Exhibition “The Company of the Summit”

Exhibition “The Company of the Summit” (La Compagnia della Cima), Meeting Rimini, panel 1. For us, venturing into the mountains is first and foremost a discovery – of valleys, peaks, panoramas, flowers – that we haven’t created with our own hands. The entirety of reality is for us: it’s the sign of a Beauty that attracts us, amazes us, and raises questions.

These questions – as Luigi Giussani reminds us – “are the fabric of human consciousness, of human reason, and are aroused in the impact of one’s self with reality.” Our feeling is well expressed by what the mountain guide Pino Cheney told us: “It’s the mountain that attracts us, that captivates us, we don’t conquer it.”

The experience of being companions on hikes, roped together, has forged over time a true friendship and has moved us to serve, both accompanying on trips, on community holidays, groups of young people and adults as well as sharing what we have learned. As our tracks in the snow mark an ascent, so the path of this exhibition, which we invite you to undertake with us, will – we hope –  leave a trace in you.

A brief historical note: the date that marks the beginning of the Company of the Summit is June 6th, 2005, on the occasion of the ascent of Rocciamelone, a beautiful peak of 3538 metres overlooking the Val di Susa in Piedmont. It’s a significant mountain, once called Mons Romuleus, because on September 1st of the year of our Lord 1358, Bonifacio Rotario from Asti reached its summit to fulfill a vow, carrying a Marian triptych.



Moved by the attraction that reality carries within itself, we are curious to know, to experience; the mountains call us to look upward, and in front of them, we experience both amazement and the desire to climb them. With a visit to this exhibition, we will embark on a “journey” to high altitudes, to get to know the reality that is given to us and also to know ourselves, a journey that is a paradigm of life.

In this journey, we will proceed, figuratively, first on an “excursion” and then on alpine routes of rock or ice, tied by ropes to climbing companions. We will learn that “roped” we can encourage each other, help and value one another. During this journey, we will follow a “guide,” always in a creative way, with the richness of our inner selves, because we will be the ones walking the path!

Faced with the spectacle of reality, both along the journey and particularly upon reaching the goal, a silence full of surprise and wonder will impose itself within us. We will feel contentment and perhaps “emotion,” and within us, the question might blossom regarding who makes the mountains, the others, my own self, and the rope team for the summit will become “for life.”

Exhibition “The Company of the Summit”



With an emptiness of hunger within me, I walk,
Food will not fill it;
With an emptiness of space within me, I walk,
Nothing can fill it.
With a space of sadness within me, I walk,
No one will fill it.
Forever alone, forever sad, I walk,
Forever empty, forever hungry, I walk,
With sorrow of great beauty, I walk,
With emptiness of great beauty, I walk.
Now with a God, I walk,
Now my steps move between the peaks,
Now with a God, I walk,
With giant steps, beyond the hills.

WHAT DO YOU SEEK IN THE MOUNTAINS? “Beauty, because I see mountaineering as the synthesis of beauty, intuition, and the athletic gesture that concretely translates thought and action. Then there was the pursuit of happiness which would fade once the route was completed. Climbers may not realize it, but in that going up, trying to go beyond, they become light, take flight, repeat the gesture of Icarus.” Armando Aste

“THE JOURNEY THAT BEAUTY BEGINS in the heart and life of a man touched by it, pushes him, step by step towards the happiness for which he is made and to which he is tirelessly awakened by the signs that are proposed again along the way.” Enzo Arnone

“In few parts of creation is revealed as beautifully as in the high mountains the power, the majesty and the beauty of God.” Pope Pius XI (Achille Ratti was a skilled mountaineer who, in 1890, opened the Italian downhill Route on Mont Blanc.)


In the mountains you sometimes meet groups of people, more or less numerous, who proceed following a guide in order and in silence, who “struggle”. It is surprising to see these companies on the move, even more so when they are made up of young people. It is clear that their progress is rich in reasons, that there is an openness to the ultimate meaning of reality.

What Pope John Paul II said in Aosta is quite fitting: “Mountains are a challenge. Mountains provoke the human person, young people, and not only young people, to make an effort to surpass themselves. Each of us could walk along the streets, on the squares of our cities with all the comforts, and travel… but here, in the mountains, we come to face a geographical reality that surpasses us and provokes us to accept this overcoming, to overcome ourselves…

Here the mountain speaks to us of this great human problem: to overcome oneself. Here is the path, the spiritual path, the path of Christian life, the path that provokes, challenges, and invites each one of us…”

We, Company of the Summit, are not interested in performance; we want to climb the mountains together, savor every aspect of the climb, take notice of everything: from the small flower to the summit that suddenly emerges upon reaching the top. The beauty of reality attracts us, amazes both us and our friends.

Going up into the mountain the perspective changes, and at every significant bend, something previously unseen comes into view. Wonder grows, and the destination draws near, as if speaking: “I’m here for you!” As we proceed, words become few, and sometimes there is a silence full of attention to all nature that climbs towards the sky and to the people with whom we walk, in order and with a rhythmic pace.

“I remember that, after a long climb with high school students to Mont Fortin, in the Chavannes Valley, at the sight of Mont Blanc, there was a silence full of surprise and wonder (the view of the massif is only revealed at the very end, when one arrives on the ridge that opens onto Val Veny).”

On this journey, as Luigi Giussani says: “While you take steps, you must love the goal more than the steps. In the steps, you have to love something else. The step, however, does not become a momentary pretext, no, because the more you love the goal, the more you love that summit, the more you lovingly remember every protrusion of rock, every stone that you must grasp with a tight hand, every passage, every moment in which the grass overlooks the abyss, you remember everything, you love everything, every stone. You love if and to the extent that you love the goal”.

The Company of the Summit


“The absolute virginity of the place opens a scenario of attractive mystery, and once again I feel the enchantment of finding myself in a new, timeless land, where nothing changes but everything repeats itself in an eternal cycle. Here not only does the eye satisfy me, but the spirit also exults with wonder.” Walter Bonatti

“I believe that the desire for the Alps is also a demand for balance, a desire to be on equal terms with the internal height and the external altitude; this recognition gives us joy, and remains in our memory as a sign of what has been achieved, doesn’t it?”  Clemente Rebora

“The path is always a going towards something or someone, otherwise you don’t understand the goal and there is no point in setting out, because you would never arrive anywhere.” Mikel Azurmendi

 “So, the idea according to which comfort is the best way of life, well-being the only content of happiness, is not worthy of man. We must again perceive that we must demand more of our humanity, that precisely in this way the path to greater happiness is opened; that being human is like a mountain climb, with steep ascents, but only through them do we reach the summits and experience the beauty of being.”

“Mountaineering and great adventure are also affected by the crisis of values, because they are activities of the spirit; therefore, they are partly a mirror of the times we live in. The cult of exteriority, of the sensational at any cost, have made us forget that the first Pillars of Hercules to be crossed are those that exist within ourselves. That’s where every adventure begins and ends; that’s where you must decide whether to cheat by continuing to deceive yourself or not.” Walter Bonatti


After the climb, you reach the refuge (or a bivouac), happy to find a place where you are hosted. In the refuge, often, people of different cultures, languages, and nationalities are present, but this is not an obstacle to dialogue, rather an opportunity. This aspect is connected to the proposal of the Meeting, which affirms that in the current context, where war and division prevail, dialogue is the only possible path to change.

Those of us who live in the mountains know that historically, the hills, the passes, were not primarily “boundaries” but an opportunity for passage, relationships, and work, and the refuges as an opportunity to meet. What is the origin of present-day refuges? To serve as points of support for alpine ascents. The first “official” refuge of the Italian Alpine Club was Alpetto, built in 1866, for the ascent from the Po Valley to Monviso. In 1852, the Teodulo Refuge was established on the homonymous pass between Valtournenche and Valais, near the Plateau Rosa.

Going back in time, we find “refuges” to assist travelers: hospices, expressions of charity at high altitude. As early as the eleventh century, St. Bernard gathered brothers on the Mont-Joux Pass to help pilgrims and merchants cross the Alps between Italy and Switzerland. Thus, the Hospice of the Great St. Bernard was built at an altitude of 2,473 m. (In 1923, Pius XI proclaimed Saint Bernard patron saint of mountaineers). In 1823, Canon Sottile built the Hospice that took its name from him: Sottile, as a point of support for those who went abroad to work in March and returned in November or December. Located at the Colle di Valdobbia, it connects the Gressoney Valley with Riva Valdobbia in Valsesia.

In the refuge, early in the morning or at night, life proceeds feverishly; mountaineers prepare for the ascent, full of expectation and even concerns. Upon leaving the refuge, they are tied to each other – when tied by the rope, one’s life is entrusted to the other. The climb begins in a rope team, ready to help each other, to put the companion in the best conditions for the ascent.

Ospizio Sottile


“I am with you to help you walk towards your destiny; you are with me to help me walk towards my destiny. This generates freedom, the ability to carry the greatness of meaning, the infinity of the sign that the relationship constitutes, and the necessary sacrifices, which then no longer appear as a suffocation but as a condition, a condition of fatigue, like walking in the mountains to reach a summit.” Luigi Giussani

On this journey, Arturo and Oreste Squinobal remind us: “The companion gives you security: between you and him there’s the rope, a piton, a projection of rock. If a small pebble the size of a nut falls on your head, it makes you lose that precious moment and, if the companion were not there to hold you, you would end up falling without being able to do anything against the harsh objectivity of chance.” Arturo and Oreste Squinobal

What does it mean to you to be the wife of a mountaineer?

“Accept. I know that in the mountains he was completely himself. If you took the mountain away from him, you made him sad, and if you really love a person, you want to see them happy. Of course, I was afraid when he went on an expedition, or when he said, ‘If I am back tonight, let’s go and have a pizza.’ But every time he came back, he was so happy, so full of beauty. His eyes were full of snow, and he would say to me, ‘I’m bringing you the snow.’ And what do you say to someone like that, not to go to the mountains? It’s true that it lasted only six years, but I wouldn’t have wanted a single different day. It’s okay like this; I’m demolished, but I’m happy for him.” Question asked to Erika Siffredi, wife of Cala Cimenti


In a rope team, you are together with the richness of your own self: so for example, as a second, while climbing on rock, you observe the first climber, you try to fix the moves he makes, and then do them in turn.

But you make them, you personalize them, you follow taking into account your physical characteristics, your qualities, your limits; it’s a creative following. We accompany each other in a significant experience, often alternating in the lead, depending on the section to be climbed, supporting and correcting each other. The talents of each one are highlighted depending on the terrain of climbing, the physical condition.

As a friend told us: “For me, the experience of being rope partners, of excursion, makes a true friendship even easier. With a rope partner or hiking companion, you learn to take steps together, to depend on him, to take him into account, to know him more deeply, to accept his and your limits. It’s easier, more immediate, perhaps more necessary, to expose one’s humanity with sincerity. And this is a rare and precious commodity. And as you climb from above, you can see better, as Riccardo Cassin reminds us: ‘How different the world is: peaks, woods, scree, friends, looking down from above! Perspectives and forms change, and even judgments.'”

The teacher of many of us, Pino Cheney, used to say: “I believe that in the mountains, we are closer to God. The rope is the sign of a relationship that binds you to the other.” When you reach the summit, you stay as long as necessary, and then you need to descend carefully. As Michele Cucchi teaches us, the ascent ends when you open the door of your home. Descending is continuing the journey; you carry the memory of what you have done, refreshed by the sight of the passages you have traveled. Descending is not mechanical; it’s a different gesture from that of the ascent, but it can bring the same desire to discover something new.

“Mountaineering is an exhausting activity. One climbs, climbs, climbs higher and higher, and never reaches the destination. Perhaps this is the most fascinating aspect. One is constantly in search of something that will never be reached.” Hermann Buhl

Exhibition The Company of the Summit


  • Why doesn’t the long-awaited ascent that saw us busy and fatigued end with reaching the summit?
  • Why do we start again, why do we always set off?
  • What does this yearning to climb, which continues beyond the summit towards a new goal, reveal; where does it take us?

About author

Roberto Gardino

Sono un insegnante di Educazione Fisica, appassionato di montagna, sempre alla scoperta di nuove mete. Ho fondato, con amici, la Compagnia della Cima. Sono attento all'educazione dei giovani, andando spesso in montagna con gruppi numerosi.

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