The Route of the Guides – a free solo record by Silvestro Franchini
Published on 25/09/2019
I rarely wake up at 9 am, actually that morning I was thinking of working and even if during the night I’ve tried to review all the details of the route in my mind, up to the last moment I am undecided whether to leave for the Brentei refuge or take a day off .
I called Anna, my girlfriend, who encouraged me to go, even if I didn't know exactly if she realized what I had in mind to do. I took courage and decided to leave. I felt fine, I didn’t even have breakfast, just a coffee and an apricot.
It was past 9 and 30 and I was still in Vallesinella, it didn’t seem true to me to leave for the Route of the Guides.
I went fast enough but I forced myself not to run: I wanted to conserve all my energy to overcome the 900 meters of climbing.
I stopped at Brentei, I took my Katana shoes and a shirt from the garbage bag that I always leave at the refuge, in my backpack I had nothing but a gel and 250 ml of water and elderberry.
I ate a slice of cake and chatted with Elena and Michele, managers of the refuge Tosa and Brentei, I recommended Michele to keep an eye on myself and greeted them.
That morning it was cold, I deliberately waited for the sun to soften the snow and let me get with my TX2 (the lightest shoes I have) on the snowfield that gives access to the wall without needing the crampons.
I did the Route of the Guides in total 6 times so far, twice in the last two weeks; usually I do not like to repeat the same routes, even at the crag. I currently know it better than any other route.
The day before it had hailed, I knew that if I waited for a moment the sun would melt the hail and the ice that usually forms on the last two chimneys of the route.
Once again I went over the points where I had to be careful and all the tricks I learned in the previous repetitions to sweeten the most challenging passages as much as possible.
When I leave for a climb without a rope I think I'm climbing in much easier conditions than usual: I don't have the weight of friends and carabiners, no rope that do friction and no partner, client or friend to think about.
I put the phone in airplane mode, sucked the gel, drank a drop, put the shoes on and started the stopwatch and … go!
I tried to climb quickly but above all in a fluid way, only a couple of times I hesitated before making the transition, on a couple of occasions I raised my head a moment to make sure I took the right direction. My heart was beating fast, and I breathed hard after every movement. I managed to keep the pace as if I were running uphill.
Arriving in the central part, the most demanding one, I felt as I was one thing with the rock, feeling my feet glued to the slabs of the key pitch.
I arrived at the final chimneys and as I imagined the water flowed like a small stream, after a moment of hesitation I tried to turn the situation around in my favor, I leaned my mouth against the wall, drank a drop of water that gave me a little rush and I threw myself into the stream, because I knew that there were very large holds.
When I reached the end of the difficulties I could not resist the temptation to have a look at the watch I kept in my pocket: it marked 50 ' and I almost didn't believe it, I threw myself towards the final part with even more energy until I almost popped out on top of the Crozzon.
I lay down taking off my climbing shoes, I had a lot of adrenaline in my body and my head was pounding; I was very satisfied with the climb, I had managed the best, I did nothing wrong and above all I felt I hadn't risked it.
This performance was never in my plans, I thought of doing it when, as I said before, I found myself by chance to know this route very well, in a period where I felt very well physically thanks to a training "out of the ordinary" (as said by Gabriele Carrara) made this spring up and down the Alps.
It is not the first time that I did this route in free solo, in 2017 the day in which I made the chaining of the peaks that form the Brenta Skyline started here.
On that occasion I spent 1h and 42 ', I didn't know the route so well and I didn't want to concentrate on speed: knowing what was waiting for me later, the Route of the Guides was only the first warm-up pitch. I was sure that it would take me less time but honestly I was also impressed that it took so little.
The desire to try something like this was born primarily to spend a beautiful day in the mountains.
I then tested the knowledge and skills I have built over the years, making me feel very proud of myself.
Article and pictures by Silvestro Franchini, July 2019
Silvestro Franchini, born in 1987 in Madonna di Campiglio (Italy) is part of the Grivel team since 2019. Ski instructor and Mountain Guide since 2010, he practices climbing and mountaineering in all its forms, from freeride to the crag, crack climbing, ice climbing, ski mountaineering and mountain climbing.
Favorite Grivel product: 360 Ice screw.