Melloblocco in Tour 2018: Cresciano, one of most famous bouldering areas in the world
In the run-up to Melloblocco 2018 that will take place from 3 to 6 May 2018 at Cresciano and Lugano we interviewed Claudio Cameroni, one of the first climbers who helped develop the Swiss bouldering area in the ‘90s in order to find out how Cresciano became one of most famous bouldering areas in the world.
In order to understand a little more about the history of bouldering at Cresciano, in the run up to Melloblocco 2018 that takes place in the Swiss bouldering spot and in Lugano from Thursday 3 to Sunday 6 May 2018, we spoke with Claudio Cameroni, one of the first climbers to put this place on the climbing map in the 1990’s. How, we asked Cameroni, did people first start bouldering in Cresciano? Did you know, for example, that before becoming one of the cradles of modern bouldering, people went there armed with a harness and rope to go sport climbing? And… who was the first to really "discover" the area’s potential and when?
Claudio, first off, can you tell us how people started bouldering at Cresciano?
The beginnings date back to more than 30 years ago, we used to go there with ropes and sport climbing gear because we’d bolted the crag on the beautiful band of rock above the bouldering area. They were historic climbs, we’d go there to repeat them and to add new routes and so every time we walked to the crag we passed by the sectors that are famous today for the bouldering. At the time we didn’t realise the potential! You have to remember though that back then was a different era, bouldering was - at least over here - virtually unknown at the time.
One day Fred Nicole arrived. I had invited him to the Ticino to come to us to see our climbs and projects, I was sure he would appreciate them. He came a couple of weekends in a row with his partner Mary Gabrieli. It was he who first comprehended the enormous potential for bouldering in the lower sectors and soon returned not to go sport climbing, but to go bouldering. He got his friends involved, and logically also us locals, but I must say that it all started thanks to Fred Nicole back in 1990.
Let's say that the moment when everything clicked was when Fred wrote an article for a climbing magazine and published some great photos. It was the first time that people started talking about Cresciano outside of the Ticino region, and that was when the area started to become an international reference point.
Speaking of international reference points, in 2000 Fred Nicole climbed his Dreamtime, the first 8C boulder problem in the world
That was undoubtedly the most important boost for Cresciano. I still remember it as a historical moment: all of a sudden everyone wanted to come to Ticino to repeat the hardest boulder in the world. Dave Graham, Chris Sharma, Bernd Zangerl, Klem Loskot, and like them many others. Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat also came and they made a great video. These climbers added many new problems and so Cresciano grew exponentially. Not only Cresciano though, but also other places in Ticino such as Chironico, Val Bavona, Brione...
You mentioned some of the strongest climbers in the world
Yes, but the wonderful thing about Cresciano is that it lends itself above all to a medium and low level climbers. When it's too hot for the world’s best you find a lot of families in the chestnut woods, mothers, fathers, children and friends. Cresciano is very practical: after a first ascent the path levels out and the boulders are then strewn throughout the forest, one after the other. Boulder problems for all abilities and in shapes and sizes.
And all beautiful!
Yes, I didn’t want to be the one who says it, but it is true, according to many the gneiss is simply perfect.
On which new problems continue to be climbed
Yes. In the 2014 guide which I wrote with Roberto Grizzi and Renzo Lodi we listed almost 1500 problems, now they are many more. And it’s clear that a new generation of climbers is now actively new route, like my son Giuliano or Samuel Ometz.
One last, provocative question: is there anything that’s not great at Cresciano?
Let's say that in the past we had problems with the land owners. They weren’t very happy at first with this large influx of people, maybe staying up in the forest for weeks. The land owners needed a bit of time to understand these young people with mattresses slung over their shoulders, but they then changed their opinions; they saw that there was no rubbish in the forest, that the climbers removed litter left by others, that the climbers were respectful towards nature. This is obviously a good thing.
Having said that, if I have to think of a problem then it’s the narrow road that leads from the village up to the forest. Although it’s prohibited to drive up there, nevertheless people do so. This has been tolerated in the past, but seeing 30, 40 cars up there during the holidays isn’t exactly a great sight. Also because all you do is avoid a 15, 20 minute walk. Parking the car down in the village would be a good gesture.
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