This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 235 (July 2016).
When Stefano Ghisolfi, then 21, arrived on the Las Vegas set of “American Ninja Warrior,”
he had never even tried one of its obstacle courses. Invited for a special episode, the Italian climber skipped Stage 1 (others from Team Europe ran
it) and had a short attempt on Stage 2. In the Stage 3 finale, he looked uncertain as he swung through the initial field of hanging “cannonballs.”
But when he moved onto the “doorknobs” protruding from a wall, he popped into the easiest Rose move you ever saw, styling the long reaches. On a finger-ledges
course, he just campused.
Even overtaking the previous performer would have been a “miraculous performance,” said an announcer. Ghisolfi finished the full course. “The rookie has
done the unthinkable!” another announcer said.
Ghisolfi was only the second person ever to complete Stage 3, bumping Team Europe into first and earning a host of fans—and an invitation back.
He returned in November 2015, arriving late at night but immediately squeezing in a day at nearby Mount Charleston, where he dispatched Screaming Target (5.13c) and, as darkness fell, popped off the top of Ghetto Booty (5.14d). Ghisolfi is on a strict training program mandated by his coach,
but unlike many top competitors, he insists on climbing real rock, once a week “at least.”
Q&A with Stefano Ghisolfi
What on the “ANW” course was hardest? Some sections looked laughably easy for you.
The “hanging doors” were really hard. It was not easy to control the swing … In climbing, nothing is swinging—everything is well fixed to the wall!
Your coach must prefer you climb only plastic. Does real rock help or hurt you as a comp pro?
I think it is a great advantage, for the mental aspect. If I’m in good shape on real rocks I’m more motivated and positive during my training, and it can
help feeling ready in comps. Or if a comp goes bad, or I make some mistake, I can go outside and try some projects and find my motivation again.
You have done Biographie and Demencia Senil, and tried First Round, First Minute (5.15b), all by Chris Sharma. Do you like his routes in particular?
Yes, I think I have a similar style. That’s why I have good feelings on his routes!
The connection is logical. There are three routes from left to right: Noi, Cobra and Anaconda.
The first time I didn’t think it was possible at all.
Have you done many first ascents?
Some but not many. Most are connections because the crags near my home are already bolted, and there are no projects.
I’d like to try other 9b’s like First Round, First Minute, but there are not many in the world.
Have you encountered any obstacles in climbing?
Luckily I never had obstacles to overcome. I’m very lucky to be in the Italian Police Team. That lets me live as a professional climber.
So do you arrest people and give speeding tickets? Catch bank robbers?
I don’t do police duties, I just climb!
I don’t have to work as a policeman now. It can be my job in the future. I have some responsibility because I’m a policeman. I had to learn to shoot with
a gun, for example.
Me and my sister are in the police team. Other pro climbers in Italy are in the Army sport team.
—Has climbed five 5.15s. Others (5.15a): Goldrake
, Cornalba, Italy (in four days); Biographie
, Céüse, France; La Moustache qui Fache, Entraygues, France; Demencia Senil
, Margalef, Spain. According to escalade9.wifeo.com, only six people have climbed
—Is five-time Italian Cup champion, was ninth in overall lead World Cup 2015. Won a WC in Wujiang, China, 2014.
Stefano Ghisolfi’s Year-Long Battle With Lapsus – Italy’s First 5.15b