Mai più colla 8c by Mauro Dell'Antonia at Rocca Pendice
On 1 June, Mauro Dell'Antonia, the talented climber from Venice, Italy, climbed 'Mai più colla' at Punta della Croce, Rocca Pendice (Euganean Hills, Padua, Italy) for the first time without the hold that snapped off a few years ago. The proposed grade is 8c. This brief and intense series of crimps was first ascended in 1989 by Leonardo Di Marino who, with this route, added a true gem to the Italian, and not only Italian, sport climbing palette.
Sometimes what goes around comes around... and there's always a reason. As in the case of the routes at Punta della Croce, the "hidden" and difficult sheet of rock at Rocca Pendice, the historic crag set deep in the Euganean Hills above the Venetian plain. Yes, because the recent first ascent of talented and tireless Mauro Dell'Antonia of Mai più colla – which translates into “ No more glue” - without the use of a sikkad hold that snapped off a few years ago marks a return to this sort of climbing that goes well beyond the actual physical performance and that, in some ways, does justice to this little gem and its history. Thanks to Dell'Antonia's recent ascent a tiny sliver of rock has suddenly been pushed back into the limelight, a crag that with its routes represented, and still represents, a true laboratory of moves and a style of climbing where nothing can be taken for granted, where the body, feet, mind and everything else need to be at one with fingers of steel and perfect technique.
It should be noted that the chef, i.e. the man who discovered this black and slightly overhanging jewel immersed in a forest of chestnut trees, was Leonardo Di Marino. It was some time in the mid-80's when Di Marino - now perhaps best known as an international route setter and route setter for the Arco Rock Master made the first ascents of Cocricò 7c+ and Tac lì 7b. Then, in 1988, he added the 8b Fixiren followed a year later by Mai più colla 8b+. Those who remember those years know that these grades represented a form of climbing that was something out of ordinary. In short, despite remaining unknown to most, these routes were on a par to many other, far more famous routes. The fact that this sector has grown significantly in popularity in recent years is perhaps proper recognition not only of the beauty of the routes, but also of the beauty of this magical crag.
But back to the news. Mai più colla is an intense line with a particular history... At the time it came to life with a glued hold (hence the name of the route) and in its first 20 years it was climbed by only Mauro Dell'Antonia (him again!), Andrea Ragazzi and Flavio Bortoli. Then, a few years ago, the hold snapped off and the route seemed impossible. Especially since the famous hold was put in a rucksack and taken home, only to be stolen that night by someone who certainly expected to find a bigger treasure! Destiny... Now though Dell'Antonia, as he recounts, has solved the riddle and has suggested the grade 8c. For those who want to try this, or any of the other fabulous routes, the address is: Punta della Croce, Rocca Pendice, the Euganean Hills. You won't regret it!
MAI PIU' COLLA by Mauro Dell'Antonia
How weird, I can't sleep. I toss and turn in bed, eyes wide open, how bizarre, usually I'm really good at sleeping.
Okay let's get up.
I have breakfast and think about what I should do next. It's Sunday, so no shopping, the market at Rialto is closed. I'm overcome by anxiety mixed with fear, just like when I competed years ago.
I wait for Stefano's call, his confirmation that Rocca is on the agenda today, back to those 20 square metres once again, though deep down I know full-well that the friction needed for my project has all but disappeared. Oh well, anything is better than sitting around at home in Venice, dodging the hoards of tourists as they invade the city...
A quick glance at facebook and the news isn't good, there are some suspicious looking guys at the parking lot next to the cemetery at Rocca.
I reactive my circulation with some simple exercises, push ups, rope, pull ups, stretching and a progressive work-out on the training board is the only way to warm up properly and ready my central nervous system for this pitch.
I'm ready and set off from home. At 15:00 I reach Punta Della Croce, there are some other climbers but I continue with my specific warm-up routine: traverses, pull-ups and hanging off tiny crimps. I ask the climbers if they can kindly give me a belay and do a couple of laps to raise by PCM. I'm ready row. In the meantime Stefano has come, only he knows how to belay me properly on this route, only he knows exactly where to stand so that I don't catch the rope between my legs, but I know that today isn't the day, the friction isn't right. I start and grab the carabiner to avoid decking while clipping the third quickdraw, I'm afraid of clipping this, the hand grease off the vertical cripm without warning and I really don't want to break my ankle. Cristiano arrives with his new girlfriend, not bad at all! I give the route a second go and this too is a failure, my left foot slips off the crux foothold. I lower off and Stefano starts pressuring me to hurry up, he's gotta get home (I know he'll change his mind and hang out in the bar for another half hour). I relax, play around on my smart phone, check my stopwatch, the time has come. How strange, there's no noise, even the air is still, no sound of animals, the (Greek) Scirocco wind has stopped blowing. It suddenly seems fresher, as if the breeze was coming from the north. Tramontana? Mistral? Who knows.
I set off once again and suddenly I'm past the crux section and the third quickdraw, what lies in store now are three complicated dynoes, one after the other, with only a short rest on 5mm crimps. I clip the fourth biner and manage to not get stressed out, my mental training done years ago still works wonders, I look at the next holds, isolate myself from Cristiano's and Stefano's shouts of encouragement, they're no longer there, I can't see or hear them any more, all I do is look upwards, to the long, third dyno, I can't make a mistake now (luckily there's a tiny rest before this) and I dyno. As I stick the hold I feel the previous metres weight down heavily on my left shoulder (in a fraction of a second I hope I don't damage it), clip the fifth quickdraw and continue up to the chain, it's in the bag! I can hardly believe it, especially after the numerous failed attempts because of the not ideal friction. As if by magic, at sunset on the first day of June I find the perfect grip. Well, as I'd guessed previously Stefano wants to go to the bar, it's time to celebrate! We go back to the parking lot and discover that thieves had broken in to Cristiano's car...
Mai più colla is a very short and intense route up a slightly overhanging face (about 10 metres), bolted and freed from my friend Leonardo (Di Marino ed), a master of this style of climbing. Originally the route was graded 8b/8b +, but as a result of the glued hold (hence the name) breaking off the route has become even more technical and intense. I repeated the original line on a cool and windy Sunday in July 2003. Now after my ascent I reckon the grade is somewhere in the region of 8c. Given its height (the difficult sequence is about 8 metres high) it's more akin to a highball problem, not a boulder problem but not even a classic endurance test, hence my difficulty in giving it a grade. Considering the particular nature of this route, I was forced to start using 2 vertical holds at eye level. Two holds that aren't weighted as normal, but whose rough micro surface pieces the skin to provide that essential feeling of friction. The next project is now to traverse across from Tac lì into Fixiren which I reckon could be an 8B boulder in its own right.
The sector is located near the East Face of Rocca Pendice, nestled between Rocca Pendice and the crag Castelnuovo, surrounded by a thick forest of chestnut trees. The rock is volcanic trachyte, used extensively to pave Venice and other surrounding cities. The climbing style is reminiscent of that found on granite, you need to work at getting established properly for the moves, precise footwork proving key as you climb up rounded cracks and crimps.
Finding the right conditions is one of the main problems at Rocca Pendice, humidity must be less than 50%, which is not easy given the proximity to the forest. In my experience the best time of year ranges from mid-March to mid-April, when the leaves on the chestnut trees have not yet grown. Punta della Croce is the only crag in the area that offers routes from 5a – 8c.
What follows is my recommended list of routes at Punta della Croce:
Tac lì 7b (bolted by Leonardo and freed by Mauro Dell'Antonia 1985)
Tac lì with exit up Mai più colla 7b+
Mai più colla 8c (first ascended by Leonardo Di Marino 1989)
Cocricò with exit up Mai più colla 8a+
Cocricò 7c+ (first ascended by Leonardo Di Marino 1985)
Pecorino 7a+ (first ascended by Leonardo Di Marino)
Fixiren 8b (first ascended by Leonardo Di Marino 1988)
Frankies 7a (first ascended by Leonardo Di Marino 1988)