Saturday, January 23, 2010

Finding my Hidden Pulse for Mountaineering

As a little girl growing up in Baltimore, USA, I would have never told you that I was interested in becoming a mountaineer. Yet here I am at 34, scaling mountains in heat, ice and snow in the Alps.
This hobby exemplifies the surprising twists a life can take, especially by changing countries. Even though I could have moved to a place like Colorado from my own country, in Italy, the mountains became accessible by accident. I moved to the Veneto for cultural and personal reasons and I found not only cities of great historic interest like Venice and Padua, but also a nearby seaside on the Adriatic and mountain area, the Dolomites and Italian Alps.
In the USA, I would have needed to choose a completely mountain life in the move to a place like the Rockies.
My Italian husband first introduced me to hiking in the Dolomites. Those initial hikes were surprisingly steep and difficult yet I saw even elderly Italians easily walking up the rock trails so I made sure that I could do the same. After all, I was in my mid-twenties at the time! Once at the top, the views were spectacular and made the fatigue worthwhile. I enjoyed the direct contact with the magficient towers of nature which turned rosy at sunset. I found my mind would be cleared of everyday stress from jobs and city life while hiking. My husband and I started to walk higher and higher. Soon I leared how to climb ferratas, with the assistance of steel wire and ladders bolted into the mountainside. We began to hit the BIG peaks of Monte Civetta and the Marmolada, which includes a glacier. That was the first time I put on crampons.

Photo: Pisciad├╣ ferrata outside of Cortina (2006)

Photo: The peak of Marmolada, 3445 meters (2006) with husband and another couple, S and R

To round off the experience, rock climbing was included in the new bag of techniques to learn and utilize in the Alps. Through a course we took last year, we discovered nearby rock faces and natural outdoor gyms such as Rocca Pendice in the Euganean Hills and started scaling them, too.

Photo: Piccolo Torre Falzarego (2009)

Unbelievably, despite having broken both bones in my left forearm twice in my twenties, I can actually rock climb. Who would have known?

Our rock climbing teacher and alpine guide, Andrea, mentioned a course that he was teaching on Monte Rosa that summer. We decided to join another couple and do the experience, practicing our mountaineering abilities on a higher and even more famous mountain and learning new techniques for snow and ice. Among other things, I learned 8 knots, understood how the materials work such as ice axes and ice nails and pretended to fall and save people in a glacier crevace. I found myself hiking and rock climbing on the second tallest mountain in Europe just this past summer.

Photo: left: faking having fallen into a glacier crevace while my husband practices saving me; right: learning pirolet traction with my husband as my sicura (Monte Rosa, July 2009)

That's what I get for moving to the Veneto: I'm now a alpinist.

Funny how things work out.

Photo: Ferrata Merlone (2006)

Top post photo: Along the hike to Mulaz (2005)

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