How the bouldering mecca Ticino came about: Richi Signer remembers

Richi Signer, born in Switzerland in '58, is a sport climber and boulderer from the very beginning. Even today, in retirement, he spends most of his free time climbing or looking for new boulders. He was one of the first climbers to discover the endless bouldering potential in Ticino, he loves the simplicity of this activity.

Report by Richi Signer

In 1982/83, a climbing buddy who was enthusiastic about Café-Latte and Vino-Rosso asked me to follow him to the sun room in Switzerland. The potential for new tours is enormous and a helping hand with drilling (by hand!) is always welcome.

When inspecting a wall above Cresciano, I noticed the countless blocks with the finest surface texture.

Richi Signer, first Swiss boulderer, in Ticino. Image: Black Diamond
Richi Signer, first Swiss boulderer, in Ticino. Image: Black Diamond

My heart rate increased immediately and my eyes were only focused on the enormous bouldering possibilities. Just a few weeks later I finally immersed myself in this block cosmos, disturbed only by a few goats.

No names, no tickmarks, no arrows showed the way, just a big personal playground. Speaking of names, reviews: names sometimes and reviews there were only two, you either come up or you don't.

Roaming through the Cresciano forest equipped only with a few climbing finches, a rag, a chalk bag... what could be nicer!

Only 2 years later, again by chance, the discovery of Chironico, the next block universe. Right on the first boulder, on today's “Borderline” block, a hold broke and I landed a little unceremoniously on the ground. In a time without crash pads (they would only become standard at the end of the nineties) and without spotters, a rather unpleasant affair.

The experience with the handle breaking out and the often rather unfavorable fall space limited my visits to a few times, as my preference was still clearly Cresciano. Good jump and more sun in winter, as winter was clearly my main time of visit. A parkour with around fifty boulders through the “entire” area is still one of my favorite goals today, after forty years.

Towards the end of the 1980s I was surprised by strange traces of magnesia here in Cresciano, so there must be someone else out there.

In the early 1994s, Fred Nicole visited Cresciano with friends and locals, among other things for sport climbing. He also immediately noticed the bouldering potential and the good jumping off area. In 8, in the neighboring area of ​​Osogna, he managed the first 1985a boulder in Ticino with “Rêve de Mario”. The naming also solved the mystery of the mysterious chalk traces for me. Mario Ferrari was apparently already bitten by the bouldering bug in the 7s. In XNUMX he opened the “Traverse di Mario”, a XNUMXa+ crossing in Osogna.

In 1996 I returned to Chironico with Andreas Luisier and also explored the lower part, today “Rah Plats Plats”. Andreas marked some “new” boulders with small arrows, as he was used to from the Basel Jura. A few years later, these arrows caught the attention of the Tresch brothers and my acquaintance with Fred Nicole brought things full circle again, as the bouldering scene was relatively small.

People knew about each other, ran into each other again and again and heard this and that every now and then. The first publication in German-speaking countries was in 2000 (Rotpunkt Magazin 3/2000) and in French-speaking countries in 1999 (Rock n'Wall).

With these publications, the international presence and fame of Fred Nicole and the emergence of crashpads, there was no stopping the development with international participation from the year 2000 onwards.

Other top bouldering destinations in Ticino such as Brione, Calanca and Bavona followed and the potential still seems inexhaustible.

Unfortunately, as in many areas, conflicts have become “everyday life”. Bouldering has become a popular sport worldwide, also thanks to the indoor facilities, and in many areas the peace and quiet is over. As nice as it is when people enjoy their favorite sport in the great outdoors, the behavior of individuals is problematic. A lack of respect for nature, the bouldering and the local population does not have to be the case.

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Credits: Cover picture Alex Fox

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