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Marco Appino climbing the drip during the first ascent of 'Vanessa robe neire' in Valle dell'Orco, Piemonte, Italy, first ascended together with Umberto Bado
Photo by Guide Alpine Torino
Attempts at freeing the drytooling pitch of 'Vanessa robe neire' in Valle dell'Orco, Piemonte, Italy
Photo by Guide Alpine Torino
Thin ice on pitch 2 during the first ascent of 'Vanessa robe neire' in Valle dell'Orco, Piemonte, Italy
Photo by Guide Alpine Torino
Bolting the first dry tooling pitch in 2010 of 'Vanessa robe neire' in Valle dell'Orco, Piemonte, Italy
Photo by Guide Alpine Torino

Vanessa robe neire, new mixed climb in Valle dell’Orco


Winter mountaineering in Italy’s Piedmont region: in Valle Orco Marco Appino and Umberto Bado, together with David Sacchetti, completed Vanessa neire robe, a mixed climb they had begun in 2010. Umberto Bado provides the report.

After a somewhat slow start, winter finally made its way into the folds of Valle Orco. New lines quickly appeared just about everywhere, offering a winter climbing bonanza we hadn’t seen for years. Moments like these need to be capitalized on because "today the temps are 15 degrees below zero, but tomorrow we might be climbing up Sergent in just a T-shirt!"

In 2010 together with Andrea Ruffino we discovered this gorge and its icy sliver, but we only climbed the first part before diverting left up some tempting drips. This resulted in the icefall Ninfa (III/4, 150 m), but the real objective was the large hanging drip at the top of the gully.

I returned shortly afterwards with Marco and Mauro Appino and managed to climb up all the gully and bolt the dry tooling pitch and the belay at the start of the drip, but by then it was late and we were somewhat intimidated, so we didn’t climb the dagger. Big mistake. Vanessa didn’t form again. Since then I’ve made a pilgrimage up to the gully every winter, with binoculars in hand, but to no avail. She just didn’t come into condition. Until today, seven years later.

Determined to end this courtship at a costs, we quickly ascended the gully in four long and beautiful “mountain-style" pitches to the top of the gully. We were joined by David Sacchetti, a good friend, great ice climber and someone who loves adventures.

We opted to climb the drip first so we abseiled in from above, avoided the dry tooling section, to the base of the drip. It was slender and didn’t extended all the way down, so we placed four bolts to adequately protect the moves to get established on the large drip.

Marco had the honor of climbing it first. It was a pleasure to watch him climb quietly and gently up the drip. In particular because I was holding the ropes below him! He puffed his way through the overhanging sections, breathed a sigh of relief at every rest and then let out a sharp cry: "yeppaaa!" Vanessa’s ice had been climbed! It was now up to me, but my partner had done the hardest bit. All I needed to do was second it quickly in order to celebrate!

All that was needed now was to free the dry tooling pitch. it was my go. An honour. I remembered the pitch being feasible. But that was a distant recollection. I failed to climb it all free. I tried to all the typical dry tooling moves I know (thanks yaniro for existing), but this didn’t suffice. Only after a couple fo rests did I reach the curtain of ice.

Things started badly. Some cauliflower ice broke and I ended up dangling below. “You learn from your mistakes” and “if you haven’t got technique, use raw power” were the name of the game and after some huge whacks I got established on the ice and quickly reached the “belaaaay”. Vanessa robe neire had come to life.

The best three moments? Hearing Marco scream "Yeppaaa!", getting to the top and hugging each other, exiting the steep dry section.

Thanks to all the friends who accompanied us: Mauro Appino, Andrea Ruffino and Davide Sacchetti. Special thanks to the shop Mountain Sicks at Rivarolo Canavese for providing the gear which enabled us to create this great line.

by Umberto Bado

TOPO: Vanessa robe neire,Valle dell'Orco

27/12/2010 - Two icefalls in Valle dell'Orco and Piantonetto

"La Cascata delle miniere" in Valle dell'Orco and "Ciao TFR" in Vallone di Piantonetto, two icefalls in Northern Italy climbed by Marco Appino, Umberto Bado, Mauro Appino and Renzo Vottero.





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