Mauro Bubu Bole climbs Mission impossible at Valsavaranche
Mauro Bole discusses his special relationship with 'Mission impossible', the latest dry tooling climb established by the Italian climber at Valtournanche, Cogne, Italy.
Life is beautiful - la vita è bella!
by Mauro ‘Bubu’ Bole, photos by Andrea Gallo
In December '99, when I went to Stevie Haston’s cave in Valsavaranche to repeat his routes I saw that obvious roof on the opposite side of the valley and I asked myself why Stevie hadn’t climbed anything there. It’s impossible not to notice it, it’s really eye-catching and truly spectacular.
Then, when I had finished the tour in the cave I went to have a closer look and I realised why there weren’t any routes: the roof, roughly 15m long, is extremely smooth. I was too curious though, so after the first 20m up a slender icicle I tried to equip the thin crack that ran through the roof… but I didn’t have pegs that were thin enough. And thankfully I didn’t have a drill, for I would surely have ruined what I now consider to be my personal masterpiece. On that occasion, after having ruined my fingers for no reason, I said to myself “but even if I manage to equip the route, when will I ever be able to climb it? Well, it’ll be for the next millennium!” And so I abandoned the idea…
But that damned crack didn't leave me in peace, you know, like the yellow face on the Ovest of Lavaredo : when you feel it, you've just got to go out and do it! So this autumn when talking to Grivel, Gioachino asked me what I had planned for this winter, I answered immediately: "Well, definitely not a season like last year, otherwise I'll reduce my life expectancy. But there are two things that are really important to me: the first is that half-finished roof project, the second is an old dry tooling project of 'No siesta' on the Grandes Jorasses. And then, why not the Ice World Cup."
After the competition in Val Daone (the only occasion when I really showed some balls) I went to finish equipping that famous roof with Massimo Farina (he has the patience of a saint). That day I ruined my back hammering in pegs upside down, and I almost dropped half of them. Then, during the next weekend, another three days of nervousness at the mixed competition at Saas Fee… naturally I fell low down.
I was so full of energy that I felt like an unexploded bomb, and so on Monday I went to speak to that crack on my own. I returned on Wednesday again with the angelic Massimo to try the route. After a first attempt I manage to climb all the moves, but my morale drops to rock-bottom at the thought of how much energy I’ll need to link all those precarious moves. I pull down the rope and say to Massimo “Have a go, tell me if it seems feasible.”
Half-way through the roof he says to me “Lower me off, there’s no point, I don’t even have any spurs”. At the base he whispers “all that work for nothing…” No Massimo, all is not lost, the important thing is to believe! I decide to have another go, change the blades to those I had carefully prepared for the competitions, seeing that they hadn’t been that much use to me there. And right from the start I notice that something has lit up inside of me, that sense of perfect lucidity and absolute calm, as if time stands still.
I climb through the first section, very physical with long lock-offs and little for the feet to about half-height where I rotate 180° and, with the spurs jammed in the slender sloping crack, traverse along this for about 3 meters. I’m hanging upside down like a bat. “I’ve pushed the boat out, so I’d better start rowing” I say to myself while Massimo shouts “Come on, you can do it!” I don’t know how long I stayed in that position, perhaps too long, but my ice axes continued to slip out, leaving me hanging just from my spurs. Finally I climb past that section and return to an upright position, or almost. At least the blood can circulate in my feet once again. Two more long locks and I reach the last move on the rock, where I jam my ice axe in upside down. The move to reach the icicle is really long and I can’t stretch out horizontally. I’m too tired, I’m losing my grip and I can’t turn back…
I begin to puff like a train while Massimo shouts at the top of his voice “Come on you bastard, don’t let go”. From the road Assan (Roberto Fioravanti) shouts up to not let go (he didn’t really know what was happening, but judging by the whining it had to be something important). Making use of the last second of lucidity I manage to jam my right calf muscle onto the upside down ice axe handle. Hellish pain! The handle’s metal hook cuts through my trousers and penetrates my calf muscle… but I continue to tell myself “it doesn’t hurt.”
Finally I manage to hook the icicle with my left axe and I let myself fall towards her in a head-on collision. Thankfully it resists the impact. I pull myself together immediately. But now there's another small problem… one axe has remained jammed in the roof. I think about what to do, then decide for the only feasible solution: holding the icicle tightly with my right arm (as if she were a woman) I hollow out an upside-down hole with my remaining axe to then reach over to grab the other axe. Done it! All I have to do now is traverse for 5m inside the fragile ice curtain to climb around it and exit straight into the woods.
During those final stressful minutes I had just one thought: "Let's hope that last peg in the roof is good, because if the ice curtain breaks, I'm going to remember the whipper for the rest of my life." But things went well! As soon as I arrived at the belay tree I shouted so loud they would have heard me all the way down in Aosta. Then, back at the base of the route, the adrenaline hits me and I begin to shake like a leaf. "Where did all that come from?" Massimo asks and I answer "I don't know! See how little we know about ourselves. Man is an unpredictable animal!"
Its grade? I don't know and it's not important, there isn't an "M" that translates the energy I spent in that moment, however long or short it may have been. It's not my style to sing my praises but in these last two years I've repeated various hard routes and, always with a bit of luck, I've managed to some of these climb on-sight. And it's certain that I've never climbed a dry tooling route as demanding and complete as 'Mission Impossible'.
There are certainly increasingly strong climbers around and new ones are appearing on the scene all the time. I hope that some of these repeat ‘Mission Impossible’. Every mountaineer who uses his heart in his ascents should be able to accept the course of life and, who knows, perhaps it will be me who holds the ropes on Mission - just like Stevie held mine on "Empire" - for the young and strong Massimo Farina… It'll be an honour to give him some suggestions.
- SLIDESHOW MAURO BUBU BOLE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
- SLIDESHOW MAURO BUBU BOLE ICE CLIMBING