1. PREFACE: YOU CAN NOT GET OUT ALIVE FROM THE ‘90s (words by Clava)
When I was young (my grandpa stories always started like this…) I attended the high school. It was during the 90s and I remember I had the habit to go up on my house attic rummaging and searching inside dusty closets looking for scrawny and shabby clothes that not even grandpa used anymore, not even to spade the field.
I was searching for rags to wear the day after, in school. Yes, I wanted to be awful! I wanted to get rejected from a system based on competition where only one thing mattered: to win! I didn’t wanted to abide by the rules of the game. Therefore my reaction, pure and shallow, as a dumb teenager, was easy: to lose! I didn’t know why, exactly (as a kid you don’t think, you act!) but I felt at ease, certain of my rightness, and that was enough.
But while you go on rummaging, time doesn’t stop and earth goes on spinning. Within a stone’s throw the years of Grunge pass by. It happens that you grow up and start to ride a bike (hey, but wasn’t sport fascists’ stuff?!?) and clothes change: now you’re wearing bibs which make your butt looks like that of a baboon and your privates like a camel toe. But it’s not because you want to be awful anymore, you just want to feel comfortable: as you age you become more practical.
And it happens that you find yourself in front of a snow wall blocking your way, and you figure out that you’ll never get to Munich… And yet it was so simple, it would have been enough to go to Chiavenna and climb the Maloja Pass, and after that the Engadin runs smoothly downhill. Easy, no? Oh yes… But this time it was our friend Hoffisteri who came and pointed out the wrong way to Munich: Passo del Muretto! (2562m asl) With the last 10km from Chiareggio (1612m asl) on dirt tracks.
– “Good idea! I didn’t meet him yet but I already like the Kraut!” – I remember I thought…
– “But to go to Munich must we pass through Valmalenco??? I think you’re wrong!” I tried to explain this to my pals before leaving but they really could’t get it…
And so here I am turning back once again, defeated once again (and yet I thought I had definitely left such things behind). But still there is that feeling, I recognize it, I remember it very well, of being stupidly certain of my rightness… I feel right and at peace with myself and tonight to celebrate the failure we’ll go to eat “sciatt”! In Ponte they cook them damn right ‘cause there it’s their birthplace.
So it’s just the clothes that change. Nothing happens by chance.
You can’t get out alive from the ‘90s.
2. WHAT? WHERE? WHO? WHY? WHEN?
Yes, this is the story so far, THE PLANNING so far.
We wanted to ride our bikes from Sondrio to Munich in 3 days. Very fancy.
This was the Cani Gang for that day:
Clava riding a Specialized Diverge Sport
Fisto riding a Bianchi D2 Cross Concept
Georg riding a Surly Cross Check SS
Guido riding a Casbah CXSS
Ila riding a Cinelli Hoy Hoy
Pagha riding a Casbah/Cani CXSS
The Captain riding a Specialized Awol Comp
Now, if you’ll continue reading, you’ll bump into a bunch of articles regarding this unfortunate business, but if you’re the one who doesn’t like to pay specific attention to all those written bullshit, our friend Guido Casbah comes to your aid with an illustrated recap…
3. THE ILLUSTRATED RECAP
4. WHAT ABOUT IF WE GO BACK A BIT? (Words by Massimo dei Cas)
There was a time of twenty years when Valtellina was at the core of European history. It wasn’t a nice time for this land, ransacked and drained by the passage of the armys competing for its domination. It was the time of the War of the Thirty Years (1618-1648): Spain and the House of Hapsburg on one side, France and, in Italy, the Republic of Venice, on the other side. Milan was under the Spanish control, while the Hapsburg dominions reached the Tyrol. In between there was exactly the Valley of the Adda, which gained, therefore, a crucial key role, because its control by the Spanish would have assured the connection between the two almighty allies. But the valley was, for more than a century, a Grisons possession, a part of the Swiss Confederation. Those people were Protestants, while in Valtellina the catholic faith was the majority. This led to a growing tension between Grisons and the most important Valtellina’s dynasties, resolute to resist to every attempt intended to establish Protestantism in the valley. It’s in this period of tensions that happened the event that brought everything to a point of no return: Nicolò Rusca, who handled the Sondrio’s parish for 28 years, was kidnapped by a raid of Swiss soldiers (he was only allowed to wear his priest’s cassock before being tied upside down under the belly of a mule) and brought to Thusis via Passo del Muretto, where a unique court (the “Strafgericht”) was established: here he died under torture on September 4th 1618. The fact raised a huge sensation and persuaded the Catholics to arrange a bloody rebellion which started in Tirano on July 19th 1620, with the slaughter of Protestants known as “Sacro Macello di Valtellina”
5. OK, BUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
“Pas de Müret”, in ancient times also called “Munt de l’òor” and then “Alpe dell’Oro”, “Alp de l’òor” (“Alpis de Loro” in 1544), also called “Curt de l’òor” (nothing to do with oro=gold, because its root means edge, border of a leap or precipice): it was in fact through this pass that our high priest Rusca was led to Engadin. A passage of great historic, military and commercial importance, especially during the Valtellina’s Grisons domain (1512-1797): throughout that time, there was an intense transit of wine, piode (typical Valmalenco’s serpentine plates), corn, silk, steatite and other minerals towards German-speaking lands.
The itinerary covered by the prelate during his forced journey towards the martyrdom, on that road known from centuries as “Strada Cavallera”, has been recently subjected to an activity of recovery and restoration by the Comunità Montana Valtellina di Sondrio, changing its name in “Sentiero Rusca” (“Rusca Trail”): 32km and 2200m d+
This would have been the path to follow on the first day of our trip.
On saturday morning we’re thrilled: as long as we don’t ride bikes we kick asses, as usual. On the train to Sondrio we meet Georg, our Bavarian friend, rider of the deep muddy black conifer forests. He’s about to witness what means wasting time, dangling and shoot the shit the Cani way.
Sondrio, 7:26 am
– “Hey, breakfast needed. Let’s look for a patisserie!”
– “Mmmmmmmh. Won’t a classic bar be enough?”
CoffeeCappuccinoIceteaHotteaFruitjuiceCroissantPastryCakeSandwich… Anything else? Reading the newspaper, analyzing and loudly commenting the news, getting mad about politics… Anything else? Showing and studying the maps and the route. Now? Now.
Mother of God we’re ready to roll! But after 700m from the launch of the Garmin we must stop: it’s technical issue time!
7. TECHNICAL ISSUE TIME
We had countless, as always. It seems our bikes love failure. It seems they don’t never ever want to bring us where we’ve pointed them. It seems we were made for loving you baby
Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do
Do, do, do, do, do, do, do
Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do
Do, do, do, do, do, do, do
8. NO ZNOW
We’re now ready to follow the steps of our high priest towards his death. Will we have a better fate or will we give up the ghost, too? (Hey, we’re here to tell it, so it’s obvious that Mr. Rusca took the beating for sure!) Will we have our revenge on those bloody Zückìn? Oh, if only our trip went as planned! (And since when does this ever happens?)
So you can see the 7 of us, here they stand brothers them all, all the sons divided they’d fall, here await the birth of the son, the seventh, the heavenly, the chosen one… …You can see the 7 of us climbing up the easy way to Chiesa in Valmalenco, strong and happy and with the morale up high to the moon.
In Chiesa we stop at the Cooperativa di Consumo to refill our bags with supplies.
– “Hey Captain, did you call the CAI (Italian Alpine Club) to get acknowledged with the snow situation?”
– “I called but nobody ever answered…”
– “Hey Mr. Nani the butcher, can you tell us something about the trail conditions up at the Muretto Pass?”
– “Bloody hell fellaz! It will be eeeazy up there zince there’z no znow. NO ZNOW! And remember: keep left!”
– “Wow guys! So we can bed down a little more on the cobblestones of this tiny village and have one more technical issue before hitting the road again, since there is NO ZNOW up there!”
– “Burp… Let’s go!” The road goes winding and we gain elevation. We reach San Giuseppe: another shop, another stop. Regroup.
– “Hey storekeeper, can you tell us something about the trail conditions up at the Muretto Pass?”
– “I’ve been there a couple of weekz ago and there’z znow. THERE’Z ZNOW! It reached my patella. But lately the weather waz quite hot, therefore you can probably make it. Juzt remember: “Quezta nonlaraidaneancheFEDE!”
We are now eager for dirt and we finally meet it in proximity of the Hotel Gembro, Pian del Lupo, Chiareggio.
– “Hey Mr. hotelier, can you tell us something about the trail conditions…”
– “Shut the fuck up!” “Mister, bring us one liter of red wine and glasses, please”
Madre de Dios
After, we finally leave that last building behind and immerse ourselves deep into the Muretto Valley, towards the North. The gravel road is steep but the surroundings are beautiful and the trip is getting nicer and nicer. What a ride!
– “We will not make it.”
– “We will not make it.”
– “We will not make it.”
– “We will not make it.”
– “We will not make it.”
After fixing the nth technical issue where we took sweet pictures of a butterfly placing and twirling on Fisto’s helmet (and we could not avoid to turn a filthy trick to our supporters MET helmets)
we regroup by a lay-by where the military road turns right, placing the pass up there right in front of you, with a huge blanket of snow topping it. Everybody is disenchanted, everybody is sure that we wouldn’t make it, everybody has already given up… But I am The Captain, I can not say it’s over until it’s really over: “Hey bunch of fuckers, if we must die, we’ll DIE FOR METAL! But the call to arms turned out a complete failure, with unquestionable silences and compassionate glances. So I started telling them a story:
“The tale goes that the north-east side of this valley, where lies that striking mountainous slope which descends from the ridge of Monte dell’Oro (3154m, s-e) and Monte Muretto (3104m, n-w), is home of eternal atonement for three internees (confined souls exiled in places anything but cozy and welcoming, to serve their everlasting sentences). These internees wander, restless, through scree and rocks, often throwing them to the unlucky shepherds and travelers on their way to the pass. But hey, the relief against this threat is easy and safe: making the sign of the cross is enough to rout the three tormented souls. So, there’s nothing else to fear. Let’s go!”
But this didn’t work either… Only Fisto picked up his Bianchi and followed me. Clava and Pagha decided instead to accompany us by walk with a mockery sneer on their faces…
Well, there was this snowfield, almost walkable, but Clava and Pagha pointed out with their index fingers a 7 meters high snow ledge which looked unfriendly and treacherous. Ok, it’s definitively over: Go fuck yourself, Muretto. THERE’Z ZNOW.
But you know, we immediately don’t give a fuck to the fact that we can’t proceed, ’cause every cloud has a silver lining. This time it has the features of two motorcycle trial Malenc riders, who stopped their rampant vehicles right before the last huge snowfield. And what happened next is no surprise…
“Hi guys, we would like to take some bare-chested heavy-metal pictures, would you like to help?”
10. HEAVY MENTAL
We turned our bikes back and we almost already forgot where we are and why. Our minds switched: no Munich –> yes Pizzoccheri. Let’s go back in what we do best: screwing around.
– “Hey, what if tomorrow we wake up early and try again to go to Munich via Maloja Pass?”
– “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!”
11. THE RETREAT
A new target has been intercepted and unanimously approved: Ponte in Valtellina, Osteria del Sole, Sciatt, Pizzoccheri, Vino Rosso. The long descent to Sondrio was a breezy bliss.
Ok, you can object that we quitted even before beginning: no struggling, no survival mode on, no hard climbs, no “the road is still long”; but please, accept that the beauty of this thing we wrongly call “cycling” lies in this, too. In this “whatever!”, in accepting the matters as they come, in this never ending easy way down to a tavern.
12. AFTERWORD: CHIAPPE DI JEANS (Words By Nicola Scinetti)
You ask me to write something about the Muretto Pass, between Valtellina and Engadin, 2562m asl.
At first blush, millions of ideas, but then, after several attempts gone to nothing, I find myself here watching a youngster, maybe a university student, snogging with Jeans Butt-cheecks under the conical light of a street lamp.
In my hands I hold a poem I sketched out a while ago. The title is “In un luogo delle Alpi, il cui nome ricordar non voglio”.
This poem should talk about the Muretto Pass.
These are the words I used: slopes, pine groves, spurs, road, valley, ice ( I was quoting Colonel Aureliano Buendìa from One Hundred Years of Solitude), sky, Sacro Macello, priests, blood, flowers, rock, wheels, chain, saddle, love.
But when I was at the top of this poem, I looked back and didn’t see anyhing: my poetical itinerary left no trace.
I go out on the balcony, smoking in between the back and forth of ants hunting for lice. When I go back inside I tear up the poem.
I go out on the balcony again. The night is without wind, the sky without stars. Listening closely you can hear the tongue of the young student whirling in the passion of Jeans Butt-cheecks.
Sitting on a wooden chair, I observe the camellia. I think it’s dying.
Therefore I ponder about the awareness of a place: the awareness of the Muretto Pass, in particular.
I close my eyes and I can see you riding your bicycles, you pedaling through space, in that space, towards the top: you pedaling through time.
I take a jotter (one of those of the banca pop, you know…) and I rough out some words about you on the paths of history…
I’ve opened wikipedia – my eyes were tired, while Jeans Butt-cheecks under the street lamp was rubbing herself against the college boy – and I read that through the Muretto Pass armies, militants, bandits, smugglers had overpassed…
… and I imagine the shoulders of these young Little Tony, I see them swollen under the tail coat, swollen ’cause of MS, Marlboro and tobacco, swollen ’cause of sugar and Stock 84 to drink at Christmas, or before the football world championship final…
with shining knives, I see them assailing the caravan of the Romantic poets, the big Hans Better who pees his pants by fear; the blonde Hermanne Loyer who looks for the words to describe the leap of the heart.
…I imagine the caravan of bored nobles that from Chur roll down towards the Garden of Europe; I see them static right after the pass, where the snow starts to weigh: I see them in the snow, on their backs, their blood, slaughtered like beasts by the hunger…
Looking hard in this dream of mine, dear G, there are also some soldiers, Sardinians, Piedmonteses, Ligurians, Lombards, haunting the ancient mule track refining it in a new open road.
These are the strong and full of life youngsters, these are the 15-18 mustaches, looking around in the shining ice, while the scent of the pine forest subjugate nostalgia in a sip of drunkenness.
Dear G, a place without memory is like a tomb without a name.
You ask me to write something about the Muretto Pass, 2562m asl, but I can not write anything about it.
You should do it, cause you’ve been there.
You breathed its oxygen, the same of thieves, killers and soldiers.
It’s now late. It’s almost dawn. Jeans Butt-cheecks greets the young university student. While she goes away, he stares at her butt.
I return inside.