Text and pictures © 2011-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/07
"Be careful down there on Earth. It's close to the ground and somebody could get hurt." — Mir Crew.
Left: The village of San Martino dominated by the multitude of granite cliffs: val Masino on the left, val di Mello on the right. And others.
Right: A snake stuck into a crack in the middle of a slab 20m above ground, with no way out. As it was the best hold around (I mean the crack, not the snake), I picked it up with a stick and deposited it on the ground. Who knows how long it'd been there.
Left: An example of the very smooth slabs you can find in val di Mello. After a while your eyes go cross from straining to find slight rugosities on the rock that you will have to use as a 'hold'. On the cliff there are 60m pitches with only two rusty bolts, with absurd grades like 5+ that I wasn't even able to toprope after shaking all the way back down on my lead attempts.
Right: The climbs are mostly on south faces. Access to the upper valley is forbidden to cars, although many italians don't seem to care.
Left: Mother of all wedgies on Cunico Acuto, said to be the most ancient route of the valley. Not very hard and certainly old-style.
Right: A view of the upper valley.
Left: 'La crepa della Bamba', an excellent 6b crack. As much as I found their slabs way underrated (and way runout), the grades on the cracks are rather gentle.
Right: Luna Nascente, classic among the classics of the valley, and well deserving the title. Almost entirely trad too. The only drawback is standing in line at the base... This is the 2nd pitch, with a roof reminiscent of another famous granite route...
Left: End of the roof traverse for Jenny (6a+).
Right: One of the several pitches of not-so-steep layback (laid-back layback ?).
Left: There are 4 similar pitches of layback crack.
Right: After the wide-crack pitch, a pitch that reminded me of yet another infamous classic. You could probably protect the pitch if you had a #6 cam, but then the flake is so thin and so high (the entire 45m of the pitch) and so scary (you go all the way around it without ever actually seeing it touch the cliff) that you don't really want to jeopardize it by applying too much pressure, like falling on a cam would. BTW, you can talk quietly to your belayer the entire way by talking inside the crack...
Right: During the descent, a view of the route.
Left: The upper valley.
Right: L'albero delle Pere, a route you can turn back to when Kundalini's too crowded, but only one or two pitches are really good.
Left: Riding the bike back to town to avoid the car ban.
Right: The revenge of Kundalini, another classic worth standing in line for.
Left: A gentle layback that turns into a long traverse. Not hard but poorly protected for the 2nd.
Right: The long traverse on Kundalini.
Left: Excellent 6c crack right above the lunch area by the road. Worth doing after a couple beers and BBQ ribs.
Right: Punta Fiorelli in Val Merdarolla. The name itself should have been a hint: over 3 hours hours of trudging through wet high grass on a steep muddy trail.
Left: The route was supposed to be runout, but I managed to get off-route on the 3rd pitch, chasing a far away bolt 25 meters to the right, with a killer move a couple meter before the bolt which happened to be... a dead end.
Right: 3rd pitch (the correct one) of Waiting List. All pitches are excellent and the runout doesn't go into insane territories, provided you stay on the route. The 6b pitch is only one short well protected move.
Left: The last pitch of the route, which you can dispense with: it all loose boulders held together by spiny bushes... And heavy clouds forming up, and is that thunder or a whole bunch of airplanes ? It started pouring as we were rappelling off the last pitch and the wall turned into a waterfall. We expected to be able to relax in the hot thermal spring of Bagni Masino, but they closed 5 minutes before we showed up...
Right: The Colibri route on the Alkekengi cliff. The name probably stems for the weight that's required to be able to pull off those unprotected slab moves without fear. This area, although not far from the main trail, receives very few visits judging by the impossible to find trail.
Left: The end of Colibri. Only 4 pitches, but I certainly didn't wish that there were more, the distance between the pro being... somewhat appreciable.