Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Alpine Rock Roadtrip: Valle dell' Orco

We arrived at “Camping La Peschiera” in the Orco valley on a rainy afternoon. It was our first time in the valley and we were amazed by the tranquility of the place that should be the Mecca of crack climbing in Europe. There was hardly anyone on the camping except three tents and the camping was very basic compared to the campings in Cham but the hosts were very friendly. This camping is also the closest to the main climbing areas. The Sergent is on fifteen minutes walking from the camping and the legendary “Fessura Kosterliz” is less than five minutes walking.
Our camping spot, right underneath the Sergent

We gave the “Fessura Kosterliz”(6b) a try in the afternoon, when the rock was dry. We tried it toprope as we didn’t have crashpads and the boulder is pretty high. It was a very good lesson in crack climbing, because it’s pretty steep and there isn’t much for the feet except the crack. We both gave it some nice tries and Jeroen even managed to climb it. I took a bad fall and hit my knee against the rock, so I decided to give it another try in a few days.

Ready to give the Kosterliz another try!

Next day, we wanted to climb “Dièdro Nanchez”(TD+, 6b max, 250m) on the Caporal, but it appeared to be soaking wet and my knee was still hurting during the approach, so I turned back while Jeroen climbed another route with some Germans he met on the camping.

"Dièdro Nanchez" soaking wet

After a good night sleep, my knee was a lot better and we descided to take the short approach to the Sergent for some nice crack climbing. We started with “Incastromania” (6a) a beautiful crack in a featureless, steep granite wall. After this warm-up, we climbed the two-pitch “Nicchia delle Torture” (6b) via its original (grassy) start. We recommend to take the direct, bolted start at 6b+ or 7a, because the original start is kinda overgrown with grass and unless you are into scary runout grass climbing, It’s not so much fun. The second pitch in contrary was a lot better, the first meters are still a bit grassy but it becomes better with the best handcrack I’ve ever climbed, a short traversing offwidth and a beautiful 6b crux to get out of the offwidth. Highly recommended! Fulfilled with these new experiences, we went to the Kosterliz boulder again, but our hands were wrecked by the sharp granite and our tries were in vain. The success on the other routes overshadowed the failure on the Kosterliz and we went back to the camping, where we ate some trout straight out of the water on the BBQ. Delicious!

Jeroen, climbing "Incastromania"
Myself climbing the same route
Seconding the first pitch of "Nicchia delle Torture" 
The second pitch of "Nicchia delle Torture".
Note the grassy start and the offwidth in the distance 
Yummy! Fresh trout for dinner!
The trout gave us the force to try the überclassic “Fessura della Disperazione” (6b+, offwidth). It was our first real offwidth route ever and I can tell you, I’ve never suffered more in a route than in this one! You want to know how it was? Try it yourself, but I can tell you: “You’ ll never forget this route!”  (Major hint: Bringing camalot #5 and 6 will save you from some scary runouts!)

Jeroen leading the famous first pitch of "Fessura della Disperazione"

Jeroen following the second pitch
General info

The Orco valley is only a three hour drive from Europe’s capital of Alpinism, Chamonix. A great idea if the weather in Chamonix is bad! But save some money, because the Mont Blanc Tunnel is pretty expensive!

We stayed in camping La Peschiera two minutes driving from the center of Ceresole Reale, just underneath the Sergent. Very basic but cheap and friendly people!

It’s best to buy some food before you enter de valley, because there are only some little, expensive shops. 

We used the new guidebook written by Maurizio Oviglia and published by Versante Sud. It’s a very beautiful guidebook with lots of pictures and correct info. The guidebook is for sale in the valley.

Thanks to our sponsor: Kariboe Leuven

For more pictures, take a look at our facebook page!

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