Cortina - As the Years Fade

It’s easy to forget what came before us. The past and its events blend into time, as do the seemingly endless seasons of each passing year. Those who existed decades before only remain in the ideas passed on through generations. There are, however, communities that value the preservation of history through culture, allowing the remembrance of those who came before to inspire their successors.

Cortina d’Ampezzo, the largest valley in the eastern Italian Dolomites, exemplifies such a notion of connectedness. As I travel back each year to my father’s home town, the bonds within the climbing community always strike me as ones of past and present, in which different generations come together through their shared relationship with the mountains. The young look towards the achievements of their predecessors—their fathers, mothers, grandparents and friends—for the motivation to continue a commitment to the giant features that surround the valley.

Although the climbers have followed the evolution of the sport, there remains a priority to explore the mountains as their relatives once did. Repetitions of old routes are considered rites of passage and first ascents are sought out amongst the sea of breaks and striking conformations. Such uniform pledges have led to everlasting experiences between the generations, allowing the achievements and ideas of those who paved the way to remain.

As I find myself following the paths of my predecessors, I’m led to wonder what it was like for those who were up there first. I often contemplate the difference in perception that each period in time created. When repeating my grandfather’s routes, I can’t help but imagine what it must have felt like seventy years before to be in such an isolating space. I worry that this curiosity for what came before will be lost as climbing continues to grow. But as the years fade, and I’m reminded of the way in which climbing connects us, I’m confident that such curiosity will remain.

Climber and student based in the Bay Area and Cortina