YosEsigo, Italy’s Lit­tle Yosemite

Vertical (English) - - Discovery -

The bolt war that con­tin­ues to con­sume lo­cal route de­vel­op­ers and ea­ger bolt chop­pers at the neigh­bor­ing crag in Cadarese pushed a group of friends from Mi­lano, all en­thralled with Yosemite, to look else­where and to search higher ground, far from the val­ley floor, for the ideal cracks to climb. Find­ing what they sought, and straight from the mouths the in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple who climb there, the small YosEsigo crag rep­re­sents a note­wor­thy Ital­ian suc­cess story, like the espresso, in­clud­ing the slightly bit­ter af­ter­taste (route rat­ings) that is so de­li­ciously Amer­i­can. Text: Ste­fano Fra­betti. Pho­tos Mau­r­izio Oviglia.

Ilike trad climb­ing, mod­ern trad climb­ing, which con­sists of cams, stop­pers, and free climb­ing. If the first two on the list can be pur­chased at the lo­cal shop, suc­cess is not al­ways guar­an­teed with the third. I started rock climb­ing rel­a­tively late, in my early thir­ties, but thanks to my friend An­drea Som­maruga, I almost im­me­di­ately be­gan crack climb­ing, clean climb­ing. This brought me to Yosemite, where An­drea has been climb­ing for years.We have for­ever been fas­ci­nated with Yosemite’s his­tory and climb­ing ethic ( and reg­u­la­tions) that pro­hibits plac­ing bolts with a power drill. Not only are the cracks free of all fixed pro­tec­tion, mi­nus the oc­ca­sional im­pos­si­ble-to-re­move pi­ton or nut, but even on the hand-drilled bolts on slabs are spaced un­be­liev­ably far apart. Sling-loaded cam­ming de­vices (SLCDs or cams) - the great­est in­ven­tion of the 20th cen­tury, and we owe it all to Ray Jar­dine - are the ob­vi­ous off­spring (or “friends”) of this ethic, just like the birth and de­vel­op­ment of jam­ming tech­nique that Americans master so well and that they use to ef­fort­lessly float up pitches that we con­sid­ered too dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble dur­ing our first for­ays to the na­tional park. If the Americans owe their crack-climb­ing prow­ess to the fa­vor­able lo­cal ge­ol­ogy (there are more cracks in­Yosemite than in all of Europe), the strict ethic sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ment of crack climb­ing tech­nique. While our beloved Italy is cov­ered in a wide-va­ri­ety of rock, qual­ity cracks are few and far be­tween, and no con­sen­sus yet ex­ists on how to pro­tect them.

Dis­cov­er­ing the Promised Land

In the Orco Val­ley, Italy’s trad climb­ing par­adise, some bolts have popped up here and there next to a per­fectly pro­tectable crack, and in Cadarese, one of the rare cliffs blessed with a large con­cen­tra­tion of cracks, all routes end up bolted due to a sport-climb­ing mind­set. Since ar­eas with such an abun­dance of cracks are so rare, I be­lieve that they should be left in their nat­u­ral state, with­out bolts, for those who en­joy trad climb­ing.With that state­ment, I pre­fer to avoid join­ing the long­time con­tro­versy sur­round­ing al­ready es­tab­lished routes. Our hope resided in dis­cov­er­ing a new promised land, un­de­vel­oped rock where we could climb in our pre­ferred style and where no prece­dent would hold us back. Ev­ery time we went to Cadarese, we would stop to gaze at the big walls over­look­ing Croveao, just above the crag of Osso, imag­in­ing them to be criss­crossed with stel­lar cracks to climb. We re­ceived con­fir­ma­tion from climbers such as Fabrizio Fratag­noli, ex­plorer and lo­cal, that Os­sola’s most spec­tac­u­lar cracks could likely be found up there. On one rainy Sun­day in May 2010, tired of sim­ply day­dream­ing about what might be, I left town to go have a look with my own eyes.After park­ing my car at the start of the pri­vate road to Esigo, I hiked ac­cross the pas­ture and once be­neath the cliff, I cut straight through the woods. What I saw was far beyond any­thing that I could have dreamed of: split­ter cracks one after the other ris­ing up the smooth and ver­ti­cal walls for more than 40 me­ters, some per­fectly clean and clearly wait­ing to be sewn up with a rack full of cams. Walk­ing along the base of the cliff, so as­ton­ish­ingly and gut-wrench­ingly steep, I reached the far left side where I dis­cov­ered an area that would later be called Full Metal Jacket (FMJ), and which now con­sists of a hand­ful of world-class routes.

Guglielmo Ruju on at YosEsigo,

one of the two twin crackes of this sec­tor.

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