Rising toward the boundary between earth and sky, ‘till getting lost inside the scattered light of a snow-cloud. Losing the references we discover our true selves, burned by a beauty so wild that it reveals us vulnerable again.
We climb mountains with carbon fibered gear, sail in the roughest seas tracking each and every movement with satellites, dive from airplanes packing a plastic balloon into our rucksack to keep us from splashing to the ground. We challenge the great spaces shielded by layers of gore-tex, we protect ourselves from the radiations with creams and keep challenging nature convinced that the pocket safety we are hiding in our sleeves will shelter us when the conditions will change; but what happens when nature gives us a breath of authenticity, making all our protections useless?
The ski mountaineering course I have been following for a month is going really well, last week we made the first two-day trip sleeping in a self-managed hut rising further the next day, aiming to the top of the Poncione di Braga.
Our adventure began at 6.30 on Saturday morning, the road crept from the urban highways to the swiss town of Gheiba. The local economy is mainly based on the extraction of a local marble from the heart of the mountain, with which comfortable tables and works of art (with indiscutibile aesthetic and artistic taste) are created, very fashionable in that valley.
The first part of the trail departs by flowing along a graveled roadway (now covered by about a meter and a half of snow) until the first turn of the track. Here the road vanishes into to the entrance of an old gallery along a forest of larches and red&white firs (these swiss folks are really attached to their flag). On the side of the bridge leading to the tunnel the first wonder of the excursion revealed itself: a frozen waterfall that frees the water held imprisoned while breaking up creating an accumulation of blue ice formed by stalactites and soft veils of candid snow at its feet.
A climb along the wooded gully led us towards the end of the forest, where the hut finally revealed itself in its splendor, guarded by the distant presence of the summit (2864 m).
A long flat crossing took us to the shelter passing through some old stone huts completely covered by the thick snow layers. Last wotnesses of a life built on the mountain, with the mountain.
After a quick stop to start the heating we immediately set off to gift us another 300m in altitude and have a ride in the powdery fresh snow that has kept us company since the first steps.
The evening continued with salami, cheese, pasta, wine and bitters. A shy moon, still well hidden behind the mountains, awakened the desire for cold despite the stock already made in the day, so I went out looking for a vantage point, and what better position of the hut’s roof? After creating a comfortable ladder with boots and patience, I climbed up with a trestle staring in wonder.
The bare naked eye could see the dense strip of stars from the Milky Way, the long-loved pleiades were there as well, perfectly visible and brilliant next to the belt of a shining Orion and billions of other stars lighting up the darkness all around. Standing in front of this wonder is an oxymoron of our dimension compared to that of nature.
(The next photographs are non saturated nor overexposed to geve you back a true glimpse of the visible sky of that night. To correctly see these, turn off your lights and let the scree-light be the only light in the room you are in)
We rise to get closer to stars so far that we can only witness a memory of them, yet we feel their call to reach out as if every single dot of light was chanting our name in the darkness.
Returning due to the cold and biting wind, a good selection of pirits cheered the rest of the night, ended with a triumph of snoring and sleepwalking chats.
At 5.00 I returned to the roof hoping to see the blue twilight, but the night wind rose a bunch of clouds, veiling the sky and partly ruining the color of the morning sky.
At 7.45 am we left towards the summit, retracing the last part of the previous climb.
Once we reached the plateau leading to the slopes of the last rock spur, however, the weather quickly changed.
Within half an hour the sky had covered, the wind started to lash out stronger and the snowflakes, that fell sporadically before, thickened and hardened, stoning the face with gusts so strong that they shaked bodies and gear
We stopped at 40 meters from the summit.
It was there, we saw it in front of us smiling and whispering “Try me out” while the wind shook us and froze the beards. Someone in the group remembered how renouncing to the summit strengthen the link with the mountain, and we backed quickly as the clouds were fallilg on us making it hard to see and navigate.
I think that saying to feel small in front of nature in these cases is an excessive simplification of the reality of the facts. The enthusiasm, the energy and all the technical attentions we are bringing from home in these untamed places can do little against the simple sighs of a nature that does not yet allow itself to be restrained, and that with breathlessness still breathes in the places where the tumorous cement has not yet spread, swallowing the wrinkles and curves of the original earth. With a simple breeze the weather changes, securities vanishes and the human fragilty re-emerges above the layers of hardshells and technical gear. Only the feeling of communion with a nature can hold, such beauty asks us to bend with her, following her rhythm and breath, moving away when she breathes, and approaching its depths when she is asleep.
An attitude very similar to the courtship of those who are attracted to a bond starting before the material level; that today seems always to be more distant from everyday life and relegated to mere abstract speeches and box office films.
Returning hurriedly to less difficult places we faced technical problems such as ski detachments and lack of visibility. In bad weather everything blends into a monochromatic blinding white that cancels bumps and signs, making navigation on sight impossible and requiring the use of azimuths and gps. Fortunately, the real perturbation didn’t completely engulf us, and we consoled from the missed peak skiing through the woods touching the trees in tight bends, until reaching the most comfortable starting bends and safe car shelters .
This experience teaches a stubborn truth, it is the indomitable fragility we carry inside that gives meaning to entrepreneurship and thirst for adventure. At that calculated risk that invokes us to test our limits and our dual role of servants and masters of the untamed nature.
These adventures are all but ending, consider these recent wanders just as a trailer of what’s next.
The upcoming week will be full of peaks and snow, leading finally to a long-dreamed valley.
You are soon to know it.