In climbing areas in Ticino, handles and steps are apparently chipped regularly on routes. And not by visitors to the respective areas, but by the developers themselves. Now several local Ticino climbing groups have spoken out.
A guest contribution by the Ticino climbing clubs Gruppo Scoiattoli dei Denti della Vecchia | Group Picalciot | Group Giovani della SEV
Before we get to the heart of this article, we would like to go back a bit historically. In the 80s and 90s, sport climbing in Ticino, like in the rest of Europe, experienced a real golden age. Rocks of modest height were no longer seen only as a preparation for the great alpine walls, but as a goal in their own right. During these years, some of the areas in the Riviera (Ticino) emerged that are still among the most beautiful in Ticino.
Pioneers with strict ethics
Unlike in other parts of Europe, our pioneers at the time upheld an ethic that was ahead of their time: they considered chipping holds and kicks, i.e. artificially hitting/drilling new ones or improving existing holds and kicks, as unacceptable.
While in Buoux, France, the unbelievable intersection The rose and the vampire "Creating" from scratch and creating new routes with holes, boulders and cement for the very first sport climbing competitions in Bardonecchia, Italy, explorers in Ticino had already understood that a route, even if it seemed impossible, must remain natural. This is because new generations of stronger climbers will come and manage to climb them, or simply because with great commitment and a good dose of creativity they will find a way to conquer them.
Preserve challenges for posterity
Sport climbing is the pursuit of challenges that may seem impossible. Hitting holds and withholding projects from future generations that might one day be climbable therefore contradicts the nature of our sport.
This principle was already known in the 80s and 90s. had to Deus Irae (8c +) in Claro, for example, waiting more than ten years to get off the extremely strong Dave Graham to be climbed first. And around Scoobie Doo pensaci tu (8a) in Osogna, an ingenious method had to be found to overcome the passage that until then seemed simply impossible.
Before finding the right method to overcome this passage, a rope was left hanging from the hook, which was immediately removed once the solution was found. These and other routes could have been improved, but it is only thanks to these impossible challenges that our sport has evolved.
Chipping increasingly frowned upon
The far-sightedness of our developers is confirmed by the fact that the same ethics were gradually adopted in the rest of Europe and chipping was increasingly frowned upon. One of the most important examples is that of Maurizio Zanolla aka Manolo, who decades later decided to close the holds struck on one of his pitches to return the line to its natural form. As a result, he managed to free climb the route again without the artificial holds.
Certainly, the ethic of leaving the route in its natural state has meant that certain routes in Ticino cannot be set up and climbed. Because the walls of Ticino are often extremely smooth and difficult pitches alternate with easy sections, which leads to heterogeneous difficulties. Nevertheless, Ticino is one of the most popular and beautiful climbing areas in Switzerland.
Worrying recent developments
The view of the beginnings of sport climbing in Ticino is as venerable as it is thought-provoking to look at the present and the recent past. Unfortunately, in various areas of the canton, not all furnishers adhere to this central ethic. To our knowledge there are at least six or seven areas where holds have been beaten or improved. And that worries us.
An important clarification: We don't want to act like climbing police or point fingers at anyone. We are well aware that our days of vertical fun are only possible thanks to the hard work of those people who spend countless hours in the wall, paying out of pocket for hook material and in return for a 20 cm too far right or be criticized for the hook placed on the left. We would like to thank everyone who volunteers for climbing in Ticino.
But one criticism is definitely appropriate and should be expressed here: We condemn the practice of chipping and do not want chipping to become systematically established in Ticino. So we want to start a healthy discussion on this topic.
Above all, we want to sensitize the following generations, who have just started climbing and may soon find themselves with a drill in their hand at the foot of an untouched wall. We believe it is important to pass on the ethic of no chipping. Not just to preserve a tradition, but because it is the essence of climbing, encouraging progress and ensuring respect for nature and the challenges it poses.
Note from the association Picalciot
Our association Picalciot has decided to sign the present call, although in the past some of our members have chipped routes when opening them. The people concerned have now revised their opinion on this - long before this appeal was written - and are against chipping.
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Credits: Cover photo Lacrux