Who knows why we go up there
Scalatore (Consorzio Operatori Turistici Alleghe - Caprile)

If I had to explain why I, or anyone else for that matter, climb mountains, I would have to turn the clock back more than fifty years. The memory of a child fascinated and then inexorably bound by the majesty of the rock faces has a primordial feel to it, a strange force that wasn’t handed down to me by my parents and their teachings, but from a lot further back in time; it was as if I had inherited the memories of my forefathers and was almost as if I already knew certain places. History has taught us that man has always tried to elevate himself. There are many ways of doing this, but the most intuitive and primordial way is definitely the physical one. If a child is left alone in an open space, he will always be drawn to the highest point and will instinctively climb onto a rock or a tree, maybe just to catch of glimpse of what is beyond. For the ancients, the mountains were inhabited by gods and demons and while they wanted to climb them, they were also afraid, a fear that was in part justified by the risks involved when undertaking such a journey. But instinct and need are often at odds; if you need food, the last thing you think of doing is climb a mountain unless there is a real reason for it, which could be hunting or picking berries or, nowadays, scientific research.

For sure, when Simone De Silvestro, the chamois hunter from Zoldo, reached the top of Civetta for the first time in around 1855, he knew why and he alone realised that the animal which had driven him higher and higher had never actually existed.   Us visionaries like to think that when Petrarch climbed Mont Ventoux in 1336, he was the first ever mountaineer because he was the first one to admit that he had reached the top purely for the pleasure of the ascent and to enjoy the wonders he saw and experienced along the way and from the top.

Over the years, climbing mountains has had different effects on people, the authorities and public opinion, with mountaineers going from being considered supermen worshipped by many to becoming crazy suicidal criminals or, even worse, social parasites. I think the mountains are the most beautiful place on earth and, in my opinion, if you follow your instinct, you can never go wrong. It is my instinct, and that of many others like me, that takes us up into the mountains and trying to understand why is often pointless. Many years ago someone more distinguished than me said “I climb because the mountains are there”. You can take this to mean what you want, but it gives you an idea of the inexplicable nature of human passions.

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