Simone Mondino & Romina Manassero
RECOVERY OF BIVOUACS - VALLE GESSO
We’ve been strongly connected to the mountains ever since we were kids. Today, thanks also to our work, we feel compelled to share them with you. In the mountains, tourism is not as widespread as elsewhere – you can still feel the “call of the wild”. To a certain extent, we see these places as “ours”.
Whether we are on assignment, or up in the mountains just for pleasure, we are looking for solitude, trying to grasp the real spirit of the places we visit and to become one with the nature around us.
Italy has a large number of remote mountain shelters, known as “bivacchi”. We decided to start our “I Bivacchi” project at Valle Gesso – the heart of the Maritime Alps and a place that is very dear to us. Despite its close proximity to France, Monaco and Liguria, the atmosphere here is still unspoilt and natural. It takes you back to the early days of mountaineering.
Argentera, Corno Stella, Monte Matto and Asta are just a few of the peaks that reign supreme in this part of Piedmont, and the Gelas glacier still endures here. Together with the Monte Clapier glacier, it forms the southernmost glacial mass in the entire Alpine region.
We couldn’t possibly start anywhere else but here. In our beloved Cuneo area of the Alpi Marittime with its remote, wilderness bivouacs situated right at the foot of its magical mountains: Guiglia, Varrone and Moncalieri. Walking in. Hour upon hour. Kilometre after kilometre. As we leave the hubbub of the plains behind us, our minds slowly open and become freer. The mountains help us to recharge.
Making our way up the slopes to the first bivouac, we find ourselves wondering what we might find there. Climbing on, we feel a sense of peace and lightness, despite our heavy packs. The mountain imbues us with positive energy. It’s hard to find the words to do it justice. Disconnect. Getting away from the world. We forget all about our phones. Instead, we’re reconnecting with ourselves and enjoying each moment to the full. Up here, you get pure-to-the-core simplicity: a meal of pasta and beans cooked on a gas stove, a candle, a book and the day slowly draws to a close.
The last rays of sunlight still illuminate the highest peaks, presenting us with a heart-warming display of nuanced colours. A small group of wild mountain ibexes keep us company, curious about our presence. The stars start to appear, slowly becoming the main attraction in the evening sky. A wood fire crackling in the moonlight; the beam of our head torches picking out the path; the smell of coffee brewing in the cafetière as the sun rises. Moments worth capturing.
We believe that bivouacs bring people together. They inspire unforgettable moments to be shared and cherished. Like books, each bivouac shelter holds memories and tells its own story. Bivouacs are a testament to our mountaineering heritage, beautiful landscapes and life-enriching wild places – and they are capable of bringing out the best in us.
“In life, it is only if we are ready to conceive the inconceivable that we are able to discover something new”. - Goethe