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Trad climbing, what will the future bring?

High-profile representatives flocked to the Valle dell’Orco in the Gran Paradiso national park from 19 to 25 September 2010 when top climbers from half the countries in the world sized up with the very fine formations in the valley and more.

The first trad climbing meeting, organised by the Club Alpino Accademico Italiano, provided an opportunity for discussing the ethics of climbing, starting from the past to outline the future of the sport.

It was from this valley (and the Val di Mello) that Il Nuovo Mattino started out, the movement set up in the 1970s which revolutionised mountain climbing techniques.

"With Il Nuovo Mattino, heroism and conquest -  explained Manrico, a real Dolomite man - were banished to make room for a more intimate and introspective relationship with the rock face which was to become an element with which to merge and integrate and not an enemy to be defeated. No longer peaks to be tackled but instead fields or woods: pegs were replaced by nuts or cams, heavy boots by lightweight trainers with a special sole, almost as if to symbolise a tip-toeing into the enchanted world. Formations without a peak but instead faces with “Yosemite cracks” allowed difficult ascents which were outstanding in aesthetic terms, an ideal and independent alternative to great mountains on the one hand and the possibility of training for major alpine ascents and more on the other hand. Moreover, at that time, the legend of the Yosemite valley was invading the more advanced areas of Italian alpinism and the places where the American seed could take root more easily had necessarily to be granitic rock with many cracks and easy access. For this reason the Val di Mello and Valle dell’Orco also became legendary places in Italy”.

This was the starting point for the meeting.

The discussion was centred on the question: is it perhaps time to take a step backwards, seeking to reinstate clean and traditional climbing? Climbing without or with very limited use of fixed anchors, using pressure pegs only on slabs or in areas where no other type of protection is possible?

“Andrea Giorda - commented Manrico - writes that after this meeting the valley will no longer be the same and those who spoil it will have to face the blame of half the planet. I hope so and wonder whether all these are ideas of a small group of a select few and only relate to a few very specific places. Or whether the ideas of elite climbers are changing direction. Only time will tell. One thing is certain however: this meeting has demonstrated that some of the most authoritative names in world alpinism believe that climbing needs to take a step backwards, not technically but technologically, and I think this would be a good thing for alpinism and for the mountains”.

Manrico Dall'Agnola