The man is a constant source of surprises.
On October 24th in Scuola Grande di S. Giovanni Evangelista many gathered to listen to the story of a great climber.
Italian Mountaineering Club (CAI) of Venice invited Maurizio Zanolla (Feltre,1958), better known as “Manolo“, to talk about his life-long experience in mountaineering. A man who spaces between disciplines such as climbing, skiing and hiking.
“When I was a kid I was scared of the mountain” .
Manolo born in the mountain area around Feltre, in an environment where locals didn’t bother to observe mountain’s highs and their majesty. At that time, the burdens of their world was where meadows ends to meet rocks and cliffs. Mountains were like big walls surrounded of passes to cross from the Italian border to the Swiss one just to make a living out of it .
“I grew up in another era. My grandfather didn’t even knew the name of the mountain above our house“.
Manolo started climbing when he was 16 years old with a small group of climbers. He soon became fascinated by mountaineering and exploration, heading to Kabul.
Soon Manolo begun his personal journey questioning immediately why routes difficulty had to stop at grade 6 and why climbers had to use large hiking boots to climb cliffs (he preferred small sports shoes instead).
In 1979 Manolo joins the Venetian “gransi” (lit. crabs, in Venetian dialect) for an expedition in Katmandu to climb one the 8.000 meters mountain. Unfortunately at their arrival their equipment got stolen. Young and ambitious the team gathers what was available in town for their expedition. After weeks of hard work, they stop around an altitude of 7.100 meters due to avalanche and bad equipment. On the way back they stay in Deli and Kashmir for 6 months because of their visas.
Once arrived in Italy Manolo makes a life-changing observation for his career . Why spending a large amount of money, walking per days in the snow having Sherpa kids carrying their suitcases, while in Europe offers stunning mountain to climb and unexplored routes? His attention focuses now on the technical and physical preparation that steep cliffs requires.
“I started exploring things that have always been in front of me looking at them from a different prospective“.
Italy, France, Spain, all the Mediterranean area becomes a new playground to test himself to explore new routes.
1981 Manolo starts using rock-nails, this allowed him to push his limits forward to find new routes without risking his life. (by the way he is also very famous for climbing in solo without protections).
Tired of testing an environment that soon becomes too familiar for him, Manolo spends 3 months in Yosemite National Park in California to make another experience a cliff long hundreds of meters.
Back in Europe he gains popularaity and Sector Watches becomes his sponsor. For 10 years he found the economical balance to concentrate his training and exploration (i.e. Lebanon and Norway).
Many Italians remember Manolo’s commercials of him climbing in solo without protections on tv.
“At 40 years old started training more, achieving a grade 8a route. Thing considered impossible before for my age. […] I pushed my self further and conquered grade 9c at 50 years old[..]”.
His last challenge has been to test himself at 59 years old climbing a cliff he already conquered decades before because Manolo to experience the change in climbing the same walls from a different prospective.
Manolo is not just fascinating for his self-motivation and discipline, but his personal interpretation of living rock-climbing, no more just as physical challenge but as spiritual growth.
Surviving so many challenges around the world to realized that he could test him self right in the Alps.
He adopted a new way of climbing and to experiencing the mountain and its heights .
I spent 3 years of my life practicing 6 to 8 hours a week rock-climbing in Shanghai, I got so passionate about this discipline. Those hours I spent practicing are enough to admire which are the technical and physical challenges Manolo overcame as an athlete, yet what I couldn’t expect his deep philosophical and creative contribution to mountaineeringas an artist.