June 2009. Just a few days before leaving for Greenland I go with Luca for a last multi-pitch in Ticino, we decide for “Trapolina Infoiada”, on the Linescio wall. The few repetitions joined with the fact that this was the only line on this quite big wall, not visible from any road are enough for us to decide to go there and give it a look.
Everything which follows in this story is born on that day. Already while descending on the path we see the line, we try to tie together with the eyes the geometries of the wall, and we’re totally excited to discuss about all the possibilities which this wall offers.
Autumn 2009. The project does not start. Autumn in New York for me and Autumn in Campione for Luca. Therefore between falls on gear for me at the Gunks and falls on bolts and first ascent for Luca, everything is postponed.
March 2010. It’s enough a short mail conversation and a dish of pasta at midnight at a bar in Mendrisio to realize that we’re ready. This time it’s all set, we’re ready and psyched! From our dialogues it’s easy to understand that we’re both looking forward to opening and we want to put our stake into the game. And we want to open this route together, fifty-fifty, it’s time to push our limits as a team.
April 2010. We’re at the base of Linescio Wall. The flip of the coin said that I will start. It’s cold, the wall is West facing and the sun gets here late, I really don’t fell like putting my climbing shoes on. A few words with Luca and I am on the rock; I don’t take too much to open the first 50 meters (luckily they’re the easier part of the route).
The following pitch is for Luca; the usual “rope, slack, take, climbing…”. From the belay I can’t understand the real difficulty of the pitch but when I second and clean it I can see that my mate didn’t joke and that if I would really like to contribute 50-50 in this route I will have to give the best of me. I don’t stop thinking too much and I commit myself for the third pitch and start with an airy traverse rightwards. I’m already quite far from the belay when I tell Luca that maybe it would be better to place a bolt for the second; Luca firmly answers me just to think about myself and about climbing on, and that he’ll be able to take care of himself; so I do and climb on (even though after a few meters I really have to place a bolt).
In the end, also the third pitch takes his shape and once placed the fixed ropes we go back to the valley where a tasteful dish of all-you-can-eat pork chops is waiting for us.
The opening days follow one after the other, with a frequency about one every two weeks, we spend 4 days to open this line overall and we take the decision to come back in early fall for the redpoint, since it’s becoming too warm now.
1st August 2010. The conditions for climbing on higher peaks in the Alps are bad, we’ve to renounce to our ambitions on more famous alpine walls and choose a different terrain, where it didn’t snow, if we want to climb on the rock. Our plan B is going back to our route at Linescio. What the hell! We had other plan for this August 2010…
I Suggest Luca to dedicate a day for a brief cleaning and study of the route, and so we do. The first day we jumar up the fixed ropes and try pitches up to the eight, cleaning the route a bit.
We don’t care too much about cleaning the wall. I’m by principle against in exaggerating on this practice: what is cool about repeating multipitches on walls like this is also that they’re not “tamed” for climbers. We don’t want to offer a packaged product with the ribbon on, but just as Luca says “put the repeaters in the most similar conditions that we faced while opening and give them the chance to cope with all the whims of this wall”. Of course we don’t like climbing on moss and grass; therefore we brush them away when they’re bothering us.
3rd August 2010. I’m nervous and loaded with doubts, which I try to hide and push away. I try to free my mind, but no way, I just can’t stop thinking to the route pitch by pitch and can’t find peace; I’m aware that I’ll have to keep the concentration high for all the route long and that a mistake would significantly limit my chances of a free ascent of the route that day. I think that I won’t be able to free climb the route that day and I’ll have to come back another time, in the end as everybody says “the route is always there, it doesn’t escape”. And this thought gives me a bit of relax. But there’s something which makes things more complicated: that afternoon, at 3pm, I set a phone call with some colleagues, which are American researcher with whom I’m working. I just curse the moment when I fixed that appointment and curse against this further stress during a day which didn’t promise to be very quiet.
Luca looks more relaxed, but who knows what he’s thinking. I think that in the end Luca and I are very similar, I’m sure that Luca cannot see me so worried and doubtful, so, as far as I know, he could also feel my very same emotions.
The second pitch is the one which decides if the real game begins, and who between me and Luca (or both) will play. As for myself, I take the decision that if I don’t free climb this pitch in maximum 2 attempts and Luca succeeds into it, for that day I just belay him and let him lead and do the first ascent of the whole route, we’ve no time to waste if we want to climb up to the top.
Luca goes first. It’s not a good attempt, he gets to the crux and falls at the beginning of the sequence; he’s probably not yet warm enough. I start, and with my surprise I have good sensations, I clip alternately the two ropes, rest and get to the crux where I climb well, but right at the end, I find myself hanging on the rope without even the time to realize it, maybe a wrong sequence or maybe the emotion, I don’t know!
I go down and Luca starts again, this time much more confident than on the previous try, he redpoints the pitch. Luca comes down and it’s my turn. Same good sensations as before, but I’m afraid of making the same mistake. I get to the crux and just think about crimping as hard as I can. I manage to stick those crimps this time. We got our tickets, the game can start for both of us!
From this point we had taken the decision of proceeding swapping the leader up to the last three hard final pitches. It’s my turn to lead the third pitch. Also on this pitch it’s very important to clip alternately the two ropes and don’t place too many protections. I do it right.
The overhang of the following pitch is for Luca and finally I enjoy the “pleasure of climbing”, by seconding the pitch. We also overcome with no troubles the fifth and the sixth pitch.
It’s 2.25 pm and we’re in front of the seventh pitch. 3 pm are approaching and I make my plans for the phone call, I should be ready at the next belay station at 3 pm after having belayed Luca. The seventh pitch is quite discontinuous, it has two different cruxes, with easier terrain in between, where, of course, you never have to make mistakes. I fall at the second crux. After an initial anger and discouragement I don’t give up, Luca lowers me to the belay, 2.39 pm, I start again and climb the pitch in a rush, pushed by rage, since I didn’t expect that joke, it’s 2.55 when I get to the ledge. I belay Luca and in the meanwhile begin the phone call.
Me: “Hi folks, here’s Matteo from Italy, sorry for being late.”
American colleague: “Hi Matteo, you should be in a very windy spot. Are you climbing?”
Other participant: lol
Me: “Ahahah, no, don’t worry Fred, I’m not climbing anything, I’m just travelling for work and it’s pretty windy here…”
3.40. I end up my call. Luca took some rest on the ledge, while I took of this weight; but a bigger and heavier weight is still waiting and standing just in front of me: it’s the eight pitch, the most difficult one for me, the one where I always had the worst sensations and big troubles in doing just only the single moves, the one which I renamed “old men killer”.
It’s a desperate blind corner with heinous and unsteady crazy odd movements.
Luca starts and climbs the pitch, apparently with not much effort, that really is Luca’s style. The only climber I know which was able to onsight 7b+ on a blind corner in stamming when in the same period he was hanging on crimpy 7as.
Also here I think that I’ve “one shot”, either it goes, or I leave the first ascent of the route to Luca. I already battle my way up in the lower part, which is quite exposed to be honest. After some twenty meters I get to the rest and get ready for the crux. I go up and down for a while, I don’t trust my feet, that sequence is really my nemesis. I hesitate once more; climb up and then back down to the rest. I pant and try to take back the control. It’s a “no return” sequence and I don’t want to fall.
Eventually I choose: I go and that’s it, we’ll see what happens…
I find myself up and feel strong, this time I don’t slip and my feet are stuck in friction on the granite. I don’t mess up at the top and reach the belay. Oh yeah!
All the doubts and uncertainties disappear. Now I realize that I’ve the free ascent of the route almost in my bag. I feel confident and I’m not afraid of the following two pitches.
I go for the ninth pitch, which is technically harder than the eight, but much more my style: feet on totally slick granite with zero friction and a series of small and positive underclings for the hands. I take a couple of tries to understand the correct sequence in the initial boulder, then pull down the rope and redpoint the pitch. Luca suffers this one much more than me, but finally he finds a sequence which works also for him on the initial boulder problem and we’re both under the final roof; the last obstacle between the two of us and the first free ascent of “Non è un paese per vecchi”.
This is the second to last pitch, and start with a 4-5 meters horizontal roof which offers an obviously athletic climbing, an explosive sequence on positive incuts where a good body tension is necessary to keep your feet on the wall. Not really a typical climbing style for a granite big wall…
It’s Luca’s turn. He’s visibly tired from the previous pitches and the first bolt is already hard to clip; after a few tries I see him discouraged. He gives up and let me give it a try. I’m also physically tired, but when you’re on this kind of routes, the physic is not the most important part of you, the head plays a fundamental role, and at the moment I’m super-psyched and concentrated. I don’t hesitate in clipping the first bolt and I quickly free climb all the pitch, and I climb it smartly like a killer which is giving the coup the grace to his dying victim.
I come back to the belay and leave a sling in the first bolt, now is Luca’s turn.
“It’s all in your mind”.
The guy pulls out a toughness “of past times”, he doesn’t climb well, but he’s wild, desperate and strong. He goes up dynoing left and right, I can see he’s giving everything and he doesn’t want to give up. And as a matter of facts he doesn’t give up!
It’s 7.40pm when we’re both at the summit of Linescio wall, after the first two redpoints of “Non è un paese per vecchi”!!
We reciprocally congratulate, but with no particular exultations.
We put our stake in the game and finally we won everything, we’re just part of this world.
Note: if you’re interested in repeating the route and would like to have some further info in English on approach, conditions and gear, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org