EPHEMERAL MODERN ICE/MIXED ROUTE CLIMBED ON UNUSUAL ALPINE PEAK

Posted on: January 2, 2007


Looking southward from the Aouille Tseuque (3554m) in Switzerland's Valais Alps over the top of the Valpelline and Aosta valleys toward Italy's Emilius and Gran Paradiso groups. (A) Emilius (3559m) with the Triangolo Nero facing the camera. (B) Gran Paradiso (4061m). (C) Grivola (3969m). [Photo] Lindsay Griffin

Monte Emilius (3559m) is a huge, isolated pyramid that completely dominates the northern Italian town of Aosta, and indeed the Aosta Valley, immediately south of the Valais Alps. The panoramic view from its summit, which comprises the nearby Gran Paradiso, Mont Blanc, Grand Combin, Matterhorn and Monte Rosa, is famous and the first ascent probably dates back to before 1820. The normal route, the south ridge, is a long walk/scramble over rough ground that remains extremely popular to this day.

Ezio Marlier, one of the most accomplished and experienced ice climbers in Italy, had been waiting 10 years for a line up the right edge of the mountain's "Triangolo Nero" ("Black Triangle) to come into condition. The 400-meter Triangolo Nero lies on the north face and is clearly visible from Aosta. It is almost vertical, rises to a 3378-meter shoulder high on the north-northeast ridge, and is composed of largely rotten rock. On October 26, together with the talented Italian climber Rossano Libera, made the first ascent of the line, which they dubbed Bocconi Aman. Libera and Marlier approached via the ski chalets of Pila and the Federigo Bivouac Hut (2907m) on the long northwest ridge of Emilius, descending to the remote Arpisson valley below the foot of the face. The climb, which proved very demanding, with thin ice, poor rock and run out pitches, took 12 hours. From the top of the Triangolo the pair rappelled the route, having established a highly ephemeral, modern, high mountain test piece in an unusual area.

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Just two weeks later, on November 7, the route received a second ascent, and in slightly more lean conditions, from German Robert Jasper and the Swiss guide Roger Schali. Jasper and Schali took the same approach used by Marlier and Libera and found the climb extremely adventurous with difficulties of WI6 and M7. Several long and poorly protected pitches proved psychologically very taxing. At the top of the route they continued up through the night, climbing the top part of the north-northeast ridge to the summit of Emilius and following the crest west then northwest (where it is equipped as a via ferrata) to regain the bivouac hut after a 16-hour day.

Before this year there were only three routes on the Triangolo Nero, two of which were most probably unrepeated. In September 1960 Angleo Bozzetti and Pietro Rosset climbed a slanting line of weakness on seriously bad rock at about 5.7 and A1. Local activist Aldo Cambiolo added two more routes in 1990: in July with Pierluigi Sartore he climbed the Couloir Fantasma towards the right side of the face at ED (85 degrees) and a month later with Roberta Vittorangli the via Diretta (also ED) up the middle of the face at a very serious 5.10d.

Swiss climbers Robert Jasper and Roger Schali on the summit of Monte Emilius (3559m). The pair had just made the second, and first integral, ascent of Bocconi Aman (WI6 M7, 12 pitches to top of technical climbing), first climbed on October 26 by Ezio Marlier and Rossano Libera. Marlier and Libera climbed the route, which occurs on the right edge of the 400-meter Triangolo Nero on the mountainís north face, to the top of the feature; on November 7, Jasper and Roger Schali continued from the Marlier-Libera highpoint via the north-northeast ridge to the summit. [Photo] Roger Schali



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