“We are Melloblocco!”
Melloblocco is a meeting of boulderers from all over the world in Val Masino and Val di Mello, deep in the beautiful Italian Alps. For one weekend in May, a small town hosts thousands of people united by a love of nature and the outdoors; everywhere you look someone will be climbing something, all against the wild mountainous back-drop. Although by tradition there normally seems to be quite a lot of rain, watching the clouds bubbling up around snowy peaks makes up for it and the bright sunshine dries everything out quickly enough. Quite simply, it is a spectacular place to boulder, and Melloblocco a celebration of this epic site.
This year was the 14th edition. Our last visit had been three years before, in 2014, and we had enjoyed the festival although perhaps not embraced it to the max - it was wetter, and we were sleeping in a very small, damp tent - but we had loved the concept and atmosphere, and were keen to return. Unfortunately, the drive to Northern Italy is a long one, so we had to take a couple of years out. We had finally managed to find the right excuse to go to Melloblocco in 2017 when we received the news of it's cancellation, possibly for good.
A few weekslater, Melloblocco was saved and our trip was looking more possible. Although we were indecisive until we were literally leaving Fontainebleau, the further we drove the more excited we were to be going, and the more certain we were that we had made the right decision: Melloblocco 2017 was on!
Our days at the festival went something like this: wake up early, for full day's climbing. Look at wet everything outside. Have long slow breakfast, until outside looks drier. Start climbing at midday. Walk up and down hills and rocks, climbing the odd boulder in lovely sunny weather and beautiful surroundings. Return to van late afternoon, eat dinner super quick before evening schedule begins. Do yoga class with fat pasta bellies. Eat/drink samples of tasty local or organic produce. Watch Italian boulder championships/ climbing movies/ presentations in Italian. Walk back to van in the rain, crash out. Repeat!
This year there was the addition of the Italian Boulder Championships to the Melloblocco line-up. As long term fans of bouldering events, we had watched many online but had never watched a live show. The Italian Championships were ace; tonnes of energy, a great set of technically demanding routes that split the competitors whilst seeing everyone top something, a massively supportive crowd and, most excellently, the 4 minutes plus rule had been resurrected for the final. The winners, with style, were Michael Piccolruaz and Giorgia Tesio. It probably couldn't have been any better, without free beer...
One of the best things about the weekend was the people: the MC who gave everything to his role, including his voice (you were Melloblocco); the always friendly and cheerful Zlagboard guys; the awesomely supportive girls on donna bloc C; meeting Laura again and taking her yoga class; the Scarpa folk who took the time to give us a crash course in climbing shoe manufacture and purpose; the guy who put his contact lenses in using our van window for a mirror, not realising that we were inside, watching him probe his own eyeballs...
It's nice to feel like your whole world is composed of climbers for a few days, and rather sad to leave for the real world. It definitely wasn't the worst farewell though, driving along the Northern Italian lakes at sunset. Before leaving we stocked up on tortellini, gnocchi, honey biscuits, Birra Moretti and a speciality of the Valtellina region, pizzoccheri, a pasta made from buckwheat, to make our Italian experience last a little longer.
And finally, back to Schweiz. What, we went to Switzerland? Yeah we did. Read the next one to find out about that.