It was the first time I set off for a destination uniquely to explore it, without a project in mind.
Multi-pitch / traditional
Yuji Hirayama, Sam Elias, Caroline Ciavaldini, James Pearson, Larcher Jacopo (2013)
Even if I had already used cams and nuts climbing in the Dolomites, I had never tried this kind of climbing: I had always been attracted to it, but I had never dedicated any energy to it. What really fascinated me, was that the mental aspect prevailed and that I had to control my emotions and fears, concentrating only on the climbing.
At the beginning of the year James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini had invited me to join them to climb for one month at the Reunion Island, looking for new routes to open. Sam Elias and the legend Yuji Hirayama were going to join the group.
The island, where among other things Caroline had grown up, was beautiful, and in spite of being quite a well known tourist destination it had maintained its wild look. In a few hundred metres you could range from oceanic beaches to mountains, from the city to small towns, where a mix of cultures lived side by side in perfect harmony.
Hanging out at the better well known crags during the first days, we also climbed a few trad routes. The island’s rock is perfect for trad climbing. Even if I had already used cams and nuts in the Dolomites, I had never tried this type of climbing before: I had always been attracted it, but I had never dedicated myself seriously. Luckily in the group there was one of the best in this discipline, James, who taught me various tricks and above all he checked I wasn’t making any mistakes. What really fascinated me about this type of climbing, was the predominance of the mental aspect, the fact that it was indispensable to keep one’s emotions and fears under control, simply concentrating on the climbing.
After freeing a few new trad routes on the coast, we chose to move, for ten or so days, inland, discovering the beautiful granite wall which Caroline and James had only seen on photos. Just more than 200 metres high, the face that nobody had ever climbed, caught our attention.
Once we had reached the base, after a few hours of walking, we realised that the only possible route was one, and it didn’t even look that easy. So instead of splitting up as we had planned, all five of us chose to concentrate on the same route: one roped party would open a pitch, while the others would dedicatee their energy on cleaning and freeing the previous ones. The route proved to be a lot more difficult and overhanging than planned: the cracks were often superficial, or covered in dirt, and the rock was extremely compact and smooth; not to speak of the unstable boulders which were as large as fridges.
A number of days were needed to climb all the pitches and clean them, the majority seemed climbable except for a very smooth overhanging corner. Clearly, the next objective was to free the route.
During the following days we climbed all the pitches, but the corner continued to reject us, in spite of climbing each single move. I had never experienced something of the kind: to manage to gain some centimetres, you had to contort yourself in all directions. At the beginning James and I had made progress, but then we started to give up, while Yuji, who initially had struggled, shortly after started falling increasingly higher up, showing once again his talent and experience.
The more we got angry for every failed attempt, the more he managed to concentrate and to mechanize each sequence. After a few days, we gave up, while Yuji, fought right to the end, and freed the route: it was the evening of his last day, when we had now lost all hope. Even if we still didn’t have the first free ascent in one single push, we had climbed and freed all pitches of “Zebrocal”. The trip to the Reunion Island was a magnificent experience, able to introduce me to a new passion, the passion for trad climbing.