Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Italy, Canada and Salsa

A short list of observations from a few weeks of travel in September and October:
1) If you find yourself in a mountain hut in Italy singing karaoke, just go with it. My host for the first few days of my fall climbing trip was Jean Luca Cavalli, who I like to think of as the Italian version of Doug Madara (a remarkably motivated middle aged climber who gets out more days, and is stronger than, most climbers half his age). Jean Luca didn't speak much English, nor I Italian, so our interactions were often full of comical misunderstandings.
On the drive home from three days straight of climbing, as it got dark and my stomach grumbled for dinner, he said:
"I think maybe we go to the mountains tonight. There is a refugio and it is a guide's holiday there so it will be fun."
It was the last thing I wanted at that moment, since I had been thoroughly enjoying the company of Jean Luca, his wife and his teenage daughter while they hosted me and Peter William the South African at their home near Milan. But I was the guest after all, so I said okay. We agreed to take 20 minutes to pack our things while his wife Antonella brewed us espresso and told us we were crazy. We hit the road and an hour later we were hiking toward Refugio Pontese in the rainy darkness.
I still wasn't sure if I would eat dinner until we caught sight of the warm light spilling out the windows of the old hut after 45 minutes on the trail. Of course a hot, delicious, home cooked meal of rabbit, rice, bread and salad was on the table for us within 5 minutes of arriving. The building was full of Italian climbing guides on their night off. As we finished dinner, four of them started to play music and sing. It started with Italian folk music, and quickly evolved (devolved?) into corny American karaoke. As soon as they learned I was American I was placed right in the middle of them to help with lyrics to Bob Dylan, the Bee-Gees, Janis Joplin and more. Here is a short clip from when it was still tame early in the night.

Refugio Pontese from janet bergman on Vimeo.

Needless to say I went to bed way too late, Jean Luca woke me up at 5:30 am for a three hour approach to a rock climb, and I was only worth about 2 pitches once we got there. Such good times though.
Some images from our adventure the next day on Becco Meridionale della Tribolazione, aka Tribulation (3360m):

2) Italian Rock Is Not Limited To Karaoke And Limestone. None of my friends had heard of Valle Dell'Orco before, but a little research revealed splitter granite so I couldn't resist applying to represent the American Alpine Club for the Italian International Trad Meet.
Jean Luca, Peter William and I drove straight from the Refugio Pontese trailhead to the tiny village of Ceresole for the meet. 18 countries were represented and we had five days of amazing weather, perfect climbing, incredible Italian hospitality and so many fun memories. I had never heard so many ways to say 'on' and 'off' belay before!
Maurizio Oviglia's new English language guidebook to the Orco Valley was released while we were there and it is excellent. I am sure this place will be seeing a lot more traffic now.
A little historical tidbit: The two main cliffs there are called Caporal and Sargent, after Yosemite's El Capitan. The local Italian climbers were inspired by Royal Robbins and friends to learn crack climbing in the late '70's, and these are the cliffs that they practiced on!

3) I like helicopters. I am not allowed to say much more than that. But I was super lucky to participate in a photo shoot for a top secret ad campaign in western Canada on the way home from Italy. The four day shoot involved gondola and helicopter rides, make up artist, stylist and a whole film and photography crew. I kept getting referred to as 'the talent'. Ha!

4) Dancing salsa and merengue is as much fun as climbing! I came home just in time to attend Kismet Rock Foundation's Latin dance-themed annual fund-raising event this past weekend. Boston-based Los Sugar Kings rocked the house once again, showing everyone step by step how to move alone and with a partner. Finding rhythm in a new dance step is indescribably fun. Even my mom said she liked it! Check out this great photo blog post by Anne Skidmore from the event.

What was in my bags for the Italy - Canada linkup?
Mountain Hardwear Superscrambler Backpack: Simply designed, ultralight and surprisingly durable.
La Sportiva Miura VS: Precision. Nuff said. And I was not the only one - dozens of other people from around the world were pulling these shoes on to make their best attempt's at Valle Orco's testy discontinuous crack systems and steep face climbs.
Sterling Fusion Ion2 Rope: The newly designed Ion2 is built to last. Big difference in this rope from the first generation!
Polartec test jacket
Petzl Reverso: Everyone was using double ropes there!

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