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Stefano Ghisolfi and the Sack of Erebor

Stefano Ghisolfi has completed his project Erebor and graded it 9b/+ (5.15b/c), making it the hardest line in Italy.

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Stefano Ghisolfi climbing Erebor.
Stefano Ghisolfi on Erebor. Photo: Sara Grippo.

On Friday, Italian sport climber and comp star Stefano Ghisolfi clipped the chains on Erebor, his 9b/+ (5.15b/c) project.

The 27-year-old originally noticed the line last May, while working his other project Beginning, which became a 9a/+ (5.14d/15a). Ghisolfi began bolting Erebor and working it soon after with the help of Seve Scassa. Forced to climb close to home in Italy due to the spring COVID-19 lockdown, Erebor was a perfect goal for Ghisolfi amidst the madness of 2020. He continued working the route off and on throughout the year, and finally reached the top on January 8, 2021 in temperatures just above freezing, after nearly a dozen times falling on the last moves.

Not only is Erebor Ghisolfi’s hardest first ascent and now the hardest line in Italy, the Tolkien-inspired route is also the first route he ever bolted himself.

Ghisolfi became the fourth climber in the world to send 9b+ (5.15c), after completing the legendary Perfecto Mundo in 2018, which was originally bolted by Chris Sharma and FA’d by Alex Megos. He also holds five IFSC World Cup gold medals, and is one of the highest-ranked competition climbers in the world.

Erebor is located at Eremo di San Paolo, a picturesque crag just north of Arco. The site gets its name from the Italian “Hermitage of Saint Paul,” a small chapel carved into the cliff face which is nearly 1000 years old.

[Also Read Stefano Ghisolfi Gets Second Ascent Of Change, World’s First 5.15c]

“The name [Erebor] came because it is similar to Eremo and at the time I was reading The Hobbit, so I thought it was a cool name for a route,” Ghisolfi told Rock and Ice.

Bolting Erebor.
Bolting Erebor. Photo: Courtesy of Stefano Ghisolfi.

He first bolted a straight version of the line, which he found “nearly impossible,” before bolting a left variant which became Erebor. The harder, more direct line “has yet to be climbed, and will be at least 9b+” he said.

Ghisolfi worked the line throughout the summer of 2020 before taking a trip to Norway early in the fall. After returning to Erebor in October, “I started to do some real attempts and started falling at the last boulder, and I fell there at least ten times,” he said. “At this point I decided I understood the real difficulty of the route.”

Additional COVID-19 restrictions were put in place over the holidays, stagnating December attempts, so Ghisolfi began trying the route again in January, despite brutally cold temps only a degree or two above freezing. “Last Friday I went there with a friend and my girlfriend Sara,” he said. “I tried it a few times and passed the whole day moaning about how cold it was for climbing, but then I did one last try, and climbed all the way to the top!”

Ghisolfi on Erebor.
Ghisolfi on Erebor. Photo: Enrico Veronese.

“The hardest move is at the beginning,” Ghisolfi said, “then there is a dyno, a hard section and a rest. After the rest, there is the last boulder, powerful and technical. It took me a lot to understand how to do it.”

Seve Scassa, who provided the drill for Ghisolfi to bolt the line, posted on Instagram, “I am proud to have made a contribution in my small way! I put my Hilti in your hand, it took you very little to learn and you bolted a monster line!”

Meanwhile, Ghisolfi is tentatively setting his sights on the harder, more direct 9b+ variation he originally bolted. In keeping with the Middle Earth theme, Ghisolfi is contemplating christening this second line The Lonely Mountain.

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