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Christoph Engl

The mountain says nothing, and yet everything

#SALEWAFACES

After winding our way up the serpentine roads on the mountain pass, we arrive at the car park and the crisp morning air hits us as we step outside. In late autumn, winter is already in the air, yet the rays of sunlight still provide a kind of pleasant warmth, if they manage to break through the fog, that is. And it'll take them a little while longer to do so. So with trembling hands and breath that condenses into clouds before your eyes, we set off along the trail as it gently ascends beneath the rock faces of the Dolomites, pale-faced in the morning light.

There is not a sound to be heard. At the height of summer, the track would already be bustling with life. In October, however, very few dare to venture through these peaks and valleys. Hotels have already closed their doors and tourists have descended from the mountains for the start of the Törggelen period in South Tyrol, ready to taste this year's young wine. We reached these stunning mountains after a 45-minute drive from Bolzano - this region is always the most beautiful out of season. The first stone Kar lies behind us and we quickly negotiate a small diagonal passageway with a via ferrata. The first rays of sun have now managed to break through and reach the pale rock face. What a blissful moment: feeling the warmth spread across our hands and back as we navigate the simple, yet steep, track upwards. The mountain always demands your full concentration - even if we're just doing some simple climbing mixed with a bit of steep hiking today. Flowering plants dot our path and catch my eye. Their colours are striking; the perfect accompaniment to the practically cloudless sky on this autumnal day.

Only in the mountains can one both exercise and sharpen one's senses to such an extent: balance, smell, sight, touch and hearing - all our senses are on high alert thanks to the unpredictable world of nature in its purest form. Your body knows that you could run into danger if the early warning system malfunctions.

Now and again, we stop to check around us. Do I really recognise the Dolomites surrounding us? Can I identify, organise and pinpoint the way to get down? We talk rarely. Every once in a while, we throw out an idea, and then we get lost in our own thoughts once again. I love it when you can bounce your own ideas off the mountain. The mountain says nothing, and yet everything.

We soon reach the summit, marked by a steel cross filled with stones. I wonder how many pictures have been taken with this cross this summer alone? We look down over the Gardena Pass, Corvara and Wolkenstein, across the Geisler mountain range facing the Sella group with Pisciadù. Every autumn, the Gran Cir Peak is always one of the last mountain hikes which can be quickly completed before the first snow falls and the season of rock ends. We reached the summit alone, even today, and the light wind makes me dig my windbreaker jacket out of my backpack.

As we make our way down, it is just as beautiful as our hike to the top. We come across a couple who we quickly recognise as being natives of the valley when we overhear them speaking Ladin. We exchange a few words - when you're in the mountains, you can tell that you share the same interests and values. How beautiful the day becomes as, around midday, we get back into the car and drive towards the city. And so it's back to reality - but nothing can rob us of these mountain moments.

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