Crank the Rainbow

Climbing Diga di Luzzone, the world's largest artificial climbing wall - Blenio, Switzerland.

And now for some totally off kilter shenanigans. Rumors got to the Thrillseeker addicts that Switzerland housed the world’s largest artificial climbing wall, Diga di Luzzone – umm yeah, a functioning dam! This rumor did not fall on deaf ears. So, in a quest to climb everything awesome and weird, this definitely satisfying both categories, we tacked this on to our Matterhorn (yeah, we climbed that too) road trip as a slight detour/rest day activity while en route to the Dolomites in Italy.

P3 of Diga di Luzzone

The Diga di Luzzone, near central Switzerland, houses this 165m (540′), 5-pitch plastic pulling, vertical playground. Access to the Dam is controlled via a pay for play system that costs 20 CHF per climber, which anyone who has visited $witzerland knows that you can’t even eat a sandwich for that cheap. The 20 CHF gives you access to a ladder used to gain the first 20′ or so of the featureless dam to the holds of the first pitch.

The crux of P1 - Luzzone Dam, Switzerland

From there on, its you versus plastic accessorized dam for the weirdest 540 feet of your life. The pitches are long enough for you to feel the weight of the rope as you clip the higher bolts and when you look down, the exposure is mind blowing. The top out is where you gain your 15 minutes of fame as tons of tourists are cheering you on, nothing is more exciting to them then seeing two crazy people (ahem, you and your partner) climb the dam beneath them and exit over the railing. It’s weird and f@#!ing rad all in one ‘crank the rainbow’ style ascent.

Topping out - Luzzone Dam, Switzerland

Diga di Luzzone (5.10b, 5 pitches)

  • P1 (5.7) – Here’s a crux you don’t see outdoors, climb the wobbly ladder. The pitch wanders left and that crux becomes a more entertaining experience as you get to watch your second figure out how to secure the ladder and continue the climb (get juggin’).
  • P2 (5.8) – the wall starts to curve back, jugs deliver you to P3.
  • P3 (5.10a) – Slowly trend left and at the pitch’s mid height, traverse left on a 10′ sequence of fun moves before cruising up again. You are now legitimately on overhung terrain.
  • P4 (5.10a) –  Straight up and fight the pump. Shake out at your “clipping hold” and take a peak down to enjoy the exposure, it’s mind blowing.
  • P5 (5.10 b) – Power to the lip and don’t succumb to the crowd pleasing spitter just shy of the top. Hop over the dam railing to top out on quite possibly the strangest plastic pulling adventure of your life. Graciously accept the applauds from curious onlookers.

Quick Reference Guide

Location: Ristorante Luzzone near Blenio, Switzerland

 

Access: Cost is 20 CHF per climber. Payment and rule waiver must be signed at Ristorante Luzzone (at top of Dam) and a 100 CHF deposit will be held until you return the key that houses the ladder.

Bring: 60m Climbing Rope and 14 Quickdraws

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Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and runs Thrillseekers Anonymous. She volunteers as a medical technician (EMT) and works as a climbing guide when she is not out leading her own adventures. She has been featured in various media outlets including the December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 80 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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