Alpine Restoration

A simple reminder of the power of walking in wild spaces for both mind and soul

Feature type Story

Read time 10 min read

Published Nov 09, 2020

Photographer Francesco Guerra

Francesco Guerra
Francesco Guerra Adventure-driven outdoor photographer, born and raised in a Southern Italy city, Francesco discovered the mountains and the outdoor life only in his 20s, making his thirst for the outdoors and adventures unquenchable.

An overnight in the Majella National Park

Story | Francesco Guerra Photography | Francesco Guerra & Luca Scarparo

© Francesco Guerra

The first rays of sun fill the sky with beautiful warm hues, the rocks around us a vivid orange. It’s 7 am. We’ve just left our car behind us, walking towards the staggering gorges that tower ahead of us. In awe, we feel small in this place moulded by the strength of nature over thousands of years. Passing by the ruins of a medieval abbey we wonder how wild the surroundings must have appeared to the monks who built and lived there.

Autumn in the Majella National Park is in full swing. The air is crisp, an ice layer covers many plants on the path and the colours of the forest we are traversing are on fire. The nature here is alive, and its living creatures are the ones who rule over this National Park. We pass by a half-eaten carcass of a boar. Luca is certain it was the job of a pack of wolves and he shows me the distinctive signs of how they’ve been feeding. Luca is extremely passionate about wolves, and has been studying them for some time. No doubt they’ll be back to finish off what remains.

© Francesco Guerra

© Francesco Guerra

We can almost feel their prying eyes watching us through the thick beech forest. We are safe though. In the past, here humans have killed so many creatures that the wolves have an instinctive fear for man. That notion makes me sad.

After three hours, we finally walk to the edge of the forest. The landscape changes dramatically. The lush autumn forest gives way to a barren and wide open field covered with short grass and rock, covered in patchy glimmers of snow. Above us, on the peaks of the mountains we now can clearly see a thicker layer of snow. Our excitement grows along with our fatigue.

Our bulky backpacks are heavy for the overnight we plan to spend on top of Mount Amaro. At 2793 meters, this mountain is the second highest of all the Appennines Range. The path we chose, from the San Martino Gorges, is considered by some hikers to be one of the most difficult of all Italy: 15 km long with a 2400 meters of altitude gain and as the snow thickens we grapple with exhaustion step after step.

© Francesco Guerra

© Francesco Guerra

© Francesco Guerra

We make our way first to the Rifugio Manzini, a free hut in the centre of the moraine we are traversing. Here we rest for a moment, restoring from the accumulative fatigue. With a final push, pointing straight to the summit instead of taking the signed path, we arrive just before sunset on Mount Amaro, after a 9 hour hike.

Inside the Pelino bivouac we cook our de-hydrated rice which at that moment feels like its worthy of a Michelin star.

Our bellies full, we step outside. Everything stands still. Not a gust of wind, not a single noise. We stay put, admiring the surrounding landscape, recharging our souls with awe. We put our cameras down, gazing at the vivid colours as if we’re in the throes of Stendhal’s syndrome.

Our legs beg to stop our minds though are at peace.

© Francesco Guerra

© Francesco Guerra

© Francesco Guerra

The morning light shines through the small porthole and everything inside the bivouac is red. After a quick breakfast, we start the long path back, blessed with another sunny, windless day.

Six hours later, we are at the trailhead, restoring our tired bodies in a super cold fountain. Our journey has ended, our legs beg to stop our minds though are at peace.

The simple act of walking in wild spaces, surrounding ourselves with beauty, we’re reminded, can be such a powerful healer for both mind and soul.

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