At the end of September 2019 the two Swiss David Hefti and Marcel Schenk made the first ascent of a new tour in perfect Bergeller granite: Sotsura (8a, 260m). The two developers report on the story behind the route. The topo can be found after the article.
A guest contribution by David Hefti and Marcel Schenk
The idea a new route through the steep granite wall
Again and again our eyes wander to the huge rock overhang, which is traversed by cracks. Is there a free climbing line? Climbers were certainly there, because the wall can almost be seen from the Albigna track. And there are really many climbers going up there.
We sometimes talk about it, but it never gets concrete. Maybe it's just a number too big, too heavy. Otherwise someone would already have climbed there.
"Maybe it's just a number too big, too heavy."
In September 2017 we have two days reserved for climbing. On the phone we discuss some possibilities in the evening. Since we can not think of anything else, we decide to just go up there and take a close look at the rock wall. We do not suspect in the least that this granite wall should have a full year under control.
Masha has in the meantime caught up with some information from the locals. "La Cattedrale" is also called the big overhang in the Bergell. On the left porch Italian climbers have just started a route. Gian-Cla, a climber from the Bergell, has climbed up to the big cave under the overhang. The imposing, overhanging part of the wall should really still be virgin.
Climbing into the unknown
Incredibly heavy backpacks we now carry through a dried stream bed with large, round sanded granite blocks. In a generous arc we approach the rock face, so that we can get a good overview. From different angles, we use binoculars to try to spot weaknesses in the steep wall and put them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Many possibilities do not offer themselves. So we soon know where to get in and try our luck.
"Already after the first meters we are overwhelmed by the rock quality."
It will certainly take two hours until David sets up his first stand after 35 meters. Marcel immediately starts cleaning the cracks, handles and kicks. Already after the first meters we are overwhelmed by the rock quality. Something else soon becomes clear to us: climbing free will be a big challenge for us.
Marcel takes the overhanging crack system of the second pitch under the microscope. As David later climbs with a climbing clamp and steel brush, the day is slowly coming to an end. We rope off. One day - two pitches: We can still work on this balance sheet. We try very hard and so the next day brings three rope lengths. Varied wall climbing, a pumping crack and a steep friction plate bring us to the limits and to the heart of this wall. From here it is not steep anymore, it is very steep. The wall and our climbing material on the wall foot we leave a deep hibernation and promise to come back in the spring.
The curiosity about how the next few meters will look will be huge during the winter. We find
really a freely climbable sequel to the top? When can we finally start again? Already in April the snowmelt in the Bergell has progressed so much that we can finally come back to this breathtaking rock face. Now we have the portaledge with us, install it on the number five stand and work our way upwards. After one and a half pitches, we are ready. The day is already over.
Soon we fall into a deep sleep. The sleeping bag we have to share as a blanket, because one is still down in the car. After all, with the last bolts, the next morning will be another half a rope. The exit is not far away. When rappelling, we take care of the cleaning of the handles and look forward to the next visit, hopefully to make some free climbing attempts.
Now it really starts
A few weeks later, the route finally gets its last pitch. Only vertical, a bit short, but only on the smallest handles and gloriously exposed will be the crowning glory. There is no reason to celebrate today. The first ascent is completed. We want more and we also set the first redpoint ascent to the finish. Immediately we start with first attempts right at the top, in the last pitch. It is a boulder problem with a lot of air under the butt. After some time, we can work out the individual trains, to coherent climbing is not to think.
"We want more and we also set the first redpoint ascent to the finish."
The upcoming visits to the "Cattedrale" are all about cleaning the handles, checking out sequences and red-dot attempts of the individual pitches. Slowly but steadily we are getting closer and closer to our dream.
Flying sleeping bags and haulbags
Even the mysterious sleeping bag stories are never ending. This time, he does not stay in the car, but rolls away in front of our eyes, flies over the rock face, hops elegantly from stone to stone and is finally brought to a standstill by a tree. As if, after strenuous climbing, we also have energy to bring a sleeping bag back up 200 meters into the rock face? A few weeks later, things get even better: after the climbing day has ended, the big material bag falls down the wall when it is hung on the wall. Beer cans and coffee powder make the mess in the interior of the bag perfect.
In summer, our time is getting scarce. Between mountain guide, company and family remain individual climbing days, which also do not always agree. Gian-Cla and Duri are fully motivated and accompany each one of us for climbing. In the meantime, we have carried a large part of our home contents here. The Bialetti coffee machine has a very high priority. Our women soon come to the conclusion that we could call the route "The time of women". We would spend more time in the wall than at home.
The perfect day
Then comes the day. End of September 2018 brings north wind dry air and thus best grip in the wall. At the entrance we solve, who may start with the lead. Mäse climbs up and masters the first pitches confidently. David also arrives at the stand without a fall. The first hurdle is done, it can go on. We know every grip and gain altitude faster than usual. It runs around, climbing is really fun. In pitch six, it is again really difficult and steep, but even that runs like clockwork today. When Mäse descends the difficult and wide climbing trains of the traverse to the stand, we are struck by the first rays of sunshine. We try and recover something and feed for the last two hard pitches.
"Marcel crashes again, it remains exciting."
Now we come to a standstill, Mäse crashes unexpectedly and comes back to the stand. David tries it now, he had always struggled in the run-up to this length, but today everything seems to be different and so he suddenly stands at the second-to-last stand. Marcel crashes again, it remains exciting. We finally have time and build up the Portaledge. Lying down, eating, drinking, philosophizing, resting and recharging your batteries. Then it finally works and the joy is huge as well as Mäse has cracked the length. We use this energy and plunge into the last pitch. A few hard moves and David is already in the rope. Back to the start. The second attempt works. Redemption and tension at the same time, because we want to finish it together today. A few minutes later, the time has come. Tired and with a smile on our faces, we sit on our portaledge and enjoy the evening light. It seems a bit unreal.
Back in reality, we are rappelling. Free-hanging, far from the wall, David struggles first with rope salad and the stubborn portaledge. A little later two meters are missing to the ground. Improvisation is now everything you could wish for. With headlamps we stumble back into the valley. A long day comes to an end and an intense time in a dreamlike place remains deep in our memory.
The first repetition of the route is still pending. We would be glad about repetitions and look forward to hearing from you. The reviews on the topo are suggestions.
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Credits: picture and text www.govertical.ch