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RUNNER IN TIME

THE STORY OF THE FIRST 9A IN VAL DI LANDRO

by Matteo Menardi

This story begins on June 11, 2021, when I was crossing the stream that starts from Lake Landro and either reaches Dobbiaco or vanishes in the stony riverbed, depending on the season. The water was still freezing while the mild temperatures melted the nearby snowfields.
I had heard from the locals about a new bolted line on the Pangea crag, which they said was the last ""possible"" route in the sector. From the first part of “All In,” it cut to the right on a yellow/orange and gray wall. But before thinking about the technicalities of the climb, I had to reach the wall ... something that was by no means straightforward. The storm Vaia had left its indelible mark on this area, erasing almost every trace of the trail. So on that day in June 2021, I found myself climbing with my brother Marco among the remains of ancient forests and scree, until we reached a rocky outcrop where we allowed ourselves to take a break, looking northward to Dobbiaco and Val Pusteria.
From here, a few more steps would take us to the foot of the crag — a dramatic setting, with all those fallen trees surrounding the pitches on the rock.

Sitting on a boulder, I spent some time contemplating my goal. In my mind, I anticipated the action by examining that succession of moves. Bolted by Hannes Phfeifhofer, the pitch had remained there, waiting to be freed. It starts from “All In,” as I mentioned, and follows an extremely logical route up the wall. Alexander Megos had already come here before me, on a freezing day, and confirmed that, yes, it was a very difficult project.
But enough deliberation! I took my harness, rope, and quickdraws and spent the rest of the day studying the pitches. I wasted a lot of time analyzing every detail, trying to understand every move. I remember going home satisfied, knowing that I’d at least gotten the rope to the top. But not only that. I’d also had the privilege of trying out a new project relatively close to home. Of course, I was exploring essentially virgin terrain, with rock to clean and moves to dream up, but I knew that I would gladly return to that couloir at more than 1,700 meters of elevation.

OBSESSION

After the first approach, I couldn’t think of anything else. Every day I imagined myself in Val di Landro, picturing the moves and studying the possibilities. Then I returned to the wall once, twice, three times, and more. I learned the sequences, understanding how to manage the clipping and the falls on this very exposed wall. Every new attempt seemed the right one, and every safe one the lucky one. Until that last attempt: the last fall of the season under the chain doing the dyno, where I held .while pulling the slabby yellowish pinch with the right hand, I used the small pointy hold as an intermediate for the left hand  until I could bump left again to finally reach the good hold   . I didn’t have the endurance to do any more, and I needed to recharge my batteries. I had to disconnect and forget about this project, at least for a while. On October 15, 2021, I tried for the last time, before winter. The air was now cold and the sun entered the couloir for just a couple of hours before the mountain began to block its beneficial rays. The bad-weather season, as they call winter, would give me time to find new inspiration and start over from the basics the following summer ... I didn’t know it yet, but it would be very hot.
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In May I began to have a first inkling of how I would fill in the gaps in 2022, with the ascent of “Claudio Cafè” at the Terra Promessa crag in Arco. A beast of a route, very exposed above the Sarca valley. In mid-July I started shifts at the tourist information office near my home, so I had to reorganize my days. For me, every free minute meant training on my home crags and, weather permitting, on the project. I spent exciting days in Val di Landro together with my friend Julian, a great Austrian climber and mountaineer, who helped me find the right optimism to continue with my obsession.
I quickly regained the critical endurance needed to achieve my goal and began to imagine alternative solutions for overcoming the crux of the pitch. At the exit, instead of the dyno, I managed to find a small sloper hold for my left foot that allowed me to do a drop knee. This maneuver immediately helped me understand how I could raise my center of gravity and stretch to the hold where you can finally breathe and clip the chain. And so, in mid-September, I started making good attempts!
I again began to feel the sensations of the previous year, where every attempt seemed like the right one to send the free climb. I knew every inch of that pitch and didn’t want another winter to keep me from the result.

AT THE CHAIN

I made my last attempt on October 7, 2022. It was a cool day but sunny, dry, and breezy. In short, a typical early fall day. Like the other times, while I was climbing I perceived that something might go differently. I felt the holds lightly, even the slabby pinch grip at the top. I then stretched to the left at the the small spiky intermediate and then to the vertical one. I held the downward-turning sloper with my right hand and did the drop knee to the left with my knee very low. I held the downward-turning sloper with my right hand, extended my right leg, and lowered my left on my solid foot. I breathed, trying to maintain concentration, and reached out to a porous hold on the left, the final one followed by the last technical moves on more vertical rock. Then I stayed there, at the chain, staring blankly. To the north, Val Pusteria; to the south, Monte Piana. For a moment I didn’t understand, then I exploded with a scream of relief that filled the entire valley.
This was my passion for climbing manifesting itself. I closed a chapter of my story in the place where it started, and suddenly everything was clear to me: Zeitläufer would be its name. Literally, “runner in time,” a single and exciting sequence of moves, without a break. The first 9a in the area.

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