Sometimes falling can save your life, Danny part 1
Everything went round and round climbing, and I was doomed to death as I was practicing it.
Now that I am able to analyse things with clear thinking, I can say my passion was born when I was at school. I have a clear memory: I am in front of the blackboard, the teacher asks me something I don’t know, I look at my classmates and see 40 eyes staring at me like saying you are a real moron if you don’t know the answer. I look at the teacher, and she is thinking the same. Back home, my mum had a meeting with the teacher – I’ve always loved my mum very much – and she gives me the same answer. I end up the school crestfallen, sure to be an idiot.
After the military service, I put my hands on the rocks for the first time and I discover the mountain. In astonishment, I realise there is something I am able to do, and well enough. I’m not that bad in climbing. Each route I climb it’s a sort of revenge towards those who don’t trust me, me in the first place. I can say I’m a climber. I don’t usually go to high altitude (6500 mt at most), I prefer the vertical rocks of Patagonia and Australia rather than the long Alpine progression.
My mates and I are out 6-8 months a year, we scrape by sponsorship, special theme nights or as mountain guides. I live this way, risking life and limb lots of times from 20 to 38 years old. Each ascent could be my last one, until one day, I fall down.
I was canyoning in Ledro Valley when I fell down, it was 1998. I remember that after having come out from the low water I had fallen into, and having swum towards the shore, more than the pain I felt strange looking at my foot and hearing the noise of the ankle bones, literally exploded in the impact.
I spent six months in the hospital, I underwent six surgeries to the foot and the doctors said I couldn’t climb anymore. Moreover, they said I should have blocked the ankle with a screw to prevent from moving and not feel the pain anymore. But I refused. Although I don’t have any cartilage left, the tibial plateau is damaged and really hurts a lot, that residual feature enables me to skiing, at least.
I had to quickly cope with this big change. What I missed the most was running and climbing, I had spent 15 years doing the same thing and suddenly it wasn’t there anymore, or rather it was out of my reach forever. It wasn’t easy, I struggled to admit it, also to myself: at the beginning, I answered I was fine to those who were asking, but then a friend of mine called me aside and asked: Do you miss climbing, Danny? I bursted out in tears.
After the accident I collapsed once again, inside myself. I had broken my body, but firstly my mind. Until that moment, my life was only about climbing, extreme and thoughtless climbing.
When I couldn’t find a mate, or just when I liked, I climbed untied along those routes I needed the rope to climb down. Messner climbed in this way as well, with a rope on his shoulders as a psychological help.
Once I climbed a more difficult route, I passed over a group of people resting before the crux and I noticed they were staring at me, shocked because I was climbing up untied. At the most difficult transition I got scared, started to tremble and cried: Bepi! Watch out, I’m falling down! I was calling an imaginary friend. I thought about the other climbers looking at the scene and thinking I was crazy. I was ready to run the risk to satisfy my ego, what an idiot!
I lived on physicality, there weren’t mountains or ascents I was scared of, I was completely out of control. And I wasn’t alone. In the circle of people I hung out with, all climbers, every year we went to someone’s funeral. My ego was crucial: being in the newspaper, knowing you were the first one to open the new route… it wasn’t about searching for the limit, a personal challenge, but rather about feeding my ego and getting the accolade from the outer world. I was wondering: Why am I here? For fun? Not at all, because by doing so I can win some prizes, I’ll be in the news in the US and so on.
Danny Zampiccoli was the manager of the Damiano Chiesa mountain hut on Mount Altissimo for 17 years. It is one of the most beloved destinations for hikers and bikers who spend time in Garda Trentino, and is also the last leg of the Top Loop Garda Trek at altitude.
His smashing nature, his congeniality and his unique hospitality has turned the hut into a point of reference for all the mountain lovers, as well as for those people who want to spend some nights at altitude and in good company.
Since this year, Danny won’t be the host on the top of Mount Altissimo anymore, but the young Eleonora Orlandi is taking over from him, and we wish her good luck for this new adventure.
To Danny, a big thank you for the great job done in these years, and the wish to find some new challenges and pleasure.