When God made the planet he had a bit of rock left over so he put it all in Val Massino in Italy. This is the valley on the Italian side of the very well known Piz Badile. San Martino is just above 900m in the bottom of the valley and the peaks rise to a modest 3300m or so all around. From brilliant boulders in the valley to road side crags, crags on the slopes of the peaks of many hundreds of metres high and crags and ridges on the peaks themselves, there is more rock here than you can ever hope to climb in one lifetime. It's beautiful, inspiring and gives you a sore neck looking up at it all the time!
John and I walked past the boulders and valley crags to go straight to the Rifugio Allievi at 2400m high above the valley. Our interest is in the peaks and the stunning ridges that lead to them. Despite great weather and such amazing climbing we had the hut to ourselves for the first night and shared it with only four other people on the second night. Our first climb was hardly a warm up. We went for the Gervasutti Route on the South Ridge of Punta Allievi, about 600m of climbing up to F5c.
It takes a while to get used to the rock in any new venue you visit. The granite here is no different and the scale of place and nature of the rock are different to most other places. The rock must have cooled down very clowly since the crystals ar enormous. Some of the feldspar crystals are 10cm long and form complete hand holds and foot holds by themselves. We stepped delicately up the first pitch and we were much more in the groove by the fourth pitch. This was in fact a real rucksack wrecker of a groove that tapered as you got into it. It certainly left its mark on us.
Higher up the route follows the crest of the ridge where occasional bolts guide you and keep you from straying to the more inviting sides. Endless pitches of perfect rock finally gave way to the last few metres of gentle scrambling and the summit. We were surrounded by the pointiest granite spires you've seen with glaciers down on the Swiss side but a simple scramble and blocky descent back to the hut for dinner.
For our second climb we went for the traverse of Pizzo di Zocca, a slightly higher peak with a long and committing rock ridge on its NE side followed by a long and committing descent of its SW ridge. The rock at the start of the ridge climbing straight out of the col was pretty scary with very large blocks that had recently fallen out and a few more that looked ready to follow. We picked our way through this section and quickly came to clean solid rock with beautiful patches of vibrant wild flowers thaty softened the seriousness of the route slightly.
The route description only gave us a vague indication of where to go so by following our noses and very occasional bolts we made it up to the north summit. Unfortunately our luck changed here just when we thought it was all going very well. We were let down by a slight physical malfunction that made it impossible to carry on or to retreat back down the ridge. So we swallowed our pride and asked for a helicopter to take us back down to the hut. It was a simple job and an exhilarating ride thanks to the remarkable skill of the Swiss helicopter crew. So we're currently back down in Val Massino, gazing up at all this rock and hoping to recouperate sufficiently to go and explore some more it.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.