VIDEO/BIO: Classic Alpinism - Emilio Comici

In this article we have a short introduction to Italian climbing legend Emilio Comici, written by Fabrizio Mamolo, and a fantastic video that was spotted on Youtube and sent to us by Paul Ross.

Paul commented on the video in his email : "I think this would open a few eyes ... What belays?"

Emilio Comici
© Emilio Comici Collection

On the mountains we feel the joy of life, the emotion of being good and the relief of forgetting earthly things: all this because we are closer to the sky

Emilio Comici

Emilio Comici was an artist of alpinism, one of the greatest of all time. He opened extreme routes of the highest degrees of climbing difficulty of his time, especially in the Dolomites. He loved the Dolomites, and in particular the three "Indian Gods", as he defined them, the fantastic Tre Cime di Lavaredo.

He was born in Trieste on February 21, 1901. His first passion was caving but at the age of 26 he felt that he needed to explore something different from the deep carsic caves around Trieste, something closer to the sky. After first training on the walls of Val Rosandra (where he later founded a climbing school, that became one of the best in Italy), a small valley near Trieste, he started climbing in the Julian Alps. His first exploit, in 1927, was the climb of Innominata from the north gorge, the first on the vertical north walls of the Jof Fuart group. Next was the huge north face of Cima di Riofreddo, 600 metres with very difficult sections. In the 1930s he started climbing in the Dolomites, and with the climb of Sorella di Mezzo in the Sorapis group became the first Italian climber to break in to the sixth grade of rock climbing. In the same year he opened another extreme route in that group, climbing " Il Dito di Dio". Then he opened many new routes also in the winter season. In that period his activity was very intense: Torre Innominata in the Rinaldo group, the west face of Monte Cimone, the west face of Croda dei Toni di mezzo.

Then two great exploits made him very famous: the north face of Monte Civetta (in two days) and the north face of Cima Grande di Lavaredo in 1933. The climb of Cima Grande (after almost 20 failed attempts from different teams of climbers) provoked harsh criticism among the Italian climbers. Maybe Comici was just too great for those times. They accused him of using too many pitons or other artificial aid. His fellow climbers of that exploit said that without them he wouldn't have been able to climb the mountain. But four years later he convinced everybody when he climbed the same route free-solo.

James Rushforth leading pitch 6 of the Comici Route, Tre Cima. As seen from the Brandler Hasse., 204 kb
James Rushforth leading pitch 6 of the Comici Route, Tre Cima. As seen from the Brandler Hasse.
© Rich Kirby

Another remarkable climb in the Tre Cime group was Cima Piccola di Lavaredo through the famous "spigolo giallo", one of the most difficult passages in the Dolomites. Then he climbed another famous climb free-solo: the Fehrman route to Campanile Basso di Brenta.

His last great exploit was the climb of "Il Salame" (Sassolungo group) in 1940 ,with his friend Severino Casara, another famous Italian climber.

A few months later some friends asked him to go with them on a wall near Selva. In a delicate passage, trying to secure his friends, he used an old rope. The rope broke and he fell. That was the last flight of the "Angel of the Dolomites".

  • Read more about the classic Comici Route on the Cima Grande di Lavaredo here: UKC Comici Article

VIDEO: Emilio Comici

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