We move towards what we already miss, forgetting what we already have on our side. A sparkling season closure, homing to the familiar mountains with some surprises.
As you have clearly (not) noticed, the last entries were mainly focused on a quest for snow, soft and fluffy white powder to be skied as wrapped in an icy soft embrace. I have certainly neglected the passing of the seasons, and spring has been swallowed by a search for a lasting winter, bringing me to the highest altitudes in search of certainly regenerating skiing, but perhaps out of time compared to the life flowing beside me.
The familiar mountains sparkled from white to lush green, losing that docile phase of spring buds and first fruits, now already bloomed and vivid on the crests and slopes. I skipped a season even if I wanted to close a long-term project for which shooting in spring was mandatory, therefore I’ll have to cary on for another year al last, waiting for next spring. Maybe I really denied spring looking for long-lasting snow, or maybe we work too much and the time we can devote to our personal researches and passions is reduced to weekends in which we accumulate everything we can’t do on working days. Perhaps we have truly lost our innermost purpose and have devoted ourselves to a conception of static life. Stuck in front of a computer trying to move remaining still, a career and a good job to suddenly find ourselves old and flooded.
To get out of this ordinary madness only nature seems to restore breaths of oxygen to awaken consciousness and shake off the accumulated staticity. So here I am back from the latest adventures, where a mountain has rejected us, I put a nice signature on the ski season started to build the foundations for future wanders, even more intense than the ones you are used to.
It all started on Wednesday, with a blow to the heart of the working week and two fantastic trekking poles struggling after a season of skiing abuse. They probably got so tired that a stick decided not to come out of its shell, so the hike began (and ended as well) with only one stick to support me. I had a bit of concern due to the ill knee, but he behaved admirably without unpleasant surprises, could it be that he finally recovered?
Let’s start along the usual path but under a new light, warming up to the bones.
We glimpse some patches of snow, widening as we proceed, after overcoming the Bogani hut (Capanna Monza for friends) we find ourselves in front of an unexpected turn.
The trail is completely covered by snow despite being in June, and the chamois that usually occupied these lands have been taken over by a herd of sheep.
To add a note of brutality and a touch of mystery we find three dead sheep on the path, definitely something is not square in this climb, but we still decide to proceed and try to get to the top.
The forecast calls for heavy rain starting in the afternoon, so if we manage to be fast enough we could still reach the shelter and then turn the heels home.
But the snow is melted by the heat, and the clouds seem to have heard of our idea, accelerating towards us. So we find ourselves halfway down the snowy path to look for chains and ropes to move, but they are still partially covered by snow, which continues to yield more easily. So the choice is clear, we decide to exit quickly from these species of quicksand and aim for the ridge.
We reach a small couloir leading to the Piancaformia ridge, known for having an alpinistic degree of difficulty (albeit easy, still alpinistic). Here the view is breathtaking, just as the advance of the clouds towards our position is breathtaking. After making two quick steps (just to be able to say we have done at least a part of ridge), we reach about 200 meters from the summit but the clouds are now close to arrival, forcing us to quickly fold along the ridge to the safest mountain hut Monza.
Here we take on our of food stocks, rejected by a mountain that we are planning to reach again very soon. What remains of this little adventure? An even stronger link with the mountain, which proves to be active and alive, with feelings and “no” days, in which it becomes mallerous and unapproachable.
The following day begins in the night, at 3:25 an alarm sounds reminding me I’ve never been an allnighter, and despite this I often wake up at odd times not to exhaust the day, but to steal hours in the morning. We are moving about an hour later in a caravan of three cars heading to the Sempione pass. There, waiting impassive and severe, is the Breithorn of Sempione.
After about two hours of driving we reach the Sempione’s Hospice, a Grand Budapest style hotel offering large stone-built dorms and fantastic public baths where we leave the unnecessary, moving to the peak lighter than ever.
The group consists of seven people and a dog that has probably studied the track during the night before, since as we begin to get moving he jumps immediately on the right direction and marks the way in front of us throughout the next 4 hours.
We start carrying the skis on our shoulders, a sign of anachronism like looking for snow in June. We skirt the first pond behind the hospice admiring the moon timidly disappearing behind the ridges of Galehorn, Magehorn, Straffelgrat and other peaks I pretend to know.
We ski the first section dotted with rocks and streams, leaning on tongues of exhausted snow as we go up the first slopes dodging the sunlight from behind Hübschhorn, a heavy companion we’ll be caressing for the main part of the adventure.
We arrive at the first important traverse hopping up and down the skis, hugging them frequently while we expose ourselves on corners now populated also by the first climbers of the season.
An important bump separates us from the highway leading to the saddle point in the ridge, we overcome this swelling but not following the consolidated track. In an inspiration dictated more by struggles than an hippy idea to “trace my own way” I head off the path.
We can now clearly see the desired goal, which is cravier as slopes and sweat skyrockets. Towards the ridge an avalanche has partially occupied the channel leading to the top, it will therefore be difficult to break the climb into softer coils, thus we’ll need to save more energy to avoid cooking legs and breath.
Here I commit the error, trying to stay at altitude avoiding a small and easier canal. Despite the recommendations of my companions, I try to stay on that frozen ridge, which gets more vertical as I progress, forcing me to spend way more energy and concentration trying not to slide away.
Now the final wall is facing us, the avalanche will have at most two days, and is there to look on us as if to remind of our nature as a guest at these heights. We are next to the guardian of this mountain, already positioned along the road to monitor us continuously, forcing us to become aware of his presence in every step separating us from the final step.
We spare no fatigue, steal several breaks to rehydrate and disguise photographic breaks to catch breath, but we get to the crutch. The top is there, observing us fixed and ready to be reached, but not without a last trick.
We punch in the snow frame by foot one after the other, on my turn the snow yelds and a foot sinks in it up to the knee, I have the skis in one hand and as I roll over I lose a few meters, but luckily this is enough to stop without consequences alongside the skis. And again I go back, repositioned in the role of a discreet guest approaching the landlord.
We follow the crested stretch leading to the summit, 3438 meters, with 1460 meters in altitude. In 1460, Portugal discovered Sierra Leone, and from here we can see Monte Leone, which with its 3553 meters reminds us that there is still much to do before considering ourselves really arrived at the destination.
Ritual photos, congratulations and above all some food. We remove the skins, put on the helmet and start again towards the descent promising to be one of the best ever made until now.
Heavy clouds are advancing, as toremind us that time in the mountains is conceded, not earned. So we accelerate towards the forcola, from which the best part of the season starts, the transformed snow turns out to be a natural ski slope. We run alongside the avalanche, we are fast knowing we can still be reached by this guardian if he wants to wake up, but our steps are light and in half-hour we are back to the initial transverse obliging us again to pick up the skis until the last stretch of snow.
Here consolidated toboggans in the snow guide us to the Hospice. It’s over, or it’s only just begun. I can declare the season closed with a flourish, but much more has yet to come.
The following day the alarm still rang when someone had just started the night, today we go to the glacier of the Morterastch (or how the hell it’s written), but this time without a real camera, not to distract during the lessons of progression, security and ligation on glaciers. You do not want to see me roll down a glacier, do you?
A triptych tour de force is scheduled for the next week, consisting of a return to the mountain that rejected us, and the conquest of a massif that stands well above 4000 meters.