Finale Ligure, Italy
Posted by sibylle in Italy, finale ligure (Friday March 24, 2006 at 2:57 pm)



Finale Ligure, Italy (Index)

When my son Tristan was seven he said, “I want to climb in Italy. I really like the food.” On our fourth trip to Finale, he told me “This is my favorite place to climb.” What’s so great about Italy, particularly Finale? For one thing, 29 separate limestone cliffs surround the medieval village of Finalborgo. These 29 discrete cliffs, called “rocca”, “parete”, or “bric”, boast over 2,000 routes varying from easy 4s (about 5.2 to 5.5) to much harder 8s (5.13 and up). Approaches range from one or two minutes for crags like Rocca di Perti to cliffs that entail a 20 – 30 minute hike through grape vineyards or olive orchards.

One of our favorite cliffs is the Parete Dimenticata (Forgotten Wall, not demented as I first thought!) next to Monte Sordo and the Placa delle Case Valle. We drove from Finalborgo toward Perti and up past an old castle. We generally stop at the small parking lot by the church to fill up our water at the church fountain. The road from here to the dirt parking area below Monte Sordo is very narrow, curvy, and technically closed to traffic (but few people seem to know of, or heed, this directive). Some climbers park at the church and walk in to the trailhead from here, but most drive further to the small dirt lot next to the trailhead, where a sign shows trails leading up to Monte Sordo and Parete Dimenticata.

Rocca di Perti has some of the shortest approaches and easy climbs, but the routes are somewhat more crowded and greasier than the routes at Parete Dimenticata. Monte Cucco, above the unofficial “free camping” offers the longest climbs, with several multi-pitch routes, including a three-pitch climb to the top that is only 5c (La Pulce). We enjoyed the many different cliffs at Rian Cornei, which is a short drive up from Monte Cucco towards Orco. Another favorite is Rocca di Corno above Le Manie. And then, there’re always the sea cliffs at Capo Noli, where you climb above the azure Mediterranean

After climbing, we visited 15th century castles; 12th century ruins, swam at the beach, and dined on delicious fresh pasta.

Later I’ll describe are some of our favorite areas, food, and sights:

1. Parete Dimenticata
2. Capo Noli sea cliffs
3. Dining and sleeping
4. Beaches, castles and ruins

Next: Parete Dimenticata

South Six Shooter
Posted by sibylle in utah (Tuesday March 21, 2006 at 8:51 pm)


Tristan Hechtel on South Six Shooter

My forthcoming book, Fun Climbs in Colorado, describes climbs with a short, easy approach; a safe base area; good rock; an easy descent; and areas with other amenities. South Six Shooter would not have been included, and not just because it’s in Utah.

South Six Shooter fails on almost every account: the road requires 4 WD or a high clearance vehicle. You cross deep washes with precipitous sides where I wouldn’t dare drive anything except my truck. It’s hard to find the start of the trail. Despite talking to another climber who’d recently been there, we missed it.

We climbed South Six Shooter last year, during my son Tristan’s spring break. After finally reaching what seemed to be the end of the dirt “road”, we hiked around the base until we found the start of the trail. Hiking up the long, steep trail, Tristan complained that the hike was too long, and why did we have to do this?

After hiking up, you reach a plateau, cross it, and then hike uphill more. On the upper section, the trail had the consistency of solidified mud coated with occasional ball bearings. If we fell, I feared we’d keep rolling quite a ways.

Finally we reached the base – a nice flat area. I led the first pitch, gingerly avoiding loose flakes, and traversed across exposed ledges. It’s fine for an experienced climber, who knows not to pull on all rocks she sees, but I’d warn sport climbers. Pitch 2 traversed along the ridge to a spectacular view down the other side.

Pitch 3, the meat of the climb, involved jamming a fun crack, traversing, and then face climbing up the final summit tower. If you fell on the unprotected face climbing, you’d land on a ledge far enough down that breaking something was possible. Bolts protected the final move, a mantel onto the summit, but you had to climb up with no gear to clip them.

The climbing is easy – only 5.7, but unprotected 5.7, with potential for nasty falls. It’s easy climbing, but serious for the grade due to the remote location, difficult approach, and meager gear.

From the top, we enjoyed spectacular views of North Six Shooter, the Bridger Jack Mesa, and Indian Creek. It’s a true summit, a flat area little bigger than a car. Tristan enjoyed the crack climbing on the way up, and the view from the top.

To descend, we rappelled from anchors to the right (climber’s right) of the route. One 60m rope reaches the anchors. You rappel past a lovely 5.10 crack which I might have been tempted to toprope, had it been less hot.

“I really don’t like this,” Tristan muttered on the descent. I couldn’t blame him. I stepped gingerly, fearing that if I slipped and fell, I’d tumble a long way. The trail snaked down a steep cone with little in the way of steps or relief. It was a slanted trail that had washed out and hardened from mud to something like rock.

“Look, petrified wood!” Tristan exclaimed. He’d found a few pieces of wood. In a dry wash, I found the original tree trunk, with the best colors of any petrified wood we’d seen, but much too large to move.

We added another 20 pounds to our already full packs, and Tristan moaned about the weight of his pack. It really was heavy – he’d collected some really nice large pieces to take down.

After this climb, we stuck to one-pitch crack climbs, often with other climbers, who shared gear and leads. Our approaches were short and our packs lighter.

On our last day, as we were leaving I asked Tristan what had been his favorite climb.

“Mom, you’re gonna laugh. South Six Shooter!” he admitted.
“Why? “ I asked.
“It was different. It was exciting, an adventure. We got somewhere, and had cool views. The others were all the same,” he continued. “I couldn’t really remember which route we did when, and they all seem alike after a while.”

Maybe it’s worth the hike, the drive, and the heavy pack.

We’re going back to Indian Creek next week.

Tristan on top with North Six Shooter in background

Ethics of Ambition
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, women (Friday March 17, 2006 at 10:39 pm)


You may wonder why I’m discussing the Ethics of Ambition. Or why I show the book Rock and Roses. Several years ago, Dr. Paul Strom, a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado, asked me to talk to his class, the Ethics of Ambition.

My climbing partner Tarrie Burnett was taking Dr. Strom’s course, which used Rock and Roses as a text. When Dr. Strom assigned my article “Walls Without Balls” as one of the stories, she mentioned that she knew me … and soon I’d agreed to talk to the class.

Students asked whether it had always been my ambition to do the first all-female ascent of El Capitan, and I replied,
“No, not at all. It was mostly luck.” And it had been. I was in Yosemite in the 70s, when not many women climbed, primarily because my father had started taking me climbing when I was eight years old and I ended up in the Valley as a teen, climbing with my Dad.

My ambition was not to be a professional climber, as they didn’t exist yet. My ambition was to become a scientist, and I went through college and graduate school with that goal. We climbed on weekends and summer vacations, and did it for fun.

Beverly Johnson lived in the Valley before I arrived and was more experienced and a better climber than me. She’d mostly climbed with other men, because there were no other women in the Valley. When I arrived, I was the obvious candidate for all-female ascents. Bev and I got on great, as I looked up to her and was willing to try anything she wanted to climb.

We climbed several shorter routes and eventually teamed up to try El Capitan, after I’d done enough other walls to aid climb well enough. This climb involved little ambition on my part, lots of luck, the right parents and good timing.

Later climbs and first ascents involved more ambition and required some sacrifices. As I climbed with serious climbers in Yosemite, I got to know well many of the top climbers of the 70s and 80s, and hear about their plans and dreams.

As time passed, I lost many of my friends who died or vanished in remote mountain ranges. Bugs McKeith and I did several first ascents in the Canadian Rockies before he was killed soloing Mt. Assiniboine. I’d climbed in the Valley with Reinhard Karl, who went to the Himalaya where an avalanche buried him.

I climbed on the Glacier Point Apron with Alan Rouse, who later died on K2. After losing many climbing partners, and a former boyfriend, I began to question my devotion to climbing. Was it really worth risking getting killed to climb this mountain? Basically, I never believed I would. I always thought that the peaks, the routes, and the climbs I chose to do were safe. Most climbers think that they will survive their current trip, because they are strong, fast, and experienced enough that they can accomplish their objective.

When I spoke to the class about ambition, I’d thought about the costs, and come to this conclusion:
Ambition requires and necessitates great egotism and selfishness.

Even if you’re not trying a first ascent of a Himalayan peak, entailing some risk of death, climbing at a high level requires commitment and dedication. Like any other sport, or perhaps even more so, to break barriers and do new or harder climbs, requires a lot of time training. Competing takes time.

If you spend that much time and effort training and traveling, you don’t have time for other people in your life. Your friends and family will be left.

Society accepts men going off to leave behind their families, as they have in war. But they are less accepting of women leaving behind small children to try hard climbs. When Alison Hargraves was killed in K2, leaving a husband and two small children, a much greater outcry arose than when so many men were killed in the Himalaya, leaving families behind.

Should women take the same risks as men? I don’t know. I chose not to, after Shishapangma. My son was three, and suddenly, when I realized I could have been killed, I decided to give up big mountains and stick to rock climbing. Not all women make that decision, and I think it’s an individual decision.

In the end, I had a lot to talk about with Dr. Strom’s class. They asked many questions, and I’m glad the class gave me that opportunity to think about the issue to a depth that I otherwise would not have done. I learned a lot from our discussions.

Energy nuggets, recipe
Posted by sibylle in Mexico, food (Saturday March 11, 2006 at 8:32 pm)


Energy nuggets

When Dave and I decided to climb the 23-pitch Timewave Zero in Potrero Chico, Mexico, we needed food to take on the climb that we could easily carry in the pockets of our Camelback; that was fairly energy-rich, and that we could buy (or make) while in Mexico.

We couldn’t get any type of granola bar, Cliff bar, or Luna bar at the store in Monterrey, but a woman staying at our same campground, Rancho Cerro Gordo, was making ‘energy nuggets’ as climbing food. She gave me her recipe, and before the climb I made a supply of energy nuggets which was our food for the route. The nuggets are easy to carry in plastic bags in your pockets or a pack, travel well, and are much moister than many commercial bars.


1/2 c. pumpkin seeds

1/2 c. sunflower seeds

1/2 c. oats

1/2 c. sesame seeds

1/4 c. flax seeds

1 T. peanut butter (unsalted, natural works best)

1 - 2 T. sweetened condensed milk

1 - 2 T. water

Optional: 1/4 c. shredded coconut flakes
Grind dry ingredients separately in a blender. Mix ground, dry ingredients in a bowl. Add moist ingredients, adjusting amount to achieve the right consistency.

When mix is slightly tacky or sticky, roll ingredients into a ball. Roll balls in coconut if desired.

You can substitute ground nuts for one or more of the seeds, or add carob or cocoa powder, adjusting the water to achieve the correct consistency.

After the nuggets are done, store them in a zip lock bag in the freezer until ready to take them skiing or climbing!

Papert strikes again
Posted by sibylle in ice, women, Germany (Thursday March 9, 2006 at 2:24 pm)

Ines Papert
Ines Papert strikes again

Once again, this German climber beat the competition to win the Ice Climbing World Cup held in Hemsedal, Norway March 3 – 5, 2006.

UIAA 2006 Ice World Cup Final results

Difficulty women
1. Ines Papert (Ger)
2. Maureau Stiphanie (Fra)
3. Jenny Lavarda (Ita)
4. Ksenya Stobnikova (Russ)
5. Anna Torretta (Ita)

How short are our memories!

A year ago, at the 2005 Ouray Ice Festival, she ran up the 165-foot wall so fast that she beat the winner of the men’s event by almost three minutes, becoming the overall winner in the difficulty event.

2005 Difficulty

1. Ines Papert (GER)
2. Will Gadd (CAN)
3. Harry Berger (AUT)
4. Sean Isaac (CAN)
5. Rob Owens (CAN)

Here’s a quote:

Ines’s result is really unique.

The Chief of Black Diamond European branch said: “Ines is very cool. I do not know any woman in athletic sports in which a girl could become better, than the best man!”

It was only a little over 10 years ago that Lynn Hill became the first woman to free El Capitan - a record which held for many years.

Of course, in this same story they also state:
The tenth annual festival “Events in Ouary” (Salt Lake City, Utha), so perhaps we shouldn’t hold it against them that they can’t remember events from 1993.

Papert, despite being the best woman ice climber in the world, and in some years the best overall, considers the most important event of her life the birth, in 2000, of her son Emanuel.

The 31-year old mother plans to retire from cometition so that she can climb big frozen waterfalls. Reminds me of another world cup competitor who went the same route - Lynn Hill, who retired from competition to concentrate on big granite walls. Let’s hope we see similar spectacular results from Ines on the ice!

Potrero Chico, Timewave Zero
Posted by sibylle in Mexico (Wednesday March 8, 2006 at 9:21 am)

PotLandof Free.jpg

Dave Goldstein on the ultra-steep Land of the Free

Dave and I decided to climb the 23-pitch Timewave Zero, the longest sport climb in North America, as our final route in Potrero Chico. To prepare, Dave climbed Land of the Free, “the steepest new climbing in the Potrero”, while I made “energy nuggets” (like energy bars, but round. You can make these instead of granola or snack bars; recipe to follow.)

Before the climb, we practiced simul-rappelling. Neither of us had simul-rapped, so we climbed Treasure of the Sierra Madre to practice. I was nervous, but to rappel 23 pitches quickly, we had to do it at the same time. After several rappelling pitches to hone our technique we were ready to try our climb.

Before the climb, we hiked to the base to reconnoiter the trail and the start of the route. We planned to approach in the dark so that we could climb at first light and didn’t want to miss the trail at night. We stashed water and gear at the base, so that we could run up quickly in the morning.

We lacked certain essentials, as neither of us had a watch, and our only functional timepiece was my car’s clock. We borrowed a spare headlamp and camelbacks from Ian and Erin, two Canadian climbers sharing our campground. Dave woke me at 4:00 am, thinking it must be later. We arrived at the base in the dark and organized our camelbacks, stuffing them with energy balls and headlamps.

As it was getting barely light, Dave ran up the first pitch in his usual style, while I put on my shoes and then belayed him on the next 5.11 pitch. Following it, I felt the additional weight of water, food, headlamp, and clothes, as I struggled over the bulge. Our pitches worked out well: I got pitches three and four (both 5.9) and Dave got five and six (5.10 and 5.9). Low down on the wall, we climbed beautiful, clean, mostly less-than-vertical limestone. The rock here had large incut features, almost like handles, and very positive.

Dave charged by without stopping after following my pitches, and crowed, “Zero belay delay!” and continued charging up the cliff.

For pitches nine, ten, and eleven, Dave thought we should run all three together, “We’ll both be belayed on pitch 10, the hardest one,” he explained, “and we’ll be simul-climbing only on the easier pitches.”

Dave led pitch nine (5.9+), placing one draw on the anchor and then placed draws on pitch 10 (5.10b), and we simul-climbed pitches nine (me) and 11 (Dave). I felt tense, as there was a hard traversing move and he had no draws in. Falling here was not an option.

I next led a short pitch to the bivvy ledge. Two Canadian climbers had started up the day before and bivvied here to get an early start on the headwall above. We stopped here briefly to eat a snack and left behind extra clothes and headlamps, to save weight on the steeper climbing on the headwall.

I then climbed pitches 13 and 14,now getting into the sun, and Dave zoomed up pitches 15 and 16, both 5.10 and steeper and more strenuous. As the rock steepened toward the headwall, the large incut buckets disappeared to be replaced by smaller holds. I led pitch 17 (5.9+ to 5.10) and crawled into a deep hole (almost a cave) at the end, out of the blazing sun. My excuse for stopping after climbing only one pitch was that the Canadians were at the next belay.

Dave then led pitches 18 and 19 and caught up with the Canadians. By now, I was running seriously low on energy, and volunteered to let him lead the coming hard pitches. Dave negotiated with the Canadians that we could pass, and forged ahead up pitch 20, a steep 11a that I wished I’d done about 15 pitches ago.

Next was the crux: pitch 21, rated 5.12a. Before going up on the route, we asked who had freed this pitch, and no one knew anyone who had. Dave decided to try it, and I asked him to leave some slings for me. Dave, after much effort, with the Canadians impatiently gritting their teeth next to me, decided on a few aid moves to expedite our journey. I didn’t try to free this pitch - I struggle on 5.12 on the ground, much less after 20 pitches.

After two more pitches we reached a beautiful summit from which we overlooked the valley in all directions. Now we wished for shade in the blazing afternoon sun. After finishing off our remaining food and drinking most of our water, we started the rappels down.

Our descent went smoothly, with us simul-rapping all but one or two wildly traversing pitches. At the bivvy ledge, we retrieved our stuff and wished we’d brought more water. The eighty–degree Mexican sun parched us, but luckily I’d stashed extra water at the base of the route on my exploratory hike.

After a few more rappels, we touched ground, now practiced at unweighting the rope. Our first move was toward the stashed water bottles. Devon was at the base, photographing climbers on the nearby Surf Bowl.

“What, did you guys give up?” he asked. “You didn’t do it?” He sounded surprised that we’d give up so early.

“No, we’re done, I replied. “We already climbed it and got back down.”

Apparently he had not counted on Dave’s simul-climbing enchainment, because no one expected us back down at 4:00. But then, they didn’t know that Dave, the Energizer Bunny, recently led every pitch on Astroman.

I figured that we’d actually climbed 14 pitches, if you counted the number of belays. But 14 pitches or 23, we were both tired and ready for several rest days.

Energy nugget recipe

Potrero Chico, Space Boyz
Posted by sibylle in Mexico (Friday March 3, 2006 at 2:54 am)


Sibylle on the Mota Wall

After our auspicious beginning, of accidentally climbing 13 pitches of Yankee Clipper when we intended to climb the four-pitch Jungle Mountaineering, I felt more confident in trying longer climbs. Dave Goldstein wanted to climb two classic routes, Space Boyz and Snott Girlz, and thought that enchaining them would be fun.

There’s one difficulty with combining these climbs. You want to get on both routes early - Space Boyz so that you’re the first party up, to avoid rockfall. Snott Girlz gets hot in the afternoon, and you want to get up it before the sun hits.

We got on Space Boyz early, beating several other parties. Since the pitches ran 100 feet, we combined two pitches whenever possible. Our fifth pitch traversed and pitch six was harder than the other pitches, slowing us down. On Yankee Clipper, the pitches seemed easier than rated, but here the grades were stiffer. As I struggled following pitch six, I decided to let Dave lead pitch seven, another 5.10 pitch.

We’d zoomed up Yankee Clipper so fast that I expected this to be easy, but here the climbing got harder. Pitch eight, my lead, was another 5.9, and then Dave got our last 5.10 pitch. After two easier pitches we reached the summit, in reasonable, but not outstanding time. Maybe I was tired? Perhaps a few rest days might help?

Our descent was less straightforward, as we had to rappel traverses and clip bolts on the way down to get around the corner. Our rope just barely made it to some stances – with the ends dangling several feet above some ledges. We started rapping with daisy and biner in hand, quickly reaching down to clip the anchors before landing on the ledge.

Dave wanted to do one of the harder routes– El Sendero Diablo (5.11c). Described in the book as “the site for many epics, ranging from a hellish five hour dangle in space to a cardiac seizure,” I was really glad to be left out of this adventure. Dave got on this with Rick, who shared our campground.

I climbed Snott Girlz (only seven pitches) with a Canadian climber. He’d never done a multi-pitch climb, so was happy to try an easier climb. From Snott Girlz, on the prow of the Mota Wall, we could look across the Valley toward the Outrage Wall and El Sendero.

As we climbed higher, we saw Dave and Rick moving up the cliff. After a while they stopped moving up. After some time at this spot, they started moving sideways. I’d heard horror stories about the descent, which was one reason I didn’t want to try that climb. The guidebook’s description of the descent is almost twice as long as the climb description – not a good sign! The book suggests, “The first person to descend must clip the single rope through all the bolts to reach the anchors on the ledge” which reminded me of fixing pitches on El Cap long ago, but wasn’t something I wanted to try here.

Dave told me that he traversed right to another climb in order to descend, and I was glad I’d missed that adventure. Our next big goal was Timewave Zero, a 23-pitch route to the top of one of the peaks. We both wanted this climb: I liked long routes and the idea of 23 pitches of continuous non-stop climbing. Dave likes anything long and hard, especially if it gets to the top of something.

He planned another hard outing with Rick, the 10-pitch Land of the Free, a route that no one we knew here had done. I planned to rest and make “energy balls” to eat on the climb. Another woman climber gave me a recipe for what were basically bars, except when you make them yourself they turn out round, not square.

I hiked up to the base of Timewave Zero to reconnoiter the trail, since we’d be hiking up in the dark on the day of our climb, and to stash water at the base. After borrowing two camelbacks and a headlamp we were ready for our big day.

Next: Timewave Zero

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