Danilo Sartore Bivouac
The forecast for the next few hours is rain. A lot of rain. But we really want to get away and go back to the mountains. What should we do? Head up anyway or sit this one out? No. We don't want to spend the evening within the walls of our home when there is the slightest chance that we could have a new experience up in the mountains. Even if it means getting wet.
With our decision taken, we start to pack our rucksacks.
Our photography equipment is ready to go.
Good. Now all we have to do is leave before the storm hits and hinders our desire to "escape", even for a moment.
The Upper Maira Valley takes as long to reach as it is beautiful. After an hour and a half, we're in Saretto, where we leave the car.
Today, we're going to climb up and spend the night at Danilo Sartore Bivouac.
As soon as we get out of the car, it starts to drizzle. Towards the lower valley, the sky is becoming darker and darker. The more we climb, the more the darkness comes towards us. Then we hear the first rumbles of thunder, yet - against all odds - it looks like the currents in this part of the valley are working in our favour. In fact, shortly after, the storm lets rip in the village of Saretto down below, leaving us dry.
The trail isn't challenging, but as we enter the valley, the fog gradually envelops us and the panorama disappears from view completely.
The silence that surrounds us is incredible.
We are walking through a milky sea. We imagine the shape of the mountains, how big they must be, and what we would be able to admire on a clear day.
We begin the final zig-zag approach with the first traces of snow that we have to cross, yet we shrewdly manage to avoid them by jumping from one boulder to another.
There's a small hump to overcome and there it is. The bivouac is right in front of us, attempting to barge through a veritable wall of fog, which is becoming denser as times goes on.
We'd seen it in photos, but it's even more beautiful in real life, with its red roof, gable shape and all-wood interior. It's too perfect to be real.
We quickly get ourselves settled inside. But as we really want to explore, we run outside to check out the landscape. It's impossible to see what is around us. It's too white. The wind picks up and we hope that it will blow the clouds away. Instead, it only makes the them thicken even more, as if they were attracted by the red walls of the bivouac.
Minutes go by, hours pass and the awareness that no one else is coming grows as we walk around. Pure bliss. As sunset approaches, we glimpse a small opening between the clouds. We try to send the drone up and it is a spectacle to behold. Unadulterated magic. The phrase that was recently said becomes even more true: "if I'm born again, I want to be your drone". Yes, because what we see from up high is incredible and we realise that we are truly lucky. Of course, it doesn't last long, but it is enough to cheer us up some more.
The candles are lit, as is the camping stove. We set about cooking some pasta and beans. There are no human sounds. Just the romantic chirping of a robin every so often to accompany the sound of the ladle that we are using to stir the soup.
We must admit that we'd love to feel like this every day of the year. The Danilo Sartore Bivouac is truly beautiful, comfortable and clean and exudes positive energy.
Just what we are much in need of. Up here tonight, it's just us, a few animals and the clouds moving quickly in the sky.
The solitude that we love is fast becoming our most loyal friend and travel companion. We blow out the candles, we turn on our head torches and we begin to read beneath the covers. It's like a scene out of a film, yet it’s just normal life up in the mountains. It's lovely.
Every time we sleep in a bivouac, every time we sleep up in the high mountains, it’s as if it were the first time. We're more excited than ever. Stunning. And up here, in this bivouac, it is even lovelier, while outside the weather is fit for neither man nor beast.
The night passes by quickly because, before we know it, it's 05.01 and our alarm is going off.
Outside, it's still night practically, yet we can see that the weather conditions haven't improved. In fact, its all quite literally unchanged with fog to the right and left of us, below and above us. We're practically part of the fog ourselves.
We could let it discourage us, but we don't become too disheartened because it is just as beautiful, romantic and unique. It's not every night that you get to spend it alone in such a stunning bivouac. Which is why it's more than all right.
By now we're awake. We have breakfast and every so often we look outside to see if anything changes. If we're being honest, having seen the weather forecast yesterday, we would have expected a stormy night and perhaps even a snow white awakening, but not all this. It's almost half past six. We're drinking warm tea when a strange light streams through the window of the door. A sudden flash of energy and life. We immediately run outside.
We can't believe it. The sun.
As is always the case, we can't handle the emotions that literally overwhelm us. Romina takes some photos and I send the drone up immediately to get some video footage.
Not even 20 seconds later and the sky above us is almost completely clear. The sun kisses our faces, raises the temperature and turns the walls of the mountains red.
We’re excited and we’re happy. Above all, we’ve been made speechless by such wonder.
We feel lucky, extremely lucky in fact.
The higher the drone climbs, the more complete a view it gets.
Warmly coloured mountains.
Black thunder clouds.
Vitality, energy and contrasts. Everything changes and evolves as we remain still, incredulous in the face of all this beauty turning into that. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - it lasts no longer than 20 minutes. It would be nothing other than this brief pause of good weather that would make it all the more special and unique.
The gusts of wind pick up, then the wind dies down, the thunder stops and we're immersed in the fog once again, bringing with it an incredible feeling of cold, winter and the mountains.
We head back to the bivouac, continue our breakfast and read our log, hoping for another improvement in the weather. It doesn’t, however, seem to want to arrive.
We pack up everything and blow out the candle, which we'll leave up here for the next guests. We close the door behind us. We knot up our hiking boots and begin our descent.
We can't see anything, but luckily the trail is simple. At certain points, we can't even see each other. We lose altitude and come out at the base of the clouds. We can see Saretto further down, while the pale sun attempts to break free, lighting up the mountain in front of us. An Alpine ibex is walking on the ridge, while three chamois chase one another on the snow and we slowly head towards our car.
This new experience, this journey, is coming to an end. Yes, I said journey, because we don't have to go far or be away for many days. All it takes is a few hours, lived to the fullest, with the feelings evoked by the small things, which help us rediscover the beauty of simplicity, of the essentials, of ourselves. A journey for all intents and purposes.
The Danilo Sartore Bivouac helped us to understand, once again, just how supremely important the mountains are to us, and that we must start with the simple things to go back to being truly happy.