Monday, 23 August 2010


The air was fresh and the sun was rising from behind the Piz Ciavazes mountain. The first rays of light cut the valley in slices, through the mist of the early morning. It was 7 am, we were already at the base of the route and my head was exploding. I could barely concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, my brain was a cloud of obsessive thoughts, and I was in real pain.
When the alarm went off at 5 am, I felt sure I was going to make it, and I got up ready for the task. How far from reality I was. The offer of the day was the "Dimai Route" on the Punta Grohman, 3156 meters. Two hours approach on a 45° slope and ridge; then a 150 easy terrain to be climbed unroped (a climber died here in July); then 13 pitches; then 7 abseils, with downclimbing up to III; then another hour down the talus.
My mind was producing images of the long horrible way down, and they were terrifying images. I knew I wasn't going to make it, and I told my friends. They looked at me and understood. No one complained, although they could have, because now they were a party of three, so slower and less enjoyable. But my friends are real friends, and the first thing they asked me was: "can you make it to the car on your own?". I said yes, and sat down. I cheered them as they disappeared on the exposed ridge and, taking all the concentration I was capable of, I started the way down. On the grassy slope, after the ridge, I lay down, and with the sun now fully out of the mountain, I fell asleep. There wasn't a single sound in the whole valley, and I started to compose myself.
I knew the epic was nearly over, but I also knew that another epic was just about to start: I wanted to go bouldering now, but the few hours of sleep, and the effort of the walk in had left me knackered. I knew that despite it being only 8.30 am, my day was already over.
I got to the car park and tried to sleep in the car. It was too hot already and too noisy, the first trekkers arriving. So I pulled my finger out and went to the hut. I ordered a double, long coffee in a big cup and a slice of Strudel. I gulped everything down then had another long coffee. I packed my shit and went to the boulders, prepared to have a nap on the crashpads and then play my cards on my project, the famous traverse that I have been wanting to do since last year, when I also watched James try it.
I had tried it in early June, but was unable to put together its 18 moves. You first have to do "Mecca" a hard 7c, then keep going right on far apart edges. Brilliant climbing.
I got there and my first thought wasn't about sleeping, but about cleaning the holds and drying out the many wet ones. My head still a bit of a haze, I touched the rock and felt a strange, pleasant sensation. I found a better sequence on two movements and soon after all I could think about was giving it a go. I tried to sleep a bit, but I felt a urge to climb it. I just couldn't rest, and it wasnt' because of the coffee, because my heart was slow and I was relaxed. I was feeling something. Minutes later, after a couple of fumbled attempts and finally finding the right footholds for the lower part, I had crushed it. Easily. Well not easily, but I had climbed very well, aggressively and precisely. It was over. Another one.
Now I have climbed all the problems I wanted to do there, and this incredible feeling has been with me for the whole Sunday, the day originally planned for the assault. A mixture of satisfaction, joy and emptyness.
Despite feeling very bad in the morning, I went there, I kept the fucking faith and I got it. Needless to say, I couldn't sleep for the rest of the day, and my head really started to hurt, I think the pressure released and my body finally allowed itself to be sick.
My friends had an 11 hours marathon on the route, with a 5 hours long descent. The route was dangerous with rockfall, and Andrea had a close one exploding right to his side.
Just as I was starting to worry, I saw them sliding down the talus. Minutes later we were at the hut, gulping down beers and Radler. Miraculously, the alcohol released my excruciating headhache, and I finally felt good.
At night I slept like a baby.
I have so many thoughts in my mind right now. I wanted to do the problem, but maybe I wasn't ready to do it so quickly. I wasn't prepared. Now I think about what I've done, and cannot fit in the bigger picture, unless I think back to all the time I've dedicated to it in one way or another. I have done hundreds of pullups, hours of deadhangs, and even the odd route. I haven't stopped thinking about the goal for a second. Progressing, progressing, progressing.
My progression had crossed again the path of my projects and I have ticked. Now it's time to move on, even though I have to say that I feel very very empty now.
The problem is given 8a+. Is it? Before doing it, it was. Now, I dont' know. Did it seem easy? I don't know. I just did it: it's transformed now, it became just a thing that I wanted to do and I have done.
So in my personal grading scale, it gets the "F" grade: "fatto" - "done". Again, I want to think in terms of progression instead of in terms of reaching a specific goal: I was impressed, a few weeks back, when I found myself reading these same words on Dave MacLeod's book (page 119, just in case you want to check).
Fuck me, I really really don't understand this all: it's got no sense at all. I shouldn't have done it this way. It's a nonsense.

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