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Fra Indi Dog Sledding: Alba Imago 2021

ALBA IMAGO 2021: Exploring a White Dream

In the span of ten days of self-sufficiency, in an area ranging between 1800-2100 meters of altitude in the Eastern Alps, I got to know and, above all, learned to respect those majestic mountains. Thorough preparation for these experiences is important: training sessions on dry land and snow, learning reactions to unforeseen events as well as material and equipment testing. In every exploration, the mental factor is fundamental: both for the dogs and for myself, it is an aspect that I try to take care of a lot.

The weather forecast for the first few days was not particularly favourable: strong wind, heavy snowfall and cold temperatures were our traveling companions. Waking up to find the tent and the sled covered by snow and any sign of tracks or possible paths vanished underneath tens of centimetres of fresh snow was becoming a habit. Day after day, the temperatures dropped from -10°C to -23°C (the latter was recorded on three nights/mornings), just as the bad weather subsided, making way for clear and sunny days. 

From a technical point of view, it was a chance to put into practice what I had learned and understand how my equipment and preparation could be improved. In order to embrace and overcome the various challenges, which range well beyond climatic ones, we are pushed to humbly listen to one another – people, animals and elements of nature alike. Carefully preparing meals with a stove to melt the snow and heat up croquettes and dehydrated food soon became a secularly sacred ritual. The tent – our modern Jaranga – was our shelter: as I wrote in my notebook, the dogs lay beside me and wanted to be cuddled every now and then.

I do not know how many kilometres we covered exactly, but what I can say is that the difference in altitude was remarkable. Every day as we travelled, we ascended and descended hundreds of meters within just a few kilometres. The days we spent at high altitude in the heart of the white mountains were surely the most meaningful. Those were the days in which I reflected on the physical and psychological challenges to reach those peaks despite the high snow and the toboggan which weighed 100 kg. The journey was cathartic as we moved from the abyss, with a visibility of less than a few dozen metres, to the light of day shining through our tent at dawn. 

Symbolically, as I have said since the announcement of this experience, this exploration can be characterised by hope. The troubles in our daily lives should always be faced with firmness, serenity and clear-sightedness. The hope for a dream or a project to be fulfilled is what “alba imago” (white image/dream) is all about and is what must continue to illuminate our horizons. Through the darkness of the difficult times we are living through, these lights project the flame of our spirit towards vertical ascending lines and must give us the strength to go on; just like the image of the mountain peaks which, though invisible, we perceived to be in front of us and gave us the impetus to persevere, despite the difficulties of the first few days. On the summit, the wonderful gift of sunrise offered an emotional warmth in those cold days.

Adi, my little but tenacious leader, never gave up and kept alive the desire to run, typical of sled dogs, in all the members of my small pack. Tulku, Adi’s brother, animated every single kilometre with his carefree exuberance and daring efforts to keep a quick rhythm. Ciuk, who is particularly at ease in the snow, was a constant powerful ‘engine’, especially on the most challenging slopes. Indi is not my best sled dog, but he knows he is my best friend, so that in addition to his considerable physical strength, he always puts his heart into every action.

During the many evenings spent in the tent with my dogs and during the afternoon breaks, I had time to reflect on the absurd concept imposed by modern society to go beyond our limits as well as on the mountain’s relationship with a tourism that strives to be sustainable but that ends up being invasive and traumatic. The relationship between man and nature has perhaps never been as paradoxically close as it is in this century and has led humans to become a threat to the environment: I am referring to the constant insistence on seeking a connection with nature, when it would be better to disconnect from and attentively listen to it instead. We will certainly come back to talk and write more about all of this in the coming weeks.

While Alba Imago has physically come to an end, it is a symbol of something that, for me at least, has just begun. Alba Imago is in our daily lives. It represents the hope in the dreams that fuel our days, just like the light atop the magnificent white peaks of the mountains explored.

On a side note: I would like to sincerely thank a dear friend of mine for his invaluable help in carrying out this exploration. He is a person I admire, both for his work with dogs and for his qualities as a person.