Valle dell’ Orco

Spur-of-the-moment trips are the best, when you don’t have time to think… you just say: “F#&k yeah”

So I found myself on a train early Friday morning with a backpack fulled with the basics: a rack Black Diamond Camalots and La Sportiva gear 🙂 Christi picked me up in Basel and we hit the road heading to Valle dell’ Orco, Italy – the crack climbing capital of Europe!

It is a beautiful drive down through western Switzerland passing Bern, Lausanne and Martigny… then up over a beautiful pass into France and down into Chamonix, with a quick visit to the best climbing shop in the world – DROOL… then under Mont Blanc into Italy… down Valle Aosta… before turning up into Valle dell’ Orco.

Petit Dru, Chamonix

Petit Dru, Chamonix

We only arrived at the parking around 6.30pm… but our chosen line looked great so ran up the hill and racked up – I of course forgot my belay device in the rush, opps :/ The climbing was splendid – 3 pitches of perfect laybacking with the “bullet” hard granite eating up our gear. I’ve never been one for long double ropes but the 2x 70m got us two the ground with one long rap and with time to spare: 1st: uncoiling the rat’s nest caused by me abseiling with a Munter hitch :/ and 2nd: drink a La Goudale (750ml of strong beer). The walk down was fun if not a bit unstable but we got to the car before the dark, what a cool mission 🙂

Our objective for the next day was on the Sergent, the main wall of the valley. You see it from the camping and it reminded me of The Chief from my trip to Squamish, Canada. We took it easy enjoying a breakfast at the river and then slowly made our way up to the base. While racking up we saw a huge mountain goat coming down the slabs, no idea were he came from as the easiest route up there somewhere around 6a?

Main wall of the Sergent, Valle dell' Orco

Main wall of the Sergent, Valle dell’ Orco

Christi got the first pitch which was a really nice but tricky 6b+ slab. It was bolted so I got to second with the double rack which I found challenging as the extra 10kg constantly changing your center-of-gravity. I was happy to set off on the next 6b+ pitch which started with a perfect hand-jam crack, leading to a unprotected traverse (I put in a #5 Camalot but it was more psychological then practical) and finally an amazing fist/hand crack. Super pitch! Christi crushed the last 5c layback pitch which ended below a splitter 7a crack.

I was psyched that it was my lead 🙂 I gave it my best shot but poor gear selection and the constant rain during the climb made my onsight attempt less than perfect and this pitch will have to wait for my return…

After another monster rap >75m (with rope stretch) we ate some lunch and chose our next line.

A splitter 6a hand-jam crack that is shaped like a lightning bolt. An absolute classic – SO COOL!

Next was a 6c+ bolted line that I had to try even though we were not here for sport climbing… it just looked too good (DOPPELGANGER to Illearth Stone @ Paarl Rocks) to walk past without trying. I tried hard and managed to onsight it, super stoked!

After a delicious pizza, lots of beer and too many Génépi (herb schnapps) we finally slept after a GREAT day.

As you can imagine, our motivation on Sunday was not peaking but after a long breakfast and lots of water, it slowly started to reemerge. We chose the sport climbing crag at Bosco, which is in the beginning of the valley, when we saw the amount of tourists coming up the valley. You do not wanna get stuck behind 1000 cars in the narrow valley with a 6hrs drive ahead of you! We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the climbing, super solid gneiss with perfect edges and pumpy slopers… but after 6 routes in the sun we were feeling the night before and hit the road around 3pm.

After a pit-stop in Chamonix for a burger & beer we made it back to Basel by 8pm and I was in Freiburg by 10pm.

All in all, a pretty damn good weekend!



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