Italian disabled climbers open new climbing routes in the Rurec Valley

Pietro Rago (56), a professional climber from the province of Brescia in Lombardy, Italy, had previously been to Huaraz in 2005 and 2006, when he opened several climbing routes in the Rurec Valley in solo, not an easy feat! He came back this year to organise a very special and meaningful expedition in the Cordillera Blanca. The expedition, called “Arrampicande 2017” (arrampica means climbing in Italian), is meant to inspire people who for various reasons believe it is impossible for them to live an adventure, inviting them to leave their home and to step outside their comfort zone, no matter where to and no matter what activity they choose to do, to be part of a team, to live a unique experience, that way teaching them new skills and creating a link between people of different social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. Participating in an international climbing expedition like this one is the dream of every climber, both expert and amateurs. However, for a disabled person this becomes something much more extreme and maybe even unattainable. Rago believes this is and should be made possible for all, so he decided to set up a team that includes disabled climbers supported by expert climbers, film-makers and journalists and chose Huaraz as the place to be to open some new alpine routes in the Rurec valley, located south of Huaraz within the Huascaran National Park. The Huaraz Telegraph was lucky to meet Pietro and some of the other 14 team members last month and asked him about his motives.

Tell us Pietro, what are you here for exactly?

Well, it´s my third time in Huaraz and last year I started planning an international expedition for disabled people. I like Huaraz and the Rurec Valley and that´s where we are climbing at the moment. I met a couple of disabled sportsmen a while ago and informed them about my project. Our moto is to make the impossible possible. There´s fourteen Italian team members, including a film maker (Mirko Sotgiu from Chiavari), a nurse (Elena Robusti from Cremona), a rope expert (Giovanni Foti from Brescia), a couple of lead climbers (Ralf Steinhilber and Detoni Sandro from Brescia), and other members who belong to the climbing team (Raffaele Agazzi from Brescia, Luca Sossi from Brescia and Carolina Bosseni). Within the team there are two disabled climbers: Silva Parente (48, from Milan) and Kevin Ferrari (25, from Brescia). As you can notice, Kevin has lost his right leg and Silvia is blind. They are disabled but are true athletes. Lorenzo Migliari from Bolonga is Silvia´s life partner and also her lead climber, as is Riccardo Colosio from Brescia in the case of Kevin. Additionally, Luca Ranghiero from Verona is here to support Kevin as well. The objective of the project is to explain to the world that disabled people are very much capable of a lot. It´s true, they are not regular disabled people. Silvia for example is a triathlon, sailing and ski champion, who has participated four times at the Paralympics as well. She is a great example and so is Kevin. We arrived in Huaraz on the second of August and we managed to open a couple of new climbing routes in the Rurec Valley – one 8 pitches long, the other 6 pitches long, both bolted and of difficulties ranging from 6a to 6c. The routes are located on the left and right sides of the valley and are called “La Fiamma Bianca” and “Arrampicande 2017” after the name of our expedition. Not all team members are here at the moment as most of them are climbing as we speak.

When would you call the expedition a success?

It´s already a big success, organising the expedition and getting here is a success. It´s all about making things possible. Luckily our trip has been covered by the Italian media as well, prior to our trip to Huaraz, Kevin and Silvia were interviewed by Sky Sports Italia for example and I would like to come back next year and repeat the project. The first trip is always the most difficult one. Of course, I have been told that this was a crazy idea but as you see, we have made it possible. Silvia, nice to meet you, how´s your stay in Huaraz so far? Great, thank you. It´s exciting and very intense. During the day, we did trekking and climbing and this is a new thing for me. I have climbed before in Italy but never such long routes. At times, I was a bit afraid and didn’t know what to expect but now I feel very happy and proud. It´s great to climb new routes in new places. I met Pietro a couple of years ago and last year he called me to tell me about the expedition and I immediately said: “Yes, you can count on me!”. I had to train a lot in Italy for five months and it´s very exciting.

Pietro told me that you are a four-time Paralympic athlete, that´s great!

Yes, I have participated in four Paralyimpicspracticing alpine ski. The last one was in 2006 in Turin, but I also was at the one in Nagano, Lillehammer and Tignes-Albertville. In Turin, I won a bronze medal in the visually impaired slalom and a gold medal at the visually impaired giant slalom, another bronze one on the Super-G and on the downhill. In Lillehammer in 1994 I also obtained a bronze medal on the slalom. I do a lot of sports, but the most important one is skiing. However, now I have a new passion, climbing, and it´s very emotional.

Kevin, how has your experience been so far?

Very emotional too. It´s hard sometimes but in my opinion, the expedition is great so far. It´s the first time I am not on the European continent and it´s very exciting. It´s very motivating to climb with Silvia, although she climbs with Lorenzo and I climb with Riccardo. Riccardo is also my emotional support. It´s scary sometimes as you will understand. But the expedition is a great success because I have overcome fears and learned new things.

How is climbing with one leg?

It depends a lot on the rock structure. Climbing here is different because the rocks are different and I have to use my leg and feet a lot more, whereas in Italy I can use my arms more. It´s tough because I have only one leg so it´s hard to find the right balance sometimes. I had an accident seven years ago when I was riding my motorbike and lost my leg. It took me a couple of months to recover from the injury, but it took four months to walk again. The mental aspect is hard. The first year was easy because a lot of people and friends were offering help and attention. The second year was really rough. You start to ask yourself questions like how will a girl fall in love with me if I am disabled. Can I still do all the things I did before the accident or will I get a decent job? However, these questions motivated me a lot, although I had one year of difficulties. After that year, I read about awareness and what I would like to reach in my life and discovered that sports would be the solution. Being active helps me tremendously and I am practicing a lot of swimming. This year I have been practicing every day. I hope to participate in the triathlon one day, so in the mornings I go swimming and in the afternoon, I cycle.

Lorenzo, what´s your role exactly in this expedition?

Well, I am Silvia´s boyfriend for maybe over twenty years now and I am her skiing guide as well. We train together and climb together. I normally go ahead of her and help her climb. We are doing everything together and give each other signals, but Silvia is very good at climbing so it´s actually really easy. I am very proud of her and when you talked about her participation in the Paralympics before, we did that together as well. I ski ahead of her and she has to follow me, carrying an amplifier on my back, but that´s how it works basically. However, I am the first one to cross the finishing line [laughing]. I always win! What´s nice is that at the moment at the Paralympics the guide is also on the podium, because we work together as a team.

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