Pierluigi Bini, birth year 1959. Born in Pontedera, he spent his childhood in the suburbs of Rome. In the '80s he has revolutionized the rock climbing in Central Italy and not just there. He lived through the transition from the classic mountaineering to the modern free climbing as a protagonist, maybe sometimes without being aware of it, becoming an important reference point for many mountaineering enthusiasts.
- Pierluigi, what did make you think of starting to climb?
We were hothead kids. When I saw in the encyclopedia the picture of a man stemming above a glacier, I got hooked on this idea.
My father, that was worried because his son couldn't stop thinking about ropes and was spending his days climbing the bridge pilings instead of go to school, sought advice from a friend, that addressed him to the Italian Alpin Club (CAI): “So they teach him something, or he kills himself,... and sooner or later he'll forget all”!
And so I found myself in Ripetta Road, where there was the headquarter of the Italian Alpin Club of Rome at that time, and I started strolling with other children. First, they took us skiing, in Campo Staffi, but I wanted to climb. Then they took us for some day trips, with some old geezers, until, after a whole, we're fed up with this stuff, and we used to pretend to go together with them, and instead we run away, coming to the Termini train station, where we used to take the train to Pescara - departing from track 8 at 7.22 A.M.. We used to exit at Marcellina station, and then to go on foot up to the Morra Mountain (it's a long way!) bringing a 7 mm cord that I bought by Montanucci Sport. The locals of the Morra mountain saw us in trouble: we were awful afraid, and they looked at some crazy scenes... Once, just got here, we went at the base of the Camino Jannetta (Jannetta Chimney) and we got stuck at the first little wall. I can't tell you what it's happened! We were three rowdy boys... I tried first and suddenly got stuck, then I kept going for three meters, then I nearly fell off... We used to clip only the carabiner into the bolts because at that time there were no quickdraws. So you can imagine how many "Z" were formed by the rope, and what friction was created... In part we weren't good, in part, the rope didn't slide... Then tried a friend of mine, and he too gave up, then tried another one…
- And how were you belayed?
With the rope around their shoulder, as we saw on the books... with a 7mm rings of rope around a tree as hangers... you can imagine... We had already bought the harnesses and stuff, like the helmet with the inscription Cassin, the mountain shoes... we already tried to use homologated stuff... Only later, when I attended the mountaineering course, I saw Rys' Zaremba climbing with Superga sneakers, I abandoned the mountain shoes.
As the locals began to see such three little boys, 14-15 years old, going around in the Morra mountain, they tipped us off! They told to the Italian Alpin Club everything!! Thus at a certain point my father came and told me:
- The C.A.I called...
- And what did they say?
- They told that you pretend to go with the old men, but you then go to the Morra, instead! They saw you! they told me "Watch out because they will kill themselves! Few little boys, 14-15 old, with a bit of rope... They scream Help, Mom!"
I remember one time I was belaying a friend on the Jannetta (that is the Camino Jannetta, an old classical easy route of the Morra, ed.). My friend at a certain point got stuck, and he couldn't move either on or down, he had 10 pitons and a hammer, and nailed 10 pitons on 5 meters... he made a mess of all! And what a mess to get him back! I didn't have the guts to climb up to him, and he was screaming. Then we got him back going by foot on a ledge, from which we rescued him like a goat, leaving all the gear on the route... Such gear (pitons and carabiners) was entirely recovered by certain members of the C.A.I., that then gave it back to us...
Since we already had the climbing gear, and that a C.A.I. Introduction Course to Mountaineering was starting, we attended that course. They brought us to the Morra mountain and to the Gran Sasso Mountain. That's where I met Rys' Zaremba, Osvaldo Locasciulli, Gianni Battimelli, Geri Steve... pretty much all the roman alpinists of that time... those crazy...
Massimo Marchegiani enrolled in the C.A.I. later, after a couple of seasons (76/77), together with Alberto Campanile, that I met in an abandoned build of Passo Sella, while I was searching for someone with which to climb. The day after we did "Italia 61", and then I did a lot of mountain routes with him... We did together almost all the classical multipitches of VI on the Dolomites, the Comici, the Cassin on the Cima Grande of Lavaredo, the corner Philip-Flamm, the Livanos on Su Alto la Aste at Punta Civetta... and all the other!
At that time (that is 76/77) I didn't was as swift as in 78/79, but nevertheless, I did almost a hundred routes of VI in teams with Alberto. He was from Mestre/Venezia, a real badass, able to control and overcome his emotions... We didn't use to watch the weather forecast: when we saw a blue sky in the morning, we went climbing, and if then it gots bad, we never gave up. We had always been lucky, rarely we found ourselves in a serious storm... only once on the Corno Piccolo (Gran Sasso), at 16, when I did my first free solo, the Mario-Di Filippo on the Prima Spalla wall, I found my self in a storm at the end. So, together with Lino D'Angelo, Enrico De Luca, Lucio Gambini, and Donatello Amore, I ran away from the Gran Sasso, in a lightning storm. What a fast and furious running... in a hailstorm... what a sight! What a beautiful experience, though!
Ar. Pierluigi Bini
- Did you do some winter ascents?
I rarely did someone. Once I climbed the North-Est ridge of the Corno Piccolo with Gigi Mario; I was with Angelo Monti and Gigi Mario with Giampaolo Picone. There was a chimney half-covered in ice, so Gigi Mario entered into this chimney with the mountain shoes, setting up an ice ax...... and should I do it?!? I saw Gigi jammed into the chimney, smearing with the mountain shoes and crampons, then, seeing a clean rock wall on the right, rather than entering into the chimney, I wore my Superga sneakers and climbed a line of V-VI. But on the top, there was a little snowy terrace. Once there, I did some steps into the snow, and, despite my frozen feet, I climbed them with the sneakers, because I didn't want to wear the mountain shoes... I wasn't a winter ascent type, I didn't love crampons: as I could, I wore my sneakers, I've never liked the chill.
- You were one of the first to train seriously
Yes, because in some books I read, as, for example, "Settimo grado" by Messner, a specific kind of training was described. Messner considered such kind of training very important, especially to evaluate his possibilities. Messner was one with an extra gear...
Messner was a role model, but even many other, as Cozzolino, which at the time was already died, but that I admired for what he did, as the "Via dei Fachiri", the routes in Busazza with only 8 pitons and the Piccolo Mangart of Coritenza with 10 or 12 pitons along 800 meters... Woe to the one who drills the rock: that is how we saw it!
Then, many years later, on the rock wall behind the Heritage of the Holy Trinity, that is a sheer, smooth wall, almost impossible to be free climbed, we drilled. We systematically drilled until a very long time after, on the "Holy Trinity" rock wall, because it's almost impossible to be free climbed. When I equipped with bolts that wall, I didn't want to deny my past. It was just for fun, to climb without life-risking... because before we used to climb almost always without protections. So I've started the aid climbing practice. But even at the start, I already had aid climbed several multipitches, with Alberto Campanile: for example the Red Wall in the Roda di Vael, Italia 61, la Maestri, Hasse-Brandler... The Holy Trinity rock wall put me back in touch with the dolomitic environment, and therefore I loved it: I've found there trad and aid climb. I love everything that looks like the Dolomites, any yellow high overhanging wall...
I've never gone on the Mont Blanc to not be wearing mountain shoes and crampons. Maybe, with time, I would be gone even there. But then I reduced a lot my activities: after 4-5 years always pushing to the limit, I began to think of other things, and then I dedicated myself to something else.
If I went on the Mont Blan, I wuold surely attempt the Gran Capucin or the Dru. I don't think that I would attempt the Central Pillar... mountain shoes and long approaches... I was a tee-shirt and Superga sneakers guy... I enjoyed a lot the expedition in the Sahara desert, with that dry and arid environment...
Unfortunately climbing in Sardina got famous too late, when I was less-fit, untrained. In Sardinia, you find really pure free climbing, and if I had had the agility and lightness of the early years, I would have gone to look for the hardest things, for sport climbing hard lines 700/800 meters long.