Published on 26/05/2020
The period we have just lived (or rather not lived) will probably be remembered in history books like the Great Wars. It could look as a clash, comparing the black and white images of the European cities razed to the ground with those of the video conferences lying on the sofa at home.
Beyond everything, it is undeniable that this virus, in addition to the serious health damage, has left an even deeper mark on the economy and on people's consciences.
Personally, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a very peaceful confinement, spending a lot of time playing in the garden with my children. Precisely from that garden I had the opportunity to follow the evolution of conditions on Mont Blanc from afar.
It should also be noted that 80% of my mountaineering arises from what I can see looking out from the balcony of my home, or from the top of my 2/3 usual training trips. The other 20% is the result of confrontation with friends, or of the very sad looting of other people's ideas.
Among what my backyard has to offer, the Brenva Spur is the first line that my gaze catches from the window every morning, while I wait for the coffee to come up.
The descent itself has many "flaws": it does not start from the top of a mountain, nor does it go directly to the valley and is not even particularly steep or difficult.
The late conditions and the complicated logistics easily rejected the few unrealistic attempts that I had tried to throw there over the years, without a real conviction.
But the line itself is the quintessence of aesthetics: a spur suspended in the void that magically materializes in the midst of the chaos of the seracs of the wildest area of the entire Mont Blanc massif.
For 50 days I peered with every kind of light every little change of the snow that laboriously tried to attach itself to the blue ice still present in the upper part. For 50 days I developed the unstoppable desire, precisely because it is temporarily impossible to ski in the heart of Mont Blanc.
But 50 days, however long they may seem, pass very quickly and suddenly the impossible part of the dream I had cultivated is canceled by a piece of stamped paper signed by the Prime Minister.
Until that fateful Monday, I had postponed every thought about tomorrow, committing myself to live as well as possible today so paradoxical and superficially taking it for granted that when that tomorrow would arrive, my motivation would have taken over and everything would have returned to normal. Provided that it can be considered "normal" to leave home at two in the morning to drag yourself on top of a mountain on skis.
And so it was that when Prime Minster Conte decreed the return to a pseudo masked reality, I suddenly realized that nothing inside me was like before anymore. I could not find a single reason to leave the house in which they had locked me up, to return to those places that previously made me feel "at home".
Yet despite all that pandemonium, the mountains hadn't moved an inch. Everything was still exactly in place. The question was therefore quite simple: stay in the brain lockdown, getting pulled to the bottom of the hole of sadness in which the media convinced us that the whole world had collapsed, or trudge back to the top of a mountain to see the true reality from where the sky meets the snow?
The answer, however obvious, was not easy to implement. The lack of conviction made my backpack heavier than the very poor shape already made it seem. Although each ascent was longer than normal, the summit was gradually closer, and the Spur was so white and inviting enough to make it seem absurd that it was still there waiting for me to move.
In other times, it certainly would not have waited so long.
Although belatedly, the day the alarm rings at 1 has somehow arrived. I already knew that it wasn't the right one yet, but I deluded myself that drinking a coffee and jumping in the car I would forget it.
And instead when I put my backpack on my shoulder, the night was too dark, the climb too long, the shape too little, the conditions too dubious and the return to a warm bed too inviting to be ignored.
The challenge was undoubtedly beyond my current possibilities to be faced alone. I needed a person who carried part of my insecurities on his shoulders.
And the work logistics due to the Covid, has meant that one of the two people in the world that I would have liked to have had a long and dark night of skiing in the mountains with was in the area. And it is no coincidence that these two people are Manfred and Robert, two of the strongest ski mountaineers in history.
With Manfred Reichegger of the game, I really had no more excuses.
The traumatic moment of putting the backpack on my shoulder was completely forgotten, also because Manni as usual was ready, or rather, had already started. And if I hadn't reached him right away, I would have found myself going on a lonely trip again.
As I had strongly hoped, with such a strong partner the issue, which before was more than anything else, a mental battle has taken place on the physical-technical level, where even without form, I can still count on automatisms and experience gained in tens of years of practice.
Once the dramas of the psyche were quickly archived, everything went as it should. We left La Palud at 2 am, in an hour we reached the Pavillon, where we put our skis on. At half past four we left the German Couloir to reach in just under an hour the col at the top of the slope that leads from Combe Maudite to Kuffner Ridge.
By 6am and a few minutes we had already passed the Gussfeld terminal. It took another half hour to set foot on the spur ridge.
At that point, we forced ourselves to drop the pace strongly, to try in vain to give some extra time in the sun to warm the hard snow of the last section.
Even trying to slow down, willy-nilly at 7:20 we were on top of the spur.
Once we realized that it would take too long to ski on soft snow, we opted to start the descent anyway. The conditions have not proved so bad, at least for me that I could count on an 85 Alp Movement under the foot. My comrade from South Tyrol was less happy, who hadn't felt like giving up the pro-racing attitude that has accompanied him all his life.
Once we left the spur, the beautiful soft pressed snow still present in the steep slide of the Gussfeld and an excellent spring snow on the slope leading back to the Combe awaited us.
Faithful to the rule that there is no two without three, we still walk confidently towards the shoulder of the Aiguille d'Êntreves, to better close this incredible outing and perhaps also to put a worthy end to this incomplete ski season, but this is perhaps soon to say it ...
During the night, however, we had not noticed that the entire slope had been blown away by a colossal avalanche, possibly dating back to the beginning of the week. However, what remained was the best option to ski to bring us back to the valley and in reality it did not turn out to be too bad.
At the Pavillon we were touched for a moment by nostalgia for the Skyway cablecar, but it was only a small moment of weakness. After eight hours out and about, the problem is certainly not half an hour more walking.
As usual, the return to the valley does not escape the rule of also being the moment of return to real problems. The Covid is still there, like the socio-economic disaster it has generated. As always, going to the mountains was tiring, useless and dangerous. But as usual it served to show us the reality from the right point of view, without it being filtered by others first and proposed again from the screen of a mobile phone.
Now my quarantine is really over, who knows if the ski season in the mountains really is finished too ...
Ascent 3412 m
Distance 23.85 km
Journey time 8h 30 '
Crampons: Ski Tour
Grivel Marmolada 28L backpack
Ski: movement Alp Track 85
Binding: Atk Trophy
Boot: Alien RS
Denis Trento born in 1982 in Aosta.
He has been part of the Grivel Team since 2009.
Alpine Guide passionate about mountain skiing, with a recent past in high level competitive ski mountaineering.
Favorite products: Mistral harness, ice axe Ghost, ski tour, Scream kit.