Ticino – Russo

Valle Onsernone splits off from (or I guess more accurately joins) Valle Maggia at Ponte Brolla, and a winding narrow road (mostly single track) has been hacked into the hillside, accessing a string of picturesque villages and impressive crags – Russo is the farthest of both. Much like Brontallo, you zigzag up through the old village following an immaculately built stone staircase (they do have an abundance of the stuff around here!) marked with the ubiquitous red and white flashes which denote a public footpath. After a while both the markings and the posh steps run out and all upwards routes looked as if they might be going through someone’s back yard or garden. You need to find your way a bit further up and rightwards (or right then upwards – both seemed to work) to arrive at this rather lovely shrine.

The crag is now about 100m right along an obvious path.

We skipped the first sector, Cabernet Sauvignon, and went round the corner to sector Macaco, which looked more inviting. We bumped into a visiting team from Munich – here’s one of them eyeing the first tricky section of Croce del Sud, 7b+ (not surprisingly the crux is getting through roof above and then reaching the chains).

We did Senza Nome (worthy of four stars in the guide, though not a name!) Here’s Helen leading the first 5b pitch – great fun in its own right and would probably merit VS on grit.

I pressed on for the 6c extension, up the open groove above, on very thin flakey layaways (visible in the picture below). Very absorbing climbing, and with a grit feel (with the reassurance of nice shiny bolts!)

We also did Lame a Doppio Taglio: 5b, 6a+. More excellent climbing, though with an anxiety-provoking bolt placement beneath the crux.

Cumulative fatigue and the arrival of the shade (around 3pm) prompted an early finish and an end to our mini-tour of Ticino climbing. We’ve really enjoyed what we’ve done and the area has a lot of charm and a fantastic climate. We’ve also enjoyed spending time in the Italian part of Switzerland – it’s a nice combination of the Latin culture with Swiss orderliness and less scary driving! Plenty of scope for more exploration in the future.

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