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First Descent

Andrew of Italian Safaris had first mentioned this freeride first descent the day
myself and my friend Gareth Rogers arrived in Livigno. He had been living there for
four years and had been thinking that it would be awesome if someone could ride
it since the first time he saw it. I must admit (though it sounds terrible to say now)
I was a little dismissive, thinking it probably wasn’t going to be a big deal and was
it really worth taking a day out of the trails to rip down this hill?
By Rowan Sorrell Photos Victor Lucas

Well the next day we headed

out riding and didn t have

to wait long to set our

eyes on the mountain.

As we were shuttling out

to one of the high passes

to hit some singletrack
Andrew pointed out the mountain lying in no mans
land between Italy and Switzerland.
Oh! all of a
sudden I realised this guy was serious, this was no
formality and we were going to have to try and do
this. The mountain was awesome; it stuck out like
a sore thumb from the rest of the green and lush
alpine scenery, it looked more like something out
of Star Wars than a mountain in the middle of the
Italian and Swiss mountains. The spires of rock,
together with the size and scale of this place, gave
it a real eeriness and it was hard to say if this was
one that could be tamed, but we all agreed we d
come back to try it on the last day of our trip.

Well that day came around real quick and soon
we were making the hour long hike around the
sheer face to get to the top and work out if this
was on. We d taken a quick stop at the foot of the
mountain and tried riding on the bottom scree
slopes to see if we could control our speed there,
as if that wasn t possible then there was no way
we could drop in from the top. It seemed OK, but
it was clear that looking up at the spires of rock
it was a hell of a lot steeper up there, I felt pretty
small and intimidated to be honest, something I
haven t felt looking up at a mountain before.

Once on top the scale and sheer steepness of the
hill hit home, this was one vertigo inducing mother!
The spires of rock looked even more alien and the
loose rocky chutes between them were steep and
blind. My immediate reaction was there is no way
I can ride down through any of these gullies and
maintain any form of control , crashing was not an
option, as any form of over the bars would have
put you in a horrific tumble. Just walking around
up there checking out different areas and lines sent
rocks tumbling all the way down the slope to the
road a kilometre or more below.

After some time

we got to grips with the vertigo and started testing
out some lines deciding on the one line that may
work: a ridge ride dropping into a gulley down some
deep loose stone dust and then the crunch point, a
narrow pinch in the gulley about 80m long where
the gradient pitched super steep and rocky, this was
the point of no return drop in here and there was
no going back. Again the scale just made it seem
surreal, I could not work out what the run out was
like, and my opinion was that to try and roll down
this could well have been suicide. Gareth seemed
more positive, his trials and low speed handling
skills gave him confidence that if needs be he could
pull the bike over dig his bars into the scree and
stop himself before going into a dangerous tumble
probably all the way to the road.

So that was it, I know my limits and after
trying out some lines at the top I felt I couldn t get
through the pinch point without dropping in out
of control…but Gareth was keen to try it…he was
pretty nervous but keen. Then came the hour wait
for photographer Victor Lucas to scale down the
mountain and find his way to the bottom of the
gulley and find a place to shoot some footage and
stills.

The nerves increased as we waited up top,
then he went for it, past the point of no return, I
could see he had gotten out of shape with the bike
and he had slipped off sideways but he was now in
a blind spot from me I was worried he was going
to tumble into sight, but thankfully not. He told me
it wouldn t be pretty but somehow he had managed
to control, muscle and prevent disaster down what
is the steepest gnarliest chute I have ever seen! He
popped out onto the scree, carving some turns and
getting some flow in the gentler slope before running
out to the stream at the foot of the hill.

Awesome, he d done it, we were all impressed and
chuffed he d tamed it. I felt pretty gutted to not be
doing it myself but knew that I could not ride it in
the same way I would have dropped in and tried to
ride it out, which would have meant serious trouble.
So there we are, Gareth Rogers had taken on and
conquered the first descent of this intimidating hill
and I sincerely hope that he is the last to try it!

Downhill mountain biker Rowan Sorrel tackles a steep descent in Italy

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