SOLO OF MATTERHORN'S SOUTH DIRETTISSIMA

Posted on: May 1, 2007


On April 16, Herve Barmasse free soloed the 1500-meter route, South Face Direttissima (Barmasse-Cazzanelli-De Tuoni, 1983), a route his father established on the south face of the Matterhorn, Italian Alps. This climb marks the second time Barmasse has been the first to solo a route on the mountain's south face; his other solo, in 2002, was the Casarotto-Grassi Route (ED1: 5.8). [Photo] Herve Barmasse collection and courtesy of www.discoveryalps.com

Herve Barmasse, author of Issue 16's Mountain Profile on the Matterhorn (4478m), recently made the first solo ascent of a climb his father established in 1983: the South Face Direttissima (1500m, Barmasse-Cazzanelli-De Tuoni) on the Matterhorn's Italian side. The climb, completed on April 16 under clear skies, took the unroped Barmasse eight hours to reach the summit.

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Hailing from Valtournenche, Italy, at the Matterhorn's base, the thirty-year-old Barmasse has a long history with the mountain. He became a guide as an adolescent; he then made the first ascent of Per Nio (5.10c, Barmasse-Paletto, 2000) and the first winter ascent, with Massimo Farina in 2004, of Padre Pio Pray for Us (which goes at 5.11c in summer), both on the south face. On the same wall is the Casarotto-Grassi Route (ED1: 5.8) that Barmasse was first to solo in 2002. Of that climb he said that "the Matterhorn's less-than-perfect rock is part of what makes it unique. Severe and delicate at the same time, progress here requires cerebral climbing." While on the Casarotto-Grassi, a rock struck his helmet; while on the Direttissima, the familiar but chossy limestone was cause for prudence: "It's very different being unroped and psychologically tricky when a hold comes off in your hand or your foot rest crumbles and you're not secured," Barmasse said. "Even the last twenty meters just below the summit aren't easy due to the type of rock."

Barmasse at the Matterhorn's summit, having completed a free solo of the South Face Direttissima in eight hours. [Photo] Herve Barmasse collection and courtesy of www.intotherocks.net

Barmasse started the climb from just above the Orionde refuge (2900m) at 7 a.m. and reached the summit at 3 p.m. The ascent took slightly longer than planned, as soft snow rode up to his waist on the upper section. He also was fighting two injuries from last fall—a fractured vertebra and a knee operation, his third—which made the solo, a climb he's wanted to try for three years, especially meaningful.

With a group of Lecco Spiders, Barmasse recently returned from his second attempt on a new route up the north face of Cerro Piergiorgio (2719m) in Argentine Patagonia. The team came 300 meters short of the summit. The low-altitude nature of the trip, he said, was not preparatory for his recent solo. Instead, he is treating both as part of a journey to recover from injury. He aims to apply these recent experiences toward soloing "in all sorts of environments."

Sources: www.grivel.com and www.intotherocks.net

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