Alpine exploration

Pioneers of the Maritime Alps

Between men and these mountains there are sometimes love affairs that are a bit desperate and exclusive, faithful and tenacious. And this is why, to understand mountaineering in Cuneo, it is necessary to love or at least understand the playing field of these men: the Maritime Alps.

Gian Piero Motti, "Storia dell'alpinismo".

For a long time the Maritime Alps were the Cinderellas of mountaineering, probably because they were off the beaten track and had no prestigious 4000 m peaks, they were discovered and climbed late compared to other areas of the Alps. The first surveys and simple climbs were made by the king's topographers, unleashed in search of high points to make trigonometric measurements.

In the late nineteenth century, English, American and Austrian mountaineers gave impetus to the real mountaineering exploration of the area: in 1879, the reverend W. A. Coolidge reached the highest point in the Maritime: the Cima Sud dell'Argentera. The end of the century saw the arrival of the most passionate and systematic explorer of the Maritime, the Niçois noble Victor Spitalieri de Cessole who, in August 1903, with the guides Ghigo and Plent, reaches the summit of Corno Stella, judged until then completely inaccessible. The Maritime Alps become "playgrounds" for Italian climbers: Ellena, Soria and Vernet (in the thirties), Campia and Guderzo (in the forties and fifties) climbing routes, walls, ridges and gullies.

When everything climbable had been climbed, the goal became the search for logical, elegant and often very difficult ascent lines. When logic came to an end, the difficulty remains, taken to the extreme, we are now up to date, far from the idea of ​​"exploration", but no less fascinating. It mainly rotates around Corno Stella and, in French territory, Cougourda: its protagonists are the likes of Patrick Bérhault, Vincenzo Ravaschietto, Alessandro Gogna, Fulvio Scotto and Gianni Calcagno.