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SIMON GIETL

ORCA

SIMON AND MANUEL GIETL’S TRAD PROJECT ON DURRERSPITZE: THE STORY OF A BROTHERLY RELATIONSHIP, WHICH HAS GROWN ON THE ROCKS.

RIGHT BEHIND HOME

This story begins in Antholz, ten years ago. There are two brothers, their names are Manuel and Simon, they love spending time together, and they love doing it where they feel at home. Their favourite games are different than other young men: no videogames, no console, no cards. They feel at home in among the mountains, among rocks and forests, and it is there they go, when they want to do something together.

The revelation comes on a warm afternoon of August, one of those days in which the air is warm and sticky, and the idea of climbing up high becomes even more inviting. <> starts off Simon, sipping an ice cold beer in front of the house <>

Manuel looks up to where Simon is pointing, far away, northwards. There is only one moment before his glance stops on Durrerspitze, and a smile appears on his face. <> Simon sharpens his view, shielding his eyes against the sun with his hand. <<Yes, Manuel, I think so too. Done, let’s go tomorrow >>.

FROM BLUE TO GREY

The night before something big is always way too long, when you’re young. You wake up, turn over in bed, fall asleep again and wake up many more times before morning arrives. Still you have to treasure sleep, rest, recover all the energy you will need. The morning always comes too late, just like the time to leave home, to leave for another adventure.

It’s only six o’clock, when Simon and Manuel head off. The blackbirds have not yet finished their morning song, their very personal ode to the sunshine and the new day. The path is long. The back packs, full of clanky trad gear are not light, but they speedily ascend, leaving the blue lake of Antholz behind them and attack the grey scree which climbs up high. The reward for that effort is always there, right in front of them, gradually more defined: a solid rock face even if jagged, imposing, but still inviting, difficult, yet climbable.

NOT ALL ROPES ARE VISIBLE

It’s time to tie up. Tying up is always a special moment, like agreeing to a pact, rather, an oath. “I am here” says the first round of rope in the harness. “I will be careful”, says the second. “I will take care of you”, when you follow the knot. Tying up is like taking an oath: tying up to your brother is the material clarification of something that has always existed, from the minute you were born. There is no need for words, you don’t need to tell each other. That’s how it is, full stop. <<Ok, I’m off >> Simon mumbles. Manuel nods, alert.

There is a corner. A corner, below a small roof. There is a rest, and a pocket which seems ideal to place a peg. The dance begins, a game of balance on vertical, with feet smeared, placing increasingly small cams. A small terrace, a roof, the ropes end. Set up anchor. <> Simon shouts. A few minutes of known manoeuvres, tested, repeated many times, in silence. <<Climbing!>> the feeble voice of Manuel rises from below. The first pitch is just a starter, the second a promise. But unfortunately the third doesn’t keep its promise: there are two large boulders wedged in, inside a chimney. Impossible to go around them. Just looking at them makes them move, fearfully wobbling. They have their strange balance: too unstable to climb over, but at the same time wedged in too tightly to pull them out.

INVISIBLE BRUSH STROKES

If you look up from Antholz you can’t see it. It’s there, just north of the town, almost on the border with Austria. It is called Durrerspitze, a heap of light coloured granite, marked by a system of cracks and black streaks. A large rock face, enormous, impossible not to notice. Basically, a magnet, if you like dreaming new lines where there aren’t any, and painting them with invisible brush strokes of ropes and movements.

ANOTHER TIME

After various attempts, tired and covered in scratches, Simon and Manuel decide to abseil down. Inevitably feeling slightly inconvenienced, after spending a few hours with your feet hanging in mid air and two obstacles ready to roll on to you without much consideration.

The return path, from grey to blue, is silent and scattered with fleeting pauses the ones where you hardly stop, just limiting yourself to turn around, observe, sigh and shake your head. <> exhales Manuel, disheartened but positive. <>. Simon nods, remains silent, while he continues to put one foot in front of the other.

LIFE GOES ON

Life goes on. And rushes by, because all you have to do is be distracted one moment and the days become weeks, weeks turn into months, months into years. Ten years to be precise. Ten years during which the lives of the Gietl brothers developed in different directions, intertwining every now and then. It’s normal, probably inevitable, when you grow up: work, family, friends, and in one moment you realise how much time has passed since you last saw your brother, how the relationship has had to change, condensating.

But Simon and Manuel have a strong relationship, one of those relations which do not simply lean on daily repetition of shared rituals, but on a story, a solid story. It doesn’t take long to find each other again.

JUST LIKE A POD

Everyone knows that killer whales are not fish but mammals. But not everyone knows that these incredible beasts, white and black like the wall of Durrerspitze, have a very solid family structure, the pod. Each pod has its specific way of hunting, of moving, even of communicating. Of course, orcas have their own dialects. The bond among the members of the same pod lasts a lifetime, and after a lifetime the orcas are still able to recognize one another, to communicate to each other, to coordinate each other in complex actions.

Complex actions like opening a route, for example. Or better still, like climbing over two wedged boulders and concluding the opening of a new trad route, started ten years prior together with their brother, on a white and black wall in their local mountains.

Because time changes certain things. But over others, instead, it has no power.