The Ticklist #49 Hard Trad and a New 9b

© Jacopo Larcher Collection

Hard trad at home and overseas, plus a new 9b...

Achemine for Niall McNair

Niall McNair has made the 4th ascent of Dave MacLeod's Achemine (E9 6c) (E9 6c) at Dumbarton Rock. Dave climbed the route in 2001, which was Scotland's first E9 and described it at the time:

'The route is called Achemine, which is a french word meaning to go forwards and the grade is E9 6c. It is a direct finish to Chemin De Fer, but I think the label "direct finish" doesn't really do the line justice. I think the headwall above Chemin De Fer describes it better as there are a lot of moves up there!'

On his ascent, Niall told us:

"This turned into quite a frustrating and emotive project for me over the last year in trying to climb my first E9. I'm still adapting to a traumatic injury that has left me without a full complement of tendons in my hand and with the route weighing in at French 8b (if bolted) I sometimes wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew. Fortunately, on the day, it all came together at the very last moment with a last minute change of sequence and only 5 minutes of usable light left in the gathering gloom.

"Making it extra special was having Steve Richardson, my longest suffering climbing partner, on the ropes and Cubby at the crag, one of the biggest sources of inspiration for me since I started climbing. Both have given me huge amounts of support during this process. I'm not ashamed to say there were a few tears from myself on top of the Rock that night!"

Niall on the final moves of Chemin De Fer before heading direct for Achemine  © John McKenna
Niall on the final moves of Chemin De Fer before heading direct for Achemine
© John McKenna

Jacopo Larcher adds desparate trad to Valle dell'Orco

Italian climber Jacopo Larcher has added two hard trad lines to Valle dell'Orco, Italy. He describes the lines, Shikantaza and Blood Diamond, as a very short 'British' route and a steep and powerful crack. He has written the following trip report:

After a busy route setting period there is nothing like 2 weeks of van life and granite climbing in a valley full of climbs and potential for new ones! The second week of October I drove to Valle dell'Orco to attend the La Sportiva athlete summit, with the idea of spending some more days there after the event. At the end of the meeting everyone left the valley, but the weather forecast looked too perfect for leaving too and, after our expedition to Pakistan, I was really looking forward to do some trad climbing. During the meeting we got a little topo with some interesting new and old projects, so I immediately went to check them out! 

Babsi had to go home as she had some work to do, so I remained with Olli (our dog) and I climbed mostly on my own or with the locals Andrea and Simone, who warmly welcomed me to camp at their place ad really made me feel home (thanks again!).

I started woking on two cool, but completely different lines. The first one was an old project of Adriano Trombetta, a short and very "British" route, the second one a steep and powerful crack located in a crag freshly developed by Andrea, Simone and Marzio (Nardi). I particularly liked the fact that the routes were very different and required completely different skills. One was definitely not as hard technically, but quite dangerous and with a potential ground fall from about 10 meters; the other was safe but technically way harder. I liked how both routes required a similar amount of work, but yet a different approach. On one I had to understand how to climb it and try hard for sending it, while I had to often practice and top rope the other one in oder to be sure to avoid to fall to the ground while eventually leading it: the beauty and variety of trad climbing!

Jacopo Larcher on the first ascent of Shikantaza  © Jacopo Larcher Collection
Jacopo Larcher on the first ascent of Shikantaza
© Jacopo Larcher Collection

Blood Diamond - A steep and powerful crack  © Federico Ravassard
Blood Diamond - A steep and powerful crack
© Federico Ravassard

On the 24th of October, after a few days spent brushing and figuring out the moves and the gear, I managed to make the FA of the "Blood Diamond", a steep and powerful crack situated at the Diamante (Diamond) crag. The gear on this one is always good, but placing it on lead definitely adds a little extra to the crux. The moves are simply amazing! Poor footholds, big lock offs and compression climbing on top… a real gem! Personally, I think this is the hardest one I've done in Orco so far.

The following day was the turn of the other project. As I mentioned before, Adriano Trombetta discovered the line years ago and had the vision of trying to climb it without bolting it. Adriano was a real pioneer in Orco (and not only!), where he established a lot of routes and had a lot of projects; he tragically passed away in 2017 caught in an avalanche, but his spirit still lives in the valley and in the memories of his friends! 

The route is located on a big boulder at the base of Sergent; it starts following a sloper rail on a prow until a good flake, where you place some micro cams before setting off for the crux section. After a few moves you reach a good crimp, on which I decided to place a cliff as protection; the placement looks good, but the hold is a loose flake, which would probably break in case of a big fall on it. I tensioned (on lead) the hook with a piece of cord to a lower cam for avoiding it to move. The next section involves some technical moves and small crimps and ends with some insecure moves to a big flake, where you can finally place some more gear before the easier top out. The climbing is definitely not so hard (8a-ish), but the combination of insecure moves and a possible ground fall make it spicy! I personally really liked the shape of the block and the line, that's why I absolutely wanted to climb it; I couldn't have wished for a better end of my trip to Orco! I'd never had the chance to meet Adriano, but this one is an obvious tribute to himself and his vision! I decided to call it "Shikantaza" (aka. "The Tromba project").

A big thanks go to Andrea and Simone from the hut "Le Fonti" for the help, the belay, the work… but most of all for the warm welcome and the good times! I already can't wait to go back to Orco, the place is so beautiful and there is such big potential for new lines!

New 9b in Margalef, Spain

Jorge Diaz-Rullo has made the first ascent of Cafe Solo in Margalef, Spain, and graded the route 9b. The route climbs the first section of a bolted project called Café Colombia and then takes an easier, leftward trending line at the top. Diaz-Rullo commented:

'For me is difficult [grade] this route, I try always alone, this is why I am not sure about what is the grade. But it is not time for celebration, I need more work for my real project.'

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9 Nov, 2021

Last I heard Jacopo is Italian, not Austrian.

9 Nov, 2021

Whoops! My mistake. That's changed.


12 Nov, 2021

Does anyone else see the face of a sad ET in the cover photo for the article?

12 Nov, 2021

Arrrgghh I can't unsee it now...

12 Nov, 2021

Probably sad because some tiny man is pulling really hard on his eyelid! :)

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