Renato Casarotto and the Peutérey Super Integral, an unrepeatable alpinism and adventure
32 years after Renato Casarotto's ascent of Frêney trilogy, also known as the Super Integral di Peutèrey (Mont Blanc), Ivo Ferrari remembers the great Italian alpinist.
On 1 February 1982, 32 years ago, Renato Casarotto began the solo winter ascent of what, in mountaineering history, has come to be remembered as the Frêney trilogy, also known as the Super Integral di Peutèrey. 15 days after setting off the Italian alpinist reached the summit of Mont Blanc after having climbed in a single push the West Face of the Aiguille Noire de Peutèrey via the Ratti - Vitali climb, Picco Gugliermina via the Gervasutti - Boccalatte climb and the Central Pillar of Frêney via the Bonington route. He reached the summit of Mont Blanc on 14 February and descended to Chamonix the next day, taking with him a 40kg rucksack and no connection to the rest of the world. This great odyssey, a long way away from everyone and everything, was hailed - primarily by French climbers - as an immense and amazing undertaking. One of those outings that stand the test of time, that make history. Apart from the (superb) difficulties Renato Casarotto had to deal with during the climb, what remains above all is his inimitable style and way of approaching the mountains and dealing with adventure. His way of being at one with the high, and extremely high, mountains. His art of experiencing them so intensely and for such a long time as to almost become an an “inhabitant”, an integral part of them. This holds true for all his countless ascents and undertakings, some of which are absolutely memorable, such as those in "his" Dolomites, such as this Super Integral and such as those in the Greater Ranges, on Huascaran (1977), Fitz Roy (1979) and McKinley (1984) to name but a few. And this obviously holds true for K2 and “his” Magic Line. On 16 July 1986 Casarotto fell into a crevasse and to his death while returning to base camp after having reached 8300m on the extraordinary spur on the SW Face of K2. As mentioned previously, 32 years have passed since the “Super Integral”… and together with Ivo Ferrari we would like to remember this great, silent mountaineer and his difficult and long journey into the heart of Mont Blanc that will remain with us forever.
RENATO CASAROTTO AND THE FRENEY TRILOGY. By Ivo Ferrari
"... One one thing I’m certain. Something I experienced on numerous occasions in my long career as a solo alpinist: if you accept the fundamental rule of climbing in a simple and clean manner, without cheating yourself and without fixing kilometers of ropes onto the mountain, then the difficulties, the fears of the weather changing from one moment to the next, the doubts of being on the right route and the anguish of not also possible retreat all gradually dissolve into a large and passionate match against the unknown; a game that transcends the normal dimensions of existence to render climbing worthy of the greatest human adventures, the ones that have fascinated men since the very beginnings.”
32 years have passed, alpinism and alpinists have changed, climbing gear has changed, at times even the mountains themselves have changed, time itself… has changed! But no one has ever forgotten that winter, that magical February, that man alone with his enormous rucksack, that dreamlike adventure, carried out to fuel our dreams even today, 32 years later!
One morning, a cool morning, I was just a kid, I’d only recently begun to take my first vertical "steps". I don’t recall how I managed to get that early to the Nembro quarry, at the time the habitual hangout for the Bergamo climbing scene. It was morning and there wasn’t anyone else about, just me, frightened by my inability to climb and a tall, robust man, a giant… he wore white plastic boots, hard and heavy, but he seemed to make no effort at all, traversing across the entire dark and damp quarry. That man was famous, well-known and important in the world of Mountaineering, but I, at that time, knew little and understood even less!
It was only a few years later that, while repeating some superb lines first climbed by the man with white boots, I realised that, at that time, I had been in the company of not only a person of high stature, but a Giant of alpinism, the most talented solo climber of all times. 1 February 1982, Renato Casarotto began his lone journey. Fifteen days of effort, ascents and descents, sun and storms, fifteen days to invent and climbing the Trilogy. It’s at this point that time stops, has to stand still, we’re obliged to slow down and think…fifteen days in absolute solitude, up three of the most beautiful routes on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, fiction or reality? What else has ever been so pure, beautiful and long-lasting? Much, plenty, but 32 years ago Renato Casarotto used the magic key of imagination, of passion, giving us the “Dream".
I tried to sleep outside in winter, one, two, only a few other nights, but then my mind said stop, it was too much effort. Yes, because to remain alone for fifteen days, accompanied only by a thousand hardships, one really must be different, strong, tough, determined. You had to be called Renato Casarotto
"... I reached the summit of Mont Blanc the next day, almost without realizing it, in thick fog. It was 12:10. At that moment the altimeter read 5000m. The end of the world seemed to be blowing in from the West: I dug a snowhole and waited. Logic told me there was nothing else I could do. I bivouacked: it was one of the toughest nights of my entire climbing career. On Mont Blanc, due to the particular lay of the massif, when large storms come in from the west, it feels like being in the eye of the storm.“
I am a scared youngster and that giant passes close by, there’s no one and I'm afraid, who is he? What will he say? He didn’t say anything, just a simple smile that I still remember, even today. He didn’t say a word and continued to train a few meters off the ground, pulling on underclings, polished and damp…. using those heavy white boots!
I have not forgotten and alpinism will never forget him.
by Ivo Ferrari
Thanks to: Goretta Casarotto and the publishers Alpine Studio
>>Goretta e Renato Casarotto. Una vita tra le montagne. (Ed. Alpine Studio)