the mountain who fell in love

Today we talk about mountains, just because we can (although we don’t deserve it), and in particular of one mountain, the Pelmo, imposing its weight on the dolomitic region with its majestic, square shoulders and its isolation from the other peaks. The people from the Cadore region have different names for this mountain: Pelego is the name you give it if you come from one side of the mountain, but on the other side, Pelf is its ladin name and no mistakes are allowed. Of course, it is no match to the more regal Antelao mountain, but its wise, elder elegance remains incomparable.

The ascension to the Pelmo is less challenging than on other dolomitic mountains, and its placid aspect can hardly ignite the lust for risk of most expert alpinists. And yet, it is often preferred to the rosy Tofane, the sharp peaks of Lavaredo, the menacing Cinque Torri. Is it because it allows us an easier grab of glory? Or because it stands tall, right in the middle of everything, so that it’s impossible to ignore its challenge?

I would like to think that alpinists are seducted by the syren chant of the legends revolving around this mountain. Caregon del Padreterno, the ‘throne of God’, that is the unofficial name of the mountain in these valleys: once God had created all the other mountains, tale tells that he made himself a big throne where to rest, the Pelmo. Is that where the aura of majesty comes from, and the reason why so many brave hikers and climbers chose to confront its authority?

King Laurin, sir of the mountain elves, the Moon Princess and the silk cloth that covers the rocks at night: countless are the tales, countless the versions, countless the times I was rocked on my mother’s knees listening to them. But there was another tale my mother used to sing to me, less majestic and less glorious than the other ones: it’s the story of when the Pelmo fell in love with the beautiful Laila from Zoldo, who did not requite his love but made him wait, and wait, and wait, until his love became strong and painful enough to cause a snowstorm. Alas, I’m pretty confident no serious alpinist would ever admit conquering the peak of the Pelmo on grounds of a romantic tale of woe. Wouldn’t they?

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