On 7 November Robert Jasper from Germany and Roger Schäli from Switzerland carried out the first repeat of "Bocconi amari". This difficult mixed route was first ascended by Rossano Libera and Ezio Marlier on 26 October up the north face of the Triangolo nero on Monte Emilius, the prime mountain in Aosta. As many will remember the 400m route was described by Marlier and Libera as "a beautiful and super demanding mixed route: gullies, difficult rock, thin ice, demanding protection up compact rock, often of dubious quality and run-out. In an isolated and solitary environment, psychologically highly demanding"...
Jasper and Schäli have now sent us their impressions of the climb and, as all repeaters of a routes should do, have also provided their view of the difficulties, which weigh in at a "decent" WI 6 and M7 mixed. Furthermore, they have also suggested a grade for the risk level and psychological commitment of the line which, at E3/4, must be interpreted as impressive (depending on which way you look at it) to say the least.
But the best of all though is how Robert Jasper summaries this experience which culminated in the summit after 16 hours of climbing. His text published below is testament to how adventure, with a capital A, can still be found in our Alps - at times all we need to do is go and and look.
ADVENTURE ON AN UNKNOWN MOUNTAIN
Monte Emilius, Triangolo Nero, repeat of "Bocconi Amari"
Italy is doubtlessly the land of ice-cream but we were somewhat surprised when we read the report about the extraordinary and unique alpine mixed route “Bocconi Amari –Bitter pills” which climbs the"Black Triangle" of the North Face of Monte Emilius. Two famous Italian mountaineers, Rossano Libera and Ezio Marlier, had waited a full ten years for the conditions to be right.
Thin ice, hard mixed and difficulties in the region of WI 6 and M7 in an alpine environment all render this route one of the hardest in its category. Long run-outs, psychologically very demanding, no bolts whatsoever and all of this in a remote area: the headlines made us curious, it was exactly what we had been looking for since we were hoping to start the winter off in a serious way.
Thanks to the “highspeedinternetera” we immediately travelled south and when we stood at the base of the route at dawn to examine it more closely the line was a mere two weeks old. We noticed that a significant amount of ice had already melted away – almost unbelievable since the start of the route lies at roughly 3000m. We could easily make out more ice on the photos shot during the first ascent.
Despite feeling uneasy we decided to get to work, and with the first pitch we forgot everything around us. Demanding mixed climbing, tricky pro, in an alpine environment which reminded us of Tibet. How different the Alps can be from one region to the next and in different seasons! We highly recommend this route to those who believe that great adventures can only be experienced in expeditions to the "end of the world."
We reached the exit of the 400m route at last light and climbed onto the knifeblade ridge. Unlike the Italians, who after 12 hours abseiled back down from here, we hoped to complete the traverse to the summit and continue down to the pass and the old hut. This revealed to be gripping experience while we struggled through the night in winter conditions.
There are as many mountains as grains of sand in the desert and thankfully a lifetime isn’t long enough to climb all the peaks in the Alps. This is the reason why we decided that our path should lead us to the summit of Monte Emilius; who of us would come back here a second time? And the summit is always the crowning moment of a great route!
Steep snowy steps, a seemingly endless crest: we searched for our route in the beam of our headtorches. The lights of Aosta twinkled far below in the distance, Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn stood out from the other mountains in the moonshine – a dream route! After 16 hours we finally reached our bivvy hut. We had drawn our own circle and completed it. A great adventure on a totally unknown summit – wonderful!
Once again we realised that one can still search and find adventures directly at our doorstep, here in the Alps. And often this can’t be found on the highest mountains with most famous names. Those in search of true adventure will find what they’re looking for here. These words of encouragement, to go out and climb in the mountains close to home, are directed above all to the young generation of mountaineers. It’s definitely worth it!
by Robert Jasper
MONTE EMILIUS (3559m), North Face Triangolo nero, Valle d'Aosta
First ascent: Rossano Libera & Ezio Marlier (I) on 26.10.2006
First repeat: Roger Schäli (CH) & Robert Jasper (D) on 07.11.2006
Ice & mixed: WI 6 / M7; E-scale: E 3/4 (see scale)
Info: "Bocconi Amari" base - crest (400m) 10-12 hours.
Few ledges for abseil descent, of dubious quality!
Traverse: continue along the NW crest up mixed and rock terrain, descend down west ridge then north ridge (via ferrata) to reach Col Federigo. Circa 6 hours.
Gear: 2 x 60m ropes, gear for ice and mixed climbing.
Rack: 2 short ice screws, 1 long ice screw, 1 icehook, pegs and knifeblades, 1 set of nuts, 1 set of Friends, long slings.
Getting there: From Aosta reach the famous Pila ski station. Park the car at the cable car top station, follow the path that leads to the Chamolè alpine meados to reach Col Fenêtre and descend into the beautiful and uncontaminated Comboè valley. Follow the steep long path to Federigo (3.5 hours from Pila). From the bivouac (blankets, no cooker!) descend into the Arpisson valley towards Col Peccoz, coasting along the north face to reach the start of the route (1 hour from the bivouac).
Start: start up the hidden gully on the extreme right of the black triangle bergschrund (50°) circa 100m then continue up mixed ground leftwards via the most logical and easiest line.