New rock climb in Valle dell' Orco
Maurizio Oviglia introduces Rataplan (175m, 7a+ max (6b obligatory) /RS2/I), a new multi-pitch climb first ascended together with Damiano Ceresa on 1 August and freed a few days later with with Cecilia Marchi up the Parete della Grande Ala, Chiapili di Sotto, Valle dell'Orco in Italy.
Once again I walked up on my own to the clearing beneath Grande Ala, the Great wing, to scrutinise that dark red face, and once again it seemed like an indecipherable array of roofs and cracks. Behind me a nigh imperceptible sound made me think of the usual two chamois who live here, whom I always stumble across, but when I turned around I saw it was the park ranger: he too was looking at the roofs through his binoculars. We've been friends for 30 years, he and I had done the first easy climbs together when the embers of the Nuovo Mattino climbing movement had just died out and no one ever climbed up here any more. But the man dressed in green no longer remembered those moments, too much time had passed. And ever since he'd been caught up in an avalanche two years ago, right here, he says he'd lost his memory. He keeps repeating "I don't remember" and pretends to no longer remember the days when he was a great champion, famous. Perhaps, many years ago he mutters. Now look what's become of me...
I'm fond of this great man, so tall that I can't even lay my hands on his shoulders. Perhaps he's another reason why, every now and then, I end up here in the Valley. How about coming with me tomorrow and trying to climb again? We descend, leaving the puzzle above us, sooner or later though we'll manage to solve it. Maybe be climbing right there, where even Motto abandon his attempts, the great Manlio Motto who's become a sort of celebrity even here. As often happens when you hang up your boots, all of a sudden everyone loves you. Even Manlio gave up trying, perhaps because of the rock quality, perhaps due to his love for direct lines, as straight as a rocket, which this face simply doesn't allow for... He'd tried twice in 1992 and abandoned the attempts after the first, maybe second pitch... as it happens these looked very promising indeed.
I don't know how often I've come up here to look at this face. Long ago, I was just 20 or so, I climbed the most classic line with my classmate Livio and at the time I certainly wasn't interested in establishing something new. Now it was me who didn't remember anything. It's a strange wall, the rock isn't always great, sometimes dark with little friction and in fact it doesn't seem as if you're in the Orco Valley at all.
In January 2010 I was about to leave for Patagonia and since I couldn't train properly due to a knee injury I ascended to Ceresole to make at least one trip on skis. With Valerio and his wife Giusy we went to Nel and from there we saw the face again, right in front of us. Once again I thought about finding my way up through those roofs. And then this year, while staying at the Muzio Refuge, I spent more time peering through my binoculars. And I noticed some old tat beneath the roof, an old aid route without a doubt that I didn't know the existence of. No one else knew anything either. I asked around a bit and all I heard was "Manlio Motto gave it a shot up there... " Yeah well, I already knew that.
So during this sultry August the time finally came for some action; the first pitch climbed a series of holds which seemed the work of an artist, beautiful. But the rock then transformed a bit, it began to crumble under my weight and I realised why Manlio had given up. I invested two good hours, brush in hand, and eventually it become climbable. Not bad I reckoned, at the end of the day that section is only 3, 4 metres high... but you know how repeaters are nowadays, they're picky and really get at you on the internet! Who knows whether it's worth the effort I think to myself, having said that a little stubbornness goes a long way in getting things done! The rock looked better above, but hard. The edges weren't clean-cut, cliff-hooks had nothing to grasp on to. Damiano would come the next day and we'd try to continue.
After a day of efforts the route took shape. And I reached the corners of the mysterious artificial route, I'd aimed for them as I wanted to try freeing them. Time had worn away at the tat and wooden wedges and I was certain that these had been up here since the early seventies. On the last pitch I battled hard against a big clump of grass that stopped me from protecting myself and from moving on up. As sometimes happens I had to dig my nails deep into the earth, the grass stinging my face, my heart thumping aloud ...
Now we had a name for the route, Damiano had found it and we were ready to publish it. And yesterday, with Cecilia, I managed to free the line. Perhaps repeaters will like it a lot, maybe not at all. But for me it was a matter of principle, to find my way past those roofs where only Isidoro Meneghin had succeeded thanks to his pegs and aiders. That was back then, in another era, yet it was he who taught me the secrets of climbing A3! He taught this art, but never too much, he always kept something for himself ... Isidore didn't worry about those who'd repeat his routes, his understanding was immense! Maybe these were simply other days!
by Maurizio Oviglia
TOPO: Rataplan, Parete della Grande Ala, Valle dell'Orco