Love Triangle of Place
With an open mind and heart, an ice climber from Italy is drawn to the Canadian Rockies—to Canmore, Alberta. In this new home, Lorella Guasti feels a special connection with people and place. Her favourite mountain boots connect her even more to the wintry landscape. Complications with visas and COVID rules have made it difficult for Lorella to reunite with her partner in New Zealand. However, climbing in Canmore continues to nourish her in the meantime.
In November 2018, the magical winter wonderland of Canada was the place for me to go. A winter in the Rocky Mountains is an exciting plan for any European ice climber. Canmore is known worldwide for its frozen waterfalls, and I had been collecting information about this area for decades. The climbing community is like a large family spread around the globe, and I knew I would be welcomed in Alberta.
I left my native country, Italy, with a broken heart, a backpack full of ice-climbing gear and my strong, colourful mountain boots. At the time, due to limitations on my visa, I was not allowed to join my partner in New Zealand for another 18 months. Also, having spent many years abroad, I felt unsettled back in Italy, a state that many emigrants face. As a traveller, I yearned for another English-speaking destination to improve my understanding of the language, and I longed for new mountains to explore.
Cold temperatures have always called to me like a noble force. I believe that cold weather makes the human species humbler and more resilient. It calms us down, pushes us to live simply, and cleanses our energy. I was not surprised that the black-and-white landscape of the Canmore winter, with the silence of its frozen environment, would work its magic, heal my heart, and nourish my soul. I knew this experience would enable me to step into another chapter of my life.
Ice climbing is a mindful activity, like a martial art. It requires presence in the here and now. There is no scale of time that measures what the climbers feel once they buckle up their harnesses and begin to climb, sinking into the flow state of movement, driven by the elements. Each climber becomes one with the route, like being embraced in a hug from the icefall.
Positive mindset, inner strength and extra motivation are what I rely on. The ice axes become an extension of my arms. The crampons are a kind of feet transmutation. My boots connect me to the crampon which connects me to the ice. They are my Wonder Woman disguise. They keep my feet warm, responsive and sensitive all at once. I rely on my boots. They allow me to detect the different types of snow underfoot: soft and fresh to crust-laden or icy. The beam from my headlamp lights up my boots in the darkness during an early start. My boots reflect confidence, and I feel happy. I smile at them. At the base of the icefall, my boots are ready for duty. They assume their function and will succeed no matter how far I climb.
Each adventure leads to the next, and as such, my time in Canmore has been glorious. Although I have had my challenges, Canmore’s spirit has supported me. There is something in the air here.
Last March, when my Canadian visa was about to expire, I prepared to leave, but COVID stopped me. Once again, Canmore drew me in. The lockdown became a peaceful retreat that gave me time to reflect on world events and my life.
Again, my boots are ready as another winter season approaches and I am still in Canmore. The New Zealand border remains closed. The only glimpse of Italy I get is from the news. My partner and I still wonder how we will reunite. All I know is that my home is where my mountain boots lie.
Lorella Guasti was born in Florence, Italy. She grew up in Tuscany, immersed in the rich culture and gentle beauty of the region. Lorella’s draw to the mountains led her to the Dolomites where rock and ice climbing, ski touring and mountaineering shaped her life and nourished her. She has since climbed in several countries. After a visit to the Canadian Rockies in 2011, Lorella returned in 2018 to live in Canmore, Alberta.