I don’t know exactly when it happened. One day I just woke up completely in love with Mount Pelmo. Maybe it’s because of the isolation - this giant mass of rock, standing alone, isolated from other peaks.

I’ve always chased this sense of aloneness. Or maybe because of it’s inherent divinity. El Caregon del Padreterno: ‘God’s Throne’, they call it, because it’s natural shape and curvature is like that of a giant chair. Ready for whoever it is who rules the skies to take a seat and do just that… rule. It’s always seemed to be something quite celestial to me, something divine that I should respect.

Photo courtesy of dolomitiunesco.it

Mount Pelmo stands 3168 metres tall and is one of the most significant mountains of the Dolomites in North Eastern Italy. The first time I summited the mountain I had all things in my favour. The weather was great and my tour guide was the best I could have asked for: my own dad!  

That morning we woke up really early in order to secure our spot on the top of the mountain before the clouds could. We were the only ones climbing at that hour, which added to the awe and adrenaline of the experience. Everything was flowing naturally for us, we had set a good pace, we were both in high spirits, and I was ready to challenge myself. My fear of heights and trepidation in climbing such a tall and lonely mountain was quietened by our steady pace and my dad’s warm support.

The approach to the top was long, it felt as if we were walking an eternal road. A road that led to Rifugio Venezia, located at the foot of the mountain. This was just the beginning, and had already felt like a long journey. We stopped for a short while to drink a warm coffee, admire the beauty of the surroundings, and prepare ourselves for the true ascent.

From here we continue to climb up to the left towards the rocks reaching the base of the Ball ledge. My nerves had started to kick in here as I knew that in just a short time we would be passing through the famous Passo del Gatto, considered to be the most difficult section of the climb. During this part of the ascent you have to climb on all fours in order to overcome rocks that jut out. It is a grade II climb, and one that I had never done before. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do it, but thankfully my dad had brought a rope with him in case he needed to fastened me in. The feeling of making it through this challenging climb was unbeatable. It was truly rewarding, just me, my dad, and a huge lonely rock.

After this section the ledge becomes much more accessible even though it is constantly exposed from there to the top of the mountain. The track is long, with many grade I and grade II components, but the views along the way are spectacular.

I was feeling good, keeping stride with my dad and taking in the beauty of my surroundings. But along with the beauty of being this high up came the nausea and shortness of breath. I naively assumed that I wouldn’t be affected by the altitude, but evidently I was wrong. My head was spinning, I had a hard time breathing and my stomach seemed to be making leaps and bounds even when I wasn’t moving. I worried that this might be the end of the adventure for me, but thankfully I was able to sit, rest and eat a small snack to keep me grounded. After not too long and some encouraging words from my dad I was ready to continue. When we arrived just under the top of the mountain we discovered that there was still some snow. A funny sight to see in the middle of July, which reminded me just how high we actually had climbed.

At last we had reached the very peak of Mount Pelmo. Emotions were high! I was happy, yet exhausted. Amazed at the beauty of my surroundings, and humbled by just how small I was in comparison to this massive lonely mountain. It brought me to tears to know that I had achieved a huge goal that I never thought I’d be able to do. Reaching the top of Mount Pelmo, and being there alone with my dad, made me feel as though we had just experienced something secret and sacred. An experience made just for the two of us. As if no one and nothing else existed.

Since that day I have continued to climb many mountains. The emotional payback of reaching the top of different peaks is really unbeatable. I feel strong, I feel inspired, I feel alive. There is a saying that I like to tell myself that has been a motto for me since climbing Mount Pelmo : ‘The spirit of the mountain is inside each one of us. All we have to do is wake it up!’