Sunday, 22 September 2013

Orco proper

First full day in Orco, we woke up to blue skies and drying rock. The rain was supposed to return around 5pm, so we decided to try for one multi-pitch before it did. After a long breakfast waiting for the sun and wind to do their magic, we headed to Torre de Aimonin. Me and Adam jumped on a nice easy line called Spigolo (6a+). After the head fuck the day before I was happy for something that wasn't going to be too much of a stretch.

It started to rain with two pitches to go, but we managed to finish and rap down before it got too heavy.

Up high and a bit soggy on the first day. Photo by Adam Brown

We figured we'd squeezed what we could out of the day... however after dinner, a couple of beers, and a few glasses of vino, Nic had other ideas. He decided we should have a go at the Kosterlitz crack - an F6b hand crack up the middle of a large boulder, with the crux at the start making it a reasonable highball. In the dark. After pouring rain.

We were never going to manage it, but we had a good laugh trying.

We did go back to it in better conditions later in the trip, Adam and Nic sending it in short order, whilst I struggled manfully... I gave it a good go, and got within one move of the better jams on several occasions, but it wasn't to be for this trip.

Adam crushing the Kosterlitz, spotted by a crazy Italian... probably the most psyched guy you ever met.

Next morning we went back to Aimonin - Nic and Ramon to redpoint the heinous slabs of Unna Notte A Thaiti (6c) (which had given them some trouble in the rain the day before), while me and Adam got on a 6c multi-pitch called La Casa Degli Specchi. The first pitch was a fierce 6b+, reminiscent of Test Case at Pembroke, but harder. I let Adam have the lead, and he had a really good go for someone pulling straight on without a warmup, taking one fall going for it with total commitment, before finishing the pitch.

After dogging my way up that I got an amazing traverse under a roof, with wild moves, but which turned out to match the guidebook description "more psychological than technical".

Adam got a really nice flake, then I got an "easy" 4c.

After traversing up a crack line, I was faced with a 15m rising slab traverse, that looked totally devoid of gear. "more psychological than technical" popped into my mind again. As it turned out, after about 10m there was a hidden peg that cheered me up immensely, only to be given cause for thought again by a section of fairly loose rock above.

I'd ran two pitches together, giving Adam the highlight of the route - a 6c crack climb way above the valley floor. He did kindly offer to let me to block lead, but I figured he deserved it for his patience in the first couple of days.

In the end, it was probably a good thing anyway - I doubt I'd have done the first 8m of unprotected climbing from a cam just above the belay. It was desperate on second - I had to dyno to a flatty that looked good from below but turned out to be just about usable. Adam has balls, there's no doubt about that.

I flashed the pitch on second, and was absolutely stoked with that... top rope or not, flashing 6c crack climbs would have been beyond my wildest dreams a few weeks ago - seems I learned a lot in those couple of weekends in Millstone.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and blue. Rob and Lee, a couple of English lads we'd met earlier in the week had size 5 and 6 camalots they weren't using, so they kindly let myself and Adam take them on La Fessura della Disperazione (6a+) - an aptly named 3 pitch off-width crack.

I went for the first pitch - a rising traverse along the rather well defined fissure. After a few meters outside the crack I arranged some gear, dropped my leg in, and started udging along. Shuffling the size 5 along in front of me I edged my way forwards.

It's a strange feeling, relying on one piece of gear to keep you off the ground - and I really had to give myself a good talking to - but eventually made it to a peg half way along and was able to relax and move a bit more freely to the belay.

Adam started pitch two, and immediately found himself in some difficulties... this crack was much harder. It was a pretty tense belay for a while, until he left the number 5 behind and started with the number 6. Knowing he had two bits of gear between him and a factor two onto the belay made life happier for me, and I'm sure for him too.

I started out along the crack on second, and found the number 5 overcammed and totally wedged. It was not a good place to be stopped fiddling around, and by the time I got it out I was already gasping for air... and the pitch was hardly started.

What followed was one of the biggest fights of my life, and by the time I reached the belay I was retching, and thought I was going to vomit.

Facing me now was a 10m vertical chicken-wing off width, which then widened out into a full-body crack. I really had to psych myself to get started, but eventually the nausea subsided and felt ready to go.

I placed a few small cams on a crack out to the left to protect the belay, then started up the crack. It was size 6 camelot all the way. Just below the top of the vertical section, about a meter from the first rest, I reached a widening where the cam would not fit. I was boxed. My fingers were opening, my right foot was slipping, and my brain was red-lining.

Instead of leaving the cam and pulling out to go for the rest, I desperately fought to get the cam up higher where it narrowed again. I almost fell out of the crack with the cam in my hand. I just managed to get it back down in position as my hand and foot gave way, and I sagged onto my protection. So near, yet so far. I was completely spent.

I took a few minutes resting on the cam but didn't recover much, so I lowered down and let Adam lead the pitch. He put on a brilliant show to nail the flash - laybacking the crack and making it easy where I'd blown myself out trying to udge up inside.

Sitting on the belay, I wondered had I tried hard enough... had I given everything I had? It felt pretty close, maybe just too many wrong choices finished me off. I guess it was a hard route to pick for my first off-width.

It beat me up and spat me out, but it truly is an amazing experience - not to be missed.

We finished the day on a beautiful thin hands crack called Incastromania (6a). Adam onsighting it, and I cleaded it on second.

Adam on Incastromania

We decided Ramon and Nic should not know how broken we felt, so we did all we could to look fit walking off. In truth, I was a broken man.

Our sandbag worked... the guys got on it the next day. Nic seemed to quite enjoy himself, although Ramon ended up as beaten as I was.

Nic running it out on the third pitch of La Fessura della Disperazione

Ramon gurning his way up the crack

Karma had the last laugh though - I had tweaked my groin on that attempt, and after laughing at Ramon, as I walked over to the next sector I slipped off the path and pulled it properly.

On the last day, I tried to have a go at a classic 6c multipitch called The Rattlesnake, and although I only made it up two pitches before I had to retire, climbing the Orrechio de Pachiderma flake made it  worth having the go, for sure.

Nicola on the Orrechio... an amazing pitch
Rattlesnake finishes up the overhanging offwidth in the middle of the picture... I must go back and try this line again.

Injuries aside, a great time was had, and I will no doubt be back again. In fact, I think the year long Tour De Mediterranean with Clare may just have found a new starting place... she loves the peak so Orco should blow her away - it's like gritstone on steroids.

No comments:

Post a Comment