Italian Rossano Libera has made the first solo and only the third overall ascent of the historic Memento Mori on Switzerland's celebrated northeast face of the Piz Badile.
Local activist Libera had been toying with the idea for almost 20 years but in mid July decided the time was right and completed the ascent in two days.
The northeast face, one of the classic "six great north faces of the Alps" and first climbed in 1937 by Cassin, Esposito, Moltani, Ratti and Valsecchi - now the most famous route in the entire Central Alps - is characterized by a huge scalloped depression in the centre, giving the peak its name; Badile translates as The Shovel.
This depression is a natural funnel for stone and ice fall, originating from the vast area of broken ground below the summit. The Cassin Route climbs rough-hewn slabs wholly to the right, and over the years more routes have been added right again, and to the steeper walls and pillars left of the depression.
However, in 1980 a trio of forceful Czech climbers, Josef Rybicka, Jan Simon and Ladislav Skalda, spent three days towards the end of August climbing a direttissima up the objectively dangerous depression, aptly named Memento Mori.
Rybicka was already well-known as an alpinist, having climbed two big new routes on the North Face of the Eiger (in 1978 and '77).
He would later take part in Czech expeditions to the highest mountains, notably Dhaulagiri in 1984, where he was a member of the team that made the first ascent of the difficult west face. On this ascent Simon reached the summit but died during the descent.
The lower section of the 800m Memento Mori was largely aid climbing, the upper free. The rock was often awful and the route graded VI+ and A3 (the top grades usually quoted for new routes during that era, so not really meaningful today).
The second ascent took place two years later, at the more sensible time of mid winter, and again involved Czechs. Frantisek Bauer and Jan Doubal took four days in February 1982 to complete the route, though sadly Bauer was killed on the descent.
Incidentally, at the same time as Bauer and Doubal were completing the route, history was being made elsewhere on the face when two women, Zusanna Hoffmannova and Alena Stehlikova made the first winter ascent of the Isherwood-Kosterlitz, the first time that an unaided women's team had made a first winter ascent on a big alpine wall (two years previous Hoffmannova, with three male partners, had made the first winter ascent of the Messner Route on the Civetta).
This July Libera accepted there would be rockfall on his ascent but appears to have more or less put his fate in the lap of the gods.
At the end of the first day, and having crossed the roofs in the lower section, he was hit twice, at first on the head and then on the wrist, breaking his watch.
Reporting that he never normally wears a watch while climbing, Libera felt that without it on this occasion the rock may have broken his wrist.
So far the Italian has not voiced a technical grade for the ascent.
Over the years Libera's achievements on the Badile have been many and varied. On the northeast face he made: the first ascent of Hiroshima (7a obl), which some feel may be the most demanding route on the peak; the first (and probably only) free ascent of Diretta del Popolo at 7a+; the first free ascent of the Isherwood-Kosterlitz, again at 7a+; and the first winter solo ascent of the Cassin at M6/M7.
On the northwest face he made the second ascent of the difficult Jumar Iscariota (6c and A1/2) and an impressive first winter solo of Ringo Star (ED1).