My father, Richard Hechtel, and the Peuterey Integral
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Eulogies, Europe (Sunday June 19, 2011 at 9:53 am)

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Richard Hechtel (l) and  Günther Kittelmann (r)

This Father’s Day, I want to remember my father for the things   most enjoyed - reminiscing about his climbs.

In 1953, my father and Günther Kittelmann completed the first ascent of the Peuterey Integral - the complete Peuterey ridge on Mt. Blanc.

The Alpine Club Guidebook describes this climb as “the longest and probably the most difficult traverse of its kind in the Alps. There is more than 4500m of ascent over all types of terrain and in magnificent situations” (Alpine Club Guidebook by Lindsay Griffin.)

Even today, the climb is described as one of the hardest and most committing climbs in the Alps.

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At the Col de Peuterey

My father  describes this climb in his book, The Merry-Go-Round of my life: an Adventurer’s Diary.

The climb starts in Italy and covers more than 4,500 meters of technical climbing.

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Kittelmann on the south ridge of the Aguille Noire

Jonathan Griffith  filmed a great video of this climb, which shows the length, magnitude, and exposure of this epic climb. Watching this film impressed me what a great climb my father had done.

Sadly, he has passed and cannot watch this film himself. Nor can I tell him  how I miss him; miss climbing with him; and wish he could do one more climb with my son and me.

Vonn’s training helps her win Super-G in Cortina
Posted by sibylle in Italy, skiing, women, Europe (Monday January 24, 2011 at 7:48 pm)


Lindsey Vonn on her way to win the Super-G

AP photo

Vonn beat her closest competitor, Maria Riesch, by 0.05 seconds to win her second Super-G only a day after spraining her MCL during the Cortina Downhill race.

Riesch won the Downhill, during which Vonn lost control and narrowly avoided crashing.

I watched videos of both the Downhill and the Super-G and found her recovery from the near crash close to miraculous.

Vonn ascribes her ability to recover - and also her tendency to nearly crash — to being much stronger as a result of her training program.

Vonn trains 6 - 8 hours daily, 6 days per week, including 3 hours of cardio, often riding a bike uphill in the alps.

Her workout includes squats, deadlifts, and cleans.

AP photo of Vonn - Val-d’Isere Downhill

At 5′10″ and weighing 160 pounds, Vonn is also one of tallest and heaviest  female racers, and this size gives her an advantage in Downhill races.

Lindsey Vonn wins 2 out of 3 in Italy
Posted by sibylle in Italy, skiing, women, Europe (Sunday January 23, 2011 at 9:24 pm)


Julia Mancuso racing the Super-G

Photo from Getty images

Vonn  won the Super-G in Cortina, Italy on January 21, with  teammate Julia Mancuso in fourth place.

On Saturday, January 22, Maria Riesch won the Downhill, with Mancuso in second place and Vonn in third.

Most amazing was Vonn’s recovery after catching an edge and looking about to crash (see video).  Vonn said it was “the best recovery I’ve ever made.”

Her leg twisted severely  sideways after catching an edge left her with a sprained MCL in her knee.

A sprained MCL didn’t stop her from racing Sunday –  and Vonn won another Super-G!  Watch the video of the race - the reporter mentions how her angulation gives her more power.

Skiers  who’ve taken lessons with me will have heard me talk about angulation, and here you can hear about it at a world class level.

Also note in  the photo of Mancuso how forward she keeps her hands.


Mancuso placed 4th in this Super G

Photo, Getty Images

A Small World
Posted by sibylle in Italy, finale ligure, Mexico, Yosemite, Europe, Canada and PNW (Monday September 1, 2008 at 12:16 pm)

In Squamish, we continually come across climbers I’ve met at distant climbing areas, many of whom live on other continents. When I started climbing, the climbing community was much smaller and everyone knew most local climbers. Today, I don’t come close to knowing many climbers in Boulder, Colorado, despite living there since 1984.

But I continually encounter the same climbers at different areas around the world. Yesterday at the Smoke Bluffs, Squamish ( it’s still raining and everything else is wet), I was struggling at Penny Lane. A voice yelled up,
“Is that Sibylle?”
I looked down, to see Enga, who Tristan and I had run into in Finale Ligure (Italy) in 2001, and whom I’d last climbed with in Yosemite in 2003.
After that climb, we went to try Penny Lane (my lead) and Crime of the Century (Tristan’s lead). At the base here, I met Ian and Erin, two climbers I encounter in Portrero Chico and last saw at Indian Creek, Utah. Since we’ve been in Squamish, we’ve come across David Goldstein, with whom I went to Portero Chico and numerous climbers that I met in Yosemite or Indian Creek. It’s still a small world!
There’s a circuit many climbers travel: Portero Chico in winter, Indian Creek in early spring, Yosemite or City of Rocks in late spring or early summer, Squamish in summer, back to the Creek, and repeat. More affluent climbers add a mix of Europe, Thailand, and Australia.
At Penny Lane, we met Gerhard Schaar, a world-traveler specializing in climbing writing and photography. His card reads:
“Climb Around the World”. We invited him to our campsite, so “Climb Around the World” now shares a site with “Fun Climbs Around the World”!

First Rock Climbing Leads
Posted by sibylle in Italy, finale ligure, California (Tuesday June 17, 2008 at 2:38 pm)


In the Pinnacles, California, about age 10, taking a close look at “Pluto”, my name for the dog’s head formation.

Climbers sometimes ask me, “Where’s a good place to teach my son (or daughter) to lead?”

Or they’ll ask where’s a good place for their wife, husband, or significant other to start leading. Many, but not all, of the easy climbs I listed in my recent post are good for beginning leaders. Mr. Breeze, Alexi’s, and Cornelius are great and cover the gamut of very easy sport to crack climb with gear.
Some of the easy climbs wouldn’t be good for a new leader, such as Gina’s Surprise, which though easy, is quite run-out near the bottom. The East Slabs in Eldorado Canyon might also strain the new leader’s ingenuity when attempting to place gear.

I don’t remember where my first lead with real gear, on a real climb took place. Leading was tricky when I started climbing, because sport climbing and bolted routes did not yet exist, nor did nuts, much less cams exist when I was eight years old.


Tristan, age 7, on his first lead

Tristan led his first climb in Finale Ligure, Italy at age seven. Europeans have a long climbing tradition, and climbing in Germany is a regular family weekend activity, taking the place of the American ball game. As a result, cliffs designed for kid climbers abound with easy routes with short bolt distance, so that the little ones can reach to clip the bolt before making the next move.


Woman in Finale leading the route next to ours

Megan Emmonds began leading in Penitente when she was very young and lead her first 5.13 at age 13!

Please share your suggestions for climbs well-suited to beginning leaders. Click on the red numeral to post a comment.

Easy Climbs - 5.5 and under
Posted by sibylle in Italy, Colorado (Monday June 16, 2008 at 9:51 am)


Brian Doub at Castle Rock

Easy climbs - 5.5 and under

Recently, someone asked where, with routes 5.5 and under, they could take their young children (four and six) to climb. I’ve described several routes at these grades in my book, Fun Climbs Colorado, as well as earlier in this blog, and list some below.

Mr. Breeze 5.2 ***

Eldorado Canyon

East Slabs 5.0 – 5.4 *
From the parking lot, walk up the road and cross the creek. The low angle east face is directly across the bridge. Walk uphill along the right side of the cliff until about halfway up the talus on the east side.

From about halfway up the talus field, climb up cracks and face to a tree on a good ledge to belay. From here, follow a groove up to the summit. I took my son up this route when he was five years old and he enjoyed it very much. Climbing with three people is helpful for taking small kids up the climb, so that someone can stay with the kids at the belay.

Boulder Canyon
Castle Rock, West Face 5.5 *


Rocky Mountain National Park, Lumpy Ridge
Gina’s Surprise 5.4
Coloradoddity 5.5

Shelf Road
Alexi’s climb 5.5
Independence Pass
Lincoln Creek: Burger Shack Area, Finger Food Wall
Popsicle 5.5

Elevenmile Canyon
The easy routes here are multi-pitch gear routes and thus a little more challenging for beginning climbers, who are inexperienced at removing protection, and for kids who would be left at the belay alone (and have to belay the leader, unless it’s a party of three).

Other areas to which I took my son climbing when he was young include City of Rocks and Devil’s Tower. We climbed in Italy, France and Spain once he was seven years old. Europe is very kid-friendly with well-equipped campgrounds, well-bolted easy routes, and lots of other diversions.

If you’d like to share your favorite easy, kid-friendly climbs, please clcik on the red numeral to comment. Thanks!

Camping in Europe
Posted by sibylle in Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland (Monday May 19, 2008 at 6:48 am)


Matt, at 1,235 meters

Several people asked about camping in Europe. We’ve camped in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France. We found the best camping in Spain- pretty sites, great views, and the most amenities for the price (hot showers!). A difference between the US and Europe: on the continent, in many places, no one minds if you camp in a farmer’s field for the night. I traveled to six climbing areas in three countries with a group of German climbers, and we’d climb all day, drive ‘til late to the next climbing area, and pull up to the nearest empty field and pitch a tent.
No one ever bothered us, and they told me they do it all the time.

View from Matt toward Brüggler

Here’s our (admittedly limited) experience:
Switzerland: We camped at a mountain hut named “Matt”, near the base of the Brüggler.
Fees were:
Parking, per day: Euro 3.50
Tent, per night: Euro 7.50
Sleeping in hut: Euro 3.00
Tent, per person: Euro 1.50
Which amounted to Euro 14.00 per night for the two of us in one tent. This was a private campground, run by the Alpkorporation Vorderschwändi, basically the town / village owners. The owners of the land up the road from the hut had working dairy farms and grazed their cows in the meadows across the street. At night hundreds of cowbells, from large, deep ones to smaller higher-pitched bells, lulled us to sleep.


View across valley from Matt

The hut had toilets, an outdoor sink with cold running water, and a small room indoors with tables and chairs. We cooked inside on the rainy days and ate outside on sunny days. It’s the best campsite we found near here (the Schwändital, near the town of Näfels). We headed east from Zürich on 3 toward Sargans and the south on 17 toward Glarus. This isn’t a major tourist area, but a small climbing area where my father enjoyed climbing. An English couple stayed here to climb and said it was also the best camping they’d found in the nearby mountains.

Please comment if you’d like to share favorite camping areas in Europe. Click the red number right of the title to comment.

Arco, Italy - Camping Zoo
Posted by sibylle in Italy, arco (Monday July 24, 2006 at 2:49 pm)

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One of the many animals roaming at “Camping Zoo”, Arco
We first stayed at the “Camping Zoo” (the name of this Italian campground) because it was cheaper than the main campground, which has the climbing wall and is somewhat fancier. However, the added attraction of a peacock that freely roamed the campground, usually around dinner time, proved irresistible for my son, and from then on we were committed guests here.

The peacock generally showed up as we were making dinner. I think we were among his favorite campers, as we always had salads. He had a  fondness for cucumber peels and after a while he’d eat them out of our hand. It’s the only campground I’ve seen with a semi-tame peacock that begs from campers!

On the downside, peacocks shriek really loudly at night and in the early morning so I wouldn’t recommend this camp to light sleepers, like my friend David Goldstein. When David and I went to Portrero Chico, I put my tent near the covered cooking area, while he put his at the farthest end of the camp right next to the fence.

Finale Ligure - Capo Noli
Posted by sibylle in Italy, finale ligure (Thursday May 18, 2006 at 8:32 pm)


Tristan climbing above the Mediterranean on Capo Noli’s sea cliffs

Summary, overview
Area: Finale Ligure, Italy
Overall rating: *****
Suitable for children ages: all
Type of rock: limestone
Type of climbing: bolted, sport
Best time of year: spring, summer, fall
Camping: Two commercial campgrounds or free unofficial camping at Monte Cucco
Guidebooks: Finale Y2K, by Andrea Gallo
Pros: Many easy and hard climbs on excellent rock, safe base area, easy approaches, good food, lots of other fun things to do
Cons: Thieves
How to get there: Drive the A10 from Nice or get to it from Milan and then take either the Orco Feglino exit or the Finale exit and head towards Finalborgo. Park and walk into the old town (Finalborgo) central square. Here you’ll find two essential establishments: the Bar Centrale and the Rockstore.
Other nearby activities: the beach, bicycling, swimming, sailing, surfing, snorkeling, windsurfing, caves, museums, old castles, ruins, old churches, concerts, good food.

Capo Noli Sea Cliffs
Posted by sibylle in Italy, finale ligure (Sunday May 14, 2006 at 8:26 pm)

Tristan on his first sea cliff
The nearby sea cliffs at Capo Noli (6 km from Finale) provide easy climbs on smooth, polished rock as well as a 400 m long bolted traverse (about 1,200 feet). Three climbing areas lie above the ocean: Dancing Dalle, with 10 routes ranging from 5c to 7a; I Pliastri, with 11 climbs from 5a to 7a+, and Nolitudine, with 13 routes from 4b to 6b+. We climbed at Nolitudine with my seven-year old son on several easy routes (five climbs are 4b – 4c, about 5.7). One of our favorites, Spigola (4b) gives beautiful views of aqua waves crashing to the rocks below. Consult Gallo’s Finale Y2K guide for directions to the cliff and route descriptions.
After your fingers tire from crimping on small holds and pockets, you can swim in the Mediterranean or play in the sand. Pebbles and rocks predominate over sand at the beach, but the warm water invites swimming and splashing in the waves. The routes at the cliffs are near three parking areas, and you rappel down to the base of the climb. You can head back to the village of Varigotti for lunch, or bring a snack.
For rest day activites, see:
Finale Ligure - Beaches, Castles, and Caves

for more info, see:
Finale Ligure, Italy

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