Giancarlo Grassi, the Man of the Crystal GardenI wish to report some passages from his book “100 Scalate su cascate di ghiaccio” (100 Ice-falls climbs) in order to explain his personality and sensitiveness. What we above all admire, beyond his extraordinary ascents through more than 25 years of climbing, is the huge passion, the unpretentiousness, the simplicity, and the love towards all the natural displays, even the slightest ones.
Grandes Jorasses – Gianni Comino Memorial route
“...i don’t like to dedicate the new routes to the fallen pals, but i’m deeply feeling inside myself that this one is a worthy homage to Gianni. Coming down amongst the geometry of the contrasts created by the spaces of light touching the shadows, i’m becoming aware of the magic atmosphere of these evenings and i’m often turning back to look at the tracks of my steps on the snow. The wind will sponge out them and they will disappear, like the images of this day and i’ll walk towards other experiences. But i can’t forget the memories; i see again Gianni shaking me and bringing me back to the reality; together we’re going down on the Vallot ridge at the end of another glory day.
Going down i pick up a frosted fly; i warm it inside my hand and it wakes up, dispersing towards its destiny into the snow-storm. We also are going down towards our ones...”
“Maybe there is a relation hiding an ancient dream at the root of this wish of climbing the ice-falls; the dream to re-ascend to the spring of all, just along the natural way of the water. Water which had changed itself into astonishing matter”.
Giancarlo and his ageGiancarlo Grassi was born in Condove (Piedmont, Italy) in 1946, october the 14th; he dedicated all his life to the mountaineering and was also an excellent writer of guide-books. Alpine Guide, member of the C.A.A.I. (Club Alpino Accademico Italiano) and GHM (Group Haute Montagne), alpinist of world-wide renown, he widely contributed to the popularization of the extreme ice-climbing in the Western Alps.
All the great high level classic routes of his epos, included the Walker Spur on Grandes Jorasses at nineteen, didn’t suffice to Giancarlo to make him considered inside its surroundings. His “palmares” doesn’t include only this kind of ascents; he was one of the greatest pioneers of the technical ice-climbing in the Alps during the second half of the Seventies and the Eighties. He explored numberless high mountain’s gullies and an endless number of ice-falls in all Western Alps main valleys; a specialist of the phantom-gullies climb and indeed a true master of the ice-falls extreme climb. The ruling outlook of the Torinese mountaineering didn’t understand nor accept his climbing way and his value was underestimated through several years.
Notwithstanding he considered the ice as his favourite element, he also realized several first ascents on rocky ground. At the beginning of the Seventies Giancarlo joined the climbing movement known as “Nuovo Mattino” (New Morning) and was one of the first Italian people to climb in the Yosemite Valley; he embraced the new ideas applying them to the wild granite domes of the Piedmont valleys, as Orco, Susa, Lanzo and Sea Valleys, where he climbed a myriad of new routes.
He roped up with some of his contemporary outstanding climbers, as Renato Casarotto, Patrick Gabarrou, François Damilano, Gianni Comino, Marco Bernardi.
In particular Giancarlo conceived a very strong party with Gianni Comino, with whom he practised an highly challenging way of mountaineering, climbing several extreme gullies in Mont Blanc massif.
The disappearing of his favourite pal, dead because of an ice fall on the Poire right serac in 1980 at twenty-eight, didn’t stop him.
He also did some important ascents in Patagonia (Fitz Roy, Supercanaleta in 1985) and Canada, where he climbed Polar Circus in the Rocky Mountains, Slipstream in the Canadian Rockies and Pomme d'Or in Quebec with Renato Casarotto.
Nowaday finally his great value had been recognized: since 2011 the new bivouac at 3852 m. on Pic Eccles SW ridge, an eagles’ nest lying below the Freney Pillars, one of the most secluded places in the massif of Mont Blanc, had been renamed Giuseppe Lampugnani - Giancarlo Grassi Bivouac.
Giancarlo was betrayed by his favourite element: a snow-ridge falling down on the summit of Monte Bove in Sibillini group (Central Apennines) suddenly broke his life in 1991.
Cronology of Giancarlo Grassi main first ascents
1966 - Albaron di Sea North face
1966 - Punta Rossa di Sea North face
1968 - Becco Meridionale della Tribolazione Via Grassi-Re with Alberto Re
1973 - Caporal Sole Nascente with Mike Kosterlitz e Gian Piero Motti
1977 - Mont Blanc du Tacul Pilier Sans Nom 1977
1978 - Grandes Jorasses Ypercouloir Grassi-Comino with Gianni Comino
1978 - Aiguille Verte North Face Goulotte Grassi-Comino with Gianni Comino
1979 - Dome de Moulinet East Gully
1979 - Monte Bianco di Courmayeur Seracco a sinistra della Poire with Gianni Comino
1980 - Roccia Nera Goulotte Grassi-Bernardi with Marco Bernardi
1980 - Monte Bianco di Courmayeur Cascata del Freney with Marco Bernardi e Renzo Luzi
1982 - Punta Gugliermina Via Grassi-Meneghin with Isidoro Meneghin
1984 - Col Maudit Filo d’Arianna with A. Faré e G. Langhi
1984 - Picco Luigi Amedeo Fantacouloir and Pilastro Rosso
1985 - Grandes Jorasses Gianni Comino Memorial Route with con Renzo Luzi e Mauro Rossi
1985 - Cirque du Mont Maudit Lacrima degli Angeli with Carlo Stratta
1985 - Grandes Jorasses Direttissima
1986 - Mont Maudit Overcouloir with Nello Margaria e Angelo Siri
1986 - Mont Maudit Couloir del Bicentenario
1987 - Mont Blanc du Tacul Labirinto di Minosse
1988 - Punta Baretti Goulotte Franco Garda
1990 - Punta Giancarlo Grassi (Quota 3095 metri) Via Grassi-Ghirardi-Baraus with M.Ghirardi e F.Baraus, the last new route realized in Mont Blanc group
Wonder repeating itself
“Now, going back to Rainbow Bridge with Inti after a climb, inspired by the particular and soft sunset light which can be found at Rainbow Bridge and in no other place, sometimes he likes talking about that extraordinary natural phenomenon which, day after day, at the beginning of the cold season, turns the water in ice.”
Gian Carlo Grassi, 100 scalate su cascate di ghiaccio, Gorlich - Istituto Geografico De Agostini, 1983
Gian Carlo Grassi, Arrampicata in Valle Susa, Ghibaudo, 1986
Gian Carlo Grassi, Gran Paradiso e Valli di Lanzo, Zanichelli, 1986
Gian Carlo Grassi, 90 Scalate su guglie e monoliti, Gorlich, 1987
Gian Carlo Grassi, Sogno di Sea, 1988
Gian Carlo Grassi, Ghiaccio dell'Ovest, Club Alpino Italiano, 1989
Aldo Cambiolo, G. Carlo Grassi, Diamanti di cristallo - Guida alle cascate di ghiaccio della Valle d'Aosta, L'Arciere, 1994
Bibliography and filmography
Bibliography and filmography
Annuario C.A.A.I. 2009 – Giancarlo Grassi Padrone degli Orizzonti by Elio Bonfanti
Annuario C.A.A.I. 1992 – Ultime sere con Gian Carlo by Marco Conti
Rivista della Montagna - Momenti d'alpinismo 1984 - Couloir fantasma
Rivista della Montagna - Aprile 1987 - Primi passi nel regno di cristallo
ALP - Maggio 1991 - Giancarlo Grassi Mille ascensioni per un sogno di cristallo
L'uomo del Giardino di Cristallo - 2009 - Regia di Angelo Siri
CLUB ALPINO ACCADEMICO ITALIANO