An Assembly of Mountain Roots
We wound our way up a steep mountain road, past inns, bakeries, and small shops. The landscape transformed from a wide valley of vineyards and apple orchards to mountain cliffs and steep pastures. We enjoyed the view, casually taking in the sights until we turned a corner and beaming in front of us in golden and amber colors were The Dolomites, a sight that took our breath away. I hopped off the bus in Stern, Italy with photographers Giacomo Tonoli and Simone Mondino from Italy, along with seven other companions. Our group was just one of the six that had gathered for Salewa’s first Global Summit. An event that brought together mountain enthusiasts, photographers, writers, videographers, athletes and more from across the globe to spend time in the mountains, to connect with peers, and to play in the Dolomites.
As the bus pulled away and left us surrounded by rocky peaks, in the tiny town of Stern, it was hard to believe we were only a short drive from the Salewa headquarters where we had all gathered that morning.
With small packs, we quickly hiked from town to treeline and our home for the night, Rifugio Gardenacia. Once again, I found myself in awe of Dolomite huts, with their plush beds and expert chefs. These amenities amidst the towering rock walls and endless trails highlight why the area is perfect for developing and refining technical and athletic mountain skills, a tradition that runs centuries deep here.
In the morning we woke to a fiery skyline dancing across the peaks. After the night’s show of stars, it was hard to believe our luck thus far with clear skies during a rainy forecast. Luck couldn’t hold the rain away forever though, and fitting to the gathering, we got a chance to test our Salewa layers as we speed hiked through blankets of fog en route to Sassongher. Maybe it was our energy from moving in the mountains or maybe it was the rugged charm of the Dolomites but the weather was far from upsetting as the rock danced in and out of thick clouds transforming an already dramatic landscape into one of mysterious beauty.
The next morning, I unzipped my tent and the cool damp air that hung thick on the valley floor filled my lungs. We had traded our Refugio the previous night for a campsite dubbed “The Salewa Basecamp.’ Here, amidst a downpour, the entire summit group gathered to grill food, pour libations, and celebrate our passion of the outdoors until the rain was convinced of our alignment to nature and gave us a break. This was a reward I was pleased to receive, as I was off to go climb with my fellow compatriot Wade Morris and local guide Mark Oberichner.
Standing on the belay ledge midway up Cima Bois I craned my neck up the steep wall. I had the familiar excitement of an alpine route pass through me mixed with the confusion of the mere15-minute approach. Mark, on lead, redirected my thought, “I found a handjam you two will like.” Lightheartedly referencing our need to warm-up to the Dolomite climbing style, far removed from the familiar cracks and obvious lines of the North American’ granite walls. Pitch-by-pitch as we climbed above the valley Wade smoothly adapted his Yosemite style to the steep limestone and I found a rhythm of my own that took us to the summit.
As we walked back into basecamp and heard stories from all of our friends, it was easy to see how the mountain culture surrounds everything in this region. With easy access and striking peaks it’s hard to not take advantage of this playground. This is a point that continued to ring out as we climbed, hiked, and played over the remaining days.
Thanks for having me Salewa, and thank you for sharing your backyard, and the roots of mountaineering found in the Dolomites; I look forward to returning.