Italian Trad Cracks: Part II

Over the last week, Peewee, Alex Ekins and I have continued on the mission of trying out some of Italy’s finest crack climbing. Since arriving in Cadarese, I was immediately impressed with how good the quality was and after talking to the locals, I realised there were many hard crack routes that I’d never even heard of!

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Meeting David Bacci, Saro Costa and Hattori Hanzo in Cadarese. Good fun!

After a couple of days warming up on the cracks at Cadarese, Peewee and I went up to try an amazing splitter finger crack called The Doors, 8a+. This route didn’t even get a chance to disapppoint – not even for a single second. It’s an amazing 45m slightly overhanging finger crack that takes in almost every size possible (despite being a finger crack!) and holds back suitors with three brilliant cruxes. Climbing The Doors has to be one of my favourite climbing experiences; hard enough to be absorbing but not too difficult that you couldn’t enjoy it’s beauty and variation.

Matteo making the first trad ascent of The Doors. Brilliant!

Wondering what to do next, I asked some locals about suggestions for other good finger cracks and time and time again I heard the name “Profundo Rosso” an 8a+ that Yuji Hirayama had climbed during his trip in 2011. Heading down to the crag the next morning, I couldn’t believe how good the line looked – yes it had bolts in it, no it wasn’t a perfect splitter, but I loved the tsunami wave of rock that it split. Sometimes, ugly is good.

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That’s where these Five Ten pads go, right? Head-barring? (Photo: Alex Ekins)

Starting off on the pitch, I had a rude awakening on the offwidth start; oh dear how rusty my handstacking and kneelock technique felt. After 40ft though, it narrows back to hands, but then starts to kick back to a much steeper angle. At the steepest section it pinches down to single isolated finger locks and some occasional edges to rest your poor skin on. Committing to the upper section, I felt reasonably at home and decided to ignore my doubts that I’d not be onsighting 8a+ today. At the last bolt I was faced with the dilemma of which hand to lead into the final finger lock – agh, right or left? Right or left? Lactic acid left me little choice and I stabbed upwards with intuition. I hit lucky and the choice was the right one. I reached up over the top of the crack towards to the belay and found a horrendous sloping pocket….. Dangling on the rope moments later I wondered if I’d made a bad choice, but searching around I found a hidden hold that I’d never have spotted. Oh well! I returned to finish the route the following day on the way to Orco Valley – overall a touch harder than The Doors and perhaps mid 8a+?

Coming back to Orco Valley after 2 years away has been a strange experience. I’d sort of got the “Orco Bug” out of my system, but within 5 miles of valley driving and constant spying of new lines to do I have been drawn in again. This valley is so good, I honestly think it’s the best trad climbing destination in the whole of Europe. Peewee is here with me to do Greenspit and I’m keen to work on two projects. One is the “Pura Pura” Project which I dreamt up a few years back where a long hard crack boulder problem is linked into an 8b roof crack route to create a Dani Andrada style mega 8b+/c crack route. Sure it’s ridiculous, but why not?! The second is a steep finger crack that Pete Whittaker and I have spent a couple of seasons trying, but not succeeded on. Hopefully this last winter’s cellar training will pay off….

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Rest day climbing in Orco Valley. (Photo: Alex Ekins)

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