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La Sportiva 90th Anniversary Storytelling
Jacopo Larcher and Paolo Marazzi, talk about “Thus spoke Zarathustra” the title of both the famous novel by German philosopher Nietzsche and a little less known, but equally interesting climbing route opened in 1983 in Vallone di Sea, not far from Turin, by visionary climbers Caneparo and Meneghin.
At some stage of the creative process the artist finds himself with the difficult task of having to name his creation; and to start using this name to refer to what at first was just an idea, a vision. The painter, the musician, the writer and even the climber are faced with this dilemma. But what can so strongly influence a climber, to urge him to name a route with the title of such an important, visionary and complex book as Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus spoke Zarathustra”
Climbing this wall in the enchanting and magical setting of the Vallone di Sea, close to Turin, I tried to figure out where this name could come from.Back in the year 1983, climbing that imposing dihedral must have been a mentally and physically engaging experience … similar, perhaps, to the philosophical writings of Nietzsche at the end of the 19th century. I can imagine how 30 years ago, as they were observing that climbing route from the centre of town, Caneparo and Meneghin must have had some kind of vision and decided to write that vision down on rock in the cleanest and purest way possible: deciding to free climb the route without causing too much damage to the wall while responsibly assuming all the risks involved- drilling bolts in to the wall would certainly have made things easier and progression would have been faster and more comfortable especially on the slab walls leading to the dihedral.
“They had a vision, they made it happen and it is our duty to keep on respecting their vision”, this is what Jacopo Larcher, a very strong climber from Merano, a long time friend, and my companion in this adventure, and I thought from the very beginning, after bad weather forced us abandon our original plans.
Personally I had already heard about this route, how it had been opened and a little about what had happened afterwards, about the attempt to bolt some of the more difficult passages to make it easier to attempt a second climb after that breathtaking first free climb which had never been successfully repeated. The attempt to bolt the route had be rightly opposed by the two original, visionary climbers who had never accepted to climb with the aid of those shiny metal bolts and for this reason they demanded that the climber responsible, return the route to its original state. From that moment on nothing else was known about the route, not even the locals could say how the story ended and whether those bolts were ever removed or not. However, it didn’t really matter to us whether they were there or not, as we had already decided not to use them anyway. If in 1983 climbers had managed to free climb the route, the least we could do was to show proper respect for their climbing ethics and vision.
It took us 3 days to assess the wall and determine whether it would be possible to attempt a second free climb. We too, had a vision, a dream, maybe not as big as that of the original climbers, but equally important to us, we wanted to give a free climbing continuity to the route.
Everything was ready. We had cleaned, set up and tried the lengths and on the day we climbed the whole route ground up we also broke all of the 1980s bolts which had been of no use back then and certainly couldn’t be of any use to climbers in the new millennium. We left 2 beaks, 1 nail and a rurp on the second length, as it was not possible to protect ourselves quickly, but we removed all the other bolts that had been placed during the previous attempt. We left untouched the 3 new bolts that cross the third length of the route, in its final part, which had not placed during the previous attempt to free Zarathustra but were placed there to open a new route which in those few metres was forced to enter that vision so pure. We did not use them however, as we wanted to protect ourselves in the same way as Caneparo and Meneghin, because in the end, the most important and beautiful thing about trad climbing is to try to honour that piece of history already written years ago, to allow it to relive its glory and remember that it is the past is what has brought us where we are today. Now Zarathustra, has a past and maybe a present: we will see what the future will bring.
After three days of preparation, on the 28th of July, 2017 Jacopo Larcher and Paolo Marazzi free climbed “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” (A3, 250m) in the Vallone di Sea, climbing ground up and without the aid of bolts. The route, with difficulties up to Grade 7c, was originally opened in 1983 by Caneparo and Meneghin.
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