Manolo - Solo Free Climber Pioneer

Manolo – Free Solo climbing pioneer

Maurizio Zanolla, known as Manolo is one of the pioneers of free climbing and very famous in Italy for his exploits. He began at a very young age and was the first one in Italy to climb free solo ascents. I interviewed him for HorizonSports in Bologna, Italy where he was the star guest, giving a talk at a fundraiser for Sportfund, a non profit motivating children with disabilities to be active in nature.

Manolo’s passion for the mountains started almost inexplicably. With no experience, discouraged by his family and as the world in the 1970s changed around him, he was drawn by a desire to change things in the climbing world. Manolo felt attracted by the surrounding mountains of the Dolomites. His curiosity drove him up the peaks with no rope or aid, all by himself, with a gymnasts agility and concentration. Doing what at the time no-body dared do.

Today after a career free solo climbing, mainly in the Dolomites, his eyes sparkle when he speaks about mountain climbing. He dedicated his life to climbing and took many “irresponsible” risks as a young man. He is happy to be alive. Manolo depicts very clearly and philosophically his spiritual connection with the mountains. He is not technical in describing his mountain climbing experiences and has a sense of humor as he downplays the risks while focusing on his emotions and feelings. You could listen to his adventures for hours. His newly published book “Eravamo Immortali”, (we were immortal), is a vivid depiction of his life. Even though he no longer climbs, he doesn’t miss anything about the mountains because that void for him will never be filled.

I discovered in the course of this interview that Manolo is a fearful person, even though solo free climbing is the riskiest of mountain sports and probably only for fearless people. He believes, that fear will always be confronted whether it is through climbing or not. When climbing, Manolo concentrates and focuses on his climbing objective and how he plans to reach it. This allows him to mentally confront all the possible challenges and risks along the way.

Manolo has always been humble about his accomplishments and most of his climbs have been by himself. He has always shunned publicity. There is very little video coverage of Manolo. He doesn’t indulge or seek fame but practiced his craft for his own personal benefit – a purist at heart. Compared to todays free climbing exploits, what he has achieved is still admirable.

BY: Elias Reyes

See full interview:

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