian ace David Lama placed a masterful jab in favour of alpinism that is played up there in the mountains. His first complete free ascent of the Compressor Route was a simple and definitive interpretation and, as it happened, also extremely clean. Was it for this perhaps that it did not receive the prominence and attention it deserved? Or was Lama still paying his dues for the lack of style he'd been challenged for during previous attempts? What springs to mind is that nobody is perfect. And that alpinism is a soul mover that only expresses itself fully up there in the mountains (Cassin docet!) So, without trivialising or demonising the discussions which of course have their part, it's best to look forward. In the mountains. With Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, for example, who during that same January 2012 were right in the midst of their winter attempt of Nanga Parbat. But also with Andrea Di Donato and Andrea Di Pascasio and their second winter ascent of Le nebbie del Paretone on Corno Grande (Gran Sasso). Or with the first repeat of Don't Die of Ignoranceon Ben Nevis carried out by Greg Boswell and James Dunn. And again with the first free ascent, by Ueli Steck and Jonathan Griffith, of the Voie Lesueur up the North Face of Petit Dru  (Mont Blanc). And the first winter ascent of Via Cembridge up Cima Margherita in the Brenta Dolomites by Luca Giupponi, Rolando Larcher and Fabio Leoni. While slightly further north, in Austria's Gastein, an exceptional trio comprised of the "pioneers" Thomas Bubendorfer, Sepp Inhöger and Hans Zlöbl established two beautiful and difficult icefalls: Triple Aand The usual suspects. Leaving alpinism and entering the "different" and far less "ideological" world of bouldering & Co, it's worth noting the record-breaking start to the year. It all began with Alex Honnold and his great and courageous climb up the super highball Too Big to Flail at Bishop (USA). Which was joined by: Memory is Parallax 8B+ by Dave Graham at Elkland  in the States once again (in truth climbed on 31/12/2011), and another two 8B+, Mirror Reality by Daniel Woods (Rocky Mountain National Park) and Michele Caminati's Ultimo dei Moicaniat Amiata, Italy. For their part, Dai Koyamada (at Toyota in Japan) and Paul Robinson (Gateway Canyon, Nevada) sent two top 8C problems, Shanbara and Meadowlark Lemon respectively. In the sports climbing scene, the place of honour during this new year beginning goes to Iker Pou with his Nit de Bruixes 9a+ at Margalef in Spain. The Iberian peninsula also provided news of Klemen Becan's two 8c on-sights: Fish Eye at Oliana and Kaliste at Archidona. And still from Spain, but this time from Siurana, came the news that Alizée Dufraisse kicked off her 2012 in style by repeating La Reina Mora 8c+/9a while, with ice axes and crampons, Ines Papert and Lisi Steurer made the first female ascent and third repeat of Illuminati, the super mixed route established by Albert Leichtfried in Val Lunga, Dolomites. On the extreme skiing front, the year started with Davide Capozzi and Stefano Bigio and the first descent of the SE ridge of Dent du Jetoula (Mont Blanc). Later on we will discover that this was not to be their only descent. And at the end the month, a reminder of those we'd prefer not to have: on 18 January Mario Merelli left us, a last descent from "his" Pizzo Redorta proved fatal. And this, with regards to Cerro Torre mentioned previously, annuls all debates and discussions about climbing and ethics. In fact, it reminds us what should be the only summit, mankind.

February 2012
At Eptingen in Switzerland, Robert Jasper freed the "total dry" Ironman. While, almost on the other side of the world, Tim Emmett and Klemen Premrl climbed Canada's Helmcken Falls via the super mixed, "ephemeral" Spray On... Top! Shortly afterwards Dave MacLeod freed Castle in the Sky, a difficult dry tooling testpiece at Druim Shionnach in Scotland (hallmarks... no bolts). While the debate continued about the Cerro Torre bolt removal, Sergey Dashkevich, Mikhail Davy, Evgeniy Dmitrienko and Arkadiy Seregin forged their Russian Route up the SE Face Aguja Poincenot. On the European "front", a team of ice climbers comprised of Ines Papert, Rudi Hauser, Lukas Seiwald, Kurt Astner, Emanuele Ciullo, Thomas Senf and Scott Milton made the first ascents of a great series of ice and mixed routes in the Norway's Romsdalen region. The other side of the pond witnessed George Ullrich, Sam Farnsworth, Siebe Vanhee and Mason Earle in Venezuela establishing Kids With Guns, an intense big wall up the remote Tepui Amuri. In the meantime, Davide Capozzi and Stefano Bigio (those two once again) seized the right moment to make the first ski and snowboard descent of Mont Rochefort. Not even a week later the two returned to the Mont Blanc range, this time with Julien Herry, Francesco Civra Dano and Luca Rolli, to make a rare descent of the SE Face of Aiguille du Moine... evidently they were insatiable. Just like Iker Pou (that man again) who at Margalef freed Enemigo Público Nº1 (8c+/9a) and, still not satisfied, added Harroputza 9a to Ilarduia. He was followed by American Jonathan Siegrist who freed Le Reve, a new 9a/a+ at Arrow Canyon. In mid February the Nanga Parbat adventure of Simone Moro and Denis Urubko ground to a halt: snow and incessant wind, added to the usual "polar" temperatures associated with Himalayan winters, had rendered this first winter ascent impossible. Just like, unfortunately, the first winter ascent of K2. The Russian team led by Viktor Kozlov was forced to abandon the expedition in the worst possible way: with the death of extremely strong Vitaliy Gorelik. Gorelik had initially suffered frostbite at 7000m, but his condition worsened drastically and his heart attack proved fatal while the helicopters which had been called to his rescue remained grounded due to the terrible weather. This reminds us, if ever there were still the need, how difficult alpinism is and in particular these Himalayan giants are in winter. And as if this didn’t suffice, more news loomed over February: Stein-Ivar Gravdal and Bjørn-Eivind Årtun lost their lives during an attempt to forge a new line up Kjerag in Norway. Yes, the same Bjørn-Eivind who had established the beautiful route up Torre Egger with which we started this chronology... any comment at this point would be superfluous. Instead, as many believe, to overcome moments like these perhaps the best thing really is to return to the mountains. We did so with the North Face of Loska Stena in Slovenia's Mangart massif. There, on 25 - 27 February, David Lama (yes, him again!) and Peter Ortner forged a great route: 1300m in perfect alpine style, without bolts and with difficulties up to 7- and M6. Beautiful! As beautiful as Lama's shift from the world-famous Cerro Torre to one of most important and difficult - but certainly not known to all - mountain faces in Slovenia.

March 2012
8000ers and first winter ascents once again. After two failures, Nanga Parbat and K2, came one success. On 9 March at 8:30 Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab from Poland reached the summit of Gasherbrum I (Karakorum, Pakistan). With this ascent, 11 eightthousanders have now been climbed in winter, 9 of which by Polish alpinists (including obviously Shisha Pangma by Morawski and Simone Moro in 2005). But there was little time for them to celebrate. On the same summit day Gerfried Göschl, Nisar Hussain and Cedric Hahlen - three alpinists engaged in another expedition on G1 - were reported missing. They would fail to return to Base Camp. Just like strong Ukranian alpinist Maria Khitrikova, the 21-year-old rising star of Russian mountaineering, who perished on Elbrus. While Lorenzo Castaldi failed to descend the North Face of Ortles. Known to all as Enzolino: his passion and insight in the Forum discussions leave a great void. But there is no point repeating oneself... just like in life itself, mountaineering continues to move forward. And so March witnessed some other great winter ascents. Beginning with Nicola Tondini, Alessandro Baù and Enrico Geremia and the important first winter ascent of Kein Rest Von Sehnsucht, the great outing up the NW Face of Punta Tissi, Civetta, Dolomites. And continuing with the highly active Andrea Di Donato who, with Bertrand Lemaire, made the second winter ascent of Il nagual e la farfalla up the Gran Sasso Paretone. Then there was the beautiful Via dei Bellunesi journey up the SW Pillar of Spiz di Lagunàz (Pale di San Lucano, Dolomites) carried out by Marco Anghileri. 1350m, dearly yearned for; the first solo ascent, first winter ascent, second repeat and an experience which won't be forgotten for a long time. Another beautiful, recommended undertaking was the first winter traverse of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo by Simon Gietl and Roger Schäli. Simon Gietl remained in the Dolomites and, along with Daniel Tavernini and Klaus Gruber, carried out two first winter ascents: ISO2000 (Tre Cime di Lavaredo) and Zauberlehrling (Cima Scotoni). A series of other first winter ascents up Presolana are worth underlining: via Direttissima by Maurizio Panseri, Daniele Natali and Alessandro Ceribelli, as well as Via Paco (Natali & Tito Arosio) and Via Bosio (Panseri & Zanetti). Enrico Bortolato, Giorgio Travaglia and Stefano Valsecchi concentrated their efforts on the first winter ascent of Ey de Net up the Tofana di Rozes, while Alessandro Baù and Enrico Geremia carried out the first repeat, and first winter ascent, of Andamento Lento in Val Scura (Dolomites), a class route first ascended back in 1997 by Gigi Dal Pozzo, Maurizio Fontana and Venturino De Bona. A lot of winter traffic, don't you think? This too is proof of intense activity that has no boundaries. So much so that in March the remote Venezuelan peaks lost in the Amazonian jungle returned to the forefront, with Leo Houlding, Jason Pickles, Stanley Leary, Alastair Lee, Yupi Rangel and Alejandro Lamus who established The Yopo Wall up Cerro Autana. While the "famous gang" comprised of Nicolas Favresse, Sean Villanueva, Stephane Hanssens and Jean-Louis Wertz forged two new routes up Amuri Tepui. Naturally sport climbing continued to be on the move. This resulted in yet another exemplary journey undertaken by Maurizio Zanolla, alias Manolo. Roby Present "is a 35m route up a series of almost furious crimps" an 8c+/9a with which Manolo celebrated his 54th birthday and remembered a friend. On the other side of the spectrum another absolute ace, Adam Ondra, inaugurated the year with the first ascent of the 9a To tu jeste nebylat Labak in his Czech Republic. No fortune-teller was needed to predict that this was to be just the first of many successes in 2012 for magic Adam. The same holds true for James Pearson who kicked off with his year with the 9a ascent of Escalatamasters at Perles in Spain. Talking of Spain, in the country which is increasingly becoming the stronghold of sport climbing, Caroline Ciavaldini repeated Mind Control 8c+ at Oliana. What remains of March is Angelika Rainer's victory of the Ice Climbing World Cup together with male dominator Maxim Tomilov. And it's worth remembering the Piolet d'or assigned to the ascent of K7 West carried out by Slovenia's Nejc Marcic and Luka Strazar and Saser Kangri II climbed by the Americans Mark Richey, Steve Swenson and Freddie Wilkinson. The Lifetime's Achievement award went to Frenchman Robert Paragot, while a Jury Special Mention went to that Torre Egger climb by Bjorn-Eivind Aartun and Ole Lied which we now know extremely well. Just as we know David Lama who, during the last few days of March, made the solo first ascent of Badlands up the unnamed face between Sagwand and Hohe Kirche in the Valsertal, Tirol, Austria. In truth, his main objective hadn’t been these 700m graded 6a M5 WI4 A1, but another face which turned out to be too dangerous. And so, while glancing around the valley, Lama noticed a... fallback. So what do you reckon about this form of alpinism?

April 2012
April began with Espiadimonis or, better still, with the end of an extraordinary journey undertaken by Silvia Vidal on Serrania Avalancha, in Chile's Patagonia. A 1500m high rock face, the start reached by boat, climbed completely alone. Add to this the fact that the summit, practically unknown, was reached after 34 days, and then find an adjective for this new adventure carried out by the Spanish alpinist. Extraordinary? Talking of things which go beyond usual limits: during a brief Italian tour Adam Ondra stopped off at Bus de Vela and on-sighted Bella Regis 8c+ as well as another two 8c's; it's almost as if this, for him, had become normal. But let's move forward, to Margalef in Spain once again, where Sasha DiGiulian sent her 9a Era Bella. After Pure Imagination the highly talented US climber needed a mere 3 days to come to grips with her second 9a. As if to say: the "girl" had made the grade. While on the subject of grades and Spain: ace Austrian champion Johanna Ernst sent her first 8c+, Open your Mind at Santa Linya, proving that this year she was finally back! Domen Skofic proved that he too was a force to be reckoned with thanks to his 9a repeat of Halupca 1979 at Ospo in Slovenia. Another constant was Markus Bock and his difficult new routes in the Frankenjura which included, amongst others, the 8c+/9a House Of Shock. Bouldering was enriched with another 8C, Insomnio, freed by Spain's Nacho Sánchez at Cova de la Gota at Crevillente. Same grade, but in Switzerland's Chironico, for Martin Keller who freed his mighty Der mit dem Fels tanzt. Big rock faces saw plenty of action and while Matteo della Bordella and David Bacci made the first ascent of Sintomi strani in Corsica's Bavella, Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson made the first repeat of Aria, the difficult and beautiful line established by Pietro Dal Prà up Sardinia's Punta Plumare. From Chile's wildest and least known corners, namely the West Ridge of Monte Giordano, came news of Shark's Fin Ridge, a new route put up by Robert Jasper, Jörn Heller and Ralf Gantzhorn. During the months of April and May Marek Raganowicz and Marcin Tomaszewski from Poland made the first ascent of Superbalance up the massive Polar Sun Spire on Baffin Island. During this same time period a Slovenian expedition led by Anze Cokl explored Alaska's Revelation Mountains and came away with 11 virgin summits and 12 new routes. And at the end of April Cody Roth made the first ascent of one of North America's hardest trad routes, Mainliner at Las Conchas in New Mexico's Jemez Mountains. As if to say that there are certainly more mountains and rock faces, and also more ways of interpreting them, then one can possibly imagine.

May 2012
Climbers' love for climbing is greater than one might think. But if you'd been to the 9th Melloblocco, you'd certainly have understood: in Val di Mello climbing always comes first and foremost. A climbing which, finally, played a leading roll at the Trento Film Festival with the Italian Mountaineering Club Genziana d'Oro Grand Prize awarded to Verticalmente Demodé, the film by Davide Carrari with Maurizio "Manolo" Zanolla in the starring role. Once again it was a lifetime's passion which shone brightly for Mario Panzeri from the summit of Dhaulagiri. On 17 May the mountaineer from Lecco concluded his ascent of all 14 x 8000ers and in doing so he became the 4th Italian to do so without the use of supplementary oxygen. On that same day Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and David Göttler reached the summit of Nuptse (7861m) via the long and difficult Scott route, while ace Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck celebrated his first time on the summit of Everest. All extremely beautiful ascents! During that same period though the Himalaya also showed itself from its worst side. In a single day three died on Everest, while two alpinists were reported missing, and this doesn't take into account all those plucked off the mountains by helicopter rescueswhich are increasingly operating at these altitudes, too. Shortly afterwards the photo of an incredible queue of mountaineers working its way up the highest mountain in the world made global headlines. Simone Moro, who broke off his attempt to enchain Everest and Lhotse because of this incredible (and dangerous) crowd, talked about a mountain that had been transformed into an amusement park. As usual, there seemed no end to this race to nowhere. Perhaps it's worth moving on to another chapter therefore. Perhaps with another race, but one which is decidedly more interesting. We're talking about Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell who became the first to climb El Capitan, Half Dome and Mount Watkins in Yosemite in less than 24 hours. Perhaps it's difficult to put a name to a performance of this sort, but it certainly is proof of truly special capacities. As unusual as David Lama's chosen path, this time via a fast solo repeat of the difficult route Les Barbares up Pointe Raphel Borgis du Pré de Bar (Mont Blanc). In sports climbing, another great and unusual ascent came at the hands of Gabriele Moroni who freed Coup de Bambou, at 9a perhaps the hardest route in China. In doing so the Italian beat "by a hair's breadth" many of the world's best climbers who had gathered in the Gétû Valley for the Petzl RocTrip. Daniel Woods for his part did something fairly unusual, too: he stopped bouldering, tied in to a rope and freed Mission Impossible 9a at Clear Creek Canyon in Colorado. Continuing in this "game changing" vein, Dave MacLeod travelled away from the Scottish gullies to boulder in Switzerland where he came up trumps with the 8C problem Mystic Stylez at Magic Wood. And this just goes to show, once again, that we're in the era of global climbing where utmost difficulties have almost become the norm. Even if freeing two 9a's on the same day, as did Pirmin Bertle at Charmey, still remains an achievement that stands above the rest. Just as - on a slightly different note - extreme skiing remains somewhat apart. See for example the first snowboard descent of the NE Face of Grivola by the "usual" Davide Capozzi. Or the first descent of the Pizzo di Coca North gully by Fabio Bonomi and Mario Vannuccini. Talking of things that are certainly extreme, there was of course the B.A.S.E. jump off Shivling by Valery Rozov. The altitude? 6420m, i.e. one of the highest jumps ever made. What remains to add is that May and spring (by now ripe) reaped the usual "harvest." Such as two fantastic new routes in Corsica's Bavella. The first upPunta U was established by Rolando Larcher and Maurizio Oviglia, the second up the Punta A Muvra bastion by Luca Giupponi and Nicola Sartori. Massimo Da Pozzo left his signature (and guarantee) on the Tofana di Rozes pillar by making the first ascent of Spigolo Sam together with Natasha Alexander and Samuele Majoni. While Le Vrai Plaisir – (Pampers) was yet another new route created by Gianni Canale, Aldo Mazzotti and Franco Cavallaro up a face which needs no introducing: Piccolo Dain in Valle del Sarca. May departed taking with it all of this and, unfortunately, much more. Antonio Boscacci left us once and for all, this great climber and one of the most visionary and "mad" inventors of rock climbing in Val di Mello and further afield, too. Unrepeatable!

June 2012
June began with a race. And it could not be otherwise, seeing that the man in charge was Alex Honnold, racing up the Yosemite Triple, this time solo. Not content with the record set in May with Tommy Caldwell up El Capitan, Half Dome and Mount Watkins, Honnold did it again, this time alone and in 18 climbing hours. Crazy? No, probably for him it must have simply been extremely good fun seeing that not even a fortnight later he beat, together with the other speed specialist Hans Florine, the speed record of the legendary The Nose on El Capitan. Their time: 2 hours, 23 minutes, 46 seconds, i.e. 13 minutes less that the previous record set by Dean Potter and Sean Leary. Jes Meiris and Quinn Brett needed a bit longer when, just a few days earlier, they set the new women's recordby climbing the Nose in 10:19. A time which, take note, many teams would be envious of. Talking of teams and envy: it's worth remembering the trip to Borneo's Mount Kinabalu by Yuji Hirayama, Daniel Woods, James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini. The result: for Hirayama the first free ascent of his multi-pitch Pogulian Do Koduduo (9a). Woods freed the 9a+ Tinipi. While Pearson established the 8c+ Excalibur. It's worth remembering that, for those who want to attempt them, these routes are located at an altitude of 4000m... While on the theme of numbers and things which are extraordinary, from Ceuse came the news of the first ascent of Jungle Boogie 9a+ at the hands of the usual Adam Ondra. Action continued in Italy, too, and the "terrible" crag Covolo was shaken with Silvio Reffo's first ascent of L'attimo 9a. This same moment was quickly seized by a timeless champion, Dino Lagni. While taking of champions: despite scorching temperatures, at Santa Linya in Spain Ramon Julian Puigblanque repeated Catxasa 9a+. The theme of inborn class standing the test of time came to the forefront thanks to 55-year-old Jean-Pierre Bouvier who at Fontainebleau in France freed Fou Rire en aller-retour, a boulder traverse graded 9a! But there was more to come. From the Dolomites came Agoge, the new route put up by Simon and Manuel Gietl on the historically important Cima Scotoni. While, over in Alaska, Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman carried out one of the extremely rare repeats of a legendary route: the Slovak Direct up Denali. Antoine Bletton, Pierre Labbre, Mathieu Maynadier and Sebastien Ratel for their part forged Théorême de la Peine, a great new route up Latok II (7020m) in Pakistan's Karakorum. We'd have loved to continue straight into summer. But June held one more news item in store: 41-year-old ski mountaineering champion Stephane Brosse fell to his death when a cornice collapsed in Aiguille d'Argentiere (Mont Blanc) And, once again, we were lost for words.

…. to be continued shortly, with part II.

ITALIANO
- L'alpinismo e l'arrampicata nel 2012 - prima parte
- L'alpinismo e l'arrampicata nel 2012 - seconda parte

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