There are evenings when sleep leaves the mind waiting, and suspended between light and shadow, it’s free to wander beyond the threshold that, by day, we refrain it from crossing. And in this state, sometimes, plans or projects come to us. It is the projects that then, looking back, will make us feel full and, without nostalgia.
Perhaps that’s how Simon Gietl first dreamt of the milestones of his life as a mountaineer and of mountaineering in the Dolomites. But it is with eyes wide open, that he plans every single detail with his comrade Andrea Oberbacher.
Andrea has been a guide in the Dolomites, for many years, and when he met Simon, he immediately knew that there was talent.
Since that day he has been there for Simon and became the kind of friend who can see you for what you are and what you want to become. And so, every time Simon thinks up a new winter project, he sits down next to Andrea, with a beer and a picture of the next mountain. Together they plan the when, the how and, the what.
Then it’s Sandra’s turn, his wife. With her, Simon shares every detail of his plan. Sandra understands how important these projects are, and how important it is for Simon to spend time alone, and when Simon is in the mountains she imagines him content, enjoying every breath and every step.
It is thanks to this balance that his winter solos are born, like a dream that slowly takes form, thanks to experience, friends, Sandra, and winter.
Going to the mountains in winter is a whole different thing. In winter; the boundaries of the easily accessible, are narrower, and the gates of the extremely difficult are more accessible. To cross these boundaries requires being ready - physically, technically, and mentally. And to do so alone, even more, on a technical level for sure, but you also need to be able to rely only on yourself, for days.
During the winter of 2020, Simon completed the first solo winter traverse of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. In 2021 he climbed the Pilastro di Mezzo, Mariacher variant on Sass dla Crusc, and then, in 2022 the Rosengarten traverse. In 2023 he concluded with the Odle traverse. Always in winter. Always alone.
But solitude does not weigh on those who, like Simon, know that being alone is quite different from being isolated.
This solitude is welcomed, because it gives clarity of thought and a direct, unfiltered connection. Entering that demanding environment makes one discover not only the valleys and peaks of dolomite but also those of one's inner landscape.
Above all, it turns one's gaze d to lower in the valley, not with regret for leaving the warmth of home but with the awareness that everything will seem truer, more vivid upon return.
The mountaineer, the hiker, the trail runner, they all know that solitude is a matter of time and space.
Simon finds it on the peaks of the Dolomites he loves best, bivouacking in the cold of a snow-covered ledge, the stars above him, the warm glow of the valley below and in front of him a stove that melts the snow and warms his hands. Others may find it by walking in a silent forest, letting the mind wander to hear that in the chatter of everyday life cannot be traveled.
All feel it powerful, not as fear or isolation, but as awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, and confidence.
These are the moments that the mountain gives to mountaineers and to all those who find in them the strength to keep dreaming. These are the moments that Simon appreciates and, through his stories, loves shared with friends and with all those who want to approach the mountains and themselves.