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Italian Cerro Torre Summiteer Passes Away

Daniele Chiappa, 1951-2008. [Photo] Carlo Caccia

One of the great legends of Italian alpinism, Daniele “Ciapin” Chiappa, died at the end of August after a year-long struggle against cancer. Born in October 1951 to become one of the famous Lecco Spiders, he was just 56 years old.

Chiappa began climbing with his brother at the age of 13 and soon became a regular on the local limestone spires and walls of the Grigne. In his mid teens he took to the classic routes of the Dolomites, often with the well-known Claudio Corti. At 19 he made the first winter ascent of the Bregaglia classic, the North West Ridge of the 3205m Ago di Sciora (AD+/D: UIAA V [5.7], 800m, Risch, 1923). The route was completed over three days with Elio Scarabelli and Rino Zocchi. That same year, 1971, he climbed the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses before tackling the Philipp-Flamm (UIAA VII [5.10c/d], 1050m of climbing, Flamm-Philipp, 1957), at that time still considered one of the hardest routes in the Dolomites. Six-hundred meters up this classic testpiece on the northwest face of Punta Tissi in the Civetta, a hold broke and he took a 70m fall (no misprint!), ending up in space. It was a difficult self-rescue, but the pair made it to the bottom of the wall, from where Chiappa was taken to a hospital with serious fractures to foot and knee.

In 1973 he put up one of his most demanding new routes in the Alps, the east-northeast pillar of the Piz Badile, a 750m UIAA VI (5.9) and A3 between the Brother’s Route (TD+: 5.9 A1/2, 800m, Rusconi-Rusconi, winter 1970) and the Isherwood-Kosterlitz (ED1, now free at UIAA VIII [5.11d], 600m, Isherwood-Kosterlitz, 1968). The ascent took place over five days in the company of Giulio Martinelli, Tiziano Nardella and Scarabelli. This set him up nicely for a visit to the Greater Ranges in 1973-74 and what would become his greatest legacy, the first ascent of the highest point on Cerro Torre. On January 13, 1974, with fellow members of the Lecco Spiders, Mario Conti, Casimiro Ferrari and Pino Negri, he stood atop the summit mushroom having made the first ascent of the west face.

Climbing Pitch 6 of the classic 1975 Via Chiappa on the southeast face of the Antimedale, one of Daniele Chiappa’s popular creations at the Grigne, Italy. [Photo] Lindsay Griffin

He continued to climb new routes at home, among others the ultra-classic Via Chiappa (UIAA V+ [5.8], 250m: Chiappa-Crippa-Mauri, 1975) on the southeast face of the Antimedale in the Grigna. In 1975 he took part in an Italian expedition to the Karakoram, hoping to make the first ascent of Trango Tower. With a British team already booked, the Pakistani government would only give permission to attempt the neighboring lower Baltoro Cathedral. While other members of the team were making a sieged ascent of the southwest ridge, Chiappa and four friends made the first ascent of this spectacular rock peak via an alpine-style push up the great 1500m-high southwest face. Some of the climbing proved very runout, and the crux pitch, a vertical diedre led by Chiappa, was UIAA V+ (5.8) and A3. In 1978 he accompanied Carlo Duchini, one of the Cathedral team, to Sinai, where the pair climbed five new routes.

For much of his life Chiappa worked as a mechanic, at first for his father and then later at his brother’s company in Lecco. However, an accident in 1982 seemed to temper his more adventurous climbing, and he became increasingly involved with the aspects of mountain rescue. This would eventually become his number one passion. He left his job as a technical manager in logistics information technology in 2002 and began the Lecco Mountain Rescue Project, where he operated as a consultant in all areas of mountain rescue and accident prevention, as well as being a specialized equipment advisor and safety officer. Among other positions he was deputy chairman of Italy’s national rescue organization. “Spreading the passion for mountaineering while transmitting information crucial to mountain safety is one of the many dreams I would like to achieve.” His book, Nell ‘Ombra della Luna, a collection of mountain rescue stories, was published in 2007.

The Baltoro Cathedrals rising from the Baltoro Glacier with the Trango group to the left. In 1975, while other members of the team were making a sieged ascent of the southwest ridge, Chiappa and four friends made the first ascent of this spectacular rock peak via an alpine-style push up the great 1500m-high southwest face. [Photo] Peter Thompson