YosEsigo, Italy’s Little Yosemite
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.