Wer Durch Der Fisch

On the Fish route, thirty years later by Manolo

by Maurizio 'Manolo' Zanolla

Throughout his career Manolo has represented

one of the references for La Sportiva

© Matteo Mocellin

I had promised myself that sooner or later I would come back, but the more time passed, the more I didn’t feel like it. Throughout my lifetime I have returned to many areas looking to relive or find once again some moments of my existence but in the end it has only helped me understand that there is nothing left, those moments have disappeared for ever, even the spaces no longer seem the same. Everything is different. However the wish to relive those moments on the Fish was stronger and in the end I went back. If there is something I really like about mountain huts it is the faces around the table the evening before the next day, everyone is so different, in the way they dress and speak, that’s how it is, full stop. And if there is something I don’t like in a mountain hut is that everyone knows before I walk in, where I want to go. Someone approaches me, that presence surprises me, he asks me something in German. I don’t understand anything he says but when he says Fisch, I say yes.

The next morning when I switch off the torch, daylight reveals nothing unknown to me, I put my back pack on the ground and get ready to climb. It’s early, it is half past six. It is not a place like any other, but not even an area where I have never been; I know that wet crack and it does not seem easy, but the deal is clear: I am here but only to belay. In any case I start to worry. I can’t remember anything, absolutely nothing of the route, everything seems the same and everything seems different, even when I look up searching for that niche, I can’t see it.

The ropes are ready and it’s my turn to start climbing. Not easy. It is all wet and the rock seems to crumble into your hands, there is nothing, nowhere even to place a peg; Omar is climbing well, he climbed up quickly and nimbly. Maybe it’s because we have two climbers following us but at the anchor point instead of stopping I keep on climbing, going on ahead, so as not to waste time. Then we just continue like that. The two following us disappear but I regret my choice of leading and in that wet crack I find myself climbing reluctantly, what is easy becomes difficult and everything goes back to being like it was down there, everything is the same, grey, confused. And I lose my chalk bag.

I didn’t want to, but for how the alternate leads turn out, I am leading that silver corner, luckily I don’t find it as hard, there are pegs now and I know where to go, I can place protections, but when I am at the anchor I am overwhelmed by shivers. Crystal clear and frightening memories come back to me. It seems impossible and I just can’t understand what pushed me that day to move so far away from the only safety there was, and that is from that peg. And then the gamble of abseiling down from that cliff, in the dark, it is something that is far beyond rationality that I could never do it again. In that moment, on my own, at the anchor, emotions overwhelm me and the more I go back in time with my memories, the more my emotions scare me. I imagine my old friends in that niche, Heinz, Luisa, Bruno. And Roberto. When I set off I am different, confused and I can’t wait to get to the point where I felt really alone.

Everything is easier, more contorted, the Kevlar threads and the pegs go over to the left, in areas and pockets where I had never been before. Then the anchor, which I hadn’t set up and that smooth slab towards the crack where there was nothing and I couldn’t place anything but I had to keep climbing on, climbing on…on and on. Up. It terrorizes me to think that I had done it - even if not easily - I now understand why the others at the belay, that day, had untied themselves from the rope. Along the last metres before reaching the crack you now go down and traverse with your feet completely smeared, I think of Auer and his solo ascent: Congratulations. From the anchor I continue looking at that wall and the void down there which can be felt now and I realise that after that day I’ve never again felt so alone, tied to a rope.

Manolo climbed the route “Weg durch den Fisch” with Omar Genuin on 27th August 2015, thirty years after his first ascent.