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Melloblocco 2009
Photo by Giulio Malfer
Melloblocco 2008
Photo by Giulio Malfer
Melloblocco 2008
Photo by Giulio Malfer

Photo by Claudio Piscina

Melloblocco #1, Copper skies above Monolith by Popi Miotti


Giuseppe 'Popi' Miotti, the visions of a climber in Val Masino – Val di Mello and the distant vertical galaxies of pure granite.

They say that climbing generates visions... as so, in the run-up to Melloblocco 2011, here is a story written by Giuseppe 'Popi' Miotti which talks about climbing, about a place which could well be Val Masino - Val di Mello, and also about a being which might be a climber. It's worth sitting back and taking the time to read this story because if you've got the patience to reach the end, perhaps you'll discover the visionary power, slow yet forceful, of climbing...


"Monolith! Oh, great Monolith! What have we done to lose your light? What did we do to be hurled down here, onto this blue-green planet so different from ours? We haven't seen the twin moons Zefir and Russ rise for years. I miss your crimson-colour dawns, your green sunsets, the raging winds which caress our bodies, filling them with vigour and smoothing them gently. Ever since the spaceship fell into this valley we've been trying to understand. We discovered coarse crystals, similar to us, with which we've managed to communicate, albeit only partially. They told us that the two-footed beings which seem to be the only expression of advanced intelligence on this planet call them stones, and that this alien world is called Earth. It's been easy for us to camouflage ourselves amongst these primitives: they have a silicon structure just like we do and this goes to prove the power of the Monolith which filled the cosmos with life. In any case, as a precautionary measure we have hidden the spaceship and changed its shape so that it now resembles an enormous boulder: it's the biggest of them all. And while the mechanics have been trying to repair the damage, we've been exploring the place for days.

We discovered that, despite the vast amounts of silicon, life on this world is dominated by carbon. There are thousands of strange beings, as fragile as they are ephimerous: fortunately they all seem totally harmless. Time on this illogical planet ticks to different rules, everything is done frenetically: in a single Monolith day I saw the sun rise and set 212 times and I saw its brilliant moon rotate ceaselessly throughout the night sky. For 212 times dawn, sunsets, darkness and light followed one another like a crazed catherine wheel while these small carbon-based lives started and stopped in an instant. After a while some of these intelligent bipedes took interest in us. Members of the crew were assaulted by these beings, but the initial fear soon gave way to amazement and hilarity. These organisms were harmless, all they did was attempt to climb us, without causing any damage whatsoever! At worst they polished us, in a pleasurable manner, which instruments which removed the crusts from our skins. At times they even planted some strange iron tools into our wrinkles or even into our compact skin, but the disturbance was minimal. That's why we decided to accept this strange game, perhaps it's a local sport."

Klynw, that was his name, lay secluded from the others of the Splendid Crystal, the spaceship which crashed in 1142 TT in Val Masino. The forest had grown around it and an increasingly narrow clearing lay at its feet: that's why it was one of the last aliens to get to know the dominant beings on this planet. But Klynw was also the saddest of them all: he had been set apart fromm the others because the commander believed he was the best at crying to the skies for help, that's why he was isolated from the rest of the group. For the nth time he launched his cosmic SOS when he caught sight of the bipede again. "What's he doing here?" he said to himself "He'd only just gone away. But is that really him?" Immediately afterwards, remembering the laws which govern the blue-green planet, he almost felt a tinge of compassion. "I've never had the chance to see how the ageing process works. Look how he has changed. He's almost completely lost that thick head of hair, and what remains has changed colour. Hmm! What a strange physiology: a few seconds and with one foot I'm already in Monolith's skies. But what's he doing? Why is he looking at me like that? The first time he treated me like any old mineral. He arrived, changed at the base, strapped a sort of bag around his waist, scrutinised me and then, all of a sudden, attempted to... impose himself. Even if the Crystal companions had warned me, I have to admit that I was taken aback. Seeing that he failed to top out first time round, he attempted over and over again using a thousand different methods. In the end he succeeded, but it took an enormous effort. I wonder what sort of satisfaction these creatures can get from these useless moves. I fail to see any logic in what they're doing. For Monolith! He's about to give it another go? He hurt me before, when he tore off a growing appendix which hadn't matured fully! The others were useful holds, but they were anchored to my body, solid, this one was being expelled, well... not completely. But it's true: this climbing up and down was almost a pleasure, it reminded me a bit of the coming and going of our parasites, the crugs, up on our amber and amaranthine world.

The being had arrived at the foot of the great rock with great difficulty, struggling up through the dense vegetation, lashed by the branches on his face and arms, scratched by bursting blackberry bushes, slipping on a carpet of moss which in the shade was as thick as a palm. He had needed a long while to find the boulder. He'd often thought about it over the years, beautiful, strong and solid, with that pegmatite vein that crossed it like a bandolier. He still remembered the pleasure he felt when he first saw it, with those thin aligned cracks and that elegant succession of tiny holds that were a clear invitation to be climbed. He remembered that he had climbed his most beautiful problem ever. Ever since early childhood he had always climbed - bar some exceptions - not for the grade but because he was attracted by the beauty of the rock. Beauty had become his obsession: the perfect line, the harmony of colours and its hues, the elegance of the texture of the rock itself, the "personality" the boulder radiated. These were the things that mattered, so whether it was grade III or grade X simply didn't matter. The key for him was to be with the rock, feel at one with its wonderful symmetry and enjoy it via the moves it offered. The problem was that beauty and difficulties were often linked by a mysterious law which dictated that it was unlikely that one could exclude the other. That boulder was no exception. To climb it, twelve years earlier, he had lost all the skin of his fingers.

The human sat down in front of the rock and looked around. The beautiful grassy clearing had been reduced to a narrow ring around the base of the rock. Everything had changed: the woods had taken over, the ancient paths had almost completely disappeared and getting around that stone citadel had now become difficult. At the base of the rock the climber took his time to find his problem. This proved easy, the beautiful series of holds mapped a line of rare elegance and lead right to the top. He stroked the starting holds, in nigh contemplation "However did I manage to hold these crimps?" he asked himself in amazement. He tried to weight the tiny crimps but his fingers curled, as if they were butter, and his joints creaked painfully. Yet, perhaps, with a little patience and some attempts, he might just make it: the new shoes guaranteed a performance that the sneakers of the past certainly couldn't offer. Reassured, the bipede put on his shoes, delved his hands into the chalk bag, and set off on his first attempt. But he didn't even get off the ground, his foot slipped immediately, even before his fingers exerted maximum effort. he shoved his hands back into the bag, looked at the rough surface, contemplated the sequence of moves, cleaned his shoes better, dried them and set off. Right hand on a crimp, left hand in a shallow pocket, left foot here, right foot there and he was off. The journey did not last long, just long enough to grab a diagonal edge and then gravity took control once again. Ten terrestrial minutes later the game recommenced.

This time, using the all the tricks of the trade he'd learnt throughout his lifetime, the man managed to reach half-height and "heelhook" a sloper which, by shifting some of his weight, allowed him to almost reach the rim. But that was the maximum effort on his subsequent attempts, too. His strength and motivation began to ebb, just like his fingers began to lose their grip. In the end he decided to have a rest before what was going to be his final attempt. Many thoughts crossed through his mind, but the most insistent forced him consider his age. A gentle breeze caressed his skin and the clouds raced disorderly in the blue sky; how often had this beauty enraptured him, transported him to distant and imaginary dimensions? How often had he enjoyed the warmth of the rocks, of its perfect grip on cold and dry days, exulted in triumphant satisfaction after having sent a problem?

Klynw observed the scene silently and incombantly. The terrestrial looked at him in serene acceptance and seemingly wanted to talk to him once again. Perhaps it was in tht short, powerful and inexplicable moment that, for the first time, a monolith and a human managed in some way to get in touch with each other. The alien sensed the other's frustration and the sadness, understood the passing of time on Earth and was overcome once again with a feeling of compassion for that tiny, slender creature which seemed to get so much joy from those useless moves. It was then that he decided to do what he never thought he'd do. While the saddened being was distracted, Klynw moved the crystal framework: he moved the frame, added ties and, just like a heaving chest, managed to make those flakes protrude a bit more from his body. At the same time, thanks to the exchange of gases he made the pockets enter slightly. In the meantime the being stood beneath the boulder once again and admired its perfection. His glance followed the line of holds and his mind traced the moves once again. His hand held the first crimp. “That's strange” he thought “it seems better than before. Perhaps I was still cold. At my age you need plenty of time to warm up.” His foot immediately found the better friction and, without being too convinced, the climber raised his arm to start the next move. His fingers crimped a shallow pocket and even his little finger fit in, helping him to stick the hold. The next move to the diagonal flake was almost easy. Surprised by this blazing start, the human caught his breath and, galvanized by the initial success, continued upwards. He remembered the sequence perfectly, all the necessary balance and mechanics were deeply ingrained.

In what were just seconds, Klynw did his best to concentrate and keep the crystal framework in its new, precarious state. Had he been able to – had he been made of carbon – we'd have seen him hold his breath. “For Monolith” he cursed “this is unsustainable. How much longer will I manage to dominate the framework? For how much longer...?” He didn't manage to complete that thought: a momentary distraction and the crystals returned to their usual form. The micro hold which the terrestrial being have been using on his final, decisive dyno to the top moved downwards imperceptibly, but just enough to make it impossible to hold. The miniscule crystals on the footholds, on which rested just a few millimetres of rubber, became less penetrating. These two invisible, imperceptible changes sufficed to generate a massive upheaval: the climber fell backwards to the ground as if he were dead, and remained still for a couple of seconds. Thankfully the impact had softened by the grass below. “OK” he said out loud “That's it. That's enough, this was the last try. That's it, you almost decked out and at your age it simply isn't worth getting hurt. Calm down. Accept the fact that things have changed. You've tried your best. Enjoyed the day, found an old friend, savoured the old atmosphere. What more do you want?”
Yes! What more could he want? He knew full well what he wanted, but he also knew that what he desired was unattainable. He took his climbing shoes off slowly and admired his old masterpiece. He stood there for many minutes, scrutinised that immobile boulder as if he was searching for an improbable gaze from the rock itself. In the end he got up and headed down the uncertain return path, but before entering the forest he turned round and gazed the monolith once more; then he was swallowed up by the green.

Klynw saw him disappear and for a brief moment thought that he'd see him again, that he'd be back soon. For an instant that bizarre being had cheered his solitude; a some way or another he had almost felt a liking. He promised himself that on his return that he'd be ready: he'd blow himself up again, better than before, he'd give him the satisfaction of climbing back to the top. And so for a few minutes the monolith remained still, in hopeful expectation. In the meantime though the skies changed, it rained, snowed and the sun scorched. It was cold, then hot and then cold again. The colours changed and changed again. Finally Klynw examined the base and noticed that the strip of grass which contoured him had become even narrower and he then understood that those two minutes had been two minutes of his time: that human would never return. Klynw screamed and cursed at those implacable laws which govern the planet, and at fate which had confined him to this crazed place where beings are made of carbon and last nothing but a few, laughable moments. Then, deluded and resigned, he focused on launching that desperate signal to Monolith in the copper streaked skies.

by Giuseppe "Popi" Miotti

Giuseppe "Popi" Miotti. One of the first to systematically climb on the boulders in Val Masino, rightly considered the father of bouldering in Valetllin. His 1975 ascent of Goldrake 6b+ is historical, as is the 1981 ascent of Nipote di Goldrake 7b nel 1981. In addition, Miotti also carried out the first ascent of Uomini e Topi at the Placche dell'Oasi in 1977. Mountain Guide and with a degree in Agriculture, he is one of the most authoritative historians of alpinism in the Central Alps.

MELLOBLOCCO 2011 Val Masino - Val di Mello 5-8 May 2011





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