Val Sapin Tiro Leader climbing challenge above Courmayeur in Valle d’Aosta
This summer and autumn the picturesque Val Sapin above Courmayeur in Italy’s Aosta Valley hosts the third edition of Tiro Leader, a climbing challenge to free two difficult sport climbs at the historic crag La città di Uruk. The first to free the routes bolted by Federica Mingolla and Alberto Gnerro receive € 1,000 prize money. Furthermore, on 20 August Manolo will climb with children prior to his evening talk at the Jardin de l’Ange.
The first valleys that spring to mind above Courmayeur on the Italian side of Mont Blanc are obviously Val Ferret and Val Veny, but there’s another absolute gem that can be reached extremely easily right from the center of town that is often overlooked: beautiful Val Sapin. Closed to traffic, this pristine valley provides plenty of beautiful walks and is laso home to one of the first crags in the entire area, La città di Uruk. Bolted way back in the 1980s, the cliff quickly fell into oblivion, mainly because the routes were way too difficult for that era and the local climbers didn’t want to chip the rock in order to "soften" the grades.
Almost 40 years have passed since the first bolts were placed, in the meantime difficulties have skyrocketed and now the crag is experiencing a sort of revival thanks to tireless Alberto Gnerro who, since 2007, has been quietly adding a plethora of new lines. With its small pockets and tiny tufas, this splendid sheet of limestone located at 1500 meters above sea level is probably the most beautiful crag in the entire Aosta Valley.
After Saint Barthelemy in 2019 and Barliard in 2020, this summer the third edition of Tiro Leader now take places here; this particular "competition-that-isn’t-a-competition" was conceived by Andrea Gallo in the 80s and enables climbers to perform their absolute best when they wish, and not at a precise moment imposed by an "official" climbing competition.
Just like last year, the Tiro Leader event is comprised of two extremely difficult sport climbs that await a first ascent, from June through to October, with € 1,000 prize money for each category. The women’s route, Soul Man, is an old project dating back to 1988 and checked out recently by Federica Mingolla who estimates the difficulties somewhere in the region of 8b, while the men’s route was bolted by Alberto Gnerro who - true to form - suggests No Feet No Party is "very physical" and harder than 9a. Mingolla and Gnerro are also this year’s judges, and in order to validate a redpoint climbers have to provide them with a video of the complete ascent, coupled with photos and a write-up.
The one-of-its-kind Tiro Leader event runs until autumn but there’s also another important date worth remembering: 20 August 2021, when legendary Italian rock climber Manolo will be in the area to climb with the children, prior to his evening talk at Jardin de l'Ange in Courmayeur. This promises to be riveting, especially since "Il Mago", the wizard, was one of the leading lights in the early 1980’s when sport climbing began to evolve.