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Michele Angileri

Fosso Marchetto

The sweet hills of Umbria, cloaked in woods and tilled grounds, dotted with villages, castles, hermitages, occasionally hide canyons that are real jewels, unique and spectacular.
Fosso Marchetto is one of these canyons. Its extraordinary corridors, unimaginable, offer a technically simple descent through a long sequence of sceneries of pure beauty.

Name Fosso Marchetto
Area Umbria
Nearest village Assisi
Elevation loss 70 m
Length 2200 m
Highest cascade 5 m
Rock Marl-limestone
Shuttle No
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I remember ...

I cannot forget one of the best quips told by "Number One", the comics character created by Max Bunker as the head of the ramshackle band of secret agents called "Group TNT": what is given for free always costs too much!

The day I went to Fosso Marchetto for the first time I was coming from one of such "things given for free": some tests on my ultralight ropes, done in a laboratory not far from the canyon. I had emailed months before the laboratory owner asking him to make some tensile strength tests for me; I would obviously have paid the due.
The guy was immediately enthusiastic about the idea to test these new, unknown ropes, and he would have done it for free. Someone else in my place would have been happy with the enthusiasm and gratuity, but I have not arrived at the age of 50 for nothing: I have learned that what is given for free has still a price to be paid, and it's often a much higher price than the right one. I also learned that enthusiasm is the opposite of rationality. If I had been at his place I would have asked for a fee for using the test machines (not only to pay me back the time I would have taken away from the lot of things I usually have to do, but also to understand how much those tests were important to that person). Then I would have attended the tests with curiosity mixed with healthy skepticism, which are the emotions at the base of scientific knowledge. People easy to enthusiasm are emotional, fickle, insecure: I have often seen the enthusiasm suddenly transformed into indifference or contempt.

Not relying on these free tests and founding that things were going for long I had in the meantime turned to a laboratory relatively close to my house. I had done 12 test, paying 20 euro each. It took half a day to reach the laboratory, do the tests, return home.
A few days later, the owner of umbrian laboratory showed up by email, telling me the date when we could do the tests on ultralight ropes. That was a working day for me, but I needed more tests on ultralight ropes because the results of previous tests were unclear. With difficulty I shifted my work commitments concentrating them in the morning, so that I could be in Umbria in the afternoon. I was aware that I would be too tired to return home in the evening, so I booked a hotel room. So those "free" tests would have cost the price of the hotel room and gasoline for the 500 km journey by car: around 120 Euro.

Once at the laboratory I found things much different than I expected. It was not a real laboratory: a basement warehouse hosting a machine for slow-traction tests. A lot of people were there, not to see my tests but for testing their own gear! The lab owner, in short, had appended my tests to a series of tests already scheduled, with the aim to spend few time with me. Doing so, however, the time available for my test was so short that we made only 4, after which the guy (as expected) had lost all trace of the initial enthusiasm.

120 euro for 4 tests ... 30 euro each, and 2 days of time spent: exactly the free stuff that costs too much!

It was worth, however, for two reasons. The first reason is that two of the 4 tests proved to be fundamental for understanding the results of the 12 tests I had done in the other laboratory. That because the umbrian test machine had a better ropes anchoring system.
The second reason, of course, is that it gave me the opportunity to go to Fosso Marchetto!

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