Adrenaline: friend or foe? I have often wondered where the boundaries lie, why so many people enjoy the fear, what the thrill is all about, although I perfectly know that a mere explanation would not do justice to this complex issue.
I started skiing aged five, living close to the slopes, but then moved away and forgot about the poetry of snow. I will never go down terribly steep couloirs, but I do admire those who do. I am not enticed by their willpower and determination –some, in fact, simply have a cog missing! – but by their aesthetic choices which forego resounding names in favour of a magnificent line.
So when I met Francesco Civra Dano about a year ago, our instructor during a mountaineering course around Mont Blanc, and realised he had just skied the north-east face of the Grivola – la Grivola! Can there be a more elegant mountain profile? – I was awestruck. (Find the video of the descent here http://vimeo.com/42565468)
Originally from Trivero in the Val Sessera (Pennine Alps, north-west Italy), Francesco now lives in Entrèves, close to Courmayeur. He is an alpine guide, member of the prestigious Guide di Courmayeur www.guidecourmayeur.com and has skied everywhere – he attempted skiing down Everest via the Hornbein couloir, with Edmond Joyeusaz and Gianluca Marra http://everesthornbein2010.blogspot.it, although the Mont Blanc massif is his common playground. Instances are the north face of the Auguille du Plan with Davide Capozzi and Luca Rolli in 2011 (http://www.planetmountain.com/News/shownews1.lasso?l=1&keyid=38056), the Dames Anglaises with Emond Joyeusaz in 2012 (watch the video here http://video.gazzetta.it/impresa-edmond-joyeusaz-francesco-civra-dano-monte-bianco/baa7445e-c057-11e1-8ad9-97fe3f08b052 or the Tardivel route on the Brenva, Mont Blanc, with Giuseppe Dallona in the same year. http://www.planetmountain.com/News/shownews1.lasso?l=1&keyid=39754
On that Grivola descent he was accompanied by Davide Capozzi and Luca Rolli. Davide – check his website, packed with superb photos and videos, http://www.snowhow.it/home.htm – was born and bred in the Aosta Valley and still lives there, in charming St. Pierre. He is a snowboard instructor and not a professional rider, although one may easily believe that he actually is. After a “soft” approach via the classic descents such as the Gervasutti Couloir on the Mont Blanc du Tacul and the north-east face of the Courtes, adventure kicked in and he started exploring with first snowboard descents. The north-east couloir of the Dames Anglaises (2007), the south couloir of the Auguille du Rochefort (2010), the north-east face of the Petiti Mont Blanc (2011), the south west face of Mont Rochefort (Infos and video here http://chamonixinsider.com/tag/davide-capozzi/).
And then came an incredible exploit. The second ever descent of the east face of the Aiguille Blanche du Peuterey – la parete che non c’é – previously skied only by Stefano “the King” De Benedetti in 1984, was made by Francesco and Davide, together with Luca Rolli and Julien Herry, on 23 April this year, a fabulous season due to the constant superb snow conditions. Watch the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Oaye0i50BKE
At the end of May this year, Davide and Julien Herry completed the probable first descent of the north face of the Becca di Nona, the mountain towering above Aosta. http://www.planetmountain.com/News/shownews1.lasso?l=1&keyid=40932&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook
Yet another aesthetic choice – who has heard of the Becca di Nona? – showing that adrenaline surely takes on a relevant role, but the visual impact and an eye for interesting lines always prevail.