Steep skiing in the bowels of the Brenta by Silvestro Franchini
Published on 04/04/2020
After dedicating myself to steep skiing in the past, I have abandoned it a bit in recent years, but this year I feel inspired, by the mountain that seems to be in good condition for this discipline and by Patrick Vallencant's book "el gringo eskiador" that I have just read.
I am leaving to try to tackle a couloir that I have been thinking of for some time.
To better overcome the injury that I had at the knee last autumn I tried to strengthen my legs, and thanks to the excellent materials I use this year (Wayback 80 skis combined with Skorpion LaSportiva boots) on skis I feel very safe and in shape.
In 2014, when I made the descent of the Merzbacher canal to the Summit Margherita, this line we are talking about was almost all skiable. I think it twill be hard to find again years full of snow like that. Now there is not much snow but it is well settled.
On Friday 21st February I leave from the Val Brenta already knowing that I will probably have to change my plans along the way, last night when I made the backpack I decided not to carry the rope. I realized that it is only when I have a light backpack that I I feel like skiing really well and safely, then if you don't have the rope you don't risk pushing the descent lines.
So I force myself to face terrains where I will have to be comfortable, relying only on my ability as a skier and climber.
Just climbing up to the Alimonta refuge in winter is a real pleasure, the beauty of the Brenta is always impressive.
I tie poles and skis on my backpack and start to climb the line I had in mind, it is actually in two disconnected sections and I have to overcome even a small overhang in climbing, to get to the point that separates the tower of Brenta from the “Sfulmini” I have to overcome a traverse that leads into a gorge facing west that I have not taken into consideration, its end is not seen but it seems that it leads directly to the Brenta valley.
I rest in the sun eating the expired dried fruit that I have been carrying in my backpack for the whole winter and I am thinking about what to do ...
I want to ski as much as possible, I think that going down from the south side, from the line that I have climbed up, I will have to take off my skis, today I am in steep ski mode, in freeride mountaineering style this descent could be attempted, perhaps with a the snow a little softer.
The option to go down from the west side teases me a lot and I decide to try to throw myself down that side.
I put the skis right on the col, during the night I imagined myself with the skis on that col and even if the first meters are quite extreme I don't want to be a coward.
I go down on skis in derapage, on the snow only the tip and tail of the ski touch, and for safety I hold the ice axe well with my hand up.
I start skiing, the west side having taken more sun is more frozen than the north side, I gasp, this is traditional steep skiing! Everyone is capable of skiing with powder snow…
I don't know what I'm going into. As soon as I can I try to peek somewhere to see what awaits me, the channel narrows, I have to take off my skis and climb a rock jump. While climbing, looking from below I realize that if I took the one on the right it was more skiable, in fact I discover that the Dallavalle brothers, the undisputed specialists of this discipline, skied this channel on 8th December starting from the point that separates the “Sfulmini” (the red line on the picture below, while the blu is my line).
I had perhaps seen this post on Instagram, on December 8th I could not even walk and I would never have imagined skiing these lines already this year.
My girlfriend Anna came up from Brescia that day and finds me in bed to rest, as soon as she looks me in the face she tells me that my cheeks are swollen, as if during the day I had never stopped smiling.
Article and pictures by Silvestro Franchini, February 2020
Favorite Grivel product: 360 Ice screw.