This year I kept an eye on the line of "Cittadini della Galassia", a route that runs along the central couloir starting from the roots of the face up to a couple of hundred meters from the top.
Opened in 1981 by G. Miotti eP. Scherini, Cittadini is the best-known route on the N face, famous for the mythical first vertical (Spisaròta waterfall) a column of ice set in the lower area of the line. This is followed by a series of jumps embellished by the surrounding rock, worked for millennia by water and ice.
The route is graded ED with difficulty on ice up to IV/IV+ ; the difficulties and the length forced the first ascentionists to make the ascent in two days, the first to succeed in the feat solo and in one day was a young Tita Gianola in February 1984.
After a roped retreat with Nick on 28 January, it seemed that any hopes of making Citizens of the Galaxy this year had faded, I didn't think it was still cold enough to allow for another attempt.
The occasion presents itself again after 2 weeks, on 11 February: the week before the temperatures remained low and already on the 12th a clear rise in temperature is expected. Now or never.
4.30: the alarm rings, milk and coffee from the thermos, at 4.45 I'm ready. I hit the trail that enters Valorga as fast as I can, looking forward to pounding some ice. In the distance I hear the roar of the stream: "Too much water for it to be in good condition " I think, I continue worried until the start of the route. Arrived at the first waterfall I evaluate the conditions, below you can see the water flowing, but the ice on the side and above looks good, I decide to start climbing, in case of problems there is still the possibility of exiting and continuing from the slope to the right . I can climb the first jumps without problems, up to a waterfall with a big hole in the lower part that doesn't inspire me much confidence, I take a close look and evaluate the possibility of going out and going around it. I don't have time to think about it when the ice underneath me suddenly breaks through and I find myself in the frozen water up to my waist. I roll out as fast as I can, and it's immediately " Shit, we didn't need this ".
I'm soaked, my first thought is to remove the tobacco from my trouser pocket: it's still dry, at least I'll be able to smoke one. I remember the first time I put on crampons, 12 years ago: I was thrown into a puddle with my whole body, my dad made me walk for a while and I didn't feel cold. I will do this again today, it can't finish even before starting, I start walking and leave the canal. You don't go through here.
It's dawning and I'm in front of the first vertical, it makes me want to climb it, but it's evident that it's not in condition, I follow the ledge that cuts to the left and says goodbye to Spisaròta, who knows if it will be able to be done again.
8.30 am : I find myself under the second vertical, a large 55m waterfall: it's time to get out the rope, screws, grigri and a bit of rapid protection to belay at the top. I take everything I need and leave the backpack at the base, I'll get it back later.
The ice here is perfect, last time we gave up because it wasn't holding right at this point. I slowly reach the top of the waterfall, find a good crack to place two pegs and abseil down the fixed rope to retrieve the screws and rucksack. I ascend quickly: the top rope is always a luxury, I can afford to climb where the waterfall is more vertical and less protectable, I enjoy it as long as I can.
Now I'm in the large gully where a plane crashed last year, the load-bearing snow and the clement slope allow me to quickly get to its summit. I continue straight for the last flows, I reach the path of the angels and here I have to evaluate which way to go up: to the right following Cittadini or to the left, from the Adele ridge? Following the ridge seems like the best choice: combining the most beautiful route on Legnone with its most aesthetic ridge will be spectacular!
It's 1.30 pm: I eat something, smoke a cigarette and enjoy the view: Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn in the distance, the western Lario Alps overlooking the sunlit lake together with the Colico cone. Everything is so close, but this wild wall makes me realize that it's me who is very far away. I'm in the shade, it's cold, the wind is starting to blow and the snow is no longer load-bearing, nothing to do with the comfortable climate downstairs.
Just contemplate, it's time to dig again, I pull myself together and put the backpack back on. Now it has become heavy, I feel it weighing on my back; better not think about it.
As I move to the left, I study the way to reach the ridge: it seems that we are passing on a secondary ridge, there is an obvious mixed passage to overcome: I will know once I am below it. The passage proves to be difficult especially due to the precariousness of the rock, I pay attention and with a little scaling and delicacy I manage to pass. There are still 200 meters to the ridge which give me a hard time due to the inconsistent amount of snow, now with the sun and the heat it will be hard to get to the top.
Even the ridge isn't easy to give, no one has ever done it this year and I have to trace it all, even where it joins the expressway there's not half a trace, I sink with every step.
It's 5.30pm when I get to the east ridge, the sky is reddening and I have half an hour to get to the top. With a tired step I continue along the windy ridge in the direction of the summit, while everything around is on fire.
18.00 : it's Cumbre! Just in time for sunset, I still can't believe it… I send a couple of messages: “I did it guys!”, “I did it Franci!” I can't realize that I succeeded. I stop for a while at the top but I know I can't afford too long a stop, 10 minutes and I start the descent.
My legs are now felt, especially my knee, it takes me 3 hours to get to Alpe Rossa where the Franci is waiting for me. She came to meet me in the pickup, saving me another hour of descent.
It's over: I embrace it all wet from the snow that stuck to me during the descent.
The climb I mentioned was perhaps the most demanding I've done so far, it has great value for me. This face taught me to appreciate the mountain, to respect it because man in this wild environment must adapt rather than adapt and realize that he is a guest who must enter on tiptoe, in silence and with his head bowed.
Alpinist - Rupe Athlete