TipTapHorn, or how to dance at skyheights

Imagine a mountain with an unpronounceable name, an alarm ringing in the darkness  and departure while bakers still knead.
Now shoe the boots while the rosy lights of dawn caress the first peaks, turn on the beacon.
Close your eyes.
Breathe.
Let’s go.

From the ski mountaineering course an unfinished tour has remained, cut off by the fog and low clouds that swallowed the tip of Arbola, forcing us to fall back towards the starting hut.

Returning on your steps in the mountains is a mark of maturity (and of an indispensable sense of self-preservation) but leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for the unpierced sky, chanting of a constant pull toward that cliff.

During the last week I monitored the weather – which was not immediately clear for Sunday – hoping for a second chance, but despite the constant faith all hopes faded completely on Friday, when the best outcome showed strong winds even at low altitudes.

To save the situation a proposal had arrived on Thursday evening: the Chilchalphorn!

On a ski-guide I bought some weeks ago I already read this name which made me roll the eyes and didn’t consider it for real. Turns out the tour is not so easy, with a route of about 12km and a total of 1450-ish meters of ascent leading to the peak located at 3040 meters above the sea level.

As Saturday was closing on we opted for this mountain and at 5.00 am we are leaving our places for Hinterrhein, Switzerland.

The navigator, perhaps confused because of the Romansh, leads us to a bar on the highway where the croissants are breaded and the coffee flows from the automatic machine at the same price of water from the fountain of youth. Just a little caffeine to reactivate the right circuits and after a bypass we are back on the road leading to our unpronounceable mountain. While we are passing the last few meters we see a candidate for the role of next destination causing further adrenaline rushes, it is the Pizzo uccello (bird peak) showing us its western wing.

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We park in front of an award-winning stall while the lights of dawn caress the ridges of the valley around us. The summit, the destination of our whitewashed pilgrimage, shines candidly rosy from above.

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There’s an inebriating joy every time the binding closes on the boot, as if this was my superhero cloak finally flitting after days of regular work. Perhaps these skis are a way of expressing and being ourselves in contact with a nature so unique and authentic that it robs us of any pride or artifice, leaving us helpless in front of the majesty of its curves.

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We overcome the shadow line dividing night from dawn passing next to small chalets chiseled on the side of the mountain, the ground is frozen and the poles struggle to hold the grip by not penetrating enough crust. The result is a constant tip-tap danced on the slope trying to re-establish itself with each slip.

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While dancing I think that beyond my skids and sweats everything around me is silent, only some lonely bird are flying over the slopes.

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It is nature calling to silence and one can’t meet his mountain continuing to disturb it, if I really want that I have to find balance within me and silently flow along these hills to meld with them.

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Our route passes by a mountain pasture buried up to the roof by the snow as we head towards the wall (of tears) that leads to the last stretch.

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After overcoming the icy stretch the route turns to softer slopes while the snow softens until becoming a thin layer of dust placed on a mantle consolidated by the freezing cycles.

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We are joined by a pair of Swiss-kiers that we will find at the top, and overcome some lone wolf going at a slower but steady pace.

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Alongside the Wenglispitz we make a quick pause to devour eat an energy bar and charge on the last stretch leading us to the top. At few meters from the fateful 3000, and thanks to the last 5 kilometers of skinned-route the altitude begins to hit, but only for a little, until the ski storage is reached and we can prefeel the ecstasy of summit while skidding the skis.

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The top seems taken from a manual, a small stone obelisk marks the highest point along the narrow treadable tract of the snowy spire. Around us peaks and ridges constellate the horizon, fortunately the two Swiss-kiers met halfway are real locals, and help us naming each one of them. Shortly before starting the descent a butterfly flies over us.

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A butterfly at 3000 meters, who would have ever thought that such a simple and fragile being could reach where trained and equipped skiers strive to reach. Or maybe there is another point of view: it would rather be wondering who could have prevented it

The descent untangles freely along the wide slopes of ascent, we let ourselves be inspired by the virgin traces of fresh snow and sign with ephemeral sinuous curves our way along the slopes.

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A gift of this fantastic excursion still comes with me, a bladder given by excessive heat in the boots gives the last bit of extreme emotion of the day. First unforgettable signal of the advancing spring.

The heat is back, days are getting longer and even though the snow has developed a strong magnetism, I feel the house mountains calling strongly.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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