It’s been exactly two years since the last time I was in South Tyrol. That hiking trip I kept postponing was long past due. Here at last, I was immediately overwhelmed by the breath-taking landscape, the glorious autumnal colours and atmosphere, and the irresistible Italian charm of the region. And I ask myself, why did I wait so long?
After the last trip, I knew that I definitely wanted to return, and soon!, so I was even more chuffed to receive an invitation from Gore-Tex to the 10-year anniversary celebrations of their International Mountain Summit (IMS) in Brixen, Italy.
The IMS festival is the ultimate encapsulation of their pledge “Meet.Mountain.People.Soul.” and, simply put, was about everything to do with the topic of mountaineering, and included seminars, discussions, masterclasses, hikes and workshops. Visitors were presented with a full program over two days, with speakers from the various different fields on hand daily at the Forum Brixen and out on the mountain, sharing their knowledge and experience.
My introduction to IMS turned out to be a both entertaining and exciting evening. Gela Allmann, a professional sportsperson and model, gave a gripping talk about her 800m fall in Iceland, and how she overcame her injuries and the pessimistic prognoses from her doctors, to begin from nothing, not only learning to walk again, but rediscovering her self-confidence after such a tragedy. With her motto “Fight-Smile-Love”, her talk was not only extremely uplifting and a positive energy boost, but also a touching love letter to life and everything we can achieve if we have the willpower.
So I was fully energised going into the next presentation by Robert Jasper, an extreme climber with a difference. Robert told us about how he discovered his passion for climbing as a young boy accompanied by some very funny photos from his archive, before presenting a montage of his latest expedition, to Greenland in Summer 2018, where he undertook a first ascent, alone, over 28 days. And as if that wasn’t dangerous or adventurous enough, he also kayaked to what was to be his basecamp, with 90kg of equipment, also alone, of course. And he photographed and filmed the whole journey himself, which only upped the already immense time and effort. Unbelievable, what a single person can achieve.
I was lucky enough to be in the same hotel as Robert, and ambushed him at breakfast the next day with detailed questions about his trip. An absolutely fascinating, sincere and down-to-earth guy, who has left a deep and lasting impression on me.
On the following day was the event that I had been secretly looking forward to the most: the IMS Walk Day. On the program was a hike to Latzfonser Kreuz with views of the Kassianspitz (2 581m) with mountain climber Tamara Lunger, alpinist Beat Kammerlander and Robert Jasper. A good opportunity to get my rusty joints moving again and also test some Gore-Tex products, specifically hiking boots and a rain jacket. Luckily, it didn’t rain that day, and I could “only” test the jacket’s excellent wind protection and breathability at 2 300m altitude. Instead, the day shone in its full autumnal splendour and the views of the Dolomites was reward aplenty for the effort of the climb.
Tamara, Beat and Robert held question-and-answers at various point along the route, and the time pass quickly. The day, which was also the last of the trip, also offered good opportunities to get to know our fellow hikers.
Exhausted but also ecstatic, we returned to Brixen for the final night of the IMS. The very likeable Tamara Lunger, who I was lucky enough to have met during the day’s hike, opened the evening program with an interview and presented a slide show of pictures from the highs and lows of her alpine career. Very impressive that one can talk so freely not only about one’s achievements, but also one’s defeats, failed expeditions and aborted summit climbs. I realised then, maybe it’s a sign of a great sportsperson, having a healthy relationship with one’s own failures.
The following day, I couldn’t deny a certain melancholy on the return journey. Luckily, on the train, I could enjoy the beautiful South Tyrol landscape just a little longer. I’m taking home with me not only the wonderful impressions of the landscape, but also the many small encouragements that I took from the talks and presentations. Believe in yourself and your strengths and anything is possible.
With this optimism I leave, with a heavy heart, the most fascinating region of the Alps, and resolve not to let so much time pass again before my next visit. South Tyrol, be seeing you!
Photos by Pascal Rohé