baston la baffe


8.20 am, the bus stops.

The British and his Spanish partner just told us they’re going to climb the classic route, one bivy on the wall and the descent passing through the glacier after having reached the summit. Since we’re staring at their shoes, the Brit says, oh yes, we’ve got this one (showing an ice axe..) and a pair of light crampons, we’re going to put one each, hopping with the other foot…Matteo lifts the haul bag and…voilà, the shoulder lace brakes. Panic, yelling, screaming and an improvised knot to the lace just in time to jump on the bus. I look into my hands and say: the ropes! I turn around and the British smiles at me with our ropes in his hands. He took them from the ground and it’s glaring the fact that we both think the same: they have no idea of what they’re going to do… It is well known that the name of an object directly influences its fortune among the media, and Scheideggwetterhorn…Come on son! How can you compare it with Eiger and Civetta? All of them are huge North Faces, but when the name goes beyond 10 letters you should have at least a gentle sound to catch the attention of climbers and mountaineers. Anyway on this Monster, Max Niedermann, in 1954 opened a route which every historian should put in the top first ascent on the rock of the Twentieth Century, a statement largely confirmed by the mere numbers (VI+ UIAA and A3 in 2 days), but totally justified with a direct sight of the wall. The Scheideggwetterhorn, doesn’t offer many logical lines, as the alpinists love to say. In several parts it goes up straight and steep, and opening a new route in those years was definitely a great hazard…hats off. There are another two frightening lines on our Monster: the Japanese route (Takio e Kato, 1971. V+ A3) and the winding and unrepeated route from the Coubal brothers, 1989, 53 pitches, 7a+ max, name: Trikolora. Good luck to the first repeaters… Baston la Baffe, however, has 34 pitches and I admit I took it not very seriously. A 35 minutes approach and two planned bivys, comfortable and scenic in my mind, parts with an amazing perfect rock and other easier parts, that looking into the topo I was thinking “ok we’ll take max 10 minutes to get over these…”.

Baston la baffe R23

Finally the temperature, a mixed blessing for all the alpinists, the 0 degrees temperature should have been somewhere between the 4000 and the 3800 meters; and being the final altitude of the route 3200 meters, that let me thought that a light dawn jacket and the Gore Tex Pro-shell would have been enough for the bivy. The real challenge, I was thinking, is to free climb some of the upper pitches, a proof of physical resistance and self-control, but not that much, I was expecting, since the only route opened by the Zambetti brothers that we had repeated, in Wenden, had a quite nasty 6b while the rest was nothing more than the normal routine.

I wasn’t aware of several things and here is a brief and self-explanatory summary: 1) Scheideggwetterhorn has three awesome, stunning walls, better than the 99% of the sport climbing crags on this planet, but it also has many parts of loose and chossy rock, that claiming them dangerous also with a peg or a bolt at the height of the shoulders, doesn’t really describes the situation. 2) The Brothers (Zambetti), maybe influenced by the long-lasting opening saga (8 years…), probably entered in a vicious adrenalinic circle, got hyper-psyched and climbed many runouts, where you’ve to keep your fingers crossed, right on that chossy and dangerous pitches, where I was frightened just by their sight. 3) Zero degree temperature: why didn’t I ponder on the photos which were on Zambetti’s website, always wrapped in their duvets like they were on Ben Nevis? And why I didn’t know that the route had already been repeated by Sebastien Rater and Dimitry Munoz, a pair of super-strong climbers with great experience in winter, who in the route-book at the top wrote, very cold? 4) The bivy: the strategy we planned was right, we get the first day to the 18th pitch, skipping the “official” 12th pitch bivy, there’s a ledge, there will be some room for bivy…in this way the second day we don’t begin with the hard stuff and warm-up properly and…everything correct, a part for the word “ledge” or “room for bivy”. Frankly speaking, I kept on saying that on some international flight you can sleep even worse (a part for the temperature…)

Baston la baffe

In short, 72 hours of passion altogether, 60 of them spent with the dawn jacket and the pro-shell glued on my body, with a cold I had never experienced while climbing before, especially at the end of the second day; and the mocking sun (which theoretically should have come around 3pm) who came only for a few instants at the top when we took the summit photo…a real fight, while in my mind, with the few blood left was rumbling the statement of the Zambetti brothers, “great challenge for a champion able to free climb the whole route in one day”. Well, maybe David Lama, perhaps with a few more Celsius degrees. Who knows…I only congratulate with Matteo for two of the hardest pitches climbed onsight, a brilliant and engaging 7b+ and the mythic “Fissure Baston”, 60 meters at 7b that you can’t imagine, a fight against the cold, placing the gear and with the crux soaking wet. Congratulations to him and, of course, to the above mentioned Zambetti brothers: opening on a big wall like this, in this style, it’s a matter of passion and heart but also of strong mind. Super hats off. During the descent, while waiting for the bus, I stared the monster and thought about many still virgin super lines, but never ever, I told myself, we could try to open up there…