Sunrise on Haunold
Wind, ice, rock, and air. There was plenty of windy air around me, as I was dangling on the knife-edge thin ridge of dolomite rock and ice. The last few seconds had been a blur.
The rock had given in.
Seconds later I saw it fall just below my feet; shortly after…a crash. It would not be long, I thought, as I held, strongly, but hopelessly; all I tried to do was, one last time, smell life
around me – a flower, a scent, sweetness. No. There was just a cold, bitter wind. Anger; melancholy. I should let go, that was it. YET…..
….of course this stuff would never happen to a “noob” like me. It was just to grab your attention.
But PLEASE (!), READ ON, it’s worth it nonetheless, the above has happened to plenty of people; I am proof that half the time people probably made up the stories anyway (like me just now). If you end up wasting your time nonetheless, comment, write your name, leave a sign: I shall remember you and feel for your sadness, your lost time, your insulted self; thou shalt not be alone. If else, comment anyway; I will share in your gladness; thou shalt not be alone.
Twilight on Dolomite Rock
My first trip report would be about something stunning, some ridiculous six month camping trip around the world including a climb of Everest in jeans, at age 80 however, when slipping off the mountain wouldn’t be too tragic as I would have lived what’s to be lived already. Yet coming home today with a story to tell, and considering (amongst other factors) the fact that, aged 80, summitpost would probably count 4000000 people and not 40000, my trip report thus probably passing unseen, I decided to paraphrase today’s adventure, as opposed to another, into a snazzy TR. At least, as snazzy as is possible, considering the fact I am a member of the “OK-: r(h)opeless” breed of mountaineers: too cautious to be “extreme”, too weak to be “really intense” (although I have (only) once succeeded in running up an entire mountain, from the village in the valley to the summit), too local to be a tourist, and too proud to admit he’s a wannabe. A member of this breed is often on a summit, but is used to the feeling of being on one; the satisfaction fades swiftly, the emotions are mild, and the mountains become rather small (they feel small, because you’re used to walking/running up them). Today, however, was different. I climbed a big mountain. One of the ones with a character of their own. One of the mountains that smile somewhat superbly at you all the way up, all the way down, but also when you’re at the very top – “ok, go on and climb” – ; one that effortlessly reminds you you’re a miserable ant on the back of a giant.
Hell (in Green)
Not that I have anything against walking up a mountain in a state of ‘drenched-wetness’. It happens all the time to me when adopting the ‘power-speedwalk’ technique of reaching the climax (usually a summit, or else I wouldn’t be there) of a comfortable footpath. Only that then, it’s sweat-caused, sweat being there to cool an excessively warm body; water droplets upon skin, however, still cool even if you’re already cold.
Reinhold, the guide, had called me the evening before telling me weather would be good, and we could attempt the climb the day after. Starting at 03:30 with headlamps. Fair enough, I thought, if you’re half asleep an hour and a half or so of darkness, dragging yourself up a path, passes rather swiftly. I hadn’t imagined it was an hour of #@+’/&$£$***
dragging myself up a wood (jungle) of lotschn [the local name of
pinus mugo. For those of you who don’t know the plant, it’s a coniferous bush which reaches a maximum height of about two and a half metres, and is broader than its height. Branches come off horizontally from the very bottom also, and can cover the ground. Bing]
… at a steepness of about fifty degrees, holding onto grass, pulling myself up on the branches, swinging from place to place like tarzan on prozac by holding onto what was available (the choice was large), throwing my rucksack over obstacles and somehow climbing through them (under, over, literally through), ‘rapturously’ biting onto branches which, instants before, had just ‘touched my aqueous humour’, seriously compromising my sight (which was not too tragic given the darkness)…
Jokes aside, it was hell. Green hell.
Reinhold’s lamp was becoming dimmer as the distance between us increased. However well I was trained, I couldn’t help the fact that, barely size 1m70, my legs were critically shorter than Reinhold’s, at least a head taller than me. Cursing because of my weakness, I stopped. Water droplets were shining in the light of my headlamp, floating through the air, blown by the slight breeze which quickly ceased to be in the dense bushes. We were inside a cloud.
“Saimo dou wo richtig Reinhold?”, I asked. “Are you sure this is right, Reinhold?!”
“I glaab I hon in weg a wian fofahlt,” is his reply, “I think I missed the path slightly”. His hurry was, in fact, him scouting. “I wort schun, kan ongst, des mochsche suppo.” – “Don’t worry, I’ll wait, you’re doing this really well.”
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!
MIDWAY upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
[Dante, Inferno, Canto 1.]
I had understood. Dante really had been for a trip through hell, purgatory, and Paradise.
He had climbed Dreischusterspitze.
In this green hell, all circles of hell passed quickly. An isolated couple of muschrooms told me about their adulterous affair in life and how their restless souls were now eternally blown to and fro by chilling winds. The same mushrooms were (obviously) trapped in soil – river Stige had now, after centuries, solidified – and told me how they were damned to furiously fight (rot) each other as they had done in life. The same soil was now cold, cold as ice – these mushrooms were trapped inside cocito, one gnawing on the other’s head. They had committed all sins at once! “What evil have you done in life to deserve this?” I asked. “We were bad mushrooms, we ruined many lives. We were MAGIC MUSHROOMS!”
The wind came again, and a majestic, evil laughter arose from the bushes. HAR HAR! Mighty Lucifer presented himself in front of me in the form of a giant Lotsche. I tried to pass by him. He punished me by poking me in the eyes with his mighty branches.
The mushrooms stopped talking, I realised I was starting to have visions. Desperately, I tried to proceed faster by applying the intense brute force technique – in vane, Lucifer’s gang just punished me with more force – but it was not necessary. Green hell was coming to an end.
Lo duca e io per quel cammino ascoso
intrammo a ritornar nel chiaro mondo;
e sanza cura aver d'alcun riposo,
salimmo sù, el primo e io secondo,
tanto ch'i' vidi de le cose belle
che porta 'l ciel, per un pertugio tondo.
E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.
My guide and I came on that hidden road
to make our way back into the bright world;
and with no care for any rest, we climbed-
he first, I following-until I saw,
through a round opening, some of those things
of beauty Heaven bears. It was from there
that we emerged, to see-once more-the stars.
[Dante, Inferno, Canto 34]
And from east came the sun.
Purgatory (in Pale Grey)
Purgatory began, as the real one, with an ante-purgatory. Last patches of solid rock with bits of grass in between faded into scree – lots of pale grey, dolomitical scree – an easy walk compared to what was now behind us. Giving us time to look.
The sun had just risen (close mountains however granted us the beauty of some extra shade): golden light illuminated the pale mountains, who themselves shone in a divine orange, praising Apollo who was warming their cheeks. At the end of the scree, we reached a col, and the view opened further; the valleys were still dark, dull, and grey of envy towards the high mountains which stole the sunlight off them. The divine light reached until here, and hell was faraway – this was purgatory. Yet also purgatory demanded efforts – it demanded concentration and technique; in preparation thereof, Reinhold and myself equipped ourselves with the necessary climbing gear.
Leaning Tower of Pisa Purgatory
What came next was a long scramble, only in a few passages the climbing became more challenging. The main problem was finding stable grips, seen as the mountain seemed to be well aware of the abundance of rocks that composed it, so that, really, it wouldn’t care if its entire surface were to crumble off! The shoemaker [Dreischusterspitze = “three shoemakers’ peak”] appeared somewhat like an enthusiastic sunbather from rainy England, more used to peeling off dead skin than broken soles off shoes (yet from that point of view I bet even a complete foreigner could guess the mountain’s name…).
The eternal view of purging sinners (mostly rocks, ideally they should have been mushrooms, but I didn’t see any) made me rather soul (…sole...)-less, but I believe the main cause of the exhaustion was the remaining 600m vertical gain of crumbling rock which, as they’d say around here, ‘gave me the rest’. But purgatory did its job, I was now pure, I was ready for Eden.
Heaven on Earth (in White)
A last, short, (damn! – ) exposed ridge was to be crossed, then I was there. Angels were awaiting me, singing in a high pitched, pure harmony. Snow gave the place an otherworldly atmosphere. Views towards all dolomite ranges opened up: Sexten, Belluno, Fanes, Gröden/Gherdeina (being very general here) as well as major alpine peaks, Grossglockner, Grossvenediger, Zillertal, Rieserferner, the Carnic alps.
Views: Drei Zinnen et al. Views: Haunold and Birkenkofel
As Dante himself, I drank some (bottled) Lethe-water, and … ate… (not as Dante himself)… some Ritter Sport chocolate, Speck (a local type of ham), Cheese, bread, and all tiredness was forgotten! Energy gathered, I was ready for Beatrice to show me Paradise.
Heaven on Earth (in White)
But Paradise wasn’t there.
Nor was Beatrice.
I was aware we were at the summit, so in theory, there was nowhere to go. However – the plot so perfect, ach! – I was
expecting Beatrice and a guided tour to Paradise. To be perfectly honest, I was expecting a beautiful (she) helicopter pilot, with – provided the landing impossibility (but why?)
– at least appropriate paragliding equipment. Reinhold, say something! ‘Surprise!’, what do I know! Tell me it’s true!
“Iatz miassmo longsom wido gian,” said Reinhold, “wegn wetto.” “We must start going down, because of the weather.” Not the answer, honestly. What can I say? The Schoemaker made a final prank. The prank wasn’t really a prank, it was the descent, but it felt like a tasteless prank. Three hours of descent – tedium, the romantic atmosphere of the ascent completely
shattered – where we saw …rocks, mostly…but also spectacular views, people walking up in shorts and trainers (make a mockery of everything then, fine!), wild capricorns, as well as the path that should have brought us through green hell (making it less of a hell, one hopes).
In the end, we made it, reaching the car safely and happily. The tour ended as many others, almost identical to the conclusion of every other one I ever did in that region. And, as every time, I looked up towards majestic Dreischusterspitze – the Shoemaker.
Only this time, he grinned.
“Damn you, shoemaker!”
I grinned back.
* * *
The mighty shoemaker from Purgatory
Acknowledgements And Apologies
An apology goes to Reinhold. Reading this, who wasn’t there may think he didn’t do his job properly. Really, path through hell wasn’t too different from hell itself, and hell was shorter than it then seemed. Apart from the fact hell had a vital role in spicing up this trip report!
Finally, I apologize to all readers who are unaware of what ‘La Divina Commedia’ is (about). It’s a medieval epic in which, briefly said, Dante Alighieri, the author, makes a journey through hell, the purgatory, and Paradise. Great literature.
A big thank you goes to Reinhold. Without his guidance, I would never have seen what I have seen; concerning SP, this trip report would never have been. Thank you.
Summit Cross and me Reinhold on the col