My friend Daniele and I learn through experience, and like to share what we learn. We are inspired by wild landscapes, and excited by the opportunity to experience the planet by foot, bicycle, snowboard, rope, sailing boat, kayak, or any other self-propelled mode of transportation. We have a disdain for any outdoor activity, that often people call ‘sport’, which requires the use of an engine. We firmly believe that there is not good or bad weather, but only good or bad equipment and, where possible, our sleeping bag is always preferred to duvet covers and blankets. Over the years we learned that simplify is key in life: simpler you make things, richer the experiences become.
We crave the uphill, as it were the only direction that mattered. We both find solace in isolate and steep places. We crave northern climates and high latitudes for balance, guidance, and healing landscapes. To us, the hard work of the uphill pace comes naturally. We were borne for it. We are charged simply by being in our element, and the rhythm of our climbs is in no way disrupted by the anticipation and focus required for the downhill.
There was a time when I thought we had lost this amazing connection we always had, since we met through the Boy Scouts aged 7. When his daughter Alice arrived, I was sure he had lost his dream. But a flicker never stopped burning, and refused to die out completely. Now, seven years and two children after what I thought was the death of his dream and motivation, I understand that there was no death. What I could not possibly understand then, was that his priorities had simply changed. Love and nurturing had replaced snowboarding and travelling with his friends as his biggest thrill. He was living his dream. And that’s what made me think that reality if often far sweeter than a dream could ever be.
Although his family life and job as civil engineer (he’s currently supervising the construction of two new underground lines in Rome) don’t leave him much time to play, at least once during the winter, Daniele packs his splitboard and mountain gear and come out to visit me.
Today we’ll try to get to the Refuge de Sales. The plan is to climb through the trees and behind the big peak. Daniele looks a lot more awake than half an hour ago.
Splitting the board and setting the bindings for touring is a mystic moment for him.
We are going to skin through this valley in the hope of finding a passage around the Cascade de Tranant. We are actually following the summer path. During the winter, this waterfall is normally frozen, so people do the opposite route. They start off in Flaine and rappel down the waterfall.
Although it’s still early, the temperature is rising quickly. The south facing slope on our right hand side has already heavenly avalanched, and we could probably boot back along it. What concerns me is the slope just above the rocks.
Today we don’t really have a clear objective. It’s Daniele’s first day out on snow this winter so, although I would love to take him somewhere nice and complete a proper long tour, I also want to be safe. We talk about it and he’s just happy to be here and share a day out in these peaceful mountains. So we decide to hike this small slope and then ride down on the path we came up from. It’s short, but it’s safe, and the snow looks ace. Perfect spring corn.
As we get to the bottom of it, just before entering the trees again, we hear a very loud sound. We look up on the other side of the valley and we see a big avalanche coming down one of the upper slopes. I am quick enough to grab my camera and take a photo of the last part of it. It was a big one, and it came down from a slope whit a very similar aspect to the one we were thinking of boot packing.
Sometimes it takes more confidence and experience to walk away from a mountain than to climb it.