3rd Stage of La Carovana dei Ghiacciai
By the time the last chapter of our logbook is published, “La Carovana dei Ghiacciai” – Legambiente’s touring campaign – will have been over for two days.
It’s been a long journey, packed with miles, endless shooting, gigabytes of memory taken up by photos, but what has filled up this month the most has been all the reflections, insights, and relationships.
Through the eyes of David (EPHOTO photographer, media partner of the caravan) we have captured the hikes, surveys, denunciations, musical storytelling, encounters, but above all the suffering inflicted on our natural landscapes.
The disappearing ice on our peaks is indeed the most vivid memory that we will take home from this trip.
26 AUGUST 2022
The day started before dawn.
David gets behind the wheel heading toward Milan.
Today is press conference day, and since it is the Lombard leg, EPHOTO is hosting the Legambiente team at its headquarters, Superstudio 13, to kick off this concluding moment of the third leg.
We set off with the final arrangements, in the background our latest jazz playlist and a desire to finally meet up for a hug and a chat about this important experience.
After arranging the finishing touches – the flags symbolizing both the caravan and Legambiente – the conference begins.
The data is so compelling, not to mention the images captured by David.
Forni Glacier, a former Himalayan glacier and the star of these last three days, is honored before departing for leg number four.
Departure about 3:30 pm.
In the camper, we find Ilenia and Francesca along with David.
The trip in their company, amid chatter, music and laughter passes by very quickly, despite the length of the journey.
Arrival: around 11:30 pm.
Saying goodbye to Ilenia and Francesca, David sets off for the Fedaia refuge, the starting place for next day’s hike.
Not-such-a-FUN-FACT: On the way he meets three fearless deer crossing the road oblivious to the danger.
It is now about 2:00 a.m.
4th STAGE: MARMOLADA GLACIER
Marmolada: let’s take a step back.
27 AUGUST 2022
The alarm clock goes off at 7:30 a.m.
“I get up and my gaze at long last falls on the Marmolada,” says David, “a fascinating, aesthetically impressive mountain.”
About 8:00 a.m.
The first people arrive who will set out on this stage’s hike.
Coffee and pastries, as usual, and up we go to the first refuge.
The day is structured into several “stations” where various glaciology experts and professors from the University of Padua describe the glacier and speak about the exploitation and fate of our mountains.
“The Marmolada was definitely the hike I enjoyed the most,” David confesses to us, “the pace of the caravan was slower and it gave me a chance to enjoy the scenery and think carefully about my shots.”
I arrive at the fifth and final location of the hike.
Before long, the weather totally changes, so much so that the entire view is covered with fog in less than 5 minutes.
The caravan prepares their backpacks and hurriedly begins to descend down the valley. Unfortunately, however, the rain catches up.
“Communication at this particular stage was very unusual.
We were not able to climb the Marmolada. The mountain is closed for rescue and search operations since the accident earlier this year.
The wording of the various talks was thoughtful and carefully considered to convey a clear and precise message, without leaving out the tragedy but also without dwelling on it more than necessary.
It was something different as well as interesting, trying to tell the story of Marmolada from afar by taking a step back,” David tells us.
On the second day of the hike the route is more or less the same, with only the people and activities changing.
While on the first day David focused on the landscapes and glacier footage, the second day he chose to place his attention on the caravan and the interventions/flash mobs.
The fourth stage is almost over, with the customary stage-closing press conference set for the next day.
David turns his attention to editing the video, in which key issues like mountain use and the need to rethink mountains as a tool for education emerge, alongside the hike itself and the history of the glacier.
“Personally, I had never really paused to think about how we are destroying our mountains through building facilities and exploitation. Only in recent days am I really realizing the need to drastically change our habits and the need to let go of a speculative outlook on this environment,” says David.
Wake up about 8:00 a.m.
We set off in the direction of Padua. Joining David in the camper are Ilenia and Francesca.
Leaving the valley, the route takes them to the Fedaia Pass, one of the worst in the Dolomites for brakes.
The camper started to lose control on the downhill slope: the brakes overheated and stopped working. After a pause and a long wait for the temperature to change, the brakes recover and we are off again.
Arrival in Padua by about 3 p.m.
As planned at 4 p.m., the visit to the geography museum begins, followed by a scientific aperitif.
The final press conference will also be held at the geography museum the following day, a very important date for the press given situation at the Marmolada.
5th STAGE: MONTASIO GLACIER
The glacier that holds out
About 3:30 p.m. Departure from Padua towards Malborghetto.
“During the car ride, I got emotional looking at the Friulian mountains.
This was perhaps the stage I was most looking forward to.”
We arrive in Malborghetto for dinner time, where we meet Valter, chairman of the glaciological committee and lecturer at Milan-Bicocca University.
Since we have about 1,000 meters of elevation difference ahead of us the next day, we go to bed early.
Wake up 6:30 a.m., departure from Malborghetto 7:15 a.m.
A 50-minute ride to the starting refuge – the scenery along the way takes our breath away.
We expected a lot of people but there are significantly more.
We are a group of approximately 50 people.
An initial introductory talk and we set off for the glacier.
The path in the forest is narrow and slippery, and wandering back and forth to shoot is quite tricky.
After about 3 hours of walking, we arrive below the glacier. This is theoretically one of the few glaciers that has not lost glacial mass. The sheltered location, northern exposure and snow avalanches have protected it over the years.
The deficit of Montasio is that nearly the entirety of the glacier is covered with debris; the visible portion of ice is, in fact, relatively little.
Capturing with photography what Vanda and the committee had explained was not the easiest task.
David interviews Vanda and simultaneously the musician begins his tribute to the glacier on the accordion, which everyone enjoys.
After the homage to the glacier was over, I continue the interviews with Nives Meroi and her husband Romano Benet, Legambiente testimonials and mountaineers who have climbed the 8000-meter peaks.
Finally a few of us remain on the glacier and we are able to enjoy the silence of this mountain for a few moments.
It starts to get cold, we go down into the valley.
A beautiful and interesting day, but also very tiring.
Last day of the caravan and sentimentality begins to creep in.
It has been 20 days now since we started this adventure. The sight of these slopes immediately distanced David from the rest of the world.
“I have met people who respect the power of these creations by studying them and getting to know them. Without ever presuming to be able to understand them down to the core.
Feeling at home in distant lands already.
Listening to their breath, their cry. The sound of crashing and rumbling on their slopes as if they were crying real tears.
Walking on ice age moraines. Feeling the weight of time.
Feeling the responsibility to give them credit, to tell their story and pay homage as they have done to us and as they still continue to do, fighting with all their might against an enemy greater than themselves.
The glaciers are sending out a cry for help, each in its own way, and the chance to be able to be a witness and act as a spokesperson for this cry makes me very proud.
Arriving in front of these ice giants with bated breath and tired legs. Taking a breath, looking up and feeling as alive as they are.”
David, one of the highlights?
“There have been many encounters that have left me feeling energized and enriched.
The musical performances in the mountains were very moving.
Intimate non-verbal narratives that made the souls of everyone present vibrate. Foundational activities of
“La Carovana dei Ghiacciai”, where the mountains are described by experts scientifically and interpreted artistically by guest musicians.
The first musician I met during the campaign, Martin Mayes, is an outstanding artist and an artist with extraordinary sensibilities.
The saxophonist’s music that greeted and paid homage to the Marmolada was no different: improvising and experimenting at the mere sight of the queen of glaciers.
Last artist, Paolo Forte, who before Montasio gave us his interpretation of the shy glacier that hides in the mountains for protection.”
What about any stories?
“I’ll tell you a couple that you might be interested in.
On the Marmolada, I stopped to sleep at the Fedaia Pass. Arriving late at night, I parked next to a 1960s-style camper. One of those vehicles that when you see it on the road you think you’ve stepped out of a movie from the past.
In the morning as soon as I woke up, I met the owners. Two elderly people in their 80s who love the mountains. They had met years and years earlier on the very slopes of Marmolada, which solidifies their relationship year by year as they return to enjoy that view together.
Another peculiar encounter was the first hotel in Val Veny, it seemed like something from a Wim Wenders film. The hotel staff looked like something out of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Right away you realize that this place has a special kind of soul and spirituality.
It is not the hotel itself that exudes this, but the people with their experiences and stories.
The owner, a nostalgic mountaineer, who upon returning from hiking wanted to see all the photos and videos of the glacier he had known for 40 years and on which he had not been back for years.
During the last dinner of that stage, we began chatting with the cook. He was fully up-to-date on our movements and initiatives. The talk turns to his life and he tells us that the hotel belongs to his parents.
It’s open for only two months of the year, and he is not a cook by profession but works in Rome at the Sacra Rota tribunal.
Not to be outdone were the other employees: two foreign girls who had come to the hotel for the summer season. They did not speak Italian but every time you met their gaze they smiled. They managed to navigate the space in total silence.
Last but not least were the hotel guests. Elderly holidaymakers who struggled to move from the TV room to the little table under the porch. They would play cards or sing folk songs accompanied by a melodica.”
Memories you will take home with you?
“I will take home with me this formative experience, a chance for personal growth on several fronts. Work-wise it was very interesting. Being able to recount a glacier in a dynamic way without falling into the mundane, being able to show the critical issues but without filming or recounting only the problematic side. Finding a meeting point in my approach to storytelling between journalism and the aesthetics of these places was the personal challenge that defined this traveling campaign.”