in Zouz, Grisons/Engadin, Switzerland, Saturday 20 March 2010, 7.30am local time. Ghastly silence lies over the village, very few people stray around the haunted alleys. From a distance, muffled rumbling sounds can be noticed. Tractors? Avalanches? The noise is growing louder. Icicles, which have formed in the rain gutters of the roofs start to jingle. Floor vibrations can be noticed and startled birds rise up from their resting places up into the air. There … what is that? Some isolated participants cross the village border. The herd is getting larger and further Mammuts pave their way to the yearly meeting point, which was set up by the leaders once again. The stream doesn’t diminish and whilst the first ones line up their ski touring equipment, old friends from previous hiking trips to the South meet again. They come from all over the world; Finland, Croatia, Italy, Tyrol or Liechtenstein – ain’t no country far enough to keep them from getting together. New members of the herd are being welcomed warmly and people’s eyes sparkle with cheerfulness, excitement and enormous anticipation.
After the welcome of the Mammut team as well as the first test event information, the motto is velocity! “Pure Ascent”!! Mammut’s new product line. According to that motto the participant who registered the quickest was awarded with a prize. Then it got straight down to business and the participants got their equipment. No matter how fluffy the fur, everyone needs correct underwear. Hence, every participant got a pair of Alpine Underwear as well as brand-new Mammut Pulse Pants.
After the first refreshment it went on rapidly. The equipment was stowed away and several buses paved their way up to the Julierpass. After everyone got off the buses and all participants arranged themselves a little bit, a stunning view of snow-covered mountains and 150 Mammuts in black/red presented itself. The start took place in groups and hence, the first stage was traversed by striped caravans. The first ascent turned out to be the biggest challenge. A significant uphill ascent on a very short distance needed to be tackled. The pulse rate increased proportionally to the successfully mastered metres uphill. The following descent required all equilibrium organs during a short period of time. And immediately afterwards, the excitement continued. Now there was fog!!! Bit by bit the first groups disappeared into the wafts of mist. The sight decreased continuously until the shooting location. Through birdcalls of the first groups the following touring Mammuts quickly managed to get to the herd’s meeting point. In order not to give the fresh breeze many opportunities to attack, the snow shovels were pulled out instantly and everyone started digging with all their might. It didn’t take long until the first heads disappeared under the snow surface and merely snow fountains could be seen flying out of the holes. Protected like this, the situation was bearable and it was a jamboree to watch the participants popping up like snow-gophers out of their holes.
The conditions for the shooting didn’t look good. With minimal sight it would prove impossible to get 140 Mammuts onto one picture. Shortly before the shooting was going to be cancelled, the sight increasingly cleared. The answer to the participants’ question whether the shooting was going to take place was obvious! The continuation was welcomed vociferously!
Now it was time “to be quick”. With the typical “Woooeee-woooeee” sound coming out of the megaphone, Roebi Boesch got his voice heard to direct the 140 Mammuts in the right position during the next 45 minutes. In the draughty and cold mountain environment, especially the combination of windproof and isolating garments proved their value – the Mammuts were protected. So they formed into a human arrow pointing towards the summit; the key visual of the coming autumn/winter season. All participants and particularly Roebi Boesch were happy that the photo shoot turned out successful after all and that all the strains were worth it.
From Zuoz it went up the mountain by chair lift. With excitement everyone looked forward to the unknown destination, which was slightly visible behind the hilltop through subtle lighting. Then our view was directed onto the camp with spacious tents and many fires, which projected their diffuse light over the snow. From the lift station it was only a short descent to the bar tent, where warm refreshments were offered. The bar was decorated with relics of the last ice age. Two primeval plush Mammuts had been discovered in a glacier during research activities and freighted in an ice block especially for the Pure Ascent test event. After the participants had some time to relax, they were asked to take their places for dinner. Chef Winni scored once again with an exquisite tasting. On a 15 metres long grill route the fire turned into the centre point of the evening. Whilst self-made skewers and Raclette were cooked, animated discussions about the best grilling techniques took their course.
After the hunger was satisfied, Christian Stangl started his lecture about sky-running projects. Even though everything looked more real through the personal presence of Christian Stangl and the image projections, the imagination power of the participants was pushed to the limits several times. The lightness, in which his one-day ascents were described, captured the listener’s attention and the fascination in the air was nearly tangible. Despite Christian Stangl’s extraordinary performances, he also referred to his early days as electrical engineer and climbing as a hobby. His failures were also part of his successes and he repeatedly emphasised that stopping for safety reasons only means the beginning of another attempt. Personal safety and health has priority over the summit.
In the end the participant who was the last person getting on the bus after the shooting was awarded the Golden Nightcap, which was accepted with joy.
A beautiful day is coming to an end.
Test Event participant Simon Hagel alias spoonwing