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The stories behind the guidebook

What does it take to write a rock climbing guidebook? Discover some of the stories behind the Valle dell'Orco guidebook.


The stories behind the guidebook

Andrea Guffanti


September 24, 2020

As a climber, I have used and loved guidebooks my whole life. I know that their pages and images can guide and inspire generations of climbers. What I did not know was the power of the messages behind the pages.

Recently I had the pleasure to participate in the launching event of a new guidebook about Valle dell’Orco written by Paolo Seimandi and published by Maurizio Oviglia. The book is a selection of the best cracks that you can find in the valley and features an intro by Tom Randall and several photos of Pete Whittaker, yes the WideBoyz love the place! It will become a bible for the lover of trad and clean climbing.

But honestly, I do not want to talk about the book itself , you can find several articles about that. What really fascinated me were the stories behind the making of the book. These incredible stories perfectly embody the values that we, climbers and mountain lovers, share and that everyone should embrace to live a full life: Effort, Passion and Impact.

The toughest climb - Effort

The book took Paolo about 1 year of full time effort and since he is a photographer more than an author, he decided that every crack needed “the perfect photo”.

"A pretty scary rope-solo climbing!"

One crack stood before his dream, “La fessura del tramonto” (“The sunset crack”). A “simple” 5c to climb but an impossible shot! He tried from several angles but was not satisfied, so he decided that the only way was to climb on top of a 30-meters larch that stood in front of the crack. The day before the shooting he went there, climbed the tree in self-belay mode, set a fixed rope and left. The day after his friend Valentina arrived without a belay partner, she climbed up to a nice part of the crack, Paolo fixed the rope to the ground and started jumaring up the larch just to discover that he had not considered the shadow of the branches, the shot was a failure.

‍He went down and did not have the heart to tell Valentina that the photos weren’t good at all, but she probably understood it from his eyes. They were about to leave when the light changed and Valentina offered to climb the crack once more just while the sun was setting on the wall. Paolo ran up the tree and reached the top breathless and with the tree swinging like crazy, he took the shot just at a perfect moment. In the photo you can see Valentina and half of the crack in the light, and the rest in the shadow with the light running away. If you ask Paolo he will say that it was luck. But, as they always say, fortune favors the brave and it took courage to climb that tree, and a serious effort to get the shot!

Winter jams - Passion

In a guidebook about the best cracks of the valley you could not exclude “La fessura Kosterlitz” (Kosterlitz crack).

"Never forget the shovel when you go crack climbing"

The crack is a 6 meters boulder and it’s the symbol and probably the most climbed and photographed  crack in the area. Paolo decided to shoot this crack in the middle of winter, when the boulder was covered by snow. A small problem, cracks are not known to dry easily, especially if you have 20cm of snow on top of them. So here you can see Paolo shovelling snow and drying the crack the day before Valeria showed up for the shooting. The shot is original and shows the crack in a way that has probably never been photographed before. It is a testament of Paolo’s passion for the project and the valley!

Human footprints - Impact

The third story is again about passion and effort, but of an even purer category. Paolo spent as much time documenting the cracks as he did cleaning them and making sure that the access was reasonably safe. You could say that he did that because of the project and because he had a direct interest in the book, but the truth is that Paolo has been in love with the valley and he has been cleaning it way before the book project started.

"Preserving nature and beauty should be the ultimate goal of any human"

When they built the new tunnel to reach Ceresole Reale at the end of the 90s, they left a lot of material that was used to monitor the seismic activity of the area. When the project was over, the material was left there and some of it was right in the middle of some iconic climbs of the valley like the Nautilus. Paolo and some other brave fellas spent weeks cleaning the area and removing more than 600kg of material. Here are a few photos documenting the effort. We should all try to limit our footprint, thanks Paolo for your positive impact!

Well, I hope that now you have an idea of what it takes to write a guidebook. And more generally, of what it takes to take care of a climbing site and a project. Looking at the impact Paolo was able to generate in a year of work, the effort he put into it and the absolute passion that shined through his words, we, as Mapo Tapo team members, felt inspired. These are the values at the true core of our mission. These are the sentiments which reside at the very base of our expeditions.  We are absolutely grateful to Paolo for having reminded us of them. 


Of course, given his character, Paolo insisted that I did not promote the book in the article, but I genuinely think that the work he has done needs to be shared and acknowledged by the climbing community. On top of that, if you are into cracks, or if you simply love photography, this is an amazing book. To buy the book. you simply have to write an email to

Thank you Paolo for inspiring us to go out there and climb beautiful lines!

Cover photo caption: Matteo Santacesaria in Cala Firriato ©  Ilaria Occhipinti