I would love to write that ΛLPINHEΛRT was about cold, snow and happy mountains; in a word: winter. Unfortunately, this would be a mystifying illusion.

I am quite sure winter no longer exists in our latitudes and is about to become a mere faded image of what it was in the past. Mild weather, drought, snow which melts too quickly.

ΛLPINHEΛRT was born from the desire to travel along the Alps with my sled dogs searching for what is left of these mountains’ true spirit.

The mountains welcomed us as the nature always does, in contrast with civilized humans who often seem to forget the value of hospitality.

ΛLPINHEΛRT was an encounter with the mountain itself and with those who have been able to draw benefits and lessons from it. The people I met have an authentic connection with the highlands: I talked about the sense of exploration with Alex Bellini and Michele Pontrandolfo (explorers), and the role of nature in imagination and creativity with Livio Ceschin (artist). I went along a trail with Dario Valsesia, a great bicycle traveler with a visceral love for adventures in cold and isolated landscapes. I met Alessandra and Erik of the Oak Church Ranch, who get inspired by the mountains to create their educational project far from rules and logics of an oppressive social system. The encounter becomes enrichment, growth and exchange of points of view. It helps reshaping personal cornerstones. In a period of history where the joy of the encounter is fading just like the snow in the alpine winter, the encounter represents a fundamental resource for the development of consciousness.

The dogs were my travel companions, faithful friends, always proud and safe, even when the snow was scarse leaving only the bare ground under the sled. Our Alps are undergoing a process of adaptation and readjustment. Practicing my idea of mushing and exploration here is more like a paleontological activity with the difference that there is no glorious past emerging from the dissolving snow, but only an uncertain future of massive changes.

The few nights spent in the tent during ΛLPINHEΛRT made me think about our domesticated lives laden with excess. We chase an evanescent happiness based on the superfluous without realizing that contentment lies in the awareness that “less is better”. The mountain can be a powerful symbol of all this: the effort and pleasure to walk up the slopes just for the sake of being there. That is also the meaning I give to my explorations: I like to be in a place for the true joy that my spirit and body feel in being right there. The mountains are exactly as they should be and have everything they need to be what they are: why don’t we learn from them?

Instead, we come up with any sort of attractions to make them ‘suitable’ for tourism (being it sustainable or not). Institutions and associations of any kind are planning to reinvent the tourist experience in the mountains according to a more sustainable economy. Don’t you realize how bad and dangerous this approach is? A land must provide ‘democratic’ and ‘sustainable’ attractions: a huge mistake, especially if suggested by individuals whose only relationship with the nature is based on divertissement (having fun).

ΛLPINHEΛRT taught me that the highlands are beautiful in themselves, they must be discovered, reached and even left there inaccessible. Civilization aims to exploit and imprison alpine wilderness in the name of “green economy”, but this is another story. ΛLPINHEΛRT is about the beauty of the mountain. An authentic, spontaneous, no-frills beauty. A beauty that penetrates the gaze of attentive souls. The mountain is beautiful, vast, immense even in its infinitesimally small nature; it embraces you and cradles you under the winter mantle. It is somehow reassuring.

The mountains are already changing and adapting to all the bad actions Civilization has been inflicting them. Their inhabitants are there vigilant, sentinels: plants, stones, animals and human beings.

Get out of the cities and let yourself be invaded by the spirit of the mountains.

Why don’t we understand? Why have we ended up being so physically and emotionally detached from beauty? We even struggle to realize the damage we cause to that beauty whilst we obsessively try to recreate it!

Yet, the mountains will adapt on their own and will continue to be thriving and rich lands. The mountain is the very essence of the immutability of existence: everything changes so that nothing changes, but everything vanishes in the impermanence of things.

During this winter journey developed in chapters – that I have also tried to represent with watercolors – I figured out that mountains are claiming their freedom and are not willing to become a playground for human activities. The mountains just want to be…mountains.

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