François Cazzanelli and his Cervino

by Riccardo Castellaro

Photo by Stefano Jeantet e F. Cazzanelli.

Franz”, as he’s called by his friends and the locals is a young guy, but who has tackled many things in his life and is already an expert. He is a “son of the Cervino”, one of those who used his mountain as a trampoline to jump high and reach great goals. Look at him carefully in the eyes and you can glimpse a spark, that spark you notice only in the eyes of who is making his life out of his dreams. It is a concept hard to explain, but it is enough to talk for a few minutes with him to understand it. I met him very early in the morning, because he has to leave with some clients for a climb who knows where, and I don’t waste any time, starting right away with my interview.

The Cervino as a source of inspiration. Is it so for you and how?

The Cervino has absolutely been my primary source of inspiration, the mountain that gave me the push start and supports me daily during my activities. It is thanks to it that that i keep dreaming and further expanding my horizon. Just like it: the Cervino is a mountain that changes continuously. Its evolution is given by recent climate changes, forcing us to adapt to it continuously, both technically and in terms of timing, changing the seasons in which it’s possible to tackle it in safety.

What is the characteristic that strikes you most about the Cervino?

It amazes me how it manages to change your way of thinking and tackling mountains in general. It is not so on other peaks: the Cervino changes you, it offers a lot, both personally and professionally. This has been fundamental for my job as an alpine guide.

What do you remember about your fist time on the Cervino?
It was June the 27th, 2003. I vividly remember the date. I went up with my father and the vividest memory i have is when we tackled the area of Pic Tyndall: the cold and my hands loosing sensitivity scared me. The continuous ups and downs were difficult, I had little sensitivity, but at the end I managed it quite good. This experience taught right from the start to respect the mountain and especially for the Cervino: never underestimate the mountain and never overestimate your skills.

On top of facing countless climbs on the alps, I know that you took part to numerous expeditions around the world. During your last journey in Himalaya you suffered a severe accident. Would you tell us something about it?

We were climbing on the wall of the mountain’s side, my partner Gianpaolo Corona and I. My arm was hit by a rock falling from above us. It felt like being hit by a shotgun, and I suffered severe damage to my arm. Now that I’m well I can say that I have been lucky and I have to thank my friend Gianpaolo, great Himalayan alpinist, for his fundamental help he gave to return to base camp. Thank to his precious aid I could limit the damage and I was flown with a helicopter to the hospital in Katmandu, where I received first aid and I underwent a complex and long surgery. It went well, but this experience taught me that in the game of alpinism luck does count.

 What has been your greatest challenge?

There’s no such thing as the venture of a lifetime. As soon as you reach a target, you immediately look ahead to the next one. I like to give myself ever-more ambitious goals and never rest on my laurels.

If you’re asking me which climbs I found most remarkable and gave me the most satisfaction, I’d mention Gogna Cerutti on the “nose of Zmutt” (north side of the Cervino) and the west side of Cerro Torre.

At this point I want to ask you what your greatest dream as an alpinist is.

There are many dreams, and many come to mind, but if you give to a child a blank sheet and ask him to draw a mountain he would draw a pyramid.

Among my “ideal” pyramids there’s the Cervino, Cerro Torre and the K2.

The first two I already got, the third one is there waiting for me…