Speaking through Europe (part 2, Switzerland)

When my train chugged out of the Dolomites (see previous blog) heading for Switzerland, I had no idea what awaited me. I would be speaking at several places, but beyond that, I knew only the name of my host, Giulia.

She put me up in her home and arranged my speaking gigs as well as my climbing expeditions into the valleys of the Alps of  Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. She and her family live in Bignasco, a tiny village in a narrow, deep valley. For the next 10 days, I’d get to know the people, the valleys, the rocks (for climbing)…and the goats.

Me on the wall, Giulia belaying, 5 min’s walk from her house.
Climbing in the rain…under a massive roof.

The goats… and what they produced. So good! The local cheeses and wines were all memorable!

I spoke several times, to big groups and small, and got to be ‘godmother’ at a regional youth climbing competition (I handed out the awards).

Most of the high Alpine valleys have dams (for electricity, which doesn’t exist in all of the valleys), like this one, the Verzasca Dam.

The day we went there, they were setting up for an international climbing competition, and climbers were testing the routes. I just happened to be there when Sasha DiGiulian, renowned American climber, popped up over the top!

One of the high-pasture hikes we took.

Once is not going to be enough; I’ll be back someday, to both the Dolomites and to Ticino. I owe it to myself. And I hope you get to experience them someday, too. 

Speaking through Europe (part 1, Italy)

In the fall of 2022, I had the unique experience of speaking at international climbing festivals in 3 countries of Europe. 

As I planned the trip, I knew the 3 locations would offer very different experiences. But my imagination fell far short! Here, I’ll just share a glimpse of each one, so you can share in the some of the joy of the trip.

Oltre le Vette (Beyond the Peaks) was the first festival. I had always wanted to see the Dolomites, the mountain region in northeastern Italy famous for its impressive vistas as well as for its sports — skiing, mountaineering, hiking and climbing. As a teacher of Italian many decades ago, I taught the geography of the country, but my own experience of it was very limited. This year, I finally remedied some more of that.

I arrived in the town of Belluno in the evening, after about 20 hours of travel, and the next morning I got to check off one of my lifelong dreams — they took me climbing in the Dolomites! 

Our first stop:

 The first wall we climbed, just one pitch (up & down):

The wall we climbed was on this rock formation, called le Cinque Torri (5 Towers), for the crenelation-like formations on the top:

The day after I spoke at the Festival, we drove up to one of the high passes and started climbing this:

It was a multi-pitch, meaning that instead of going up & then back down, we went up a pitch (one rope length, about 200ft), then up again, and again…. Total of 6 pitches. 

At the top, a rugged little Madonna was waiting for us. Under her feet, in a tiny drawer, we found the register, where climbers can sign in for posterity. Proof that you made it!

And from the top, incredible panoramas in 360 degrees, including this view of Cortina d’Ampezzo, former site of the winter Olympics:

General view of one little corner of the Dolomite region. It’s so extensive, it’d take a lifetime to climb all the routes!

Then we had to get back down! That turned out to be harder & more strenuous than the climbing! But we made it by (a very late) dinner-time. 🙂 

I hated to leave the Dolomites, but more speaking events were waiting for me in Switzerland. Stay tuned for the next installment….