The exploration of the highest waterfall in Italy.

Stefano Farolfi
Italy Exploration
December 2020

An extreme workout

The aim of the Vertical Water team is to complete the EWA project – Endless Waterfalls Adventure, by exploring the 13 highest waterfalls in the world. This goal can’t be improvised and this is why we challenged ourselves by exploring the Serio waterfalls in Valbondione (BG, North of Italy). As a whole, they are the highest in Italy: 315 metres of majestic falls, divided into three precipes, where the first is over 150 metres long.

We’ve been planning the descent and prepared the equipment to improve our reactions to the difficulties and the unexpected, but we haven’t made the detailed prospection we usually do before leaving for the descent. Risky choice…


This won’t be a child’s play

A three-hours hiking, overstuffed backpacks loaded, 6,5km of trial for 950m in altitude. It’s 11am, we’re 8 people standing on the edge of the waterfall and “come up to the side of the jet” is the word. Harnessed and equipped, we arrange the backpacks, distribute the materials and study the descent; hit by the sun, it’s coloured by a radiant rainbow that shows us the finish line.

The left side of the waterfall is overhanging, while the huge waterflow brakes on the right-hand side.

There are two possibilities to descend along the left bank: going down in the void with the risk of finding ourselves too far away from the wall and not being able to install the next anchor, or fixing many anchors on the top of the precipice, sacrificing time and material. The right bank isn’t less tricky: we should move near where the strong and cold jet hits the rocks with 150 kg of water per hour, to open a way for us to pass. How many diverters are we supposed to sacrifice?

Massimo takes control of the situation and, with the support of the group, he moves right to install the first anchorage.

benea serio-canyon-09

We must choose the smaller sin

The wall is hard all the way through, very dangerous for cuts and interlocking ropes; and the rock is smooth. What was supposed to be a run-of-the-mill training drew us into an uphill battle where all our abilities and technical skills were required to get out safely.In the forefront is Massimo, then is the turn of Andrea and huge bursts of ice-cold water are whirling around us.

We keep descending wrapped up in fleeting rainbows and even though it is summer the continuous touch of the water lowers our body temperature, exhausting us: we must work as quickly and safely as we can.


The sun is gone

We keep fixing the anchorages on the second and then the third part of the waterfall, where the verticals are much lower and the interaction with the water is less intense. We’re working a lot faster till after dark. We turn on our front torches, but then slow down again since darkness hides the snares of the mountain environment.

It’s 10pm and we finally conquer the base of the waterfall; we made it but two more hours hiking separate us from the well-deserved celebration at the campsite.

Practise makes perfect, and from this experience we take home a lot of information and new data to be used in the next great coming up vertical adventures all around the world.