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Piotr Kroczak

ALTA VIA

#SALEWAFACES

150 km | 53.5 hours | 8770 m+ | 8510 m-
Location: South Tyrol in Italy

 

These simple figures are just that: they’re only numbers. They are a faraway mirage. An illusion of extreme adventure that seems unreachable to some. They seem austere, severe and almost frightening. And yet, they are still just numbers. We can master them. When we focus all of our efforts on the smallest common denominator, we can master them. Every adventure starts with one first step. At the end of the day, every adventure consists of repeating this simple action over and over again. One step after the other, tens of thousands of times, until it becomes a part of our very nature, our basic needs and our primary instincts. Drink, eat, sleep, walk. Fly in the face of the daily rat race, in which we exist but do not truly live. Here, the choice is ours. This walk is our own. The mountain allows us into its domain.

Drinking, eating, sleeping, walking – If you think about it, has this not always been the very essence of mankind? Since time immemorial, our genes have been imprinted with the memory of these nomadic people who travelled through lands to survive. Walking means going back to our roots. Going back to basics. The magic of the very first tales and the alchemy of the 21st century both have their roots in treks through the mountains. Stressed, weary and sometimes on a quest for an unreachable goal, modern man can switch back into a walker in this setting, serenely gazing far into the distance. This gaze knows where it is going and how it will reach its goal. Walking is all very well, but with whom? With just anybody?

150 km with strangers. At the end of the day, the hardest thing of all is taking that first step. Overcoming that mental barrier. Getting rid of any fear, so that all that remains is the joy of roaming the mountains day after day. And after those 150 km, the faces and names of these men and women – who were so unfamiliar yesterday – will resonate like those of old friends. The mountain breaks down many a barrier. It unties many a tongue. Deep down, it reveals who you really are: our hopes, our sorrows, our dreams. We may lie to ourselves but we cannot lie to the age-old rock. It bears its wise gaze into our soul and sees what we have buried in the depths of our heart. The mountain does not see a man, a women, or their wrinkles. It sees the heart of the smiling child within, on an adventure that answers their true calling.

Every herd needs its guide. Egon was ours, the ever-happy leader of San Cipriano in Tires, up until Fischleintal and passing through the famous show stoppers of Tre Cime. However, aside from the enchanting view of these towers with enticing lines, nobody will forget the short climb by torchlight from Rifugio Biella to admire the sunrise at Seekofel. Even if you have roamed around this mountain countless times. Even if your eyes have already witnessed every possible shade of red and orange. After sweating a few droplets and shivering a little before the first rays of sunlight break through the blue-toned embrace of the last few clouds clinging to the peaks, the sight remains unique—every time. It is a timeless revelation, uncovering the beauty of existence. There, right at that moment. With your companions. Those with whom you break bread. It is true that waking from your slumber in a warm bed in the dead of night is not for the faint of heart. But, up there, way up high, the exertion is forgotten. Any pain and effort seems to wash away, like when a prisoner takes their first few breaths of fresh air, finally free after many months lost behind bars. When you reach 3146 m, you sing. You sing because, under the icy gusts of wind, eternity's secrets are revealed to those who wish to hear them.

When bathing in the Lagacio, Remeda Rosses and Gran Foses lakes, eating homemade pasta with mushrooms that tantalise your taste buds near Ra Stua hut, during evenings filled with stories and laughter in the Italian huts scattered across our path, there really is no room for doubt. Those who follow the new Alta Via trek and its trail through the Italian Tyrol region will see their steps filled with enduring memories.

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