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Arco and the history of climbing

Arco has experienced the entire history of sport climbing and represents a sort of laboratory which, since the beginnings of this young sport, has proposed and experienced all the new tendencies of modern sport climbing.

Lynn Hill. Photo M Scolaris

Lynn Hill. Photo M Scolaris

Climbing has been a part of Arco and the Sarca Valley since the 1930’s when the legendary Bruno Detassis made the first ascent of a series of difficult routes. During the ’60’s and ’70’s world famous mountaineers such as Reinhold Messner, Heini Holzner, Sergio Martini and many others worked their way up the walls of the valley. But it was only at the start of the ’80’s that a sort of revolution came about in Arco and modern sport climbing came to life thanks to Manolo, Heinz Mariacher, Roberto Bassi and Luisa Iovane. Their first routes and crags brought Arco to the attention of climbers worldwide, so much so that in just a couple of years the small town was literally invaded by hordes of climbers wearing multicoloured Lycra tights.

The town council seized the opportunity and capitalised fully on the potential of this embryonic sport. In 1986 the council accepted the idea put forward by Andrea Mellano and Emanuele Cassarà to organise the second edition of SportRoccia, which at Bardonecchia had inaugurated the modern era of sport climbing the previous year. The event proved to be a success with thousands of fans at the foot of the Colodri rock face and a historic live transmission on the Italian National Television channel RAI.

But it was in 1987 that the foundations were lain for Arco as we know it today. The Arco Town Council, the Autonomous Province of Trento and the local Tourist Board decided to invest heavily in climbing and to make it one of the main ways of promoting the Garda Trentino territory. A project was immediately created to integrate the promotion of climbing tourism with a dedicated infrastructure. And right from the outset these investments, a true gamble for that era, proved important: while the Province of Trento initiated a long-term project  to transform the crags into climbing playgrounds, a group of administrators invented the Rock Master.