While in Italy, I’m supporting Save the Children, an organization that helps children around the world access nutritious foods so they have the energy to study, play, and grow. For nearly 900 children and adults around the world living in hunger, it’s not about missing a single meal, it’s about trying to survive for days, months, and years without key nutrients necessary for growing bodies and developing minds. Help me raise $10,000 for Save the Children on my Crowdrise page. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!
Sometimes, miracles happen. Making the second ascent of Art Attack, an 8c (5.14b) granite slab in northern Italy’s Val Masino, was nothing short of a miracle. Since Simone Pedeferri established the route in 2004, Art Attack hasn’t seen a repeat, likely because not many people enjoy slab climbing. Simone himself even admitted his distaste for technical slabs, despite the fact that he has established nearly every difficult climb in the area.
Working Art Attack (8c), Photo by Rich Crowder
Cleaning a nice thick layer of lichen off the slab
After 30-40 failed attempts over a month long period, my confidence was at an all time low. Two weeks of high humidity did not bode well for granite slab climbing. With only two days left in Italy, I had given up. It’s not just that I was close to giving up, I had actually given up. I only tied back in and left the ground for one reason – in two days, when I was sitting on the plane between Italy and Japan, I didn’t want to have any excuses or regrets. I would have given myself every possible chance. But in reality, I knew that I didn’t have a chance.
I’m not sure what filled my mind as I left the ground and started up the opening 12d section of Art Attack. I vaguely remember a fleeting wish that I was at Smith Rock in that moment. Once, I looked out at the fog and silently cursed the impossible conditions. But mostly, my mind was blank. I had gone through the paces of frustration, and was now simply executing moves that I had practiced way too many times. The nerves I had felt over the last month were gone, as was my enthusiasm and motivation. I was just climbing.
Somehow, I must have climbed through the pre crux thumbdercling section about 2/3 of the way up the route. I must have made the clip and desperate move off the index-finger-only crystal, must have spanned the iron cross and pulled my foot up, made the rainbow cross match and down campused my feet. I must not have botched the final bolt of climbing that I was worried about messing up on the go. Because I was clipping the chains. I have no idea how.
Art Attack (8c), Photos by Rich crowder
This may have been the single most obscure day of climbing I’ve ever experienced. Light rain showers peppered the rock all afternoon. The climber’s bar wasn’t even open because no one was out climbing that day. Muscle memory somehow defied low confidence. A young Italian couple who weren’t climbers took photos throughout my entire send and cheered when I reached the top. For all they knew, I had just finished my first 5.7.
Solitary Men (8b), Photos by Rich Crowder
While in Val Masino, I also made the first female ascent of the steep and physical Solitary Men, another Simone Pedeferri route, given the grade of 8b/+ (5.13d/5.14a). As for grades, I felt that Solitary Men seemed like solid 8b (5.13d); 60 feet of 5.10 climbing lead to about 40 feet of dynamic moves between decent edges. I would confirm Simone’s proposition of 8c (5.14b) for Art Attack. Compared to To Bolt or Not to Be, the only route of similar style (albeit not a slab) and difficulty I’ve completed, the moves on Art Attack are much more difficult, primarily due to significantly worse feet, although the difficult climbing is limited to about 30 feet. I would also note that Art Attack is about 2-3 degrees under vertical.
After completing a personal project or overcoming a challenge, we always hope to come away with a tidbit of wisdom, something we learned throughout the process. Of course, Art Attack demonstrated the common message of persistence. Moreover, it contradicted my feeling that climbing is all about confidence – a confident climber can typically overcome mental and physical barriers and get to the top. However, through this process I learned that when confidence (in oneself, in the weather) fails, there is still a gleam of hope. Wipe the slate clean and give it one more try.
Look for more details and footage of Art Attack in Episode #3 of Marmot’s Lead Now tour. Jon actually has uncut footage of the send as well, which he will release a few weeks after our third Lead Now video comes out. In addition, I can also thank Jon for his many many hours spent holding the rope at the base of the cliff. Stay tuned for more!