The Rock Master after-party
What is it like to celebrate with some of the world's best rock climbers? Mountaineer Tony Lourens finds out at the prestigous Rock Master after-party in the Sarca Valley in Italy.
There was this mighty crash. We all spun around to see what was happening just in time to witness a shirtless Tomas Mrazek, the Czech climbing ace, viciously kicking the ice machine, then storming off under a cloud of fury across the square, with one or two friends trailing after him, obviously in a consoling role. We all stood around thinking, bloody hell, I wonder what happened that pissed Tomas off like that.
Mrazek is one of the international climbing competition circuit’s more colourful characters. But beneath the external ‘hard man’ look, with in-your-face tattoos covering large parts of his upper body, is actually a gentle soul with a big heart. But truth be told, I still wouldn’t fancy meeting Tomas in a dark alley after someone has stood on his toe.
This is the famed Rock Master after-party. It all happens at Cafe Conti d’Arco (Pio’s) on the main square in the centre of town. On Sunday evening after the competition, everybody – climbers, spectators, sponsors, organisers, people of the town and whoever else wants to join in – starts gathering in the square. More tables are put out to accommodate the masses. Snacks, cheese, cake and champagne are handed around to the earlier arrivals, then as the evening progresses the party takes on the spirit for which it has become famous. I’m not sure where they keep their beer reserves, but the tanks must be huge.
Picture the scene: Hundreds of people descending on Pio’s, spilling out across the square, waiters bringing out tray after endless tray of beer. Young climbers downing far more than their fat free, mega-fit bodies can tolerate, making them as pissed as sailors. The hot box room with the DJ pumping out mega watts of raw metal power, with shirtless sweaty bodies squashed together and gyrating. Floors awash with spilt beer and everybody becoming an instant part-time smoker whether they liked it or not.
‘My oath, look over there,’ Alex said to me. We were standing out in the square taking a breather and on one of the benches on the edge of the square against the wall of the church were two young climbers, who just hours ago were solving complex 8c moves up the competition wall. But right now they had other complex moves to sort out.
‘Shit, if only we had our bloody cameras here,’ we said in unison.
If there is such a thing as having sex with your clothes on, then these two had all but perfected the art. Oblivious to the crowds milling about, they were laying into each other, as if all amorous activity was going to be banned forever at the next hourly gong of the church bells. At one point it seemed as though he was trying to extricate a very important item from her stomach with his tongue via her throat. How they managed to stay on their narrow bench was a miracle. The funny part was that not 30 minutes later, Valentino was lying comatose on the floor of the square, pissed beyond comprehension, with people trying to decide whether to leave him, take him to his bed, or call an ambulance.
The previous scene excluded, this is the spirit of the Arco Rock Master after-party. Nations from all over the world, with a common passion, coming together and just having a really good time with the staff at Pio’s keeping everybody happy. Not sure how they manage to get beer to all those people, but they do and in a very efficient way.
The Rock Master weekend is undoubtedly a big occasion in Arco’s calendar and it is an experience not to be missed. For a climber, I think it is a must do in your life to witness the vibe of Arco during this time. It is sensational. Difficult to put the total package into words, but trust me, it is worth being there. But Arco is much more than any single occasion. It is a town with a lot of character and a lot to offer. It is a town where the people embrace life and the essence of good living.
To say that this medieval Trentino village, tucked away in the Sarca Valley only five kilometres from the shores of the beautiful Lake Garda in Italy holds a special place in my heart is somewhat of an understatement. It is a place that has, over the years, grown on me and woven its magic web inextricably through my system.
My love affair with this climbing paradise started many years ago when I was drawn there on a climbing trip with my Austrian buddy Hans Streitberger. We spent five glorious days climbing at many crags, but not really experiencing the village life at all. I was much younger back then and the climbing was all I was interested in.
Recently I have had the good fortune of being involved with the Arco Rock Legends Awards and Rock Master Competition, which takes me on an annual pilgrimage to this special place. It has become all but my second home and has afforded me the privilege of getting to know the people and experiencing the ambience of this remarkable place.
For 2010 the Rock Legends Awards and Rock Master Competition have been moved forward to July. Pencil it in on your calendar now and make sure that you are there to be part of climbing’s most vibrant and famous event. You will not regret it.
For more info go to rockmaster.com.